Employee engagement has become the biggest challenge as companies attempt to adapt to hybrid working. But fear not, here’s everything you need to know about how to drive employee engagement in 2022.

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Employee Engagement Definition

In its simplest form, employee engagement is the level to which your workforce feels connected to the company.

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In 2021, the world of work changed forever. Work became distilled into functional tasks that needed to be completed in front of a a screen as quickly as possible. Asynchronous communication became non-existent, replaced by the immediacy of a Slack knock or a Microsoft Teams call, each additional beep like a jab from a woodpecker perched on the shoulder of the remote worker.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

Eventually, the walls of the tiny home office began to feel smaller and smaller.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

Your connection with your colleagues began to drift further and further apart.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

And then it happened, you could take no more.

Messaging suffocation had set in.

– Disconnection from your colleagues? Check.

– Apathy towards your role? Check.

– Trawling job sites online? Check.

– Dreading every workday? Check.

But, you weren’t alone.

And even today, over a year on from the pandemic, you’re not alone.

Employees are becoming more and more distant than ever. A recent study of 2,000 work-from-home Americans conducted by OnePoll, on behalf of Volley, found that seven in ten employees are feeling more isolated now than when they were in the office. Instead of checking in to a centralised office after a lengthy commute, you’re now just as likely to find your staff logging on from remote locations around the globe. 

This fundamental shift in how we do business calls for new and inventive ways of keeping the lines of employee communication open and active, as well as keeping the company culture alive and ensuring people stay emotionally connected to the company and each other. 

Ensuring your workforce is engaged reaps significant dividends. Employees who feel engaged with their companies are noted as being happier, healthier, more productive and less likely to leave, with Gallup noting that employee absenteeism drops by 41% at highly engaged businesses.

What is employee engagement?

It’s easy to overcomplicate employee engagement. In its simplest form, it’s the level to which your workforce feels connected to the company.

Businesses often spend considerable time and effort in their bid to keep employees engaged with the goals and values of the organisation. It’s not a new concept, and driving employee engagement was a challenge that existed in the pre-pandemic office-centric working environment. However, its necessity (and difficulty) has been accelerated now that companies have moved to a hybrid working model.

Being engaged with a company is a two-way street, built on solid foundations of trust and communication between the business and workforce. When it’s done right, organisations can foster a true sense of community amongst workers; when it goes wrong, staff feel disengaged and unmotivated.

Engagement is all about creating an environment in which employees are empowered to reach their full potential and give their best to the business that employed them.

While engagement is a major preoccupation across many industries, building a true culture of engaged employees has always presented a challenge, even before the more recent shift in working style faced by companies around the globe.

Zoom Zombies

The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses into a state of abrupt change, and we are still in the process of discovering how long-lasting many of these changes may be.

Barred from their workplaces following new safety protocols, employees began working from home in their droves. These changes occurred on a global scale and across multiple industries, leaving little time for preparation.

Even in those workplaces where remote working is not commonplace, social distancing guidelines have often made it harder for employees to share the kind of experiences that had previously helped foster engagement and community.

Gone were the shared lunches and team events, replaced by Zoom calls and stilted catchups. For the majority of workers, this transition was not as seamless as many employers thought with less human interactions. Fatigue from increased screen team, apathy due to a lack of real connection to colleagues, and general pandemic-induced anxiety all played a role in isolating workers even further. Have we all become ‘Zoom zombies’?

Engagement in the post-COVID workplace

As the impact of the pandemic has started to wane, a gradual return to normality has been seen – but the principles of the ‘new normal’ remain in the post-COVID world.

Many employees now expect a blend of home and office working as standard, which means less time personally engaging with their colleagues and employers and more time on their own. This has become known as ‘The Great Resignation’, or as we like to call it, ‘The Great Awakening’. People no longer feel tied to their employer, with The Guardian reporting that a survey carried out by Randstad UK found that 69% of workers were feeling confident about moving to a new role in the next few months. Employees are refusing to continue experiencing the burnout they endured during the pandemic.

Throughout 2021, the number of jobs advertising flexible home/office arrangements has continued to grow, as has employee desire for these positions. In Ireland, the share of job postings on LinkedIn that advertised remote work grew from 2% in April 2020 to 16% in September 2021.

There is also a growing sense that freed from the office, employees can work from anywhere, putting the power in their hands when it comes time to find a new job.

Should employers worry, or is remote working actually better for productivity?

60% of office workers state they are more productive when they follow a flexible working model, often choosing to spend time both in and out of the office. Yet being away from the workplace creates barriers to communication between co-workers and could lead to problems connecting teams.

