Getting beyond the hype of employee engagement

Keeping employees productive and happy has never seemed more important. The “future of work” is on the front burner for many companies as they struggle to recruit and retain talent, ever mindful of work/life convergence and the changing needs of the workforce.

Social technologies have only fueled this push to bring employee engagement to the forefront. But while communicating with employees might be a given, companies are still figuring out the magic formula for keeping them happy, motivated and productive.

A recent IBM Center for Applied Insights social adoption study confirms that improving relationships with employees is a priority for companies — and deploying these social capabilities is a clear pathway to employee engagement.

  • Recruiting: Identifying talent through social networking sites and using enterprise social networks to refer and recruit internally.
  • Workforce training: Integrating social training methods that allow employees to quickly build and share learning content to enhance skills.
  • Policy communication: Communicating policies and procedures through social tools that enable feedback, interaction and support.
  • Security intelligence: Monitoring social activities and data for information on security risks.

More than 80 percent of companies using social for workforce-related goals already recruit via social networks, and they use their internal social connections to open lines of communication between employees and teams. And the adoption of social technologies — everything from encouraging employees to connect, blog, share content, participate in surveys and utilize social apps — is driving better understanding of workforce dynamics.

Happiness is contagious

But does employee engagement actually work in practice?

Fortunately, many companies that have implemented workforce-related social tools are seeing a positive impact. According to the study, workforce analytics on employee usage of social applications, training and feedback mechanisms indicate that employee engagement practices are working.

A good example is the insurance giant Allianz, which set out to determine whether keeping employees happy and motivated would ultimately impact how they serve customers. To reach its nearly 150,000 employees across multiple businesses in 70 countries, the company deployed a worldwide survey to determine engagement across the business and collect feedback that could be continually applied to improve the work environment, practices and career advancement.

Allianz now sees a direct correlation between employee engagement, productivity, profitability and ultimately customer satisfaction. Employee engagement has grown by 6 percent to 72 percent between 2010 and 2014, and increasing engagement is now a C-suite-level directive.

Other companies that have made employee engagement a priority are finding similar results. Although there may never be a magic formula that works for everyone, increasing engagement is becoming a necessity for all companies, especially those in industries with skills shortages. A key lesson from social pioneers is that there are many tactical and targeted steps any company can take to reach out to employees. And having the right tools in place to enable engagement is a good start.

Previously published on IBM Center for Applied Insights, September 1, 2015


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