3 responses for 3 common Employee Engagement challenges

A challenge we come across when designing our engagement solutions, is how often teams focussed on Employee Engagement, People, HR or Talent struggle to pinpoint the exact change they want to make. They’ve run the surveys, got the results, can see there’s room for improvement, but don’t know where or how to begin. This is understandable – the problem can feel intangible, especially as engagement survey responses are mostly fuelled by emotions. Improving the emotional wellbeing, connection, commitment, motivation, and ultimately performance across a business doesn’t happen overnight. You can, however, make meaningful, sustainable change that looks and feels innovative for everyone involved without diverging from company objectives, but that crucially addresses what your employees are telling you.

To help demystify these solutions and show that it can be easily achieved, we thought we’d break down 3 common Engagement Survey trends and their responses.

Social Management & Preventing Detachment

As we find ourselves working more from home, or on the move, it can be very difficult to feel “part” of something. Our sense of belonging and purpose can become diluted. Providing ways for employees to communicate and socialise with each other is essential, something we have spoken about a number of times.

What is the benefit in addressing this? The feeling of isolation that can often result from working remotely can be damaging not just for your sense of belonging within a team, but also for your mental health. From a business perspective, having people not in the same building or room can reduce the opportunities for fast interactions and iterations of ideas, serendipitous conversations in the kitchen and those water cooler moments. They may feel like minor aspects of business-as-usual, but all of these moments can often lead to creative sparks being ignited.

Employers who enforce a high level of social connection (with co-workers and the wider external community, perhaps through nudges etc) benefit from a 64% high engagement rate of employees.

Idea Management & Employee Voice

It is not uncommon for employees to feel voiceless, especially in large organisations, in the face of change, or when their roles focus on day to day operations rather than strategic objectives. This can be incredibly demotivating and if left unaddressed can drive a wedge between employee groups and the organisation. Employees who don’t believe their company will act on their feedback are 7x more likely to be disengaged than those who do. It gets even worse when employees are asked for their opinion, but nothing ever happens with the ideas they provide. Not only does this make them feel they can’t be heard, but that when they are – what they say has little to no value. Having the “What’s the point?” effect.

What is the benefit in addressing this? Companies often preach that their employees are their most important asset. Sometimes they don’t realise just how true this is. Employees are the face of a brand, they manage customer problems, and live and breathe the products or services all day every day. They are often in a good position to resolve common issues or ideate improvements. Encourage knowledge sharing, and inclusivity across ongoing projects. By supporting employees to be collaborators and facilitators, you may well find you’ve created teams of innovators.
Places where “employees have influence” get longer tenures out of their workers. After three years, there’s a 47% chance of an employee sticking with them. At companies seen as less empowering, employees only have a 35% chance of celebrating their three-year work anniversary.

Recognition Management & Boosting Commitment

Another big issue that employees often talk about is not feeling recognised for the contributions they make to the company and for each other. 82% of employees are happier when they’re recognised at work. Especially meaningful at times where people are maybe going above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a project done on time, or even just when you can see a colleague is having a full-on week. This does not just mean offering financial recognition, like a bonus or vouchers. Extrinsic rewards can sometimes have the opposite effect; your work on this project after hours is worth £25 to spend on Amazon. Doesn’t feel great does it?

What is the benefit in addressing this? Feeling recognised fosters a sense of community, that the people around you appreciate you for your skills, your aptitude, and all you do. Celebrating wins, boosting visibility of people’s contributions, providing spaces for people to share and receive praise can go a long way to improving community spirit and how fulfilled people feel in their role. Employees who are confident that their company recognises their individual contribution are more likely to keep contributing and going the extra mile.

When asked what would motivate them to remain with their current employer, respondents cited interesting work (74 percent) and recognition and rewards (69 percent) as the top factors.

Addressing the Problem

Having identified three core areas to work on (employee responses & needs) we can start to design the solutions to improve the employee experience, thus moving the dial on overall employee engagement. Myth buster time: these solutions don’t have to be complex, distracting platforms that sit apart from everyday work! We believe in simply enhancing common processes and approaches to deliver better results. So, let’s give it a go!

