In Human Resources, we’re always trying to improve employee engagement. Setting aside the ongoing debate over what “engagement” truly means in a workplace or corporate setting for a moment, the end result of all our hard work in HR is to help create an organization that gets the most and best work out of its employees. In return, the employees feel fulfilled, they’re well-compensated, and their worries over health insurance, retirement, savings, and other common problems are assuaged. It sounds like a simple, productive arrangement for everyone involved, right? The problem is that this agreement or ‘social contract,’ if you will, between workers and employers is difficult to arrive at and present to employees.
There are plenty of solutions available to help your employee engagement numbers. One popular solution is video communications, which, when the technology burst onto the HR scene, created a new dimension for HR and company leaders to reach workers on. Video unlocked (and is continuing to unlock) possibilities that HR leaders didn’t have before. Now, even with workers living in different countries and time zones, communicating with them in real-time has never been easier.
But what happens when video isn’t enough to build true, productive employee engagement?
A Hypothetical Situation
Your company’s engagement rates were about in line with the dreaded statistics constantly showing terribly low engagement numbers in almost all U.S. workplaces until you instituted a new video communications platform that enabled your distributed workforce to collaborate more effectively, gave your employees better and more easily-accessible information about their benefits packages, and made it easy for employees and management to give feedback to each other honestly and in real-time. Good for you!
But then the employee engagement indicators start to drop. Employees are missing more time from work, productivity is down all around. You’re afraid to conduct an engagement survey because you don’t want to look at the results. The problem is your attitude to your solutions for employee engagement.
Employee Engagement Can’t be Bought
An employee can come into work one day fully engaged. She communicates and works well with her team and co-workers. She communicates openly and honestly with her manager. She even goes above and beyond by helping a co-worker who’s struggling with a task. Then the next day she comes to work burnt out, unengaged.
There are many reasons for this discrepancy from day to day of course. Simply not getting enough sleep can be the difference between engaged and disengaged. The goal for you as a company leader is not to try and force your employees to be engaged every second of every day they’re in the office, it’s to ensure that your employees are as productive as possible day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year. It’s also your responsibility to ensure that your employees have the tools they need to solve their problems, to get around road blocks. When your employees feel helpless or feel they have to go to someone else to solve their problems, they become less engaged.
Video communications are great, and most organizations can use video platforms to enhance employee engagement at all levels of a company. Video can be an effective method to initiate key engagement efforts, like identifying the truly “all-in” employees and linking your office to remote workers, but investing in video initiatives and systems is not the same thing as buying groceries when you need food. When you’re hungry and you go to the store, you buy a few things for dinner, you go home, and soon your problem is solved. You’re no longer hungry until you have to go to the store again. When you invest in video communications systems, your engagement problem is not solved until the next investment.
True engagement requires an attitude, a state of mind, in your employees that leads to them always think about how to contribute to the company and make it better. This state of mind requires constant engagement, which means company leaders need to take a larger role. No longer can you have the HR department pay for a shiny new toy to keep employees engaged and be done with it. If you aren’t engaging with your employees regularly and in some way showing them the reasons why working hard for the company’s goals is worth it, no amount of investment will budge your employee engagement numbers. Engagement should be taken seriously from the top down in any organization.