How to boost employee engagement in your virtual workforce

Employee engagement is at an all-time low, but it’s not too late to raise it with a remote strategy and digital tools for employee engagement. Learn how.

The Virtual Workplace

Employee engagement is at an all time low and organizations are paying the price.

Leadership needs visibility into the right data, not just any data in order to address this need.

With work silos and legacy systems remaining the norm, how can we overcome this challenge?

Happy employees are no longer a luxury. They're a necessity. 

Employees are not finding fulfillment in their careers, and it’s costing your organization. A single disengaged employee at the average salary level of $60,000 costs you around $20,400 every year.

Today, only 31.5% of U.S. employees report feeling engaged at work, according to a Gallup study. Alarmingly, this means a majority of employees dislike their job, or at the very least are not motivated or committed to it.

That’s if they stay with your organization. New research shows that 63.3% of companies struggle to retain their employees. This fight to keep talent can largely be attributed to an unengaged workforce. 

In fact, more than a third of employees are actively or casually looking for a new job at all times. What’s worse is that 81% of employees would leave their job with the right offer, even if they’re not currently exploring their options. 

Employees leaving your organization can even take on a domino effect if they are heavily influenced by co-workers doing the same thing. All in all, the final consequence is time and money spent daily looking for replacement workers. And it adds up quickly - according to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies with up to 500 employees report spending an average of $7,645 to recruit every new employee.

This reality indicates that leaders and managers are struggling to deliver an engaging employee experience. Not to mention, workforces as a whole have undergone a massive shift in the way work is being conducted (in office, remote, or hybrid environments), which has resulted in a shift in employee and company values.

Companies today know that in order to bring money in for their shareholders, they must keep employee churn rate down by creating a purpose-driven, equitable work environment that inspires employees to be the best version of themselves.

What is employee engagement? 

According to Gallup’s research, businesses that score high levels of employee engagement experience 21% more profitability and 17% more productivity.

Despite being a fundamental concept that every large corporation should consider, employee engagement is difficult to describe both quantitatively and qualitatively. 

However, to put it simply, employee engagement refers to how passionate your employees are about their jobs. In organizations with high employee engagement, employees feel in control of their job, and are appreciated for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. They feel like they have a purpose, and that their job has a positive impact on the world.

Understand the toxic legacy systems that impact employee engagement.

So why is employee engagement low in our work-obsessed world?

If 2020’s transition to remote everything taught us anything about work, it’s that employees are bored and burnt out at the same time, and it’s causing your business to suffer. 

Let us paint the picture for you - 76% of employees don’t feel like they connect with their peers, which is the number one reason someone will love their job. They experience low self-confidence, low motivation and organizational setbacks if they are being held to unrealistic performance expectations. And when you factor in that employees work across an average of 18 to 30 digital tools, they spend too much time working in silos, performing redundant tasks, and switching between applications.

Despite how hard they are working, employee recognition programs go by the wayside, and only 26% of employees feel valued by their organization. Company culture remains an afterthought and professional development opportunities are lacking. Finally, only 25% of employees feel as though their management teams are transparent with them.

It’s a messy picture to say the least - and a lot of challenges to overcome if you aren’t sure how your employees feel about your organization’s work environment. Fortunately, organizations can leverage countless strategies and digital tools for employee engagement.

Five ways to stimulate employee engagement

Although high employee engagement is difficult to achieve, it's always possible with a little extra time and effort.

1. See where your employees’ interests gravitate

All your employees are going to have assignments they don’t do as well as others. Of course, it's important to provide constructive feedback and training to help your employees succeed in their tasks. However, make sure to also spend time recognizing work they do excel at and gravitate towards.

You can use this knowledge to expand employee job positions or create new ones - enabling them to do what they are truly excellent at. Not only will your employees be happier with this flexibility to explore their passions, but your organization will generate better outcomes.

2. Assign and plan meaningful work

Although last-minute requests and administrative work are sometimes essential to delegate, try to avoid inundating your employees with these types of low-priority tasks. Set out to give your employees meaningful assignments with clear deadlines, and most importantly, make sure they know how their work is contributing to your company’s purpose. 

After all, if you’ve hired great talent, you don’t want to waste their potential by allowing them to get overwhelmed with their menial tasks. If you create inspiring positions, with strong training and opportunities for career development and growth, you’ll naturally see employee engagement rise as your workforce becomes better supported.

3. Take a step back

When you know an employee has proper training and is in a role that inspires them, the best thing you can do to motivate them is to give them free reign to take ownership of their work.

Claire Haidar, the productivity and human behavior specialist who co-founded WNDYR and Pattyrn, promotes this notion when she helps organizations work better with their tools. After helping 4,000 companies navigate digital transformations, she knows that controlling human behavior is counterproductive to healthy, motivated employees. A more effective strategy is managing your workplace’s physical environment, culture, and systems to support your workforce.

This train of thought can also be seen in many organizations recognized for their next-level employee work experiences. For instance, Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard's answer to achieving a healthy, productive workforce is to “hire the people you trust, who are passionate about their job, passionate about what they’re doing. Just leave them alone, and they’ll get the job done.”

Even Nordstrom follows this rule of thumb, with their employee handbook having only one rule: “use good judgement in all situations.” 

Empowering your employees to take charge and grow into their role sounds easy, but it requires a leader who can sit back and observe. By doing this, you gain insight into their areas of work that need more direction or support. You also learn what your employees can do when left to their own devices and put them in situations that build their self-confidence.

4. Share your organization's highs and lows

Structured leadership teams that never interact with their employees are steadily becoming a thing of the past. So rather than experience your organization’s wins and setbacks alone, fill in your workforce! 

By sharing your organization’s successes, you’re showing your employees that their collaboration is contributing to great outcomes, and appreciating them for their work.

Meanwhile, in the case of a loss, keeping your employees in the know creates trust within your organization, and may even result in a new perspective that solves your problem. At the very least, it ensures that your employees are aware of the situation so they can better support you with the tasks they do, and prevent the occurrence from happening again.

5. Provide cutting-edge digital tools for employee engagement

In today’s world, 93% of millennials consider up-to-date technology to be an essential tool in their workplace. They enjoy using digital work tools to improve their efficiency and create better workflows, so much so that they may even push for further change.

In fact, over 50% of organizations use a minimum of 21 digital tools in their daily routines, which points to a 42% increase compared to three years prior. 

Giving your workplace’s digital tools an update can be an overwhelming process with lots of options to choose from. From productive work management tools to a company-wide app that closes the communication gap among all your employees, there are a lot of tools that can benefit your workforce. It can be difficult to tell which one is best suited for your needs.

An important thing to keep in mind when developing a strong tech stack is that the more applications you add, the more siloed team activity and work data analytics can become. All this means is that your organization needs to deploy tools correctly to ensure they’re not counterproductive for your workforce. Technology can be very powerful, but you need to make sure that it is being utilized properly.

Now is the time to embrace the Future of Work

Although it’s clear that the future of work is digital, you need to give your workforce the tools and guidance to thrive in their extensive tech stacks and modern work environment. Meanwhile, to drive engagement and keep a pulse on your organization, you need an accurate view of your organization’s work across all teams. Digital tools for employee engagement may be the best way to see this.

Like what you read?

Download the full eBook to learn about: 

  • Five tactics to promote engagement
  • Optimized digital tools and processes
  • Using a people-first solution


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