Power to the people.

Why digital engagement is key to increasing staff productivity and retention  

The inclusion of digital requirements into most work processes, together with employees’ increased understanding and use of digital technology is “leading to a world where every employee is a digital employee,” according to Matthew Cain, distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Organizations that formally embrace and extend the digital competencies of their employees will experience improved business outcomes and gain competitive advantage,” he explains.

But there is a downside. Because the work environment is everywhere to meet our “always on working culture”, 75 percent of us feel overwhelmed, according to research from Bersin by Deloitte. Many organizations are at a loss to address engagement issues that have emerged from our hyperconnected world.

It isn’t just organizational infrastructure and the use of technology that has changed. Employees’ mindsets have changed as well. The desire to have “flexibility, meaning and autonomy” at work, has challenged the traditional management role, according to Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte. In fact, these radical changes in the workplace demand a new model of management that can lead and empower people, while building digital systems and tools that enable people to collaborate in “networks of teams”.

Bersin believes that organizations are now more akin to Hollywood movies than institutions. “We engage our people to take on great projects like talent scouts; when the project is over, they move on and look for the next assignment,” he explains. “Team leadership has replaced ‘middle management’ and our companies are becoming networks of teams.”

Taking time to understand employees

Unified communication systems, knowledge management, collaboration and innovation are pivotal for employees, and help them meet their goals and support their behavior. Fully-engaged employees that are passionate about a company drive progress, and ultimately profits.

But, according to a survey by Gallup, employee engagement has barely moved in years. It is an issue that organizations need to look at as a matter of urgency, before it has lasting repercussions on the global economy. Gallup estimates that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged, which means that only a minority of them are enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace.   

Gallup’s research maintains this is due to organizations concentrating on measuring engagement rather than putting a strategy in place to make the changes in the workplace that will engage and retain employees.

Training is essential

Learning is key to keeping employees engaged and developing their skillsets – and employees are demanding flexibility from the learning process as well as the workplace.

Employees view training as an important benefit. The 2015 Meeker Internet Trends report found that millennials value training over any other work benefit, including more vacation time and financial bonuses.  

Mobile or m-learning made up of interactive videos, gamification and microlearning, where employees are provided with bite-size learning they can dip into on the go, are all increasingly being used in training strategies. As well as coaching employees, gamification is also being adopted to reinforce corporate goals and objectives and tracking performance and development in real time.

With smartphones increasingly becoming VR enabled, the next step will be mobile virtual reality (VR) learning.  Forward thinking companies are already looking at how they can create immersive experiences to engage employees.

Connecting with your employees

The truth is that disengaged employees drag down companies, reduce productivity and ultimately cost them dearly. Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost organizations between $280 billion and $340 billion per year.

A PwC study found that employees most committed to their organization put 57 percent more effort into their jobs and are 87 percent less likely to resign.

But how do you foster this digital employee engagement? The answer is consistency in connecting with employees.

As Gallup points out, having a 'start and stop' approach to employee engagement doesn’t work.  Companies must have an effective ongoing digital engagement strategy in place that coincides with regular business activities to retain, home-grow talent and attract creative thinkers. Those that don’t will find themselves in the middle of a skills drought that will see them struggling to reach their business targets.

Enterprise social networks can improve internal collaboration, but you need to onboard your employees from the ground-up.