In my last blog I started to explore the five pillars of engagement, not as some theoretical concept but as a pragmatic framework on which to hang real programmes that deliver engagement success on the ground. We looked in-depth at the first of those pillars, communication, but this time I’d like to explore pillar #2, accessibility.
This is an interesting one because for me it is the one that sits furthest away from the traditional employee engagement space of surveys and reward and recognition programmes. But it is also central to our particular view of engagement as we argue for an approach that embraces everything that makes for a happier, more satisfied and more effective workforce and a more connected, efficient and dynamic workplace.
Because logic and evidence tell us that engaged, motivated staff boost productivity, workplace stability and cultural contribution more than those who are disengaged. But also, and just as importantly in our view, because a distributed enterprise that is in tune with its individuals teams, departments, and sites and is able to build a more joined-up, unified and functional operation, will also see significant performance gains. This is why we don’t talk about employee or colleague engagement as such, it’s a bit too narrow – we’re see engagement through HR, operational and organisational lenses, with the onus on connectedness, community, culture and cohesion.
And when you look at the issue of accessibility it’s amazing how easy it is to inadvertently undermine engagement efforts by just making things much more difficult or awkward than they need to be. It’s always going to be hard to get commitment or best efforts from staff when they feel that they are not getting the same from the organisation. And this is rarely abut the big picture, this is invariably all about the small stuff, those day-to-day attritional nuisances that erode morale and frustrate performance, as well as elevating risk, waste and customer dissatisfaction.
Let’s be clear, every day staff need information ready to hand – from telephone numbers to duty rosters, health and safety materials to training schedules, company handbooks to corporate directories. Intranets and Sharepoint fall short of being a universal solution if half your workforce - non-desked and without a company email or log-in -can’t access them. Ditto any other central system you rely on to keep people informed and in touch.
When we were looking at the tech that would allow customers to fulfil what are, after all, pretty fundamental obligations, we again focused on the basics that would give form and strength to the accessibility pillar.
It was a case of mapping tools to functions, allowing companies to:
• Give everyone easy, one-touch access to the occupational resources they need to do their job more efficiently, effectively, safely, regardless of location.
• Deploy intranet-style capabilities out of the box or link to existing business systems, channeling them through the same app front-end to drive up usage and value.
With tools duly mapped to functions, and a set of accessibility-centric utilities developed, what next? Do they deliver in the field?
I’ll cite three examples that I think illustrate their value perfectly.
• There’s the large industrial services firm that’s managing 150 engineers across UK client sites. It once estimated that its field staff were losing anything up to between 30-45 minutes each day through lack of simple, quick access to core job information. With that time recovered with our help, service call productivity has gone up 15% - which has also helped some key client relationships.
• We have a manufacturer with five locations that had experienced a sharp spike in accidents and H&S related incidents following some internal changes and fairly extensive recruitment. We came in as part of the remediation plan, both for our comms ability and the fact that we could make resources, guidance and learning tools available to everyone through a single platform. It’s early days but the accident figures are already on a downward trend.
• Finally, we have a major import and logistics operation that was experiencing the classic frustration of multiple systems, effectively siloed, and with nothing to knit them together in a way that could be easily consumed by a very mobile workforce. They told us that the pressure of having to interact with lots of different systems to get the job done meant that they were getting more resistance and less and less traction from staff; it was a pain, it was morale-affecting, and also gave them significant operational issues as they were getting incomplete data through.
The ability to now link to and ‘hub’ their key systems, giving users just the single interface for accessing everything they need, has signaled a massive shift in behaviour and mood. At the end of the first quarter with the new platform in place, the client polled the staff on whether the move had improved things for them to some degree – a lot, moderate or little. 84% said they had seen an improvement and of those, 47% reported a large improvement.
These are just some examples of the accessibility pillar in action. As with communications, the onus is on pragmatism, finding solid solutions to all too common problems that actually make a difference on the ground.