Employee engagement has never been more critical, the lack of which has devastating results for a business in the form of attrition, low productivity, and a stunted organizational growth. Although part of the solution lies within L&D, engaging employees is a complex and often strategic process that needs to evolve with technology and the way we work.
According to the 2017 Gallup State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of global employees are disengaged at work (18% disengaged, while 67% not engaged at all), which means that although employees are giving organizations their time, they are not necessarily performing their best. And this has resulted in dire financial outcomes for global organizations, with nearly $7 trillion in lost productivity.
The APAC countries, especially Southeast Asia, have an engagement percentage of 22%, with the average engagement percentage in India amounting to as low as 13%. According to Dale Carnegie’s recent online survey of 450 employees in India, only 35% of respondents felt they were engaged at their workplace and that their organization provided them with effective training, while 19% were negative or neutral about effective training. The survey also revealed that 51% leaders felt that engaged employees were more productive, while 31% agreed that engagement made their work easier; all of which make an obvious case for investing in employee engagement initiatives.
Employee engagement is not to be taken lightly, especially in today’s competitive markets, as the Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis report indicates substantial improvements in retention, productivity and profitability in organizations that have a highly engaged workforce.
For many organizations, the most obvious question is how can they boost engagement? The good news is that the most obvious answers are well within reach and can be found within Learning and Development (L&D). For most organizations, training programs are the primary communication tools to reach employees and give them the necessary knowledge to perform better.
According to Deloitte, ‘Learning opportunities are among the largest drivers of employee engagement and strong workplace culture – they are part of the entire employee value proposition, not merely a way to build skills’. Learning in itself is more engaging, and if it is delivered in an effective manner, it can certainly improve productivity and performance.
Here are five key ways in which organizations can foster employee engagement through L&D –
Promote a Culture of Learning
Conversations around employee engagement are almost always devoid of ‘what exactly do organizations want their employees to engage in/with?’ Employees need to connect with something (their jobs, teams etc.) and feel they’re a part of something larger (leadership, growth, and progress).
L&D professionals can work alongside business leaders and identify organizational values that employees can engage with, which can then be weaved into the training programs to create a sense of belonging and pride within the organization, thus fostering a larger learning culture. Organizations must work with L&D professional to identify the kind of learning culture they want to develop, one that is in sync with the organizational values and larger business goals. Learning culture can be facilitated by tools and systems that enable continuous learning that’s accessible, just-in-time, relevant and personalized for the learners.
Emphasize Onboarding & Training
Employees are often frustrated and annoyed when they are not aware of their responsibilities since the beginning and end up playing catch up. Newly appointed employees need to be properly oriented into the business processes. Here, employee onboarding programs are one of the primary steps organizations can employ.
A Glassdoor research suggests that organizations with effective onboarding programs improve employee retention by 82%. In an age where unemployment is decreasing and job opportunities are increasing by the day, candidates have numerous employment choices, which make it highly important for L&D professionals to engage their employees from the get-go and thus maximize their retention rate. A negative or less than effective onboarding experience leads new employees to look for better opportunities as per Digitate, effectively doubling the cost to hire a new employee.
Along with a strong onboarding program, training programs upskill and help the employees stay competent and the business, successful. According to long-term research conducted at the Middlesex University for Work-based Learning, 74% participants assert that lack of training is the biggest hurdle in achieving their full potential at work.
L&D professionals can thus not only help the organization retain employees but also help them learn faster and become (and stay) more productive.
Prioritize Employee Growth & Development
According to a Gallup poll, 87% millennials and 69% non-millennials value career development in their jobs. Employees desire both professional and personal growth opportunities while deciding to join an organization. They want to learn new skills and seek newer challenges, which in turn lead to higher engagement, as employees are constantly productive.
L&D professionals need to set up effective training programs to engage their employees in their job roles and the workplace as a whole. Training programs ensure that employees are aware of their KRAs and have the required skill-set to achieve them, and progressively upskill them to meet the demands of the evolving workplaces and technological advancements.
L&D professionals can offer a variety of training programs that enhance employees’ skill set and add more value to their daily tasks. The learning can further be incentivized to reduce boredom and ensure there is more scope for growth in that position. Many organizations also offer educational assistance, which shows employees that their organizations value their professional growth.
Leverage Social Learning & Collaboration
Engagement is not a standalone term. It is an amalgamation of many factors ranging from interest, involvement to collaboration and consultation. And, L&D personnel can take this as a cue for promoting social learning and informal learning.
According to Bersin by Deloitte, organizations with a workforce of 10,000 employees invested thrice the amount on social tools from the previous years, while a Brandon Hall Group report suggests that 73% of organizations are set to prioritize social learning in the coming years. This clearly indicates that L&D professionals are increasingly seeking out social learning initiatives for corporate training & development in order to leverage their subject matter experts’ (SME) knowledge throughout the organization.
Apart from leveraging social learning tools like LMSes, L&D professionals also need to be the icebreakers and jump-start the conversations within different teams and groups, just like in any social setting, and encourage ways to foster online discussions and collaboration; and leverage an LMS where employees can share, like and comment and engage in true social learning.
Use Learning Technology as the Enabler
Last but not the least, L&D professionals should also focus on employing the right kind of learn-tech tools (LMSes) that fit their specific training and engagement requirements. It is the correct mixture of content, learning, and technology that will produce long term results and help achieve the collective learning goals.
Corporate training has gone through drastic evolution over the past decade, moving away from the very limiting classroom-based training to a more flexible online process. Learning technology, with innovations like virtual classrooms, Gamification and Artificial Intelligence, has transformed training delivery strategies. Where organizations end up spending 40% of classroom training budget on logistics, a learning technology-based approach is more cost effective and drives learner engagement and knowledge retention.
An LMS with innovative features like Gamification, Blended Learning, Virtual Classrooms and more, can go a long way in boosting learning engagement. Learning analytics has recently emerged as an irreplaceable tool when it comes to improving engagement, as it enables organizations to analyze the data (learning behavior, patterns, completion rates etc.) and customize the training programs to suit the needs of the employees.
Organizations need to invest in the L&D function and provide them with the right learn-tech tools that can become an effective driving force behind improving employee engagement. An innovative LMS can pave the way for organizations to finally address the issue of employee engagement, thus improving productivity and building a great learning culture.