Employers face growing challenges in:

  • Retaining staff who may no longer wish to be location-dependent (especially when employee turnover continues to be the biggest business cost in the world, accounting for over $1 trillion yearly in the US)
  • Building strong, cohesive teams when some (or all) staff work remotely
  • Limiting isolation amongst remote workers
  • Finding new hires in an increasingly competitive environment
  • Keeping engagement levels high amid these challenges

Engagement – with both other employees and the company – has therefore become a pressing concern for businesses that want to keep their staff and attract the best new talent to their respective organisations.

Why is employee engagement vital to company success?

Employee engagement is about much more than buzzwords and trends. It can be a significant determining factor in how successful the company is overall. This alone provides plenty of motivation to get it right.

The level of engagement within your company is the best indicator for employee experience and satisfaction and sense of belonging. It will help dictate everything from how profitable the business is, to your levels of staff retention, absenteeism and your customer satisfaction.

These worries become more critical when large sections of the workforce are opting to spend some or all of their time outside of the workplace, citing a greater work/life balance as their primary consideration.

But what do people actually want? They want to feel included, to be trusted, to have flexibility in their work and to feel informed and engaged.

For companies that have been slow adopters of employee engagement programs and apps, now is a fantastic time to start building the thriving, engaged company culture you’ve always dreamt of. We are in the middle of the transformative shift from office-centric companies to digital-first workplaces where the culture, collaboration, and communication happens online, on platforms like Workvivo. This move marks a historic opportunity to connect and engage everyone. When a company’s center of gravity exists digitally, we have an opportunity to include and engage everyone from the office executive to the frontline warehouse worker.

What is the ROI of engagement?

So, how does boosted employee engagement impact your success as a company? Industry analysts such as Gallup and McKinsey point to myriad benefits from employee engagement, even admitting that the estimates they’ve published are conservative and true engagement can have a monumental impact on company performance.

Reduced absences

Studies show that engaged employees spend 41% less time off work than their more disengaged counterparts. This leaves them with more time to make valuable contributions to your organisation.

Better candidates

The best hires want to work for the best companies. In 2021, company culture plays a key role in deciding which companies qualify as ‘the best’. Engagement is an integral part of healthy, thriving company culture. Highly engaged teams get more employee referrals and inbound applications saving 22% on recruitment fees and overhead.

Higher staff retention

Once you’ve built a strong workforce, you’ll naturally want to keep them. Higher levels of engagement lead to greater company loyalty and more reasons for your employees to stick around. The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one half to two times the employee’s annual salary and that’s a conservative estimate. On average highly engaged teams will experience a 40% improvement in turnover.

Boosted profitability

Engagement plays a role in how profitable your business is, too. An Aon Hewitt study revealed that “for every 1% increase in employee engagement, you can expect to see an additional 0.6% growth in sales for an organization,” underlining the value of an engaged workforce. This is primarily because engaged staff members are more willing to go above and beyond for their respective workplaces.

Greater customer loyalty

Brand loyalty is a significant challenge. Engaged employees are a superb solution, providing higher levels of customer care and increasing the change your customers will return again and again.

The keys to boosting employee engagement

At the core of the employee experience is a sense of belonging and an emotional connection to the company they work for. Without that, staff retention rates plummet and employees become disengaged. No amount of free lunches or company swag can solve this problem. They may act as Band Aids, yes, but ultimately they are temporary fixes.

Gen Z employees expect more. They desire a transparent working culture, and value their personal lives as much as their professional lives. If the employee experience in their workplace does not meet their expectations, they won’t hesitate in moving company. They expect a competitive salary, a connection with the leadership team and to feel included in the company’s mission and culture. Gen Z seek connection and inspiration from colleagues.

This marks a huge storage change in employee expectations and the companies that will get that right and drive engagement through these things will hire the best talent and retain it.

For companies that feel their employee engagement slipping, there are ways to turn the tide in your favour.

Gallup, based on over 50 years of employee engagement research, contends that engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other employees. The more engaged your workforce becomes, the more value your organization will experience.

Cultivate strong values

Your employees are not only there to do their job and clock out; they also have the potential to become your strongest cheerleaders and unofficial brand ambassadors.

This is achieved when they feel valued by the company, and believe their contributions are both acknowledged and respected.

Building your workplace structure on a strong value system is one effective way to improve engagement levels, but solely listing value is not enough. It’s imperative that you find ways to embed the values into the day-to-day communication and goal-setting of the company. This empowers people to not only feel the values, but to live by them. In Workvivo, you can attach any post to a company value so it remains top of mind and becomes ingrained in your digital culture. Much more effective than simply painting a list onto a boardroom wall.

