By Greig Johnston, CEO, Engage4 by Vidatec
A well-connected workforce means one where there is a sense of belonging through open channels of communication as this promotes effective dialogues about everything from recognition to company updates or overall wellbeing. Afterall, connected employees are happy employees, and happy employees are more productive. In fact, a team at University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School found that ‘happy employees not only work faster but also achieve 13% higher sales than their unhappy colleagues’, so we can see that there are real benefits to gain from having a better connected workforce.
However, getting to the root of what this will look and feel like is a process that will be different for every business, since each workforce will have its own unique dynamics that must be taken into consideration. A construction company, for example, will have lots of workers dispersed in small teams across a site, while a hospitality company will deal with constantly changing shift patterns. For many office-based companies there are further complications of returning to workplaces after lockdown with staggered start times, alternating days and distanced desks, not to mention the added feelings of disconnect heightened by living and working through the pandemic.
This is one of the reasons why many businesses have turned to digital platforms that can offer flexibility and personalisation features to create or maintain a strong connection between employees and their place of work. As ‘Britons spend the equivalent of 22 years, one month and four days of their life online’, what better way to connect with them than through a technology they’re already addicted to; their smartphones.
Creating the right environment
When looking to connect with a workforce, it’s important to create a space that is specifically dedicated to company culture. It needs to be distinct and separate to other platforms that staff may use to conduct normal, work-related activities, otherwise it will be considered in the same light; a tool for work rather than culture. Having a dedicated platform will create an isolated space where companies can encourage conversations across departments and where colleagues can begin to develop authentic relationships with one another.
This digital space can act as a hub for all work-related news which will now be accessible in one place, delivering these often missed or lost notifications in a way that employees can easily interact with throughout the day without any pressure or time constraints. Whether that’s more informal and fun content, or an opportunity to recognise colleagues by showcasing their brilliant work or life achievements, regular, positive communication like this will encourage consistent and frequent interactions between colleagues, teams, and managers. A quick ‘like’ on a post or a simple emoji in response to a comment all contribute to a creating a more collaborative workplace culture that will keep staff feeling involved, even if they’re not in the same physical workspace.
Staying in the loop
It’s no secret that work is more than just a place to actually do work. Now that may sound counterintuitive but when given time to take a step back it becomes clear how offices facilitate conversations concerning the newest reality TV show or what the best restaurant is to visit at the weekend, and it’s all good for building that important sense of connection. It’s a social environment with ‘82% of workers considering their colleagues as friends’ and with a recent survey reporting ‘that mindful and happy employees are 12% more productive’, that connection is not to be ignored.
So, when looking to translate this social aspect into today’s landscape, companies should encourage the use of digital chat features to create that familiar day-to-day ‘workchat’ culture and enable greater connections within a team. By making this available on employee’s phones, this will begin to feel like a more natural method of communication and can increase the likelihood of participation. Afterall, we can all empathise with that feeling when everyone else is laughing at an inside joke that you’ve not heard before because you weren’t there at the time, so why not save that awkwardness and give everyone access to a digital platform where they can join in from anywhere? This will ensure that no one feels disadvantaged or out of the loop, especially when taking on a new role, when their work means that they need to be distanced from colleagues.
Valuing employee feedback
To feel connected with a workplace, employees need to be listened to as well. Having a voice will help staff to feel involved in the direction of the company and will ensure that workforces are being valued and heard. In the long term this can improve the quality of communication between employee and employer making a more hospitable environment for staff to raise concerns earlier rather than later. Over time this can reduce the chances of a problem escalating, preventing any unnecessary breakdowns in communication that can contribute to a disconnected workforce and low levels of employee retention.
Equally, no-one knows a business better than its employees, so to create a constantly progressing workplace, employers need the feedback of employees to recognise areas of improvement as well as success. An effective and targeted way to begin this conversation is to take advantage of polls or surveys on a digital platform so that an organisation can receive instant insightful feedback from its staff. By taking the initiative to reach out and by providing an accessible and dedicated outlet for such feedback, it’s possible to create a more harmonised workforce that feel appreciated and understood.
The workplace has undergone a massive digital transformation over the last couple of years and it’s important that HR teams are given the tools they need to support staff in this changing climate. By focusing on creating authentic connections within a workforce and cultivating a united company voice through the use of technology, employee connections to their place of work will only strengthen, generating much higher retention and productivity.
About the author
Greig Johnston is CEO of employee engagement specialist Engage4, a brand of digital transformation experts Vidatec.