We live in a world where information is all around us, just like air. And such a vast sea of information can become a double-edged sword. We become both famished and overwhelmed at the same time. This especially holds true to company employees. Innovation that led to the eruption of smartphones, tablets, and other technological devices has kept employees tethered to their job 24x7 throughout the year. The Atlantic has coined this always-on trend as “hyper-employment”. Not too far behind was the development of new communication tools, promising people, a smarter and faster way of connecting to one another. Currently, the market in this field is so lucrative that even tech unicorns like - Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook, Atlassian, decided to take their own spin over messaging, chat, and video communication systems. But, are these tools increasing productivity? Or its work turning into a chaotic, and never-ending cycle of messages, emails, conference calls, and chats?
Did you know that over the last five years companies have had a major employee burnout situation? The always-on phenomenon has ended up draining employee productivity, pushes employees to overwork and neglect their well-being. More and more employees are feeling overwhelmed at work. And communication tools seem to shackle employees to their literal and virtual desk, further making them a true corporate slave. Was the previous sentence a bit too harsh? Read the next paragraph!
Communication Tool - Boon v/s Bane
According to Deloitte Insights, behaviours and habits around communication tools that people use in their personal lives have mitigated its way to their work lives. Consider text and WhatsApp messaging. Today, worldwide, 18.7 billion text messages are sent every day, and individuals of 25–34 age group send and receive more than 75 texts per day. Instant text formats have become omnipresent in our personal lives; it is starting to find its commonplace at work too. Yes! Communication tools have indeed increased collaboration, connection and a channel for feedback. However, it also comes with its own set of problems:
- Over-sharing of unnecessary information: Many companies who have integrated communication tools in their office are finding it hard to regulate it. These tools seem to merge lines between the “personal” and “professional”, making it hard for employees to understand the boundaries. Employees end up sharing inappropriate information without understanding the repercussions of their actions. Sometimes, the mode of the language used for information sharing may include slurs (racial, gender, ethnicity, etc), which can literally break your office culture. Over-sharing information (without regulation) can give birth to unnecessary conflicts and irrelevant political/social discussions that may not be anyway helpful to your organizational growth.
- Waste of time: Communication tools can help you in building strong and secure internal communication, but it can also lead to the creation of an environment that supports office gossip and rumour-mongering. There needs to be a proper system within the tool that makes sure that information shared by employees is for the benefit of the organisation.
- Havoc of multiple tools: Aren't we all familiar with the situation where the marketing and sales team is using a communication tool integrated into their CRM. The content team is sticking to G-suite. Development team, on the other hand, is using ‘cool’ communication tools. And the top management is still relying on email. Multiple communication tools end up creating mishaps, loss of critical data/communication and conflicts within groups or people.
- Constant notification: Most of the new communication tools also have an app that can be used via smartphones. These tools emit constant notifications that compel employees to read and reply to every activity that is happening on those forums. This has lead to an increased feeling of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) in the professional realm, anxiety and poor work-life balance.
Where are we going wrong?
Employee engagement is the totality of alignment, collaboration, empowerment, and motivation. To increase overall engagement and productivity, we can’t work on one aspect of engagement in isolation and leave all others.
Then there is also the aspect of behaviour. Employee behaviour is very much dependent on how your organisation behaves towards them. For example, if your employee posts something irrelevant on the company internal chatbox, and the HR or team lead ignore it, employees will continue the unwanted behaviour. Employee behaviour and organizational culture are important factors that shape employee behaviour. To maintain high engagement, it is also imperative to set specific rules for your employees and use the necessary means to curb their behaviour according to your expectations.
Engage overwhelmed employees
- Engagement Toolkit v/s Engagement Tool: In the wave of HR technology, we are all itching to try these new innovative tools in our own office space. Unfortunately, not many engagement tools provide holistic solutions. Using a different engagement tool for each segment of Employee Engagement can be confusing, time-consuming, costly and honestly foolish. What you need is an engagement toolkit that covers all aspects of engagement while giving you the desired result. And apart from being cost-effective, these toolkits provide you with analytics that can make management and tracking of your engagement activities smooth and seamless.
- Recognition: Overwhelmed and unappreciated employees are more likely to feel disengaged and look for a job change. According to a recent report, 55% of Americans consider lack of recognition as one of the main reasons for changing job. While it’s true that better recognition might not be able to decrease the team’s workload; it can, however, make employees feel more appreciated and perhaps motivate them to do their best, even in the midst of chaos. To increase employee support, many company leaders are implementing online, points-based recognition solution. Leaders and employees can now celebrate spot or in-the-moment acts of accomplishment by sharing peer specific actions and rewarding them with points. An employee can accumulate recognition points and redeem them towards the reward they desire.
- Employee-to-Work Connection: It depends on the organisation and the leadership to identify - what drives the connection between employees, their roles, and the company goals. Clarifying and solidifying this connection will lead to increased retention. There needs to be a change in the way employees interact with one another and approach towards their daily tasks. To form genuine connections, employers and employees need to sometimes consciously step out of their constraining routines and try something new like. Rather than hosting traditional annual meetings, encourage teams to have weekly meetings along with holding discussions on online tools. A combined in-person and online meetings will quench the employees’ need to stay connected with each other, both physically and virtually. Some employees need a stronger disruption from their daily routine. You can offer employee education hours. In these sessions, employees will be able to reconnect with their job role, peers, and the company in a more holistic manner. Employees can use this hour to shadow a co-worker, learn a new skill, or draw inspiration from a favourite podcast. These tactics are nothing but a unique way for employees to find a new and exciting take on work.
When an important business technology suddenly stops working, you immediately try to identify the problem and take all the measures necessary to get it up and running. However, with it comes your most valuable and significant business asset, your employees, many HR leads and business heads aren't very brisk to respond.
There is indeed no quick fix to employee engagement. Some solutions may seem easier to implement while others might require more company-wide coordination. The key here is to be on the lookout for signs and act intelligently, without delay.