Employee engagement has a significant impact on many of the key performance indicators that businesses care about most. A company with low employee engagement can expect to generate less revenue, be less profitable, spend more on recruitment, and have lower levels of customer satisfaction than competitors with more engaged employees.
A recent survey from Gallup revealed that business units in the top quartile for employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% in customer ratings, 22% in profit, and 21% in productivity. These are numbers that make a real difference to a business’s bottom line, so it is no surprise that many HR departments are investing heavily in employee engagement strategy and content.
But that investment doesn’t always see the return companies expect, especially with millennials who are notoriously eager to move between employers and less likely to feel loyalty to their employer. By 2025, millennials will be the dominant group in US businesses. Employers need to find engagement strategies that are effective with this generation. Old-fashioned perks and team-building content don’t work — companies have to be creative, innovative, and willing to build engagement strategies that align with the values of younger employees.
1. Clear Goals
What do you want to achieve with your employee engagement strategy? Employee engagement encompasses the entirety of your employees’ emotional and behavioral relationship with the business. A goal such as “increase employee engagement” is far too broad to be the foundation of a coherent strategy.
Instead, focus on specific and measurable outcomes.
- Reduce employee turnover
- Reduce absenteeism
- Provide employees with a clear career advancement path
Once you have clear goals in mind, it is possible to monitor the success of specific employee engagement strategies and adjust accordingly.
2. Understand Your Employees’ Values And Needs
Millennial employees don’t have the reflexive loyalty that employers could take for granted where boomers and even Gen Xers were concerned. Engagement strategy must focus on providing employees with emotional and practical assets that they find valuable. Most importantly, that means ensuring that employees feel valued and that their contribution is recognized. Additionally, a sense of ownership of their work and their career path is vital.
The specific implementation will differ depending on the company, but successful strategies include:
- Easily accessed training and educational materials.
- Flexible working hours.
- Remote work where appropriate.
- A collaborative rather than strictly hierarchical working environment.
The ultimate goal of any employee engagement strategy should be to foster a sense of mission and ownership. Employees should feel that their work and their opinion matters. They should understand the part that works plays in achieving the broader goals of the business.
3. Create Content That Employees Will Engage with
The days of employee engagement content as a PDF attached to an email are over. That was never particularly effective, and it’s even less so in the mobile era. But mobile presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses who are willing to invest in mobile applications, mobile-friendly content, and mobile strategies that make the most of the devices we carry with us every day.
A simple example is the use of surveys to generate employee engagement data. Forward-looking employers are using mobile push notifications and native applications to gather useful data in small chunks throughout the workday. This level of access to employees can be abusable, but occasional prompts for relevant data are likely to see more frequent engagement than long online surveys that no one enjoys completing.
Native mobile applications are an excellent platform for the distribution of employee engagement content, but modern web technology can replicate the most critical features of native applications, including push notifications and offline functionality on popular mobile platforms. The cost of creating native mobile apps for Android and iOS may be prohibitive for some businesses, but a well-designed Progressive Web Application can fulfil many of the requirements of an employee engagement strategy without the price tag of native mobile development.
Techniques such as gamification can further encourage engagement. Slack, the leading office chat platform, puts gamification at the heart of its engagement strategy. By offering rewards and achievements, employers can motivate employees, increasing their sense of control and providing cues that elicit interactions. By some measures, employee productivity is substantially higher when gamification becomes part of the business software.
4. The Importance of Authenticity
Employees are not blind to the conditions of their work and the morale of their team. If the tone of employee engagement content clashes strongly with what employees know to be the case, no higher-ups will take it seriously.
It can be tempting to create engaging content that is relentlessly positive, that doesn’t acknowledge limitations, and that fails to address the real concerns of employees. Instead of enhancing employee engagement, misjudged content is likely to have the opposite effect and convince employees that management is out of touch.
Of course, it is not the role of employee engagement content to focus on the negative, but it can be used to shape conversations and engage with the practical psychological and occupational needs of employees.
5. Look Beyond the Generational Divide
In this article, I have talked about the attributes of various generations: Boomers, GenX, Millennials. There are statistical commonalities between these groups, but generational thinking necessitates blunt abstraction.
It is useful for spotting broad trends, but you also need more profound insights into the personalities, values, and habits of your employees to create genuinely helpful engagement content. What works for a team of engineers may not be practical for marketing or public relations professionals, regardless of their age.
It’s a mistake to assume that every Millenial is a technology whizz obsessed with their Instagram feed. Instead, the employee engagement strategy should be specific to the demographics and personas of the intended audience. Employers should take the time to understand how and when their employees prefer to interact with engaging content.
In 2018, employers have to work for the loyalty and commitment of their employees. The ubiquity of mobile devices provides an opportunity to enhance engagement, but only if businesses are willing to adapt to the particular strengths of the platform.