POST WRITTEN BY
Bulent Osman, Founder and CEO of StaffConnect and Forbes Councils
Keeping employees engaged is critical to any company’s success, and employers are increasingly aware of this fact. A recent Deloitte study found that close to half of all businesses surveyed describe employee engagement as “very important.” Yet organizations continue to struggle with providing employees with a differentiated employee experience (EX) that results in high engagement. A separate 2017 report from Deloitte found that less than a quarter of companies feel they offer excellence in this arena.
The tools available currently available for attempting to boost engagement are possible factors; some of the usual suspects —printed company newsletters, companywide emails, text messages or all hands meetings — have good intentions of keeping everyone companywide up to date, but they have clear limitations. For one thing, remote employees often lack access to common physical meeting areas, intranet service and a corporate email address. They can, therefore, feel left out of the loop, isolated and disengaged.
I believe that the solution to this conundrum lies in innovative mobile app technology, which can revolutionize industries from the ground up. This begins by improving the effectiveness of internal communication between everyone in an organization, no matter where they work. Why is this so important? Because connecting employees and making them feel more involved ultimately helps boost engagement, which affects the business’s bottom line.
To fully understand this value-add, let’s examine the manufacturing sector. According to a 2017 report from Gallup, manufacturing workers are the least engaged occupation, with three-quarters of employees disengaged. Several reasons help explain this, from cost-control pressures to troubles attracting and retaining skilled workers due to a talent shortage. It’s particularly important for a sector suffering from dismal disengagement to determine how to increase it because better engagement is better for business. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without them by a whopping 202%.
Gallup found that when business units had higher engagement they not only outperformed less engaged units but additionally experienced a decrease in absenteeism and turnover — factors that are particularly common in manufacturing. Also, safety issues can arise in facilities when disengaged workers take their eye off the ball. A 2016 Gallup report noted that firms with higher engagement levels reported 70% fewer safety-related incidents.
As a technology executive, I spend a lot of time thinking about these issues, which lie at the heart of the employee engagement crisis. I’ve realized that increasing engagement levels companywide requires a key shift in how organizations approach creating and delivering EX. Currently, most human resources professionals, senior-level managers and internal communicators see their role as “talent experts.” Instead, they must become EX facilitators.
I’ve seen firsthand that in a digitally driven world, the most effective way to create a company of EX facilitators involves mobile technology.
A big reason why mobile technology is so important is that not everyone in the industry works on the manufacturing floor. Poor reach to remote employees can lead non-desk employees (NDEs) to feel isolated and disengaged from company news, the corporate mission and each other. Companies have many options to consider when harnessing mobile to connect employees with the business. These include general social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, consumer apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat, and more targeted enterprise group productivity tools such as Slack, Yammer and Workplace by Facebook.
While these types of forums can help connect employees, they have limitations — they are primarily designed to boost communication, not necessarily employee engagement. Without a strategy behind them, these communication tools are just a way to chat and make connections — employees won’t end up with a differentiated EX. Since consumer apps are not enterprise-grade applications, they also weren’t designed with security in mind, which is problematic from a data protection and privacy standpoint.
With a mobile engagement app that’s specifically designed for the enterprise, not just for chatting, manufacturing organizations can strategically improve engagement of all workers and give on-site workers and NDEs more effective tech tools and resources to have a voice and remain engaged in the organization.
Here are some tips on attributes to look for in an integrated mobile engagement platform:
• Two-way information sharing: Distributed teams should be able to receive information, share feedback and collaborate using an employee mobile app whether or not they are co-located. Seek a platform that allows all staff (including NDEs) to access continuous company updates any time, any place.
• User-focused functionality: Employee mobile apps should be designed with the user in mind, instead of looking like a mouthpiece for management messaging. If you want an app to become “sticky” for workers, choose a platform that offers a personalized look and feel configured for each user.
• Community-oriented capabilities: A platform built on communities encourages user-generated content that can help boost employee morale. Your mobile-enabled app should let users share best practices and interact while connecting and working within their defined communities.
• Reliable measurement tools: Without measurement capabilities, manufacturers would never know how to use the employee data gathered through the app. Make sure your platform can measure engagement, providing details that management can use to make cultural adjustments.
I’m a big believer that mobile technology represents the best tool that manufacturers and other sectors can have in their pocket to increase low engagement levels. When the entire workforce is empowered to collaborate with their managers and peers, businesses can at long last reach down into the heart of engagement to increase employee and customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and shareholder value.