If you think about it, today’s workplace is starting to more closely resemble a sci-fi movie than the early days of the industrial revolution. With powerful technology like artificial intelligence and robotic co-workers, the workforce has entered a new era of technological evolution — and disruption.

In 2018, it’s estimated that up to 42 percent of Canada’s workforce will be affected by automation — 30 percent of new robots will be capable of working with humans, and 41 percent of companies are or have already adopted AI technology into their workplace, according to The Intelligence Revolution research by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) and Deloitte.

For HR professionals in particular, artificial intelligence could have a major impact when it comes to reducing administrative burden, recruiting effectively, reducing bias, and improving employee retention and internal mobility, according to the HRPA whitepaper A New Age of Opportunities: What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean for HR Professionals?

Yet these technological and business shifts have implications far beyond simply adopting new systems and training. As the workplace changes, and the pace of that change continues to increase at an unprecedented rate, employers need to pay particular attention to their most valuable resource: their people.

Fostering em­ployee engagement during periods of rapid transition, disruption, and innovation is cer­tainly no easy feat. Just as the work­place is undergoing dramatic shifts, so too are employees’ expectations and needs.

Engagement has become a very different animal than it was in the past. Gone are the days when organizations could just hand out yearly bonuses and hope for the best. Now, engagement has evolved into a multifaceted, holistic strategy that’s just as critical to business success as the balance sheet.

Today, a strong engagement strategy is a tapestry woven with many strands — supporting mental health and wellness, accommodating flexible work and family responsibilities, building a culture of diversity and inclusion, championing employee health initiatives, and empowering individuals with the tools they need to grow in their organizational roles and their personal lives.

A pivotal point to consider is that no matter the individual initiatives they are offered, truly engaged employees have one thing in common — the sense that their employer cares about their well-being as a whole person, not just as another cog in the cor­porate machine.

In that sense, the best engagement initiatives have truly humanized the workplace, creating an environment where talent is nurtured and grown. And investing in employee engage­ment isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s a business strategy that will pay dividends.

Scott Allinson is Vice President, Public Affairs, at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). HRPA protects the public interest by regulating the professional practice of its 24,000 members.

HRPA also publishes HR Professional Magazine, the journal of human resources thought leadership. Read the Engagement Shift Issue of HR Professional Magazine at hrprofessionalnow.ca.