A workforce that is truly onboard with a business’ vision for success is the foundation of any great company. Yet someone recently remarked that employee engagement felt like a tired topic and I thought: isn’t that the problem? The truth is, while the statistics linking a more engaged workforce to increased productivity have long been shouted about, there is still a lot we can all learn when it comes to actually engaging today’s employees. In fact, it has been reported that disengaged employees still cost the UK up to £340 billion annually in lost productivity, a real indication that there is room for improvement.
If you look to the media, everything tells us that addressing employee engagement is a generational issue. That so-called ‘millennials’ in the workplace are demanding more and more from their employers; a more balanced life than their parents had, the flexibility to work from any location, or the comfort of a less restrictive dress code.
But, any generational shift shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. It gives employers an opportunity to reassess how they engage with their entire workforce and create a community where every member of the organisation feels part of something special. We know that people want to feel inspired, valued and engaged. But, how can businesses do this effectively?
While the more traditional engagement tactics of company-wide newsletters, intranets or annual conferences certainly have their place, conventional methods are on the decline; recent research from the Deloitte Human Capital Trends report showed that phone conversations as an engagement tool has decreased by 30 per cent.
This shift in workplace sentiment calls for businesses to think outside the box when it comes to engaging and communicating with its employees. Businesses that already do this are reaping the rewards. You need only look at global companies like Google and Virgin, that put people and their needs at their centre, attracting the best talent and remaining at the top of their game as a result.
Global financial services company, Fidelity International, is a firm that has recognised this need to look beyond traditional methods to really engage with and inspire its employees. Only recently, it took a mobile, immersive experience direct to its offices across the UK, Isle of Wight, Republic of Ireland and Germany to give employees a first-hand opportunity to get to know its new customer platforms and hear the company’s refreshed strategy. The benefits? The ability to deliver a consistent message to all employees, irrelevant of level or hierarchy within the business, and achieve buy-in for its new strategy from the outset. In fact, pre-tour and post-tour surveys of employees who attended the experience revealed an impressive 41 per cent positive perception shift in their understanding of Fidelity’s current strategy and the company’s future plans.
Take a completely different sector, like retail, and it’s not difficult to see how applying a more creative approach to employee engagement could lead to a real impact on performance. Apple is a prime example of a retailer that has done this well. Its retail staff are asked to simply ‘enrich people’s lives’ through their knowledge of the technology, and the sales will follow. It works – you can really feel the staff’s brand love when you visit a store, which in turn influences buying decisions.
You can easily see how this level of engagement could be achieved within any retail business with a bit of creativity, whether that’s bringing live product demonstrations to stores around the UK so that staff become true product experts, creating a mock store experience that puts staff in the shoes of the customer, or digitally linking stores up around the country in a live team-building exercise. In retail, It’s about taking employee engagement beyond the day-to-day of the shopfloor.
What’s right for your business?
Ultimately, businesses need to do what’s right for their employees. If you’re looking at your employee engagement strategy, there are a few things worth considering:
- Geography: If your business is spread across multiple locations, think about how you can connect a dispersed employee-base and avoid a ‘head office centric’ approach
- Message: Do you want to deliver a consistent message to the entire organisation, or might it need to be adapted for different groups?
- Digital vs. face-to-face: In an increasingly digital world, looking towards online channels can often be the first port of call, but consider whether a face-to-face experience could achieve greater buy-in from employees
- Minimal disruption: Remember that investing in employee engagement doesn’t need to disrupt the day-to-day running of your business, for instance could a traditional all day team-building be replaced with a well-designed experience on site, delivered in just 30 minutes?
Get this right and the rewards will certainly follow. Research shows that a more engaged workforce results in better productivity, higher rentention and ultimately impacts on your bottom line. So, isn’t now the time to step things up?