Employee engagement is a persistent problem for organizations around the world for many reasons. They include increasing use of remote workers, technology that makes interpersonal communication less personal, generational differences in work expectations and communication styles, the inability to clearly separate work and personal lives, poor leadership skills and employees feeling undervalued.
Engagement exists when empowered employees feel connected to their work and the organization, but each person in your organization experiences engagement in a different way. For this reason, developing high engagement levels begins with developing an organizational “social mindset” in which a sense of community is created. Unions have mastered this concept, making their members feel like they’re in an exclusive club with leaders who really listen, and will champion their causes and go to bat for them when issues arise. Unions regularly communicate with their members, using social media tools and personal meetings, to keep the connection strong and inspire feelings of empowerment. The union social mindset is a bond that unites everyone around a common cause.
Social factors are important to all employees but especially to millennials. They’re always connected via social media, but social media by itself isn’t guaranteed to engage people or promote optimal communication. Too many employers miss the link between a social mindset and engagement. Social media is an engagement tool, but if your organization doesn’t develop a social mindset, your employees won’t utilize the social tools to their greatest advantage. Your employees’ behaviors are indicative of a lack of social mindset. For example, low utilization of an enterprise-wide social media system or lack of response to a manager’s feedback on a project in progress or failure to participate on coworker teams, are a few indications that your employees don’t view themselves as important contributors to a cohesive team of workers.
An organization with a social mindset focuses on its people and is key to creating a culture of inclusion in which people thrive. Creating an organization with a social mindset requires giving people the right tools, but the tools must empower people to learn what they need and want to learn to achieve the highest performance level and to learn when they want to learn. It must be a collaborative learning journey in which people learn from each other, and have access to on-demand learning and access to internal and external communities that enable continuous learning. A social mindset means employees utilize all online and offline social systems to autonomously manage their jobs with a clear understanding of how their work contributes to organizational goals. They see themselves as proactive team members doing important work.
Engagement actually emanates from the ability of employees to self-empower. Your organization is unique from all others. It’s why you’ve achieved competitive success. The uniqueness drives the need for the development of an internal communication system that specifically resonates with your employees. The communication system consists of tools that are available to the entire workforce; consistent, tailored messaging; regular management feedback; and leaders with effective communication skills. Engaging your workforce in a meaningful way also requires providing content that adds value to their work and is easily understood.
Millennials prefer information delivered quickly and with visual aids, and user-friendly communication platforms that include video, web, and eLearning communication tools. Of course, mobile platforms are a necessity in the eyes of your younger employees. This creates the seamless communication system that accommodates the ‘where and when’ learning and communication needs. Engaging employees requires you to encourage all people to participate in the business, including remote workers, and to provide opportunities for improving processes. Meetings can encourage people to ask questions rather than expecting people to passively learn the material. Technology-based training programs are interactive. Leader feedback encourages stretch thinking. This is how you develop a social learning organization.
Various researchers have determined that employee engagement recognizes an employee’s psychological state, behaviors, and linkages between engagement and employee satisfaction. Satisfaction is not enough though. Engaged employees are committed to the organization’s mission, self-motivated and passionate about their work. Your organization’s communication system is an essential element in the engagement process, but only if it stimulates constructive conversations and positive behaviors.
Southwest Airlines is an example of a company that has created a social mindset. Employees are encouraged to collaborate, participate in decision-making and explore work activities outside their regular jobs. Employees across the organization were encouraged to share new ideas for uniforms, and one of the flight attendants chosen to participate on a final design committee called it an “unforgettable experience.” Southwest Airlines considers social media as a means for relationship building with and between employees and customers because it gives the company the ability to connect people across teams and cultures.
Airbnb creates an employee experience which considers physical, emotional, aspirational, intellectual and virtual (collaborative technologies) aspects. The collaborative technologies are used to communicate the company culture and hold an online live-streamed weekly meeting, and employees are encouraged to use WhatsApp to share learning, photos, and insights. This enables the company to create a social mindset by opening communication up to all employees around the world.
Previously a labor organizer, author Jane McAlevey shared her experiences and perspectives on union organizing in “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)” and proposed a union-building operational model in “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.” She points out that mobilizing may bring large numbers of people into the battle for employee rights but these are people already committed. To build a strong union, its leaders must expand its base to include ordinary people who were never involved in organizing. They do this by helping ordinary people understand they hold the power and can achieve desired outcomes.
