If one apolitical lesson can be learned from 2017, it’s that the speed of life sometimes makes it very difficult to recognize good things we have before us. The holiday season (hopefully) gives us time and space to reflect on another trip around the sun. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

The arena and scope of employee recognition and engagement strategy has grown considerably over the last decade or so. In the early 2000’s social media opened up a technology platform that was uniquely suited for interacting with large groups, and ever since then recognition programs – which began as simple date-driven programs – have been naturally evolving toward similarly dynamic, scalable, and responsive platforms.

Recognition and engagement technology has now reached a sort of singularity. Put it to you this way – in 2017, virtually any company of any size can reasonably procure a platform to reward employees with… well, anything you can order on the internet basically. Also, in the same vein as social media platforms, they can be endlessly reconfigured and updated to suit changing needs and goals. This technology is more or less easy to come by in our age.

For years the industry has pushed the technology to grow and now it has grown and fully matured. Companies wanted more ways to stay in touch with remote workforces; better engagement of new hires; tools to create successful engagement programs with measurable results. Well it’s all here, anything you desire to motivate and reward employees at every stage of their employment and personal development.

This is of course wonderful, as this is the dream fully realized – being able to communicate all known forms of gratitude to employees anywhere in a reliable fashion. But whether a company puts their heart into it is another question, a question that technology can never answer. Moving forward there will be even fewer excuses for companies not being able to connect on a human level. The big question for 2018 will be how do you take care of your people? Call it the Year of the Employee.

Although many folks out there are treating their people right, there is a disturbing and persistent undercurrent of employee disengagement that crops up in every major annual study. It seems we are never quite capable of getting more than around one-third of the population fully engaged with their work. We are publishing a blog series in 2018 that calls a time-out to revisit some fundamental aspects of human engagement and empathy, skills that are in precarious short supply and will be beneficial for organizations to focus on in a world increasingly driven by technology. Major analysts like Forbes agree that the employee experience should be the main focus.

Good news is this only has to be complicated if you make it that way. It begins with understanding personal needs, the basis for any relationship we enter in any walk of life. It’s high time to flip the script on engagement, because the talk isn’t jiving with the walk, and very simple things like compassion and manners seem to be getting lost in the translation.

So speak from your heart and open it to others. Pay someone a sincere compliment once a day. Send a thank you email that you don’t have to send. No matter where you stand on all the craziness that occurred in 2017, we can maybe all agree that people spend too much time in their own bubbles and don’t recognize the person next to them enough. Now is a great time to start. Once you do, everything else will fall into place.