Using digital technology to improve employee engagement & productivity
In parts 1 & 2 of this blog series, we discussed how organizations can leverage technology and digital thinking to help improve productivity and engagement rates for their workforce.
In our intro, we presented some creative ways that organizations can empower and engage their workers through the marrying of digital workplaces and technology with strategic communications and market/workforce insights. How leaders can…
- Meet their workforce where they are today
- Create more immersive experiences for their workers
- Empower the untethered, non-office workforce
- Blend communications with the workplace of the future
- Use insights to drive better HR decision-making
- Use virtual agents and voice technology to change the way their employees interact
One answer, which we covered previously, is to leverage technology in creative ways. However, technology alone is not enough to build a digital experience for employees. To be able to achieve success, you must use technology, communications, and insights to make and implement strategic, tailored decisions based on the needs and wants of your workforce.
I’m sensing there’s more to it…
To make clear and informed workforce-related decisions, it’s important for organizations to continually sense, anticipate, and prepare for the external factors impacting their workforce. Using these insights, leaders can then make informed decisions and drive actionable results. After all, what is the point of having data if you can’t do much with it? Once leaders have all the relevant information at their fingertips, they can begin to implement and communicate with the workforce about those decisions. And how they communicate matters. A lot.
Looking at your organization and workforce through the lens of industry, future of work, and digital skills and trends can help you predict future disruptions to your workforce (and therefore, your bottom line). Being able to answer questions like “What should our multi-channel workforce strategy look like?”, “Do we have the human-machine collaboration mix right?”, “How can we unlock and capture the value in our data and intellectual property?”, and “Are we in touch with the impact of changing societal values?”, with robust research and insights to validate your answers and decisions, would likely directly affect your business results.
Drive your business forward by using sensing to mine data—uncovering patterns to generate hypotheses. This could include combing through external sources for news hits and alerts, industry information, trends, M&A activity, tech trends and more, and using internal data to glean insights around your specific workforce. Once you have a general understanding of the landscape you can begin to dive deeper by testing your hypotheses through research, by doing things like issuing pulse polls and surveys for quantitative analysis, and leveraging external experts for qualitative exploration. And yes, this can be done digitally through a digital workplace platform.
Once your data has been collected, it is important to turn those insights into action. Some digital tools help with this automatically, either auto generating insights, or tapping into a services component of a tech implementation/project. This kind of solution should be designed to be ongoing and continuous. Disruptions don’t stop so neither can your monitoring and predicting of them. Sensing helps organizations predict and understand future workforce disruptions and their root causes, empowering smart decision-making and ongoing insights.
Communicating in the digital workplace
Now that you’ve made a decision, you should start communicating with your workforce, right? Wrong. You should be consistently having two-way communications with your employees. How can you make a decision about your workforce without having insights and feedback into what your workforce actually wants and needs? And how do you expect your employees to be fully engaged and stand behind a new decision if they are caught off guard by it, don’t feel personally connected to it, or are communicated to about that decision badly or in the wrong way? How you communicate becomes especially important to the part of the workforce that is made up of remote or deskless workers (72 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be mobile by 20201), who need to be communicated with clearly and conveniently. These workers need to be able to access information on the go and whenever they need it. As a matter of fact, communications are so important that 69 percent of deskless workers would be less likely to quit, even with less compensation, if employee communication was better.2
In their personal lives, employees are used to constant contact and flow of information, and controlling how and when they receive that information, so their experience at work should be similar. This doesn’t mean to over communicate or communicate poorly just for the sake of “communicating.” How you connect with your workers does matter. Through effective workforce communications, culture is shaped and enterprise value comes alive, creating a culture of deep understanding and engaged employees.
Here are some stats to consider when thinking about communicating thoughtfully and strategically:
- Keep it Concise: A person’s average online attention span is 8 seconds.
- Cut Through the Noise: The average person receives approx. 120 emails per day in 2019.3
- On-demand Access: The average user spends 6 hours/day using internet-powered devices.4
- Make it Mobile: 95 percent of Americans have a cell phone, 77 percent of those are smartphones.5
Basically, this all means that people are overloaded with content, making their attention spans shorter, and that you need to communicate with them in the ways they want to be communicated with. To learn those, you can apply the sensing strategies outlined above, to really be able to identify (1) Who your workers are individually (things like role, background, professional proficiencies and experience, hobbies, interests, etc.) and (2) How those people want to be communicated with (cadence/timing, mode of communication (email, app notifications, social collaboration tools, video, imagery vs text, detailed vs concise), etc.). Once you have this information you can begin to curate strategic communications to your employees based on persona/groups (using the data you collected), and communication preference type. After all, the goal is to create cutting-edge communications that resonate with the audience, empower continuous engagement, and drive long-term sustainable performance.
Communicating at work is not one size fits all. Being digital means being flexible, nimble, and built to fit a specific organization’s culture and workforce. How you communicate shapes employee experience. The ability to build media-rich, interactive, and personalized materials for a worker’s day and life cycle ultimately impacts culture, brand, and perceived value (of the announcement, initiative, or even the organization itself). So, when communicating with your diverse, skilled, and digital workforce, remember:
- Use Multiple Channels: For greatest impact, use email, blog, posters, social, mobile, web portals, town halls, focus groups, etc.
- Deliver On-Demand: Self-service, for when people have time and when people need it.
- Be Device Agnostic: Use responsive platforms that can allow users to access from their device of their choice (mobile, laptop, desktop, etc.).
- Leverage AI: Make the employee experience feel like their consumer experiences.
- Two-Way is Important: Surveys, polls, online suggestion boxes, provide ways for employees to give feedback or submit ideas.
- Be Visual: Use video, icons, infographics – even emojis!
Hopefully, throughout this blog series, you were able to learn how leveraging digital technologies & strategic communications for HR, while using market insights to better inform workforce decision-making, can improve engagement, streamline processes, and free up HR to be more productive in a time when competition for talent is at an all-time high.
And remember that, when considering next steps for implementing a digital workplace to improve engagement and productivity, employees, at the end of the day, are people too. Don’t put tools and platforms and implementations first. A business’s success is powered by its people, and for an organization to remain competitive and sustain performance, it must be in tune with the human needs of its workforce.
1 Joe Karbowski, “4 Workplace Tech Trends to Foster Engagement with Mobile Workers in 2019,”
2 2019 Dynamic Signal’s Annual State of Employee Communication and Engagement Study, https://resources.dynamicsignal.com/ebooks-guides/state-of-employee-communication-and-engagement-study2019?_ga=2.235931457.1720466719.1553528954-905396479.1552336231