No wonder the workplace is in the throes of the Great Resignation. A recent Gallup poll reported that more than half of American workers are not engaged with their employers, exacerbated by the pandemic. But without employee engagement, companies will have difficulty recruiting talent, reducing turnover, increasing productivity and providing better customer service. On the flip side, engaged employees – those that feel connected with their colleagues and work environment – tend to stay longer at the job and be more productive overall.
However, remote and hybrid work environments pose new challenges for employee engagement. It’s not enough to host Zoom happy hours; companies must take a personalized, flexible approach to employee relations. By building an engagement strategy on the four pillars: well-being, company culture, training and development, and recognition, and powering it with modern technology, employers can improve their recruitment and retention rates.
The pandemic spotlighted the central role employee well-being and happiness plays in the workplace. According to the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report, 80 percent of executive respondents chose well-being as “important” or “very important” to their organization’s success. But even as important as well-being is, senior executives only ranked “improving worker well-being” as the eighth most important priority (out of nine).
While PTO and flex time can help with employee well-being, it’s not enough. More than half of employees report feeling burned out, and those working remotely are more likely to say burnout has gotten worse since the pandemic, according to an Indeed study. The technology that allowed them to work from home has become a double-edged sword: more than half of them are now working more hours than they did when they commuted into the office.
Technology can also soothe burnout and foster work-life balance for companies that want to take well-being seriously. While subsidized teletherapy visits and meditation apps are popular, there are more tools that can help with employee well-being:
- Digital workspaces. While many companies hastily implemented collaboration tools to facilitate remote work during the pandemic, now is the time to re-evaluate that tech stack. Look for tools that allow employees to seamlessly engage in text, video and voice conversations and are easy to use. The tools themselves should not be a source of stress.
- Surveys. Sometimes the easiest way to check on employee well-being is to ask. Anonymous surveys can help companies understand what’s causing their best talent to leave or consider leaving, then address the issues.
- Sentiment analysis. The technology that analyzes how customers react on social media can also measure employee morale in real-time. Companies can make changes quickly – such as reducing work hours or streamlining a particularly painful workflow.
These are just a few ways companies can leverage modern technology to improve employee well-being.
Many organizations still struggle with company culture. The TinyPulse 2021 State of Employee Engagement Report revealed that the more employees are concerned with the company’s culture, the more likely they are to leave faster. Yet in Q3, company culture was one of the top three recruiting tactics, right up there with remote working options and flexible hours. Culture can set an organization apart – for better or worse.
Employees are more likely to feel connected if they can relate to their company’s values. The employer must clearly articulate those values and make them readily accessible with a communications strategy geared toward engaging employees with the company’s culture. Internal communication is critical for keeping employees informed, allowing information to flow smoothly between employees and management and building morale.
Technology plays a crucial role in communicating the company’s values – not just by publicizing the values but by showing employees that the company is also walking the walk, so to speak. Top-down communication from senior management, in the form of emails, newsletters and videos, provides a formal way for companies to articulate their values. However, technology exists for:
- Employee to management communication, in the form of virtual (and anonymized) suggestion boxes.
- Informal employee communication, ranging from a dedicated chat channel for non-work-related conversation to the ability to private message colleagues and collaborate on projects.
- Onboarding communication portals that guide new employees through everything from orientation to creating various accounts.
Technology today goes beyond the traditional intranet for communications and often can provide personalized communications to employees. For example, an organization may want to gather feedback from employees hired in the past three months. It can push out a survey or information directly to them.
However, these systems need to integrate with the rest of the company’s technology stack. It allows companies to streamline communications. In the process, it will also support employees and create a strong company culture.
Training and development
To be present and engaged at work, employees need to feel like they have a career path, not just a job. Sometimes, this can mean promotion opportunities, but it can also include a chance to develop professional knowledge and skills. Gen Z values learning opportunities and will seize as many as possible. The 2021 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that 50 percent of Gen Z’ers watched more hours of learning content in 2020 vs. 2019 and 76 percent believe learning is the way to a successful career.
Companies need to provide as many training opportunities as possible to keep these employees engaged. This can include mentoring and cross-department training, in-person seminars, tuition assistance and self-paced online courses. Technology can help with all of these, from connecting mentors and mentees to communicating upcoming seminars – and, of course, hosting self-paced courses. The more opportunities people are given to explore their professional interests, the more likely they will be to improve their performance.
Everybody likes recognition for a job well done. In these times, when employees may feel stressed out and overworked, providing respect and recognition is even more critical. Employees want positive, welcoming environments where they feel comfortable trying new things and providing honest feedback. When organizations recognize their employees for hard work, whether it’s a promotion, cash bonus, email sent to the team, or time off, employees feel connected and motivated.
Companies can also introduce gamification into the recognition process by incentivizing employees to acknowledge each other’s achievements. This can be a compliment wall on the company’s intranet, for example – a simple way for a team member to show appreciation to a colleague for a job well done. Companies can also allow employees to nominate each other for awards. What’s important is that these recognition efforts are consistent, which will go a long way toward improving employee engagement.Ultimately, organizations can’t succeed without engaged employees. By taking a holistic approach and prioritizing technology that makes employees’ lives easier, cultivating a positive environment, encouraging development and growth, and publicly recognizing employees’ hard work, companies of all sizes can both recruit and retain top talent.