You have tried everything – hiked salaries, given huge bonus payouts, taken the whole company on an all expenses paid trip, there’s free food in the refrigerator and even a yoga teacher who comes in every Friday to help the team relax.
And yet, you don’t see it. There is simply no energy. Products aren’t getting shipped on time or with the quality you expect. Your customers are slowly but surely taking their business elsewhere. The business plan you submitted to the board looks more like like a fairy tale now.
This scenario, every leader’s nightmare, unfortunately is playing out in thousands of corporates every single day in varying degrees. The chasm between what most companies do for engaging their workforce and what is expected is growing.
As the new generation of smartphones and tablets became an essential part of people’s lives, the way they interact with each other has changed dramatically. The three trends that are transforming user-facing applications are
Gartner says that by 2017, “the majority of all new user-facing applications will exhibit gamified-social-mobile fusion.”
Three key feature sets (social, mobile and gamification) are already emerging in the marketplace in user-facing applications. These features increase the attractiveness, usability and effectiveness of the applications they are found in. Over the next five years, these three feature sets will continue to co-emerge and fuse into a superset, such that, by 2017, they will appear in the majority of user-oriented applications and apps. (Gartner: Predicts 2013: Social and Collaboration Go Deeper and Wider.)
Early adopters in business have realized this fact and are successfully experimenting with these trends to engage with customers and promote desired behaviour. One of them is Opower – which has developed a customer engagement platform that helps people to track their energy spend patterns (and thus figure out how to avoid wastage) and earn rewards for positive behaviour. The results can be shared with friends on social media platforms like facebook where they receive instant praise. The tight loop for positive reinforcement and the gamification of the process has achieved results that far outperform anything that could be done by advertisements to conserve power.
Electronics major, Samsung created Samsung Nation – a website for people to take a peek at new products, provide reviews, interact with fellow enthusiasts, troubleshoot problems and much more. They earn points, badges and unlock exclusive content depending on the activities they do.
These sites are examples of how technology is being implemented in stages as we progress through increased levels of realization of what really drives people to engage and deliver high quality work.
The three dimensions that Gartner and other firms are talking about, form the framework on which leader’s can develop their employee engagement strategy.
Dimension 1: Social:
People like a sense of achievement and this feeling is one of the most important motivational factors for doing work. [See related post: Motivation at work, 3 fascinating insights]. With the proliferation of social media as the de-facto interaction mechanism outside of work, it is inevitable that the concept will infiltrate the workplace as well. Implementing “Social” tightens the feedback loop and gives the opportunity for people to interact and provide instant recognition. When implemented correctly, the transparent and ‘democratic’ nature of the social intranet ensures that recognition is not just top-down but also at the peer level. Research has shown that the latter is often considered more effective in stimulating intrinsic motivation among team members.
Dimension 2: Gamification:
People like to play games and do so with a high level of engagement. In fact the “Serious Game” movement was born out of this insight and has been successfully used in training, marketing and advertisements Organizations have looked at existing processes or a problem and added a “game-layer” to make it more engaging. Typically users can earn virtual rewards like badges of accomplishment or real rewards like a gift voucher as they successfully complete various intermediate targets. Increasingly companies are looking at options to enhance enterprise software and community websites (e.g. their intranets) with these elements of engagement.
Dimension 3: Mobility:
The first hurdle that a social application in the corporate world faces is that of acceptance. For a social application to be truly effective, users have to opt-in, they cannot be forced to use it. One of the easiest ways to overcome this is to make the content accessible on mobile devices. Smartphones, Tablets, Phablets et al. are the preferred communication devices and have the nearly constant attention of their owners. A “ding” on the mobile seems to get more attention than an alert on the company desktop – so you know exactly where you can capture the attention of your employee the most.
The content-technology trap
While embracing these dimensions in building the employee engagement strategies, leaders need to be conscious of the content-trap. Its easy to end up paying undue attention to the technologies (and there is no dearth of attractive acronyms to be used at cocktail parties) and content (couple of stock images and an infographic splashed on the pages). No, the technology or the infographic will not bring about the required change – relationships will. To bring about the ‘engagement revolution’ in the organization, leaders have to focus on building meaningful relationships with their teams and bringing about behavioural changes. Transparent actions combined with an intelligent adoption of the three dimensions will radically transform your employee engagement levels.
It will take a in depth understanding of what your team is working on, who they are working with and how they are working – in other words, you need to understand the social networks at play in your company – before you can bring about the change you want.
You, the leader, are what it will take to transform your organization into a charged dynamo – where employees cheer Monday mornings instead of Friday evenings. (Don’t blame it on the gizmos)
Are you ready for the challenge?