  • Connection: Platforms that mimic social networks can feel familiar and encourage more informal conversations. But presenting another channel for communicating isn’t always as helpful as it may initially seem. When you’re working on your own, away from the office, seeing you have 77 notifications across 8 different work-based applications can cause more chaos than connection as you stress over which conversation to answer first or what channel has genuine work-related information.
    Instead offer a solution that could mimic the workplace while running in the background; where you know which break out zone to head to when you’re in need of some friendly, non-work related chat, or alternatively pop into the ideation area when you’ve hit the wall and you want to bounce some ideas off people. A tutorial that could run for the first few weeks could also help guide people on how to get the most out of the new tool (and avoid awkward misuse or over-sharing moments), and even help identify and source internal champions to help engage and encourage others appropriately.
  • Voice: Speaking of ideas, an effective way to provide all employees with a voice is to implement digital ideation systems, a place where employees can submit ideas they feel will benefit the organisation. The system needs to be available to everyone so that they can submit an idea. Other employees would then be able to see these ideas, comment on them and vote on them. The voting is important to help surface the best ideas. Voting could be in rounds, with gated progress, so that ideas need to pass certain checkpoints to be seen by wider or more senior audiences. Ideas that are chosen to be developed can them be collaboratively worked on and developed further by teams within the system. A system like this can be open all year around for general ideas but could also be used to help solve specific problems set out by the company. This kind of crowd sourced solution development can be incredibly effective and make everyone feel they have a chance to be heard.
  • Recognition: And finally, providing a space within the solution to manage and showcase recognition would round off our three key issues. It would need to include more than top down recognition, although providing prompts like “Who’s really impressed you this week?” could help facilitate better relations between teams and managers. But it’s also about enabling peer to peer, informal, and cross departmental or regional recognition. Having this integrated alongside the social and ideation threads would only do more to bring communities together, knowing you can say ‘thank you’ or ‘great work’ from afar.
    Employees could recognise each other for jobs well done, pitching in when they didn’t need to, displaying company values, and each could be assigned individual gestures or commendations depending on the message being sent. Virtual applause for job well done that could be used more frequently, a high five for great teamwork, specific badges for excellent customer service or innovation, etc. These awards could be displayed on the individual’s profile, as references or reminders of their performance, and subtle encouragement to work towards attaining more. The profiles could even be used as a references within appraisals or internal reviews, adding more meaning to everyday work and wins.

Today’s consumer no longer wants to be guided by merely transactional impulses. They want to find more, they look for new or enhanced experiences, they want to feel unique. Subsequently, the retail sector cannot settle for an occasional customer – a ‘peruser’, a browser, a surfer. Brands are in a battle to become that “go-to name”, the first place you think of when you need or want something or the feeling takes you. Somewhere that welcomes you and facilitates your experience each time. How can a brand level up and achieve this coveted status?

In a simple purchase process, the customer perceives a need or interest, browses options, checks offers and makes a decision. The tendency is to settle on a desired product or service and then weigh up the price, or value for money. In this experience if attention to customer retention, engagement or loyalty is weak, should any one of the items in the equation fail you’ve lost a customer, their recommendation or influence, and any chance of a return visit.

Simple loyalty strategies work on the basis of generating a reason or incentive to return to the business, for dependable recurring profitability. Customers appreciate the benefits that the brand gives them for their support and this fosters a sort of reciprocal dependency. You like the brand and the brand likes you. But can we really call this relationship sustainable or even rewarding? How protected is it from alternatives or distractions?

What if we integrated a more focussed Customer Engagement strategy within the experience? Here, the brand introduces elements of intrinsic motivation for the customer: incentives and rewards that speak to the individual’s wants and needs, generating a deeper emotional connection between brand and consumer. At each touchpoint between customer and brand, the offerings are more in tune with the customer’s profile, meaning the purchasing or browsing experience is more satisfying, increasing the individual’s commitment to the process, purchase, and return. Your recommendation will be positive.

