Employee Engagement in the digital age. What does it mean for HR?

Employee engagement is being used by Human Resources for several years now, to promote productivity and performance. Today that focus is expanding  to influencing retention and employer branding. Partially through designing an employee experience without discomfort. Due to the digital Transformation and Industry 4.0 , this will increase the importance of internal communication & technology, making a digital employee experience design possible.

The Employee Engagement Issue

According to the State of the Global Workplace report of Gallup, only 15% of employees worldwide are involved in their work. This means, that 85% would not have invested emotionally in the use of their time, talent and energy, in adding value to their team or in promoting the initiatives of the organisation.

More Gallup research shows that this 85% in the United States costs more than $ 550 billion a year in lost productivity. For the UK, CBfinancial mentions that uninvolved employees are responsible for a productivity loss between £ 52 and £ 70 billion a year. They’ve also calculated that unengaged employees cost their employers between £ 3400 and £ 10,000 in salary.

On the Employee Engagement Index ™   , a survey in over 54 countries and +100k employees, the global score is 7.0/10. Both Americas have the best average score of 7.5/10, Africa comes in second and scores 7.4/10, Europe and Asia have a shared third spot with 6.9/10, closely followed by Australia with 6.8/10.

When adding up the growing cost of recruitment in a war for talent, it is understandable why Employee Engagement is high on the agenda for most leaders and managers. It is also a great opportunity to evaluate the current culture of the company and to adjust to the needs of the employees.

Employee Experience completes the Employee Engagement Strategy

Today, experts talk about addressing the entire Employee Experience, giving more dimension to that culture, to the processes and indicators that determine whether an employee is (and remains) engaged – throughout his career from before the start. This overall process is called The Employee Lifecycle.

employee life cycleSource image: http://thesocialworkplace.com/2017/11/the-employee-lifecycle-is-your-roadmap-to-building-an-engaged-employee-experience/

Using a bottom-up approach to design the experience of the employees is not always a guarantee for more smiles on Monday morning. However it could take away the work related headaches and delivers purpose, engagement, productivity, employer (brand) loyalty and the culture that fits the organisation of the future.

employee experience design loop

Source image: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2016/01/13/a-framework-for-how-any-company-can-design-amazing-employee-experiences/#41cbaa25392b

Investing in a good Employee Experience can be understood as merely investing in the wellbeing of the employees, but goes much further than that. It even goes beyond Human Resources.

“At HR we have to get rid of the idea that we only have the experience of the employee.”What we can do is the “sponsoring” strategy, researching and collecting data about what people are at work, and a multidisciplinary team that tackles the problems at work one at a time. We are in a unique position here because we have so much empathy for all these issues. That is why our role as sponsor and leader is of vital importance. “Josh Bersin (Deloitte)

HR and Internal communications: blurred lines

The role of Internal Communication is not to be underestimated and it affects the reputation of the organisation among employees and customers.

A reputation in business is a complex concept that goes beyond how a company looks on the outside.  The individual behaviour of employees – their personal brand – and how the rest of the organisation looks at your department can all be influenced by effective internal communication.”Institute of Internal Communication

When handling the challenges from above along with the opportunities it can create, Internal Communication is changing its focus to employees and their personal (brand) awareness. Topics like wellbeing, feedback, personal development and career opportunities are appearing on the agenda.

Employee Engagement , on the other hand, is more socially rather than hierarchically determined; the voice of the employee gains in importance – especially when their experience is the fundament of their engagement and has the potential to become the new employer branding.

While Human Resources is introducing rewarding career choices, organising the work life balance, the regular recognition and continuous feedback, Internal Communication learns about enterprise social networks in addition to the standard intranet or collaboration platforms for remote workers and staff.

Moreover, Internal Communication also gains more insight into (human) resources and talent management, which is fuelled by the gig-economy.

Digital Transformation as an advantage

Everything can be done better, considering a score of 7.5/10 in engagement still results in a productivity loss costing over 500 Billion dollar a year in the USA only. Not to mention Europe, Asia or Australia who all have lower scores according to the Engagement Index ™ .

Due to the Digital Transformation, there is a significant increase in the market supply of tools and technology to support the entire employee experience process and thus the employee engagement process, giving the T in ICT a new dimension.

This blurs the line between Internal Communication and other departments, such as Human Resources, which is forced to reinvent itself. Creating the opportunity to tackle multiple HR-related issues in one strategic and operational plan: a design of the employee lifecycle that can be digitally supported in combination with the methods and bottom up approach used in employee experience design: a digital employee experience design.

employee experience designThis way employee engagement can be optimised during a time of digital transformation. Not only by giving employees the tools and training they need, but also by giving them a say in implementing the right technology for the right job and using a more personalised approach during their lifecycle.

In my opinion, when HR is done automating it’s processes with an employee centric approach, it will benefit with (predictive) people analytics. After all, if you can make your employees enthusiastic about the digital change in their employee lifecycle and go into the implementation process together with them, you are in for an engaging ride into a future proof organisation.

I am always curious to hear about the challenges you have to face to deploy a digital employee experience design in your organisation. Do you have any?

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