Employee engagement: How digital thinking can help you profit from the changing worker

Having workers in your company who are not engaged in their work wastes money. According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability. Translate that into real-world numbers and it equates to the cost of 34% of a disengaged employee's annual salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make. What can digital technology help you do about engagement and productivity?

Incorporating technology into the workplace and creating digital workspaces to drive higher productivity has traditionally met with challenges. It can create insecurity and anxiety in workers rather than improving the workplace experience, and some employees can get the feeling that technology is coming along to replace them rather than help them. Or, at a basic human level, the always-on nature of communications technologies can, if implemented and used poorly, create burnout and frustration in employees.

Technology has made many things more straightforward, like shopping, how we get our entertainment and working remotely. But most people are social creatures who like and benefit from relationships with other people. Workplace technology should enable collaboration and teamwork, not make workers more isolated. Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools, like chat and videoconferencing, have opened up multiple communication channels for workers, letting them collaborate and share ideas with colleagues no matter where they are based.

An Aruba Networks report found that 74% of workers in fully-enabled digital workplaces said their job satisfaction levels are good or excellent. And there is a link between job satisfaction and higher productivity: greater happiness in the workplace can create a 12% increase in productivity and consequently have a positive effect on your bottom line.

What are the benefits of more engaged employees?

For employers, there are all kinds of positive impacts from having employees more engaged and generally happier when they come to work.

  • Lower absenteeism: Workers who are more engaged are more likely to enjoy going to work and so will turn up more consistently. According to Gallup, highly-engaged business units report a 41% reduction in employee absenteeism.
  • Higher employee retention and lower turnover: Hiring new employees, onboarding them and settling them into your corporate culture can be a costly and time-consuming exercise. The statistics are not really in employers’ favor at all: when a worker leaves a company, it can cost as much as 33% of their salary to replace them, according to Employee Benefits News. A new employee can take up to two full years to achieve the same level of productivity as an existing staff member. According to Gallup, half of workers are currently looking to leave their jobs. Greater engagement can lower these figures, and investing in employee engagement can help you retain your best employees to your overall benefit.
  • Cost savings: If your workers aren’t engaged, they can cost you money. In the UK, employee disengagement has been estimated to cost businesses around £340 billion every single year in lost productivity, according to Hay Group. In the U.S., research by Gallup estimates that this figure is $550 billion annually.
  • Higher productivity/profitability: Teams of employees that are highly engaged are more committed and productive. On average, they rack up 17% higher productivity than less engaged workers and 21% higher profitability for the company. Other research estimates that highly engaged employees can boost business performance by 30%.

Think about the employee journey

If you think about it, workers share a similar journey with consumers: in your work life, you evaluate potential employers like you might consider products you are thinking of buying. You then make a choice and commit to working for an organization just as you might decide which product to purchase. And then, if you like it, the company earns your trust and loyalty, just like a product or brand does. If you don’t, you begin to think about finding a better opportunity, as you would consider trying a different product. Technology can help you make workers more loyal, happier and more engaged by giving them a similar journey.

Think about chatbots; AI in contact centers; retailers using omnichannel communications to drive conversational commerce and rich, continuous interactions with consumers; big data analytics to help pre-empt consumer needs – all of these things leverage ICT tools to increase consumer engagement and enrich the customer experience. So the question arises, if digital technology has revolutionized the ways companies interact with customers, why not apply it to relationships with your workforce? It could drive that vital worker engagement and productivity.

Treat workers as you would customers and give them a better experience in the workplace, and you’ll reap the rewards. The comparison with retailers and the customer experience stands up: retailers are today seeking to drive “experiential experiences” for customers to gain customers’ trust and give them an emotional link to the retailer’s values and brand. And according to Deloitte, a key priority for many companies is now the “employee experience” with 84% saying they rate the issue as important.

Engaged customers are committed to brands; engaged employees can become emotionally committed to their employers, their values and goals, want the business to do well and will work harder and smarter to help it succeed. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%.

How do you get them engaged? Collaborate

You can look at it as a three-step process.

  1. Firstly, encourage collaboration among your employees. Collaboration tools help your company be better organized overall and drive quicker outcomes. This will foster greater engagement in staff through a sense of achievement.
  2. Step two is about relationships and using UC&C tools to drive good working relationships within project teams. By collaborating and working together, your employees have the opportunity to build new skills and learn from colleagues through collaboration, with the feeling of accomplishment and goals achieved again driving engagement.
  3. Thirdly, there is the learning factor. By collaborating with and learning from colleagues and sharing ideas and initiatives with them, your employees benefit in general as workers and can become more satisfied in their roles. Engagement is significant: according to a report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 71% of executives believe that “employee engagement is very important to overall organizational success.”

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Glenn Le Santo
Glenn Le Santo

Editor in Chief, International, at Orange Business Services. I'm in charge of our International website and the English language blogs at Orange Business Services. In my spare time I'm literally captain of my own ship, spending my time on the wonderful rivers and canals of England.