Provide (constructive) feedback

Feedback is an essential tool in the quest for higher engagement. However, feedback alone is not enough. The important thing is to create a natural feedback cycle that forms part of the daily communication in your culture. Tools like Workvivo or other employee experience apps enable you to run employee pulse surveys, polls, and let people stay in touch with their leaders and other social carriers in the organization. Empowering staff to comment on what they’re saying helps to develop a community-led structure which is imperative in order to create a natural streamline feedback cycle. When one of your staff has made a mistake, offer constructive, actionable examples of how they can get back on the right path. When they do good work, celebrate their successes.

Get an employee experience app (retire your old intranet and corporate comms tools)

If your employees can’t be in the room with you, it can harm their engagement levels. This is as true for smaller businesses as it is for larger ones that operate in multiple locations, particularly if staff have limited means of contacting one another and connecting over their commonalities and shared interests.

Technology can help break down these barriers, reduce isolation and keep your employees in tune with the company, while also giving each of them a voice. Onboarding an employee experience app, or even an advanced employee communications platform, can help to cultivate a positive culture and include people no matter where they are working from.

One should never underestimate the power of an employee experience app to bring everyone together and connect them to a company’s goals and values. Clunky, outdated internets are dead. Adoption rates are low, and engagement levels are even lower. Simply put, no one likes to use them. They drive people to use shadow IT consumer applications that the company cannot manage, such as WhatsApp.

It’s time for traditional companies to become bolder and retire that legacy intranet and corporate communication platform. Modern employees want consumer level technology designed to include and involve people in a community-led structure. Employee experience apps are quickly becoming the heart of the digital first workplace.

Provide more freedom to communicate and participate (and get more control)

Employee apps give organizations more control and oversight on employee communications from a security standpoint, something that is becoming increasingly important as the threats on shadow IT platforms increase. They provide people with more freedom and a better experience so app usage increases and companies get better oversight of employee communications.

Move to a flat and open communications structure

It’s never been more incumbent on organizations to retire their traditional top-down waterfall communication structures and replace them with flat democratized open comms. Employees yearn for transparency of communications, something that is difficult to achieve with a legacy intranet.

Measure your employee engagement levels

How can you expect to improve employee engagement if you’re not even measuring it? Employee engagement is the best leading metric for gaining an insight into current employee experience. It enables CEOs to look at a benchmark level and sets KPIs for improving engagement throughout the organization or in specific departments.

Invest in mobile-first technology

Modern employees expect a high user experience, something that just isn’t possible with a traditional legacy intranet solution. Employee experience apps are mobile-first and can give a voice to everyone in the company, regardless of whether they have a company email or device. This ensures companies can unite everyone from the boardroom to the frontline.

Promote public recognition

People thrive off recognition and being congratulated for a job well done. A great employee experience app will make the action of celebrating individual or team achievements a simple one. Well-deserved public recognition through shout-outs, awards, and kudos (like in Workvivo) are key to maintaining and improving employee engagement. It becomes a powerful motivator for your team.

Why do I need an employee experience app?

Many companies forget the user experience is crucial not only for customer-facing communications but for those used by internal teams.

An effective employee app provides an invaluable tool that doesn’t require much (if any) time and effort to start using while enabling the millions of remote and Flexi/hybrid workers to stay engaged with their workplaces and their colleagues.

  • In 2021, 55% of all businesses worldwide provide some provision for remote working.
  • Throughout the UK alone, employees are increasingly favouring a remote or blended working environment.
  • 83% of employees state they don’t feel the office makes them more productive, while 75% say they will be more productive at home due to fewer distractions.

However, some of these ‘distractions’ are healthy for team building, and losing them could lead to isolation, decreased communication and a more myopic way of working.

An employee engagement app can help connect teams no matter where or how they work.

Crucially, employee apps must provide engagement on terms the employee can understand. Using a company intranet goes some way towards enabling digital

communication between colleagues and their employers, but often feels like a hindrance to productivity and engagement, rather than a facilitator.

This is due to the strictures of the format; clunky mechanisms and outdated tech struggle to compete with familiar tools more akin to those found on popular social media platforms.

The right employee engagement app will help open the door to more impactful communication, while remaining easy to use and implement across your team.

Instant messaging apps have become a core part of a company’s communications strategy, but they are having a negative impact on the employee experience. The non-stop always-on nature of instant messaging has led to increased distraction. People feel it necessary to respond to Slack messages immediately, interrupting their flow and distracting them from completing the task at hand. Over a period of time, this excessive form of messaging can lead to burnout and messaging suffocation.

