Technology has revolutionized how companies engage with customers to build long-standing relationships. Yet within their own walls, these same companies may be missing opportunities to use those same tools to build long-lasting relationships with their own employees, Carolyn O’Boyle and Susan K. Hogan at Deloitte write.
As a result, the current strong economy has caused some struggles for organizations, whose employees tend to look elsewhere for new opportunities rather than promotions internally.
This is where the idea of employee engagement enters the picture. Employee engagement extends beyond mere happiness or job satisfaction. It’s a deep mental and emotional interrelationship with work. When engagement is strong, workers produce their best results because they’re invested in the quality and impact of the finished product.
Only about a third of American workers feel engaged on a daily basis, according to Gallup. The other two-thirds of the workforce shows up at work every day, but they aren’t putting in their best effort.
Here are five ways tech makes it easier to engage those employees.
Solicit Feedback Via Regular Surveys
“One of the most common reasons behind a disengaged workforce revolves around a lack of feedback and recognition from management,” says Linda Parks, director of clinical development and research at Glooko. “When employees sense that their work is not important, or when they are unsure if what they are doing on a day to day basis is correct or needed, it’s likely workers will contribute less and less over time.”
Employee surveys remain one of the best ways to track employee engagement, Scott Judd, Eric O’Rourke and Adam Grant write in the Harvard Business Review. Surveys give leadership the option to focus on the feedback they need in order to understand a particular problem, and they give employees the opportunity to feel heard.
And even when employees don’t fill out surveys, their non-response can be a strong predictor of behavior. “People who don’t fill out either of our two annual surveys are 2.6 times more likely to leave in the next six months,” Judd, O’Rourke and Grant write.
Employees who can provide feedback of their own, outside of a survey’s prescribed questions and format, are even more likely to be engaged. These tools work best when they are simple to use and allow for free, open-ended communication.
Enhance the effectiveness of a feedback platform by incorporating tools that allow for easier recognition of employee successes. Currently, only about 33 percent of US workers believe they receive recognition or praise for their success in any given week, according to Annamarie Mann and Nate Dvorak at Gallup. Yet praise is one of the simplest and most powerful tools for boosting employee engagement. Praise is personalized, targeted and costs nothing to provide.
Use Collected Data to Understand Engagement
Gathering and providing employee feedback can help employees feel more engaged. To help companies understand and further hone their engagement processes, data analysis is essential, says Todd Horton at KangoGift.
Incorporating artificial intelligence into data analysis opens up new horizons for understanding employee engagement by analyzing the work employees do every day.
For instance, AI can be leveraged to pinpoint individual employees’ strengths and to encourage them to consider internal moves in your company. Getting opportunities like those onto an employee’s radar — opportunities that precisely fit their unique talent profiles — allows them to re-engage with work and the company as a whole.
Take Your Internal Communications Mobile
Mobile has the power to enhance communication in ways no previous innovation has matched. When communication tools are streamlined for mobile use, they provide a number of benefits.
To start, mobile makes it easier for leadership to take some of the most commonly recommended steps for boosting engagement. For instance, Gordon Tredgold, founder and CEO of Leadership Principles, recommends that leadership boost engagement daily by being present, approachable, and ready to answer questions and provide praise.
A single, dedicated app for digital communications can also help your team feel more focused on work. For instance, Slack cofounder Stewart Butterfield notes the app’s early research found that 70 to 80 percent of companies said they used “nothing” for internal messaging.
In fact, Butterfield says, these companies were using internal messaging systems. In the absence of a dedicated app, however, they used “ad hoc emails and mailing lists. Some people on the team might use Hangouts, some use SMS. We see groups that use Skype chat, or even private Facebook groups and Google+ pages.”
These ad hoc systems allowed for team communication, but that communication was fragmented and chaotic. Bringing the team together on a single app like Slack can boost engagement by creating a single, streamlined digital space for workers to share their ideas and progress.
Gamify Work and Set Goals With Your Team
Goal-setting, gamification and performance-tracking tools can revolutionize the ways in which managers engage their teams.
Research by James Harter and Amy Adkins at Gallup, summarized in the Harvard Business Review, indicates that up to 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores can be tracked to employees’ relationships with their managers, including how well the manager helps each team member understand their contribution, set goals and achieve results.
Harter and Adkins’ research also reveals that communication and focused feedback from managers is one of the leading contributors to employee engagement. Technological tools can aid in improving communication, tracking and setting goals and allowing employees and managers to share feedback in real time.
Getting managers and employees on the same page with regard to goals is essential because it fosters the sort of one-on-one relationships necessary for leadership to understand each worker’s motivation and to encourage individual change. People who are ready and motivated to change have greater success turning their goals into habits, says researcher Kenneth Nowak.
For those who aren’t as motivated, one way to create early excitement around a goal is to turn its pursuit into a game. Gamification can further engage workers as they seek to beat their own or others’ best results. Rewards can be included as part of the gamification program, further encouraging participation, says Andrew Leatherland, a product manager at GCI.
Boost Learning With a Learning Management System
A learning management system is more likely to boost employee engagement if it is strong in several key areas. A study published in The International Journal of Management Education by Batool Zareie and Nima Jafari Navimipour found that four factors “significantly influenced employee’s commitment”:
- Learner’s satisfaction.
- Round-the-clock access to educational materials.
- Personalized learning options.
- Efficiency of the learning management system.
Fortunately, tools that meet these four standards often employ technologies that help companies meet other engagement goals, as well. For instance, sugar and ethanol producer Czarnikow employs a learning management system to facilitate communication among its worldwide employees, who speak several different languages. The LMS’s intuitive interface and scalability have allowed Czarnikow to keep workers engaged even when separated by time, distance and language, says business development manager Chris Hargraves.
Learning management systems will continue to increase in importance as workers currently under age 40 — those in the Millennial and Gen Z generations — continue to enter and progress within the workforce. Currently, 87 percent of younger workers say that “professional or career growth and development opportunities” are important to them in a job, according to Amy Adkins and Brandon Rigoni at Gallup. Fifty-nine percent of Millennials and 44 percent of Gen Xers find learning opportunities “extremely important” factors to consider when choosing an new employer.
While only about one-third of workers on average are engaged at any given time, every company has the opportunity to beat this workforce average within its own teams. Meaningful communication and opportunities for growth can help improve employee engagement.
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