It takes a holistic strategy to keep employees engaged, but social and mobile solutions are providing new ways to create a positive impact.
Engagement is the word of the day; organizations want everyone from clients to industry influencers to stay engaged with their content and products. Behind the scenes, however, it’s important for engagement to start internally—with employees.
Employee engagement is about creating a workplace environment that encourages and motivates employees to contribute to company goals and perform to their maximum potential. It is, in some ways, a measure of commitment and shared purpose within an organization. It is also one of the greatest challenges companies face, influencing productivity, profitability, and beyond.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
A recent survey by Gallup came to the conclusion that only 34% of the workforce is engaged, which essentially leaves two-thirds of employees uncommitted to their organizations. This directly leads to the loss of millions in revenue, as another Gallup study found that a disengaged employee can cost an organization $3,400 for every $10,000 of his or her salary.
Additionally, a Dale Carnegie study found that fully engaged companies generate two-and-a-half times more revenue than disengaged ones. There is also a direct correlation between attrition and engagement. A disengaged employee is three times more likely to jump ship and join a competitor.
These alarming numbers have led many organizations to make employee engagement a key focus. Yet, the statistics have also remained stagnant for several years, pointing to the fact that although organizations acknowledge the problem, they haven’t yet found ways to address the issue effectively.
The Biggest Challenge Facing Engagement
Historically, organizations have looked to improve employee engagement through avenues such as rewards and recognition, perks, and wellness programs. While these have proven to be effective in increasing motivation and a sense of well-being, impact is limited primarily due to one major factor: communication.
A Communication Paradox
In some ways, larger organizations are at a disadvantage compared with smaller ones. Smaller groups inherently breed better communication, which leads to employees having a better understanding of their roles and expectations, as well as feeling more engaged. Recent research shows that 36% of employees in smaller companies reported being “fully engaged” as compared with 29% of those working in larger organizations.
Meanwhile, industries such as retail, hospitality, and aviation have a large non-desk-based workforce, which can hinder the effectiveness of traditional communication channels. This correlates to traditional employee engagement initiatives getting poor traction and adoption, as well.
Companies with desk-based jobs have a different kind of problem. These organizations typically offer multiple communication channels that could include e-mail, video conferencing, or instant messaging. Teams often use different channels based on their needs, stilting communication outside of immediate colleagues. Fragmented communication channels can lead to a breakdown in efficiency and create hurdles for companywide initiatives.
Solutions to Consider
An effective employee engagement strategy takes a bespoke approach to best suit each organization. Companies should consider these key points while crafting a holistic plan:
1. Lessons from Social Media
Organizations should view communication as a top priority and invest in a communication channel that connects the entire workforce. Their best bet is to draw inspiration from social media.
A social media style of communication is bidirectional, which leads to transparency and visibility among employees. Ninety-one percent of large corporate brands already have two or more social media platforms and are investing in connecting and influencing their consumers on those channels. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for them to adapt those strategies for internal communication.
However, a social channel can only be effective if used with frequency and a certain level of enthusiasm, meaning that organizations need to spend as much time thinking of a content strategy for their internal channels as they do for their consumer-facing platforms.
2. A Feedback Loop
Apart from traditional feedback collection mechanisms, such as surveys, organizations should look to invest in more informal ways of collecting employee opinions. A social channel enables employees to respond via likes and comments. Sentiment analysis tools and polls can also help gauge the feelings of employees, while crowdsourcing allows them to share opinions against a specific topic in a forum experience.
3. Mobile Options
Employers can also leverage the prevalence of mobile devices to enhance engagement. People regularly work on their smartphone or tablet while on the fly or in meetings. Social media-style communication tools and feedback resources like polls should, therefore, be designed primarily for mobile consumption. The convenience of using one’s own phone to stay in the loop vastly increases the likelihood of employee participation.
Organizations need to consider best practices while choosing their employee engagement programs, but what’s most important is offering a single participation platform for all engagement initiatives. This platform should be customized for the specific needs of the organization while being a familiar enough interface so as to make adoption and engagement easy. Management should then focus on leveraging this channel to motivate and influence employees by sharing wins and citations, offering perks and wellness programs, and encouraging constant feedback.
An engaged employee is one who feels valued. In turn, this employee will be willing to go the extra mile to support company goals. As a result, everybody wins when everybody is engaged.
Praveen Kanyadi is the Cofounder and Vice President of Products at Groupe.io, a mobile communications and productivity platform that connects deskless workers and streamlines operations.