Engagement is Critical: How to Connect the Disconnected Workforce
When we think about the current employee engagement crisis, it’s tempting to focus on those who work in 9-to-5 office-based roles, and the issues that come with this type of work. But what about everyone else?
Many employees never see the inside of an office. They rarely see their colleagues, let alone their managers. Instead, they spend their weeks working alone, far away from the bustling hub of the modern workplace.
Then there are those who work on the frontline of healthcare or the emergency services, whose daily work involves making decisions that save lives. For such employees, disengagement is an altogether more serious issue.
Engagement beyond the office
If we want to improve employee engagement, it is important to recognize that different types of work and working environments bring different challenges.
For office-based workers, disengagement may be the result of a lack of flexibility and autonomy in their work, a domineering, micromanaging boss, or a lack of clarity around goals.
Remote workers, on the other hand, tend to have plenty of flexibility and autonomy, but might feel disconnected from their colleagues and the organization itself. When it comes to managers, they may have the opposite problem – too little contact, not enough guidance.
I’m not just talking about remote workers who spend their days in front of a laptop. Many employees travel from client to client, working directly with people, but away from the support of their colleagues.
Take care workers, for example. For them, an average day might mean visiting patients in their homes. These people have no single place of work, and no two days are the same. They may be part of a team on paper, but in reality, they rarely see their teammates and manager.
Given the inherently unpredictable and challenging nature of their work, care workers can easily feel cut off and unsupported, which can ultimately lead to disengagement. And in a sector as critical as healthcare, disengagement can have truly catastrophic consequences.
Research has found that not only does employee engagement have a direct link to patient satisfaction, but it can also even be the difference between life and death. A report by Gallup found that employee engagement among nurses was one of the three main predictors of patient mortality rates, showing just how high the stakes can be.
The importance of feeling connected
Instilling a sense of community and togetherness is important wherever your people are based. While remote workers are more likely to feel disconnected due to being physically distant from everyone else, office-based employees aren’t immune to this problem either.
In many organizations, information and knowledge is siloed in departments that rarely communicate with each other. Even at a micro level, without a medium for connecting people and sharing ideas, employees sitting in the same room may feel disconnected from one another.
It is also important that employees feel connected to the organization itself – its goals, mission, values, and news. Why does this matter? Because it helps people feel like they belong. Like they are part of something bigger. It also helps them to make sense of their work and understand how they are contributing to the direction of the company and its objectives.
The importance of being part of a team
Teams play an important role in our sense of belonging and togetherness. They provide a ready-made network for support, feedback, collaboration and socializing – both in a professional sense and in a personal one.
Teams are also proven to boost performance. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, of the companies that adopt a team-based approach to leadership, as opposed to the traditional hierarchical approach, 74% have seen an improvement in performance.
Feeling part of a team is easier if you sit alongside your teammate, but it’s naturally more challenging for those who work remotely.
So how do businesses that employ remote or dispersed workers create a sense of togetherness and community? How can they make them feel part of a team with regular contact, feedback, and support from their peers, managers and the wider business?
The answer, of course, is through technology.
Social technology: getting everyone in the same room
Of all the ways technology has changed our lives, the ability to connect and communicate with anyone, instantly and regardless of location, is perhaps one of the most lifechanging.
At its essence, the rise of social media, instant messaging, and video calls mean that we need never feel disconnected again. We have access to the world at our fingertips! So why should we feel more isolated at work?
The world of work has been quick to adopt instant messaging and video calls, with platforms such as Slack and Skype, but to truly engage and connect people, workplace technology needs to mirror that in our social life. It should be familiar, fun, easy to use, mobile, and of course secure.
We know from our private lives how engaging social platforms such as Facebook can be, and how effective they are at keeping us in touch and in the loop with very little effort. This is where businesses need to catch up.
Social platforms allow employees to connect across teams, departments, and locations, fostering a culture of openness and collaboration. This helps to break down silos and ensures that information flows freely throughout the organization, but no further.
They are also a place to catch up on company news, to see what other people are working on, and to give and receive recognition, a key to motivation.
By giving workers access to all of this via their mobile phones, people can be connected to one another, their managers, goals, insights, and the company at large, no matter where in the world they are based. In business, this is revolutionary. In healthcare, it could be a lifesaver.