The latest Gallup report on the workplace provides the alarming news that two-thirds of the American workforce is not engaged. This equates to the average productivity level of 33%. Clearly, as Gallup CEO Jim Clifton says, if the level of engagement could be boosted by one-third, the US economy would show renewed growth and energy that was last seen in the 1980s.
The New HR Executive: The Chief Employee Engagement Officer
Despite many warning signs that not enough prominence was being given to the management of human capital, HR has up to now had little clout in director's meetings and the board room. The main driver for this is the rise of service industries, which nowadays comprise 80% of global employment. The assets of service industries are their people, not products. This is not news; we have heard again and again about "knowledge workers", now we need to recruit them and they are in short supply. We also have Millennial employees entering the workplace; their needs and aspirations are well-defined and different from the traditional workforce. Another disruption is the need to adopt a team culture. This way of work first manifested in the IT industry as "agile development", as encapsulated in the "Agile Manifesto" of 2001. The success of this methodology is leading to its general adoption within companies, making the traditional hierarchical structure obsolete.
Clearly, the HR suite has a lot on its plate, and the top priority is engaging employees and keeping them engaged. This requires much more mutual communication than has been available up to now, and using the channels that the workforce dictates.
Digital Help is at Hand
While there is no silver bullet that will magically build a new organization and infuse a collaborative culture, once the strategy and design is in place, there are many commercial products in the market place that all support employee engagement. Many of them are called "employee engagement software", but there are other tools that also contribute to engagement.
Software that Leverages Engagement in the Workplace
Below is a generic employee journey map showing stages in the employee lifecycle, and underneath it some software products that can automate the journey and create a more collaborative environment.
Here are some software products that ease the HR executive's burden.
- Talent Management Software. This can assist at stages from candidacy to post-exit (i.e. after leaving, when the employee wants to rejoin after gaining experience elsewhere). Performance, learning and succession planning can all be part of the more comprehensive packages.
- Learning Management Software. All companies have to be learning organizations, and learning management makes this simpler. This can be in-house or a white-label cloud offering.
- Social Network Platform. The "new" intranet. Traditionally intranets have been restrictive and poor in knowledge provision and sharing. The new platforms are designed to enrich the employee experience. Various niche software can be attached, like surveys, quizzes and quests.
Employee Engagement Software, Many Niches
You need to engage the employee all along the employee journey. There are some software products that do this using a social networking platform as a base. Some of these offerings may be too generic, as they are obviously written to cater to the widest possible market.
There are also many niche products out there, like "PatMyBack", which manages recognition, or "TINYpulse", which captures workplace sentiment.
Some of the software is an add-on to another product, such as Salesforce. What tends to happen with these solutions is that they focus on a certain part of your business, such as sales and call centers and neglecting the overall workforce, based on the parent product. This could hamper your efforts to build a true team culture, especially if your focus is on project management and product innovation. On the other hand, if you are a software development company, maybe you only need to concentrate on your agile employees, as their skillset is in such a short supply.
If you have already invested in good talent management software and a social networking platform, they will serve as employee engagement software masquerading under other aliases, and are well on your way to an engaged organization.
Features to Look For
There will be requirements specific to your business that you must rate as critical success factors. However, there are some features that are non-negotiable, whatever you buy.
Omni-channel - Your CIO is already coping with BYOD in the workplace and beyond. Your employee wants to engage with whatever channel is the most convenient at the moment. You need to provide a seamless interface for any device.
Mobile - Related to omnichannel, this will be the predominant channel, if it is not already so. Mobile application management must be robust, secure and responsive.
Cloud/SAAS - You are embarking on a new voyage, and you do not want to build the ship yourself. SAAS products have a low initial capex, usually on a per-user basis and are managed and maintained by the vendor. If you find the product is not what you need (only immersion and experience will tell), it is not a major shift to migrate to another solution.
Integration - Your employee engagement integrates with every single part of your business, so should your software, with simple APIs. Companies list the products that they can interface with; do ask them about the ease of integration.
Gamification - Most of the employee engagement software is based on gamification principles. This is not frivolous; even the most serious research uses it, and the US army even employs a game for their recruitment drive, precisely because gamification engages participants. There are also gamification companies who can help you build your engagement software.
My Company is Too Small
In fact, the smaller your company, the better your employee engagement results should be. This is because your headcount is small and smaller companies tend to be more collaborative and team-oriented - it is larger companies who have the culture problems. However happy your employees are, there is a lot of temptation to move on. Some countries run a "Best Company to Work For" annually, which is based on employee feedback. Although it might be too expensive to join (there usually is a membership cost), you can read up on what makes these companies so good and emulate their practices.