Her basic operating model has several major elements that include: deep organizing in which indifferent people are attracted; full-worker organizing in which all working people are made to understand they are members of a community and have untapped potential; building unity across classes of people; developing organic leaders who create a social force capable of exercising power; and tracking every worker’s participation in the workplace and the community to better engage them in the union learning and development processes.
McAlevey’s model is an engagement model. As an employer, you must understand an engaging communication system in your organization makes it possible for all employees to participate, exercise their power to contribute to organizational success and create a social force. The social mindset encourages people to fully participate in the communication process by providing context.
It’s not a passive system. It proactively embraces the disengaged, drawing them into the community of the already engaged. The communication skills of your leaders are crucial to the development of a social mindset. You want your employees to join your organizational efforts to remain innovative, competitive and successful, instead of joining a union. It’s the path to union proofing your business.
A manager tells a baby boomer employee, “I need you to work on this new project. I’m confident you can figure out what needs to be done,” and walks off. The manager doesn’t give the employee any of the tools needed to do the job properly nor does he explain why the project is important. In another department, a manager sends a millennial employee multiple texts that say, “I’ve been meaning to discuss your future with the company,” and the conversation never takes place.
The first employee feels taken for granted and hopes the work can be completed to the management’s liking. She wants, and needs, goals and feedback as work progresses, but at her stage of life she is not interested in career advancement. The millennial believes the manager is uncomfortable giving feedback and uninterested in the employee’s career plans. He is now looking for a new job.
Much emphasis is placed on developing effective (aka the “right”) communication in the workplace, but do your leaders understand the implications of ineffective communication? A decade ago, the workforce primarily consisted of two generations. Today there are usually three or four, and millennials in particular are driving changes in workplace communication. However, you shouldn’t ignore the fact that each generation has a preferred communication style. Many managers continue to rely on one communication style, acceptable 10-20 years ago, and find themselves questioning high employee turnover rates.
The ability of organizational leaders to communicate with employees in the style they prefer, and in a way that meets their expectations, is key to developing engaged employees. For example, millennials like social media, texts, video and other digital-based communications. They appreciate honest and regular feedback, productive training, collaboration and leaders who respond to their input in some manner.
The “right” conversation isn’t always held face to face, but all interactions across communication channels need to have positive qualities. The right conversations cross generations because they’re “tools” that add to the employee’s understanding of the company mission, the employee’s role in achieving that mission and the value he or she delivers. Engaging leadership conversations embrace employee training and development, insights and ideas, and personal goals. They promote a workforce ‘community,’ and are transparent and sincere.
Gallup conducts numerous surveys on employee engagement, and for good reasons. Employee engagement percentages remain stubbornly low, approximately 33 percent. Measuring engagement levels is not enough. In the technology age, overwhelmed leaders often rely on metrics as a wall to hide behind rather than directly engaging employees. Engagement survey results and other metrics cannot replace regular communication, feedback or training. The numbers may indicate progress or a lack of progress, but a good employee engagement program includes ongoing conversations between your leaders and employees, and managers need the appropriate learning to conduct productive, regular conversations.
A writer in the Harvard Business Review suggests that employee complaints concerning poor communication in the workplace are often symptomatic of a larger, deeper problem. In the article’s example, complaining employees were actually communicating in the workplace, but the real problem was uncertainty about their job responsibilities. Human Resources wasn’t making job responsibilities clear. Leaders trained in effective communication would have examined and uncovered the real issues by engaging employees. This applies to union-proofing your business, too. Employees will inevitably turn to other sources if managers don’t understand and correct larger organizational problems.
The right communication is a linkage between employers and employees, and that can be in person and via video, websites and interactive eLearning that help companies orient, train, inform, educate and connect with employees. In fact, Gallup found that employees who were most engaged had some form of communication with their managers every day. Leaders who use a mix of phone, in-person and digital communication are the most successful in engaging employees of all generations.
Forging meaningful connections via social media is a goal of most people. It’s not just individuals though; about 50 percent of large companies and 75 percent of small businesses use social media.
Companies use social media largely to increase brand awareness or as marketing and sales tools. However, it can also be an excellent way to engage your workers meaningfully.
Does effective onboarding increase employee motivation? SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management) has gathered information indicating that it does. Their findings? That the result of effective onboarding is that both employee AND employer reap long-term benefits.
