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Employee engagement has always been a challenge, and the current situation - with many office workers working remotely during the COVID-II pandemic and aftermath - doesn't make it any easier. How do you keep employees engaged, how do you create a great Employee Experience and how can technology help?
One of the main issues faced by employers is poor employee engagement. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report states that 85% of the global workforce is disengaged, resulting in a yearly productivity loss of approximately 6.3 trillion euros.
The money, but also the related waste of energy, talent, and loss or absense of a sense of meaning or purpose are not a thing to take lightly. The presence or absence of a sense of meaning or perceived usefulness to the work we do has been shown to correlate to worker motivation, but also job satisfaction and overall wellbeing.
Employee engagement is a top priority for many businesses, and rightfully so. However, even though businesses continue to allocate more money every year to boost employee engagement, the numbers are stagnant.
The main reason why companies are generally not very successful in boosting employee engagement is because many fail to address it with a holistic approach. Some companies invest in short-term perks, like yoga on Wednesdays and drinks on Fridays. While these perks can temporarily boost morale, they do not solve the core issues.
At the core of employee engagement lies the Purpose and goals of the work being done, and the purpose or goals of the individual worker. This has everything to do with the perceived usefulness of the work being done. This also relates to brand and brand identity, as at the core of your brand is the Purpose of your organization.
As long as the Purpose or goals of the individual worker can be aligned with the goals of their team and then with the Purpose and goals of the organization, you have a solid basis. If this alignment is not clear, however, this is the first problem you'll want to fix.
Next to Purpose and Goal alignment, you'll want to address three levels of environment to create the best possible Employee Experience.
According to Forbes’ Jacob Morgan, employee experience (EX) has to do with an organization creating a place where people want to show up instead of assuming that people need to show up. Creating a positive EX is essentially the solution to poor employee engagement. Not to mention, companies with positive EX generate higher profits.
According to Morgan, EX is affected by three aspects of the environment, namely:
Creating a positive cultural environment is vital for EX. Company culture is very hard to pinpoint. It is often described as a “vibe” or a “tone” of a workplace.
Hofstede Insights, worldwide authority on culture, describes organizational culture as "the way in which members of an organization relate to each other, their work and the outside world in comparison to other organizations. [Company culture] can either enable or hinder an organization's strategy."
To create a pleasant cultural environment, the first thing companies need to do is to stop looking at their employees as human resources and start treating them as individuals. It is important to analyze individual goals and provide support in personal development and growth.
Managers and/or leaders have a strong impact on a company’s cultural environment. Have you ever heard the phrase “people leave managers, not companies”? Today, people want managers who act as coaches and mentors and lead by example.
Managers are responsible for empowering and encouraging people, as well as helping them set clear goals, aligning with team and company goals. They are also responsible for creating a culture of recognition, where people receive credit for the work they do and understand how their input affects the company as a whole.
A positive cultural environment encourages a good work-life balance and flexibility. Top companies are ditching a 9-5 mentality and allowing employees to work on their own terms.
Employees who are given this freedom are far more likely to check their e-mail over the weekend, or stay up late working on a project. In other words, they are far more engaged.
Allowing this kind of freedom comes with trust and responsibility, and becomes even more important with working remotely as many of us are now doing more than ever before.
Physical work environment is composed of the physical office space, as well as the physical perks like catered meals, massages, PlayStation, gym and relaxation areas. A pleasant physical environment is important for a productive and positive EX. Companies are also leveraging their physical environment as a new strategic competitive advantage.
Forward-thinking companies are ensuring that their office space caters to diverse types of employees and diverse ways of working. Gone are the days of traditional desk space. These days, work can be done while relaxing in a lounge chair, drinking coffee in a café, in solitude or surrounded by people.
There is a reason giants like Apple and Google invest billions in their office spaces. Providing a varied and exciting workspace increases productivity and results in employees wanting to spend more time at work.
Physical perks like catered meals, child-care and dry-cleaning are not only “nice to have”, but they also relieve stress and allow employees to focus more on work.
Gyms and recreational areas blend the lines between work and personal life, making work seem less work-like and providing the much-needed distraction. Also, recreational areas allow co-workers to bond with each other.
However, in today’s digitalized world, a pleasant physical work environment can also be achieved by abolishing a physical work environment altogether. Many startups, like InVision, are ditching a physical office in order to save costs, without compromising productivity. They do not care where, when, or how many hours their employees work.
To them, it’s all about the results.
This means that employees can work while sipping a cocktail on the beach, looking after their kids at home, or traveling the world. Employees choose their work environment. Freedom and flexibility are the biggest reasons why people choose to work for these companies.
Considering these companies are all about results, with a clear mission and alignment of that mission with individual workers' contribution, and the fact that people can get work done on their own terms, employee engagement stops being an issue. These companies firmly believe that showing up at the office every day does not guarantee that people, actually, do something productive.
Companies without physical offices would not exist if it were not for technology. Those companies fully embrace technological advancements and the opportunities they create.
Many traditional office-based companies can learn from that when it comes to improving EX. According to a study, 60% of all jobs could have 30% more automated activities. People, generally, don’t enjoy performing repetitive and monotonous tasks which can be automated with the help of smart tools.
Working together on documents and projects, and even having conversations and meetings can now all be done remotely, thanks to ever-growing and ever-improving platforms and functionalities of cloud collaboration software. However, we find that at least 50% of the ROI from investments in technology do not come from the technical implementation, but instead come from the adoption and effective use of technological capabilities.
"Strategy eats technology for breakfast."
Cutting corners when it comes to technology can lead to frustration and a bad EX. Companies need to consider how their technological environment affects all aspects of their EX and be open to investing in innovative technologies.
Wrapping up, how do you improve employee engagement? As it turns out, employee engagement and brand advocacy are where branding & marketing collide with HR and leadership.
First and foremost improving employee engagement is about getting very, very clear on the purpose or core idea of your organization, and finding ways to align each individual employee's personal purpose to it. Next to that, it's about creating a great Employee Experience by focusing on the physical, cultural and technological environment you provide your people with.
This applies now more than ever.
A little bit more specifically, speaking about automating tasks and the technological environment you provide workers with: if you work in marketing/communication or brand management and you're looking for ways to stay productive together with your team while working from home, here are some further resources that may be of help to you:
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