Putting collaboration and communication at the heart of employee engagement

Retaining and engaging valuable employees has long been a challenge for organizations. As businesses move to new working models, those that overlook the importance of collaboration and communication will struggle to hold on to their best and brightest at a time when acquiring new talent is harder than ever.

The question of retaining valuable employees is one that constantly challenges many employers. It is not a new trend; the war for talent has been keeping decision makers awake at night for many years. It’s a similar story with improving worker productivity, which has been a problem both at a business level and a wider country level in many parts of the world for some time.

However, there is now greater urgency, as both have been brought into sharp relief by the pandemic. With the world in the midst of what many are calling “The Great Resignation,” and companies fighting like never before to attract talent, retaining those workers is vital if the overall economic recovery is not to be slowed down.

The end of the engaged employee?

At their heart, both issues are about engagement. Engaged employees work harder and are more loyal, with Gallup noting that “Organizations with high employee engagement were more resilient and able to weather the many challenges that came with a pandemic, an economic collapse and societal unrest.” Yet just 20% of global workers are engaged at work, leaving businesses with an increasingly disengaged workforce that struggles to be productive and is also more likely to leave.

Driving better employee engagement is not easy. It requires a complex mix of empathetic and visionary management, work that matters and the right environment. Trying to boost it now is even harder considering we are witnessing the greatest shift in working patterns in memory. Employers are wrestling with the right working model for them, trying to balance the needs of the business with the demands of empowered employees.

The changing office space

Yet whether face-to-face, remote or hybrid, it is clear they need to make significant changes. Offices once designed for cubicle working, with meeting rooms for occasional team catch ups, will no longer suffice.

Why? First, because offices need to become not just places people have to go to work, but places they want to go to work. They have to be attractive, both to existing employees wondering if this is the right employer for them anymore and to new talent who have the pick of potential jobs.

It requires integrating technology into design in a way that anticipates how employees are going to work, for example charging points where they are going to want to sit, creative and collaborative spaces with consistent connectivity and acoustics that support communication without disturbing those working separately. And all of it done in a way that puts the employee experience first.

Second, because irrespective of their working model, employers are going to be faced with a returning workforce that has gotten used to home broadband-quality connections and perhaps using personal technology that may well be more advanced than what the company previously provided.

That means the office network capabilities and capacity must be able to facilitate the level of experience employees have come to expect using collaboration tools such as Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams or Zoom. This becomes even more critical for those deploying a hybrid working model, with videoconferencing critical to successful collaboration and building company culture in a new environment.

Companies need to ensure that there are no dropped connections when moving from hot desks to breakout areas to meetings and that no reconfiguration is required for screens or room equipment after another team has been using it. They need to deliver a completely seamless, consistent experience that allows workers to focus on their tasks and not worry about technology –one that connects those in the office with those working remotely.

From team meetings to town halls

In addition, the right collaboration and communications solutions can help keep workers in multiple locations connected and involved. A recent report found that employees feel it is harder post-pandemic to ensure their work is supporting organizational priorities due to communication challenges, pointing to the need to prioritize communications solutions when redesigning offices. Whether remote, onsite or at another office, new videoconferencing rooms can be set up so that everyone connected to a meeting has the same experience and can participate fully.

It could even help make established means of communication more inclusive, helping more employees to feel connected to the business and its purpose. For instance, consider “town hall” meetings. When run effectively, these gatherings of staff and senior management can help build trust and credibility in leaders, in addition to being a way to share important news. However, even in pre-pandemic times, how often did every employee attend and have a comfortable viewing experience? From significant time out of work to attend and poor acoustics to awkward and cramped seating arrangements, even those in attendance may have found it more of a test of endurance rather than an inspiring meeting.

Now imagine that with the right connectivity, appropriate audio-visual setups and proper equipment, how effective a town hall meeting could be when broadcast across multiple locations. Every employee could attend, have a more comfortable viewing experience (and therefore be more receptive to vital company messages) and, perhaps most importantly, only need to take the time out of their day that it takes to log in to the presentation. In addition, by being properly recorded through the platform, the session could be replayed by employees who were unable to attend the live session, reflecting the reality of the workday being made up increasingly of asynchronous tasks.

A small part of the digital workspace puzzle

This deployment of improved networking and unified collaboration and communications is only one part of the digital workspace puzzle. But it is vital in empowering employees to work how they want, where they want, and with access to the devices, applications and data they need to do their jobs. Whatever their choice, having the office set up in such a way that puts the employee at the heart of physical and technological design is critical. It is the only way that employers can create an environment that workers want to be part of, that is going to engage them more and ultimately make them happy at work.

Deploying the right unified collaboration and communications solutions can help employees do their jobs effectively. To find out how your UCC choices fit into your digital workspace, take a look at our latest eBook.

Serge Schertzer
Serge Schertzer

Serge has been with Orange Business Services since 2006 and has engaged in several business development and go-to-market strategies to help customers with business transformation on workspace and customer experience challenges. He has extensive knowledge of many facets of the IT industry through his experience working for software, media and telecom service providers.