Earlier this year Engage CEO Phil Wedgwood released his book ‘Destination Engage’ – weaving the evolution of both engagement theory and practice with the company’s parallel development and his own breakneck ride through business life.,
Over the summer we’re serialising the book and showcasing some of the tech and the thinking that are shaping how organisations approach both internal and external engagement.
In part 5, we continue our examination of the Five Pillars of Engagement, drawing on an earlier book of Phil’s, Engagement Essentials Explained, that looked to evidence the tangible impact of employee apps at work.
Last time we talked Communications, now we turn to the prime products of our mobilisation and digitalisation efforts: Accessibility and Enablement.
Part 5: Mobilise and digitalise
As pillars go, accessibility is an interesting one in our book because 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.
That’s why we view 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 about 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.
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 the occupational resources they needed to do the job.
We have a manufacturer with five locations, which had experienced a sharp spike in accidents and H&S related incidents following some internal changes and quite wide-scale 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.
Finally, we have a major import and logistics operation who 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 signalled 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.
What we are focused on here, remember, are those things we see as the absolute fundamentals for engagement success. If you do nothing else, just do these things well and you will be up and running.
Our third pillar, enablement, sits deliberately in the middle of our five-pillar framework because it is uniquely pivotal and powerful. It also represents the perfect intersection of employee experience and operational effectiveness, which we regard as equally valid parts of the engagement equation.
Admittedly, the introduction of more self-service options is unlikely to drive up the old commitment dividend, and get people revved up about their role and purpose; but it is going to remove lots of little annoyances and inconveniences and time-consuming sidebar activities.
Making enquiries about payslips, tax codes or pensions; filling out forms to update personal details; requesting shift changes; making holiday requests; managing absence; booking training, all of these and more can eat into time and goodwill, especially in a consumer world where 24/7 self-service is increasingly the norm.
The issue with lots of little things is that they can add up to one big thing - loss of productivity, erosion of morale, growing resentment, a negative workday experience that can be very corrosive if left unchecked. That’s from the employee perspective; now think about the back-office teams who have to process all this stuff.
Is it really a good use of resource and money to be printing and posting out 1000 payslips? Ditto to send out letters confirming/updating employee details twice a year? To have someone spending half their week answering basic pay queries? And the other half trying to marshal holiday requests to ensure adequate cover is in place?
We’ve found all these scenarios in play in recent months and we’re now trying to address them because as it stands no-one wins: employees are not getting the frictionless support service that they might expect as standard in this day and age, and organisations are wasting time, money and skilled overhead in the execution of inefficient processes.
What’s particularly interesting about enablement is that while it may not be the sexiest of things - let’s face it, most of what we’re scooping up here is mundane - the business impact is immediate and significant.
The Engage platform has a ready integration for digital payslips - that has enabled one client to immediately slash £30K from its finance and administration budget
Employees can now access their payslip history and tax code on demand; and the hours saved on payslip admin every month have been freed up for staff to, amongst other things, monitor a dedicated message/chat facility. This is allowing for a faster, more responsive approach to specific enquiries, where previously employees could feel like their queries had fallen into a black hole.
Another client has gone a step further, integrating Engage with its own elearning platform to allow employees to dial-up training on demand. It runs quarterly H&S refreshers for all factory floor staff and rather than scheduling sessions that haul people off the floor or impinge on lunch hours, they’re delivering it via videos, with employees able to watch them at a time to suit. The system allows for auditing of who has watched what and when, so the training team can direct their focus accordingly
Another client with a big service organisation has also been able to transform its incident alerting procedure. Previously a half manual, half electronic system that saw a timelag of up to a fortnight before advice notifications could be sent out to the rest of the workforce, now a completely automatic, same day solution: Engage allows for instant reporting from the employee involved, which is triaged centrally and an advisory alert pushed out if necessary.
The client involved estimates at least a £25K saving in time alone but puts far more value on the slicker information service it is now providing to protect staff.
Destination Engage is available from Amazon in both paperback and eBook formats.