We can all agree, the pivot to a hybrid workplace and remote work has significantly impacted employee experience. What worked before to keep employees engaged in the office is less relevant with each passing day. Employees were attracted to on-site perks and amenities, many of which were designed and available pre-COVID; they now value perks that cater to their new hybrid lifestyles. Ping-pong tables, catered lunches, social engagements, are still very much exciting but at the same time less of a priority, and it makes perfect sense why. Not everyone is on-site all of the time.
Also, new types of amenities and areas of focus for employee engagement have surfaced. Corporate support for physical health, mental health, and wellness are on the rise. Self-care opportunities and personalized benefits have increased. Employees aren't just thinking about themselves either, they're also weighing familial support — will their loved ones also benefit?
These changes have contributed to the changing dynamics of a good employee engagement strategy. Whether working on-site or off, hybrid workforces are rediscovering what it means to feel engaged and valued by their companies. How do you keep employees engaged while they're at home or off-site? How do you preserve a solid, reliable culture when everyone is spread so far and wide?
Working with Fortune 500 companies, I've been fortunate to see a variety of employee engagement initiatives roll-out. The tricky part is making your strategy inclusive of all work settings and equitable no matter where your employees are working from. The most successful tactics are flexible and routinely evaluated and refined, because improving employee engagement is an evergreen practice. Here are three practical ways you can keep employees engaged, even across a distributed workforce.
Continually Improve Their Day-to-Day Experiences
Step one is to examine and plot the day-to-day workflows of hybrid employees when they are on-site, but also when they're at home. Identify common pain points that influence engagement and motivation, such as app fatigue, difficulties finding a desk while on-site, attending company events, and even commutes. What can a team do to improve these situations?
Discuss Communication Preferences
Establish a standard for how people should communicate and when, but also recognize that each employee will have their own set of needs. With hybrid work comes a more flexible schedule for employees. Some have factored in a quick workout, picking up children or a workshop session into their schedule. With that, it's best to determine the most effective form of communication for the team. This can mean sending a meeting invite instead of calling someone without warning, or deciding that daily 10-minute syncs are more effective than weekly hour-long syncs.
Combat Zoom Fatigue
People who spend most of their day on video calls and meetings can burn out quickly. That's why companies are turning to employee engagement apps to house more collaborative work environments. This can be addressed by offering breakout sessions on these platforms to engage with smaller groups, allowing those who don't need to be involved an option to manage their own time. You can also host polls, quizzes, and interactive events during presentations to make them more lively. Make sure to record meetings and make them available to whoever couldn't attend. This ensures a more permanent resource for anyone that needs a second glance, while simultaneously providing inclusive, and equitable access to resources.
The goal is to find new methodologies and tools that positively influence workflow and mitigate employee pain points through a frictionless workplace ecosystem.
With an employee experience platform, you can connect all these employee engagement touchpoints together. Everyone gets the same experience, the same benefits, and the same tools, regardless of where they are.
Give Employees Fresh, and New Ways to Engage
Communication tools like Slack or Teams work well for collaboration but are not in and of themselves a way to boost employee engagement. Beyond conversing on specific topics or channels, employees want other ways to connect, give feedback, share stories etc.without having to jump between tools and applications. These tools can keep teams connected over distances, but they're very sterile environments. It's difficult to preserve culture and fun when you're always typing, keeping responses short, and tied to your desk.
Create a Community
Shake things up a little by hosting events for your workers. Get creative and deliver team challenges, host coffee chats or trivia sessions, kickstart some giveaways or contests. This is a big point for all those companies and brands that claim their workforce is a community. It's important to make valid efforts to become one.
Encourage employees to discuss how hybrid work is affecting them. With that, promoting healthy activities like walking, meditation, and community groups goes a long way towards improving everyone's experience. Get creative. What if you offered an at-home cooking experience where employees could tune-in from their workplace experience app and participate live from their own home preparing a meal with a celebrity chef. One initiative Inpixon has taken on in 2022 — is hosting optional monthly seminars on rotating topics such as mental health and wellbeing, encouraging us as employees to take time to improve ourselves.
