Issues like work-related anxiety and career burnout continue to plague companies, as does the perception of disconnected and uncaring executives. These two issues translate into low employee engagement, thus resulting in poor customer service and waning productivity.
Considering the consequences of low employee engagement, it doesn’t seem shocking that top executives from Apple and Walmart recently proclaimed that employees matter just as much as investors.
In the weeks following the explosion of COVID-19 cases and subsequent work-from-home or stay-at-home orders, employee engagement issue has become even more critical.
The Business Roundtable, a coalition of hundreds of business leaders, released a statement in August 2019 calling for companies to focus on all stakeholders — not just shareholders.
For everyone except top executives, the attitude adjustment probably seems long overdue (and perhaps disappointingly familiar). That is because, to an extent, companies have always tried to keep people happy, but there is no magic formula for creating the ideal workplace.
Perhaps concerns in the workplace are because the physical or virtual office itself isn’t really the problem. Could the issue actually be the health and happiness of the people inside your office that matters?
There is growing evidence that the long-term health of a company’s bottom line and the health of its employees closely align: Highly engaged teams produce 21% greater profitability, due in no small part to reductions in absenteeism and turnover.
More than being a vague feeling or an abstract ambition, employee engagement drives a company’s fortunes — or dooms it to disappointment. Those individuals at the top must acknowledge this fact with their spoken and unspoken statements as well as strategy.
Executives can no longer pay lip service to employee engagement.
Instead, they must realize that employees spend a third of their lives (equivalent to about 90,000 hours) working. The employee-lives mean that they also come to see their “personal brand” as a reflection of the company’s own brand.
Therefore, if the company isn’t healthy, neither is the rank and file. Here, we can see the start of a vicious cycle where underperforming companies neglect and abuse employees — who, in turn, “check out” and cause an even greater performance decline.
In the same way that executives are starting to rethink who they serve, they must also revise how they engage employees. Discussion prompts or an occasional (virtual) office party are no longer going to cut it.
We must stop thinking about “perks” entirely, and instead, think about building cultures and environments that value communication, transparency, and respect.
It takes extra effort — far beyond what companies ordinarily do for employees. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to take up tons of time or money to start producing results with the right tech-driven approach in place.
How Technology Can Humanize Workdays
Here are the key components of such an approach:
1. Declutter Communications
With so many communication channels now available — email, chat, text, and so on — important information often gets lost in the shuffle. To make matters worse, everyone who is now working remotely must coordinate his or her efforts exclusively through digital means (and without the aid of face-to-face interactions).
Internal communications tools such as a modern intranet help cut through the clutter and serve as a single source of truth. Implementing a single location for all information is vital for companies. They deserve their own communication channel — one they can oversee and administer — rather than a channel that is produced for mass audiences.
2. Supply Feedback
Good ideas thrive when information flows freely. In addition to having a platform for shared information, teams must leverage it to supply feedback and share constructive criticism.
Populating the intranet with content such as surveys or discussion threads will ensure that stakeholders have the means to express their opinions without fear of recrimination.
Decision-makers, in particular, must make it a point to solicit feedback. Nothing kills employee engagement faster than ignoring people — especially when they are talking about fundamental needs and wants.
3. Remove Hierarchies
Companies must abandon the mentality that suggests information flows from the top down. Technology liberates information to flow in all directions — and it serves as a kind of community resource accessible to everyone.
When employees have easy access to things such as announcements, files, and reference documents, it increases transparency and keeps misunderstandings at bay.
Companies reflect the people within them for better or worse. It’s not a radical statement, even when it is coming from titans of industry — which means it is not a radical change, either.
Companies do not need to transform to fulfill their true potential. Rather, they must unlock the assets already inside the ranks. Technology has the key.