With COVID-19 impacting many businesses and particularly their processes and organization, many companies face new challenges. First and foremost, many companies have to adapt to lockdowns, remote working, and new working models. Accordingly, the question “how to improve employee engagement” during the pandemic and post-COVID times drives many managers.
Apparently, employee engagement is probably an area where we can witness a massive cultural shift. Tools and processes that had worked in pre-COVID times are simply no longer efficient and sustainable.
However, although the new normal rapidly confronts many companies with the question about how to improve employee engagement, the answer isn’t that trivial. Moreover, many companies still struggle to find the right answer on how to respond to the situation.
Bearing in mind that employee engagement is a broad field, I still want to provide you with five —from my point of view— essential steps. Steps that are unavoidable in improving employee engagement efficiently and sustainably.
How To Improve Employee Engagement — A 5 Steps Approach
Step 1 — The New Normal Create New Needs, Requires New Solutions
Let’s first dissect the situation companies face that many articles declare as the “new normal.”
Although the entire pandemic situation creates a bunch of uncertainties, there’s already one evident aspect. COVID-19 has massively accelerated a cultural change regarding the way we work. Remote work, de-centralized teams, or the home office are no longer an exemption. On the contrary, many companies accepted and have started to support the new way of working. Twitter, Google, or BMW — the list of enterprises that focus on new working models on a company-wide scale is endless.
Companies’ Offices Played A Vital Role In The Context Of Employee Engagement
On the flip side, that means that the relevance of a fixed office is steadily decreasing. However, in the context of employee engagement, a company’s office plays (or played) a vital role. It was a place to exchange information and to create knowledge. Additionally, and I consider that as extremely essential, it was a place to motivate your staff. That happened directly and indirectly. Directly through face-to-face talks and indirectly by establishing a motivational atmosphere. This entire concept vanished all of a sudden.
Subsequently, especially if you want to create new ways to improve employee engagement, you have to establish new solutions that replace the offices as the place to share information, knowledge, communicate, and motivate. And, the only approach that makes sense in that context is to create digital platforms.
The problem I see is that many companies try to use existing solutions and try to incorporate these new aspects to existing platforms. Most commonly they try to use email, intranet, or chat tools to address those new needs.
Nonetheless, I can tell this won’t work. It’s like trying to use the car instead of an airplane. Indeed, it works to a certain extend (short-haul trips) but quickly gets painful (long-haul flights).
Deploy Technological Solutions That Meet The “New Normal Needs”
Accordingly, step one to improve employee engagement is to roll-out new solutions that meet the needs of a “new normal.” And meeting the requirements in that context means to force mobile apps. It is about deploying solutions that can be used everywhere and anytime. Additionally, solutions that provide a perfect user interface and user experience.
In that context, I highly recommend exploring feed-driven solutions. That means solutions that are —from a user-point-of-view— similar to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. This is so incredibly essential! Why? Because a company is in a continuous battle for attention.
Furthermore, mobile apps build the fundament for all following steps. They must reflect the heart of your future employee engagement strategy. Period.
Step 2 — Create Content To Drive Employee Engagement
Once you’ve accepted that mobile solutions build the core of your future employee engagement strategy, content reflects the second essential pillar. Mobile solutions and content are like ying and yang. They build a perfect symbiosis. And just like ying is incomplete without yang, a mobile app is unfinished without the right content — vice versa.
However, you have to start thinking about content differently. Moreover, you have to internalize two radically new content concepts in order to improve employee engagement.
Content Is No Longer Solely About Informing Your Employees
First, you have to stop considering content as a tool to inform employees. Remember what we said about the office. The company’s offices were meant as places to share information, create knowledge, and to motivate. These are the goals you have to achieve with content in the future. Subsequently, it is essential to develop new types of content. It is about content that drives emotions and motivates but also content that creates awareness and educates.
Accordingly, you have to utilize a vast amount of content sources. External sources (social media, news websites, podcasts, etc.) and internal information (KPIs from different departments, updates, blog posts, etc.). Additionally, it is indispensable to use various content forms: audio, video, written words, visuals, etc.
Always bear in mind that you are battling for your employees’ attention. Therefore, you need content that catches the attention.