Recognition is Key
Another boost to employee satisfaction is offering more concrete ways of recognizing employees who regularly go above and beyond. Incorporating this into a workplace experience app keeps it fresh, timely, and front and center with peers. Customer wins, product launches, and personal successes all matter. Recognition and announcements should always be saved for all-hands, but recurring across your employee engagement strategy. It creates motivation and a sense of teamwork. Consider replacing with: As a team, you'll also want to ensure that all employees have the same access to perks and rewards. So while new-hire perks might sound like a good idea, they could risk alienating your senior staff.
Providing employees with more diverse and enriching ways to engage with their corporate community is not just possible, it's welcome. Think one-on-one virtual coffees and donuts, blogging on internal channels or platforms, and engagements that your employees will adore. Taco Tuesday? Great, let's chat!
Make Rewards and Feedback More Intuitive and Exciting
Because not everyone is going to be on-site, or conversely working remotely, we must find creative and intuitive ways to actively listen to employees and give back. The old strategies and perks aren't going to apply going forward, at least not as a general offering.
Here are just a few ways that a workplace experience platform can be used to enhance engagement initiatives:
Gamification: Add game mechanics and gaming elements to an everyday activity or task to encourage employees to interact with existing content or activities in real life or through a workplace experience app. You have a captive audience — now captivate them. Like a rewards program, employees can search through various sections of the app to gain points and thereby earn rewards or prizes. Some examples are finding a specific article in the newsfeed, finding a room on the live indoor office map, or a person in the directory. Mobile apps are great tools for measuring overall engagement and user behavior.
Polling: Utilize polling to collect quick feedback from employees. This allows you to discern valuable workplace-specific feedback but also non-work-related questions to get to know your employees better. For example, if you're looking to roll-out a new feature, ask your employees if they'd prefer option A, B, or C. Similarly, want to use a virtual event to host a seminar, ask your employees which topic they're most interested in such as tips for meditation, successful home office setups, or goal setting best practices. It's all about the fine art of allowing your employees to have an opinion.
Surveys: Surveys are another fantastic way to gather employee feedback. The difference between a survey and a poll, is surveys inherently can be longer, more complex and time consuming. But that's ok, they just need to be used in the right way and at the right time. Often I've been asked to take a survey for a product or vendor, open the survey at home in a browser window, and ultimately forget to take the survey. With an employee experience app, I can easily access that survey at home and while I'm picking up a coffee on my way to work. Even better, I can get notified when I haven't finished a survey and come back to it when it's most convenient. Making these types of activities effortless for your employees is what matters most.
Don't forget to ask employees what rewards or benefits they would like to see. Consider offering them some of the most popular options, or upvoted requests. Moreover, create a plan or schedule to continue offering new items consistently, whether that's quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.
Using a Platform to Facilitate Engagement in the Hybrid Workplace
The "Great Resignation" is out there and there is an appropriate way to deal with the challenge thanks to workplace experience platforms. This technology allows for better engagement and collaboration amongst employees, peers, and communities.
Companies are looking for new ways to keep employees around, satisfied, and engaged. It makes sense to offer different levels of amenities, both on-site and off, and workplace experience apps provide a digital way of achieving this.
You see, when it was normal to spend most of your workday on campus, a lot of companies with big budgets like Facebook and Google were building elaborate facilities. It was not uncommon to see outdoor barbecues, farmer's markets, volleyball and sports courts, indoor-outdoor cafeterias, and so on. They would spend millions on these facilities, and it had a great return because people were using them. That's no longer the case. People are staying home, and so many are resistant to returning to the office 5 days a week. They've realized work can be just as productive without spending most of their life on campus and at work.
In today's world, employees don't always need to be on campus or on-site, and they have many tools at their disposal to work from anywhere. They're balancing time as a hybrid workforce, where digital amenities are at the forefront.
Employee engagement is challenging, so it's important to continue expanding resources to keep employees invested. But when a strategy is well-implemented, it leads to happier, more productive employees with increased loyalty. And when employees are happy, it leads to better business outcomes and much better customer experience.
Leon Papkoff is the Chief Product Officer of CXApp with 20+ years of executive leadership paving the way for emerging technologies shaping the future of work and dedicated to solving real problems for the digital workplace.