The advantage of using an employee experience app is that it empowers colleagues to share much deeper communications and consume messages at their own pace, in a more personalised way. Asynchronous communication is a key component of a positive culture, as it is less distracting and gives people the opportunity to consume information as a time that suits them, without the feeling that they might miss something. It removes the idea of FOMO (fear of missing out), which has become a genuine disruption to the employee experience, particularly amongst the Gen Z population.

How does employee engagement improve staff retention?

Employee retention is a concern across all industries. Forbes explains that rapid employee turnover is not only bad for company cohesion but can also have a devastating impact on your bottom line.

Every time a staff member needs replacing, you’re faced with advertising and interviewing for a new role, as well as training up your new hire. These events can result in many hours of lost work and missed profits.

Key challenges for businesses when employees leave include:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Costs of hiring new staff
  • Costs of training new staff
  • Hours spent on supervision

Before a new employee joins the team, existing staff members are often required to cover their workload, taking them away from their own projects and increasing lead times. Additional costs can arise from supervision, equipment, and training, making the whole process an expensive one.

Some businesses have developed their brand model on the concept of high staff turnover; many companies within the service industry favor this approach. Yet even for international names such as McDonald’s (an advocate for rapid turnover), disengaged, uninvested employees are often the result.

The more engaged your employees, the more you’ll be able to:

  • Attract the best staff to your company
  • Create a space for them to do their best work
  • Develop greater company loyalty amongst your team
  • Foster greater brand loyalty amongst your customers

Employee engagement is a critical part of making your staff want to stay on board, since engaged employees report being happier and healthier, as well as being generally more in tune with the organization.

Companies may begin their engagement journey by reaching out to staff and assessing their satisfaction levels via engagement surveys, but these seldom go far enough.

Instead of viewing engagement as a periodical event, it needs to be ongoing and tailored.

According to Deloitte, in the modern workplace, engagement can make the difference between keeping your best hires and losing them to a rival that offers a more purposeful, flexible, and creative route to success.

Key features all great employee experience apps should have

Employee apps have been rising in popularity for several years, offering an alternative to intranets and muddled email communication. The average adoption rate for an intranet is just 10%, and this is a number that has continued to decline. Conversely, employee experience apps, such as Workvivo, boast adoption rates of over 90%.

Employees look at intranets as a forced form of communication, with most being difficult to navigate and maintain. As a result, employee apps have been on the rise, thanks in no small part to the emergence of the digital-first workplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovative companies understand that their staff don’t just need an improved intranet with a social media influence, they know the best employee experience requires a tool that can bring their culture to life digitally and connect and engage everyone in the company.

Many companies have been retiring their legacy intranets and outdated comms tools of late, converging budgets into one central employee experience app that enables people to communicate with each other, build relationships with colleagues and place company tools and information at their fingertips.

The best employee apps will provide seamless communication between teams, and don’t require your workforce to learn any new skills before getting started.

Employers increasingly need new ways to engage with their workforce, and yet these communication methods must fulfill certain criteria to be effective.

Key features to look out for when selecting an employee app include:

Customisation

No two workplaces are the same, so why should your employee engagement app be any different? The best apps will give you options to customize the look and feel, ensuring it remains completely branded to your organization.

Usability

Your employee app must be user-friendly. There should be no barriers preventing users from getting to grips with how it works, as this could hinder its adoption across your team, particularly if they are not tech-savvy.

Scalability

It shouldn’t matter how large or small your organization is; a great employee app will adapt to suit your needs. This is where scalability becomes crucial, allowing you to grow your engagement and use new aspects of the app as the company develops.

Community and culture emphasis

Fantastic employee apps also help amplify a keen sense of community and company culture. They provide a space to nurture team relationships, showcase successes and solidify your values.

Productivity tools

Engagement apps should also focus on getting things done. Clear activity feeds and collaborative spaces are a must for a great employee app, alongside the integration of your corporate resources. This will allow your team to find everything they need without sifting through their inbox.

Are employee apps a worthy investment?

Employee engagement should operate on a people-first principle, and this is where employee apps can prove utterly invaluable.

The extent to which you see a true return on investment depends on:

  • The app you choose
  • How committed you are to boosting engagement
  • Understanding (and using) the features available

The best employee app will give you plenty of features to choose from and should be user-friendly and flexible. To maximize your ROI, be sure to really commit to getting the best from your app and ensure you’re clear about the reasons you’ve made the switch.