According to SHRM, effective onboarding will increase job satisfaction, organizational commitment and performance levels. In addition, it can reduce turnover and new employee stress levels. When you research onboarding, you’ll find that video is one of the most effective approaches available today.
Traditional onboarding often consists of classroom-style lectures accompanied by documentation the new hire must study. Providing video is more memorable and far more effective than a lecture. It’s a way to build trust of company executives and ensure that the message to new employees is consistent. In addition, top-notch onboarding that includes video can reduce in-house training costs, and even reduce turnover in the first 90 days of employment.
You can build a library of onboarding videos and update them as required. When the employee has access to the library, they can revisit information that they need to reinforce.
Another advantage is that you don’t need to overwhelm new hires by providing all the information they need at one time. It’s easy to set up a drip email campaign that spaces out delivery of links to the videos in sequential order, based on the employee’s start date.
Separate the information you want to convey into manageable pieces. For example, one video could be a welcome video from the CEO; another might come from department heads and so forth.
Get employee input for ideas on the topics to cover. Ask existing employees of differing seniority in what ways they got lost when they were new hires. Also, ask them what they know now that they wish they’d known when they first joined the company.
Here are some topics you may want to include in a multi-day orientation program:
The types of videos can cover issues that may seem mundane but are important to new hires. Examples include how to use necessary equipment, IT policies, how to get support if something goes wrong, and a wide variety of other day-to-day challenges.
Operational videos are also useful for reference – they’re the sort of content that the new hire may return to later, when they encounter that particular challenge.
Of course, your onboarding videos should reflect your company culture. Expand on that idea with fun videos that illustrate what it’s like to work at the company. Take a video of one employee, or edit the input from a variety of employees into one video. Your team members can share on a variety of topics, such as what they do, their biggest challenge, their greatest satisfaction, the resources they find most useful, the help they can offer to new employees, and what they like about their job or the company. If you have employees whose career paths have included a series of promotions, arrange for them to provide a testimonial on career opportunities for long-term employees.
If you’re responsible for onboarding new employees, video is a tool you won’t want to ignore. Don’t get overwhelmed if you don’t have a video library right now. Since you’ll be creating specific videos to address specific topics, you can easily build a library over time. The most important thing is just getting started!
Tried-and-true methods of practicing business are not so true anymore. Technology and globalization have made the world smaller, while simultaneously opening doors to improve the ways we live and work — especially where and when we work.
In the past decade, more people have begun to work remotely – but even the definition of “working from home” has expanded. Today, remote workers may still choose to work from their homes, but they might just as well choose to share co-working spaces, work out of a coffee shop, check in from the beach or even work out of an RV. In recent years, the percentage of workers employed remotely has increased by a whopping 80 percent. This has put new pressure on managers, supervisors, human resources departments and executives to build productive, successful remote teams – and that doesn’t have to be as difficult as it might seem.
Clear goals foster accountability. This will give your remote team a solid footing on which to anchor their work. Make sure your goals are specific, with measurable benchmarks and stated deadlines.
Your remote team’s work will center around technology. Carefully select from the plethora of available business apps and productivity platforms, and always vet your choices before committing to them. Keep in mind that you want to simplify your remote team’s workflow by reducing confusion while increasing productivity.
Each member of your team needs to know his specific task and how it will fit into the overall goal of the team. Provide your team members with clear guidelines that can be easily referenced. Ensure your management tool includes a way for employees to track required milestones within project tasks. If feasible, include a flowchart that shows the impact of each member’s assignment on the overall project goals.
One of the perks lost when teams work remotely is the positive benefits of one-on-one interactions between co-workers. Your workers enjoy freedom and flexibility when working remotely, but it also deprives them of face time to solidify team dynamics. There’s no huddling around the water cooler with remote teams.
Make sure your team leader touches base with every member on a regular schedule. You can get one-on-one interaction and group brainstorming sessions via technology such as Skype. This will help build working relationships between team members.
All work and no play make your team a boring group. Think of ways your team can get to know each other outside of work, on a more personal level. This can go a long way toward thwarting dissatisfaction with the job. Encourage collaboration outside of work hours, if possible. Meet up offline if you can, or offer your team digital happy hours.
Finally, make sure you’re connecting with your remote employees through excellent communication and training, with innovative solutions, including comprehensive orientation and onboarding strategies. Creating ways in which your team has common knowledge of the operation and what others do each day is vital to achieving your mission.