The objective is that neither the process nor the relationship end at the point of sale.  The brand can continue interfacing or interacting with customers in order to keep building their understanding of needs and tendencies, strengthening relationships with personalised communications and offers, collecting feedback and (importantly) acting upon it to demonstrate more meaningful value for customers than just the product or service offering. In turn, consumers feel recognised and become more involved in the brand beyond their initial browsing interest – advocating willingly for what the brand represents or means to them and seeking more positive experiences as the bond continues to grow over time. Customer retained and engaged. Relationship transformed.

How to improve the online retail experience for long lasting customer engagement

The world of retail may have never felt quite so volatile. Are we opening or closing? Are shoppers happily spending or tightening their purse strings? Are people hesitant and scared or in desperate need for some form of retail therapy normality? With peak shopping season just round the corner (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Year Sales), brands and retailers are caught in a catch-22 where any strategy they implement or any breaking news could save them from or send them into economic turmoil.

33% of eCommerce companies have already stated they are opting out of peak season activities this year versus only 6% the previous year, demonstrating the reluctance and uncertainty about consumer behaviour, even ahead of the most traditionally fruitful and predictable time of the year.

Most of us can agree that our shopping habits have taken a sharp turn this year, becoming more virtual that ever, and the results are in to confirm the feeling. The UK alone saw online retail sales at 27.5% in September, up from the 20.1% reported in February. These are unusual times, of course, but some would argue that average consumer behaviour has been evolving for a long time now. Death of the high street, rise of the untethered shopper – should we be more used to and more prepared for changing behaviours?

Aiming for a Moving Target

It’s sometimes odd to think we group together millions of people into one general concept – Consumers – to try and predict constantly evolving behaviours, attitudes, and desires. But if the collective is dynamic and evolving, so should the experiences they’re offered too. Brands and retailers today are tasked with capturing the attention of the surfing consumer generation always moving between devices, shops and platforms to find the best fit, emphasising even more the need to provide agile, adaptable solutions. Meanwhile, across markets Customer Engagement and Loyalty strategies are often static, or still very much based on the more traditional bases of extrinsic motivation, offering rewards and discounts despite consumers seeking more. McKinsey’s analysis of over 9000 consumers across loyalty programmes of 9 sectors found that 58% are seeking emotional, social and community benefits rather than those more rational ones.

So another way to look at the peak transactions expected in the next few weeks and months, is that it will also be an impressionable time for consumers. Stressed out, fed up, missing loved ones, or eager for reunions – their shopping this year will be fuelled on emotions, so the experiences they go through trying to get from perusing to purchase could have the power to sour or sweeten their engagement with brands.

Transformative customer engagement and loyalty experiences can turn passive, seasonal one-off shoppers into active and loyal brand ambassadors at a time when customer retention could make all the difference moving into 2021.

Tapping into new expectations

For the modern consumer, the standard for a seamless experience is high. It should be – has to be – omnichannel, delivering a holistic view of the single customer across platforms to truly understand their behavioural patterns, with exclusive, personalised, relevant communications and offers, and a customer-centric customer service that evokes trust and loyalty.

This all helps to facilitate the consumer accessing what they’re looking for, however and whenever they need to, but to continue elevating the experience, it’s crucial to consider the people at the centre of the transaction. Considering different profiles and different consumer types is vital in order to understand how to speak to, capture and retain them in the long run.

Recent Euromonitor research went beyond typical demographic-based segmentation to focus more on shared traits and preferences, accounting for the rapidly changing political, social, and online landscapes.

Despite these three types having their distinct differences, they represent a commonality of this new generation of consumer that is continuing to evolve and develop, particularly this year. Integration of care, consideration and concern regarding social, community, and global issues into brand values and communication alongside provision of genuinely enjoyable experiences appears to be what the growing number of consumers are searching for.

A Customer is Not Just for Christmas

We are equipped with so much data, information and insight into consumers, the ultimate gesture for retaining loyal customers is simply to recognise their trust by integrating our understanding and value of them into their everyday experiences and touchpoints with the brand.

Activate, inspire and engage the one-time shopper who arrives on your website looking for a Christmas present with an experience that enables their journey and makes them feel just as valued as a long-term friend of the brand. It may just be enough to transform the relationship into one for all seasons.