As mentioned previously, employee engagement can have a positive effect on your company’s sales numbers, with every 1% increase in employee engagement leading to an additional 0.6% growth in sales for an organization. It also improves staff retention by 40%, and can reduce absenteeism by as much as 37%.

Lack of engagement among staff is the single biggest problem modern businesses are dealing with. Businesses that want to succeed no longer have a choice about whether to prioritize employee engagement or not. A great employee app is likely to be one of the best investments you make for your company, providing opportunities for connecting your teams, no matter whether they’re in the office or working from home.

As workplaces continue to change, they’re also a fantastic way to effectively future proof your organization, no matter what challenges lie ahead.

The best app for boosting employee engagement

Workvivo combines the best bits of a social network, an internal intranet, and an employee app.

Developed using scientific principles which prioritize both a seamless user experience and increased engagement, the app represents a new frontier ideally suited for the changing world of work.

Workvivo is:

  • Fully customisable
  • Scalable
  • Community-centered
  • Built for productivity

Some of the key areas where Workvivo helps teams excel include:

Increased engagement

As a comprehensive digital platform focused on encouraging community and contribution, Workvivo helps your workforce find new meaning and purpose at work.

The fleet of tools helps them stay connected to one another and the workplace, so they’ll never feel isolated or disengaged.

Not only does this make Workvivo a fantastic morale booster, but it’s also great for making sure your team stays in touch and gets to know one another, no matter where they’re based.

Positive feedback

Employees should be celebrated, and Workvivo provides space for public recognition amongst their peers. Everyone within the network can easily share messages of support and celebration, encouraging new successes and helping to motivate teams to greatness.

A familiar face

Accessibility is at the heart of the Workvivo app, so users can stay switched on and contribute with ease. The interface is most closely linked to the user-friendly protocols seen across social media, providing an instant familiarity to today’s workforce.

In addition, the personalized activity feed ensures employees can see updates on various areas of the business, as well as contribute to an ongoing dialogue.

Transparency and openness

Workvivo recognises that transparency, particularly in leadership, is essential for more engaged teams. The app provides multi-media options for conveying important messages to the team and helps ensure those messages are fully understood.

There are also options for providing public responses to these messages, so leaders can engage in real-time and respond to queries.

Ready to find out more? Schedule a demo with one of our experts to discover how Workvivo can help you master engagement.

5 simple ways to improve employee engagement

Employee engagement may be a challenge, but it is attainable across all industries and business types. To get started, ensure that you:

1. Reward ingenuity

Staff who think outside the box should always be rewarded for their bold ideas and new ways of approaching things. These rewards can be formal, or simply take the form of an acknowledgement within your chosen employee engagement app.

Whatever route you choose, celebrate the everyday and the exceptional in tandem, as this presents many opportunities for not only making your workforce feel valued, but also ensuring your team is fully informed about the work happening in all areas of the company.

2. Plan for tomorrow

Making sure you communicate big picture plans to your team is another step towards greater engagement. Employees want to know the business they work for is going places.

By keeping them in the loop, you’ll also be able to get feedback from your team and draw upon their respective areas of expertise. Fostering an environment where plans and dreams are part of the fabric of the workplace will instantly make your employees feel more invested in building the future you dream of.

3. Keep it fun

Your employee communications don’t need to be dull or drab. Instead, keep it light where possible. Allow opportunities for employees to show their personalities. This is not only a fast track to helping them get to know their colleagues, but it also makes the workplace a more appealing place to ‘check in’, whether in person or remotely.

4. Create a dialogue

Build a dialogue with your team. This can be facilitated by an employee engagement app, as it provides a more natural place for ongoing conversations to happen than many lesser alternatives.

Keep the lines of communication open and encourage team members in different offices (where applicable) to engage with one another. This is particularly important for larger workplaces, where many staff members may never meet in person.

5. Encourage authenticity

Authenticity goes beyond displays of personality on your employee app. Instead, an authentic workplace will acknowledge the events happening in the lives of employees, whether good or bad.

A workplace that prioritizes engagement will celebrate the good and provide support during tough times, viewing each employee as a person rather than a number. With new software, it is increasingly possible for companies to keep on top of employee happenings and reach out from a human rather than a corporate angle.

In Summary

Mastering employee engagement takes time, effort, and investment. But the potential for fantastic results helps to make this a worthy investment in all respects.

As remote and flexible workers report higher levels of productivity, the challenge is keeping them engaged with the workplace from wherever they may be, rather than coaxing them back to the office full time.

With the right mixture of expert tools and a clever internal communications strategy, you’ll soon be on your way to higher levels of engagement and a contented, connected, more efficient workforce.