7 ways to build employee engagement

by Alex Bennett

14 May 2019

People sitting in front of a laptop

Are your employees ready for a whole new way of working?

In today’s world, we’re all living connected lives. You can find out about events happening across the globe faster than events taking place in your neighbourhood; you can speak to people anywhere in the world just as easily as someone at the desk next to you; and global content is available instantly.

Dramatic changes across both the consumer and business landscapes, triggered by digital innovation, are significantly impacting how we live, work, and play.

Today, one of the key challenges facing organizations in their digital transformation journey, is the lack of the skills and knowledge needed to identify, and then implement the technologies likely to have the biggest impact on their business, including their interactions with their customers. For example, understanding what the value to the business could be with artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation and machine learning means you may need to optimize or even re-architect how your systems and network are designed to take advantage of all this new data. It’s essential to think about how you’ll normalize the data and ingest this information to a central data lake such as a digital twin to effectively inform decision making in the future. 

Once you have defined the technology and understood how to design and implement, you move to the equally important stage of adoption and change management. When you make any significant changes to your systems – to enable benefits such as lower costs, higher efficiency, increased communication, or stronger teamwork – how you handle those changes is critical to your success. Change is uncomfortable, people will resist it – it’s inherent to human nature.

Building the systems to promote an agile and responsive organization is considered vital to the success in this digital age, but it’s important to remember if it’s not mirrored by an equal measure of agility and responsiveness in your company’s employees that success will be limited.

The speed of transformation will be determined by how well you have anticipated and planned for the change process with your workforce’s daily lives. The ability to absorb changes in the way they are expected to carry out their daily tasks is determined by the culture of the organization. In order to succeed, company culture needs to promote the idea of community and to embrace innovation across every team in the organization. 

Employees have to take ownership for their roles in a cultural change, as any effective shift is the result of a cumulative effort from every individuals’ contribution. 

A group of people sitting on a bench with various laptops and tablets

The benefits of any new system are intrinsically tied to how they’re adopted by their intended users. Organizations need to excite people about change, helping them to understand the benefits it will bring. Training and equipping people with any new skills that are required is equally important, followed by embedding content to promote and reinforce the use of new systems or processes with tools such as chat bots or more traditional pop-ups such as genius bars. The most important factor is making employees feel that they are part of the change process, rather than a bystander. It’s critical the companies not only make the employees part of any change process, but also invest in employee experience.

Companies that have actively invested in the three key environments that matter the most to employees – cultural, technological, and physical – are not only considered better places to work but also see significant impact on the bottom line. Research shows that these companies outperform companies that don’t invest with average profit 4.2x higher and revenue per employee 2.8x higher (Jacob Morgan, Harvard Business Review).

Top 7 tips for creating engaged employees:

  • Build a culture of community. Employees are either going to be excited or hesitant to change. The key differentiating factor is often the amount of information they’ve been given. By creating a culture of community and empathy, can build a wave of excitement that brings teams together.
  • Share the vision and strategy. All too often the strategy and vision driving changes in the working environment are seen as something that only those around the boardroom table understand. To engage your employees, you need to ensure that they all understand the scope, context, and impact of the changes to the workplace. When people understand the why, they’re more likely to be on board.
  • Communicate often. Even if employees understand why change is necessary, they will become disheartened if they’re not kept informed of the project’s progress on a regular basis. Failure to communicate the status may result in the project being seen as something that will happen ‘sometime’, reducing employee involvement and excitement.
  • Involvement from the get-go. Don't underestimate the desire of people to be involved in the process. By taking your employees into your confidence and making them an integral part of the process, they’ll take ownership of the project, making the change management significantly easier.
  • Find your evangelists. Every organization has that group of super users; those people who want to be part of the process, help with UX testing, and are always keen to have their voice heard. Give this group access to information to keep the overall engagement level of the affected users high.
  • It’s an ongoing process. Don’t think that just because a new technology or process is live, and the training is done, that the project is over. You need to keep tracking usage and adoption of the tools you have provided. Even if you’ve done everything right during the deployment phases, the project will fail if no-one uses it. By tracking these key metrics, you’ll be able to identify issues quickly and address them before they threaten the success of the initiative.
  • Encourage positive health and wellness. Healthy workers are more likely to be engaged at work. Stress, lack of exercise, and poor mental health is a product of the busy lifestyle of modern professional life. The key to engagement in the workplace is to combat these things by encouraging a healthy lifestyle and providing an environment that people enjoy.
Alex Bennett

Alex Bennett

Vice President, Intelligent Workplace, NTT Ltd.