According to Gallup’s annual poll, only 32 percent of employees feel engaged with their work. This statistic isn’t just unfortunate for employees; it’s bad for businesses, and it’s been like this for years.
A lack of engagement means a costly loss of productivity and increased employee turnover. In fact, it’s estimated that this dismal percentage is cumulatively costing us nearly $550 billion every year.
There are many different reasons for this lack of engagement: a bureaucratic structure that results in too much redundancy, a frustrating lack of transparency, and an overwhelming amount of busywork, just to name a few. But nearly all of these struggles could be significantly improved through better employee feedback and communication. To truly engage our employees, we must listen to them — otherwise, we’re just shooting in the dark.
So how can we improve our communication efforts and gain effective employee insights? The answer, it turns out, is small enough to fit in our pockets.
The Need for Mobile-First Communication
The smartphone is a deeply personal device, providing us with easy ways to consume information, chat with anyone, and do work on the fly. Yet this miraculous device is often ignored or underutilized. Many businesses still pine for the days when IT controlled every device and all communication happened on a local intranet. Those days are over.
Mobile is an opportunity for us to not only provide personalized, easily digestible information to employees, but to also get valuable data back from them. It’s a two-way device that is nearly always present on every employee. It provides unprecedented access and insight into how people work, think, and communicate — whether we’re in the office or on the other side of the globe.
Embracing mobile as a business means understanding how indispensable this device has already become and tapping into its power to better engage employees and boost productivity.
How to Embrace Mobile and Reap the Benefits
Of course, knowing mobile is important and actually integrating it into the workplace effectively are two different things. Here are five ways we can embrace mobile in a way that will truly make work better for everyone:
1. Don’t waste time on a home-grown solution.
While it’s understandable to want control over every method employees use to communicate with each other and the company, building a custom app for in-house use is going to cause more problems than it solves.
This was a bad idea in the past, and it’s a bad idea today. This was even an issue back when enterprise software was focused primarily on the desktop and longer development cycles were common. In today’s mobile world, the time and money required for the upkeep of a custom mobile app would be prohibitive. We rely on standard products for CRM and email; the same should apply to mobile apps.
2. Keep it to one app.
In the mobile world, we’re competing for attention with every other app on a person’s phone, both personal and professional. Your employees use a very small number of apps in their personal lives, and they’ll begrudge work being split across many apps. Consolidate and aggregate the key tasks and data into a single app, and keep it as simple as possible.
3. Focus on context.
While we all spend plenty of time on our phones, each interaction is usually no more than a few minutes — or even seconds. Smartphones are the perfect avenue for getting information and taking care of small tasks.
Encouraging feedback requires us to provide the proper context. This means choosing not only the right time to push information to our employees (like sending out new leads or a daily schedule in the morning), but also the right context. For instance, combine information with the ability to execute on it (e.g., call somebody) within the app.
4. Don’t shackle employees with company-mandated devices.
It might be painful for IT departments to admit, but the days of company-mandated devices are over. Employees are already bringing their own devices into the office with them, and nearly half will use them for work — whether we want them to or not.
Instead of fighting it, take advantage of it, and make it central to all communication efforts. This not only drives higher adoption, but it helps us make work an integral part of people’s lives.
5. Lead by example.
The mobile-first move shouldn’t just come from the IT department; it should come from everyone. This is more than a simple change in technology — it’s a change in the way we do business. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to embrace mobile communication with enthusiasm and develop a core understanding of how it works.
If executives don’t lead the charge, there will always be a disconnect in how employees communicate with each other and how they communicate with the company.
Mobile is the future — not only of communication, but of work. It allows us to travel the globe or just to the meeting room next door. If we’re serious about increasing employee engagement and really listening to what our teams have to say, we need to be serious about embracing mobile as the path forward.
Daniel Kraft is the president and CEO of Sitrion. Sitrion provides award-winning mobile productivity solutions for the digital workplace, making work better for working people every day. Sitrion solutions unify and extend communications, information, and processes directly to mobile devices from business systems like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and Salesforce. Daniel is a public speaker on topics involving employee engagement and productivity and was featured on TEDx.