18/09/2014

By Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku

Most business will go through times when some staff are less than fully engaged. It could be after the summer holidays, starting back in January or maybe when a colleague has moved on or a client has been lost. This drop in motivation and engagement isn’t always long-lasting and doesn’t always have a major impact on your business. But it can. Lack of engagement can be contagious in business and it makes for an unenjoyable and frustrating experience and reflects badly on the business.

But the opposite is true when someone is really engaged with what they do — it really adds to what your business can offer to have committed and enthusiastic employees. Happy staff are nearly always those that buy into the culture and are engaged with what the company is trying to do. This means they provide better service and are more likely to work there for longer. Maintaining this engagement is therefore of huge importance, but what is the best way of achieving this?

Do your employees feel valued?

Traditional workplace structures, with the boss at the top and everyone else following instructions beneath them, are out of step with modern business. It is much more open now, involving collaboration at all levels and with a much flatter structure. So short term motivational incentives such as an employee of the month plaque, have only limited appeal now, if indeed they ever had any.

However, involving staff in the future direction of the organisation, letting them know their opinions are valued, making them feel they are equal and giving them a platform to be involved in the company, makes a much more compelling case for staff engagement. It stands to reason that the people who work in an organisation would hold valuable and insightful ideas on how it could be improved, yet many employees are rarely asked their opinion on things outside their own particular remit. When people are recognised for their contributions, their motivation grows and the beginnings of a more open and collaborative culture are sewn.

Asking for contributions on smaller things such as naming of meeting rooms or Christmas party venues for example, can be just as inclusive as asking for ideas on strategies, such as new products or new markets to target. There is no reason why employees can’t be consulted about both. So providing a platform for people to submit ideas can reap real dividends, for staff engagement as well as actually generating ideas that can move an organisation forward.

Know your employees’ requirements

Knowing what makes your staff tick — the personal touch – is also key to long-term employee engagement. This is easier to achieve at a smaller organisation but can be achieved at bigger firms too, where the deployment of workplace management software can make a difference, helping to engage employees through providing flexibility and a sense of control over their working life.

But employers of all sizes might also want to make better use of data and analytics to better understand their staff. ‘Big data’ is a term that gets used a lot in business but its deployment in HR is less common. Yet employee data can be analysed just as easily as customer data and can be used to answer questions regarding productivity, the success of training programmes on performance, recruitment, retention where employee pain points are likely to be and even how to identify leaders of the future.

Getting flexible

Flexible working is much discussed but in fact, isn’t as common as you might think. This is despite the fact that it has never been so easy to provide employees with the tools they need to do their job on the move, at home or elsewhere if need be.

The always-on connectivity of smartphones and easy access to files and folders realised by the cloud, can mean people sometimes feel like they are never away from the office. Yet this is because of a lack of guidance, training and encouragement in how to use these technologies more effectively. Technology shouldn’t mean people feel like they have to work out of the office, it should mean that they can do, if they wish.

Engaged and happy employees bring all kinds of value to an organisation. The key is not to look at engagement as a short-term initiative, to be used after summer holidays or when people are inevitably a little flat in January. It’s an on-going commitment, but done properly will mean a motivated workforce, which can only be a major positive for your business.

Wazoku is an idea management firm that works with organisations to help capture and develop ideas and innovation.