5 ways employee engagement tools can reconnect a remote workforce

In early 2020 the idea of working from home was enviable to most, as few organisations were equipped to not only run businesses, but support staff who were working from home. Today, many of those practices are fully embedded in modern day working culture.

A survey carried out in August 2022 found UK workers are going into the office for an average of 1.5 days a week, with just 13% going in on a Friday. Many enjoy the flexibility that remote or hybrid working offers however we’re seeing a negative impact for many, as loneliness takes a toll on the mental health of Gen Z and Millennials alike.

Only 45% of Gen Z report “excellent” or “very good” mental health, which is the lowest of any generation and 75% of Gen Z and half of Millennials left a job because of mental health reasons, compared with 34% of other generations. Campaigners have called for more to be done to address the impact the pandemic has had on young people.

But despite a desire for Gen Z and Millenial workers for more face-to-face interaction at work, it seems hybrid working is here to stay.

At Great State, we’ve been thinking about this for a while. One of our clients is the Royal Navy, which has always faced the challenges of a widely distributed workforce, who much like the ‘work-from-home brigade’ face similar challenges of remote interaction, de-centralised processes and sometimes isolation.

In 2019 we developed MyNavy, an employee engagement tool which aims to give serving personnel more control of their lives and careers. It also tries to remove some of their frustrations with service life. The app has a lot of tools to help with admin, like uniform ordering and traveling to your next posting. We’ve also started including resources around wellbeing and mental health.

In my view, all large organisations need to consider investing in systems like this, to reinforce their culture and make their people feel like they’re part of something bigger.

Five areas where employee engagement tools can make a difference

In my experience working with distributed organisations, there are five key areas that need to be considered when developing employee engagement tools – get these right and it can really make a difference to both an organisation and its staff.

1 Making interactions more human

Research shows 92% of Millennial and Gen Z employees believe empathy is important in employee retention. Empathy naturally arises when you deal with people at a personal level. But in big organisations, you need to use technology carefully to create a more human experience; one that doesn’t make people feel like they’re just a cog in a machine.

2 Helping create a work/life balance

I started out in my career at a time when you worked whatever hours were necessary to get the work done. That world doesn’t exist anymore. Young people coming into the workforce don’t want to live like that; they’re looking for balance. This is difficult for organisations to deal with, because different people like to work in different ways. But we have to be aware of this, and we have to find or create tools that allow our people to work on their own terms.

3 Creating brand ambassadors

The individual’s voice has become much more important. Research shows employees can receive 561% more engagement with a message they share on social media than their company would. So not only do you want people to have a great experience and continue working for you, you also want them to share their enthusiasm for your business. As influencers, they are a lot more powerful than a lot of the other channels you might use.

4 Empowering interest-based communities

A big problem with dispersed workforces is uniting them. One way of doing this is by helping people with similar interests or backgrounds to get together. This is one of the things we’re thinking about for the future of MyNavy. If someone starts a new role in a different part of the country – or the world – how does the organisation help them settle in? Does it know what they’re interested in, and help them meet like-minded people quickly? If you focus solely on getting someone into a job, without giving them time and opportunities to connect with their colleagues on a personal level, they probably won’t do as well in their new role as you’d hoped.

5 Engendering a sense of belonging

Deloitte research found 49% of Gen Z have made choices about the work they are prepared to do, and the organisations they are willing to work for, based on their personal ethics. It’s no longer enough to ignore or pay lip-service to your social responsibilities. As an organisation you have to deliver on your promises to staff and the wider community. You also have to show what that delivery means. Part of the requirement for MyNavy was to allow whole-force communications, so everyone in the Navy knows what’s going on and why.

All these impacts ultimately depend on one thing: data. The better you understand your staff, the more you can use technology to communicate with them in ways that feel human and personal. And the more you do that, the more involved and engaged they’ll feel, and the better the work they’ll do.

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