Content-At-Scale Is The Name Of The Game To Improve Employee Engagement
That directly brings us to the second aspect related to content. Many companies think about content creation as a manual process. This, from my point of view, is the wrong approach. In fact, I highly recommend to set up smart solutions that AUTOMATICALLY create content-at-scale.
Accordingly, you have to utilize technological solutions to create a humungous amount of content every single minute. Solutions that continuously calculate KPIs, scan social networks for meaningful content, automatically incorporate news from websites, etc.
I am genuinely convinced that the most significant portion of your content to drive employee engagement needs to be created automatically (90%-95%).
Nevertheless, there’s one additional aspect to consider. Yes, it would be best if you created thousands of content pieces every minute or hour. On the flip side, you should distribute content super contextual. Don’t flood every employee with the same, endless amount of content. Make it contextual to their needs, functions, and responsibilities.
Step 3 — Improving Employee Engagement Is About Driving Social Communication
Let’s say you’ve successfully accomplished to roll out of a perfect feed-based app to all of your employees. Moreover, you are utilizing technology to create an enormous amount of content pieces. Great job so far!
What you have to do now is to involve your employees. Or in other words, you have to drive communication. However, with this aspect, we touch a topic where many companies do not accept reality. When it comes to communication, companies —first and foremost— think about emails.
My dear reader, we have to accept that this no longer the way people communicate. How many private emails did you send the last month? I bet the answer is zero — or close to zero.
We’ve Witnessed A Massive Cultural Communication Change
The last five years represent such a massive cultural change when it comes to communication. First, conversations became much more informal (just think about emojis). And don’t tell me this a youth thing. I know many managers from large enterprises that send emojis back and forth. However, more importantly, communication itself changed. Want some examples?
- Liking a post on Facebook is communication
- Sharing a post on LinkedIn is communication
- Commenting a Twitter post is — you know the answer
Of course, formal and well-written emails are still existent. Nonetheless, they are just one (small) part of our communication behavior. The much more significant part is about the communication-forms as mentioned above.
That means you should a) accept that and b) make use of it. From my perspective, things like liking, sharing, or commenting represent a communication-powerhouse.
So, advice #3 regarding how to improve employee communication is to implement, utilize, and drive social interactions — with your feed-based app and content-at-scale.
Step 4 — Listen, As You’ve Never Could Before!
If you ask Google “How To Improve Employee Engagement” many sources tell you to listen to your employees. Communicate, ask, listen, and incorporate their feedback into future decisions.
This hasn’t changed over the last century. Moreover, I genuinely believe that listening is extremely vital in terms of employee engagement. And of course, that’s why you have regular meetings with your employees: Feedback sessions, one-on-one meetings, etc.
So, here’s an aspect I’m probably most thrilled about. If you execute steps 1 to 3 correctly, you will create something every HR manager, every company manager, dreamt of for many years. You create an entirely new source for feedback: Feedback-at-scale!
So what will happen if you have a digital solution that distributes content-at-scale and provides the possibility for each employee to interact? Employees will start to comment on content that is important to the individual. The will like content that is important or drives them emotionally. And of course, they will share relevant content.
An Entire New Feedback Universe!
And here’s the important part. All you have to do is to listen to the reactions. That does not substitute personal meetings, but it creates a new, incredible source for feedback. And again, it meets the needs of your employees when it comes to communication.
Think about all the learning you can extract just by analyzing the social reactions. It has never been that easy to understand what drives your employees and incorporate them into your future actions.
Step 5 — Transparency Is Everything.
I am a massive advocate of technological solutions. Moreover, steps 1 to 4 showed you how technology and information could help improve employee engagement.
Nevertheless, I also believe that this entire approach only works if you follow a transparent information culture. This is probably an aspect that isn’t new. However, the whole strategy of information and communication apps and content-at-scale only works with an open information culture.
That does not necessarily imply that you have to share every or even critical information. On the contrary, it is about tearing down information silos and fostering communication guidelines.
How To Improve Employee Engagement — A Summary
I think we all can agree on the fact that COVID-19 and its impact will change the way we approach employee engagement. It is up to a company to accept the challenge and, more importantly, create an advantage out of it.
I firmly believe that modern technological solutions hold an enormous potential to drive motivation, create knowledge, and establish entirely new forms of communication. Moreover, it opens the door to a new universe of employee feedback.
Let’s start the journey!