A lack of ongoing human connection makes it difficult for employees to do their best work. Employees can struggle to maintain productivity without supportive co-workers in their corner and are even at a higher risk for burnout.
It’s natural for employees to seek connections. We all want to form meaningful relationships — especially in our workplaces, where we spend a significant portion of our time. Unfortunately, many employers have struggled to facilitate these connections, with 40% of employees saying they feel isolated on the job.
To retain talent, employers need to make it easier for employees to connect. Using modern learning technology tools — with more consumer-like or social media experiences — companies can break down barriers to communication and build a feeling of community throughout the organization.
The Longing for Community
Today’s employees aren’t satisfied with just a paycheck. While pay is still a significant motivator, intangible factors like workplace camaraderie, support from peers and connection to a greater purpose also influence employee retention, engagement and motivation. In fact, recent research from MIT Sloan Management Review found that corporate culture is over 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover.
When employees feel supported, they’re able to handle difficult tasks with confidence, knowing that their peers are there to back them up. But without a support system, many feel they have to solve problems by themselves, leading to decreased engagement.
Disengagement manifests differently depending on the individual employee and the nature of the role. For in-person roles, it could mean not paying attention to updates on the company bulletin board or repeatedly clocking in late. In virtual settings, it could look like giving delayed responses to messages or not taking part in company-wide initiatives.
As many organizations pivot to hybrid working and learning models, they can no longer rely on traditional, in-person methods for strengthening company culture like happy hours or office lunches. Over time, a lack of casual connection can leave employees feeling isolated from other teams within the organization. If organizations aren’t deliberate about virtually connecting employees, retention, productivity and engagement will decline. Fortunately, learning leaders can help by implementing social collaboration tools and technologies.
How Social Engagement Tools Drive Connection
The easier it is for employees to connect with one another and the company, the more likely they are to feel engaged at work. Mobile social engagement tools can help drive engagement by opening new pathways for connection.
For example, social learning and engagement tools allow employees to connect through casual discussion groups. These discussion groups can provide a place to collaborate on projects or even share pet photos or common interests, bridging the gap among employees who don’t work together daily. Even something as simple as the ability to send emojis or GIFs can make it easier for co-workers to relate to each other without facial cues.
In addition, these tools can make company-wide communication accessible on a single platform. Over email, it’s easy for important announcements to get lost in the shuffle, but a centralized platform ensures that every employee has constant access to information wherever they are. With a social collaboration platform, executives can deliver company news using text or video messages. This type of consistent communication from executives pays dividends — when executive leaders are active on community apps, company-wide engagement increases up to 18%. At Paylocity, for instance, we found that our employees were grateful for the way our leaders overcommunicated during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and these practices continue today for our hybrid workforce.
Mobile learning and collaboration tools that incorporate automation, texting or document sharing also make communication easier among employees, while lessening the burden on training managers, human resources (HR) professionals and leadership. Within a modern platform, employees can use the chat, get reminder notices and even work on shared documents without switching between apps. More efficient collaboration strengthens working relationships, minimizing frustrations rooted in missed messages or needlessly prolonged timelines.
3 Steps for Implementation
Once you’ve decided to invest in a modern social learning and collaboration tool or platform, roll-out is crucial — community messaging and collaboration tools are only effective if your employees actually use them. So, here are three steps for rolling out your social engagement tool with employees top of mind:
- Get executive and peer-to-peer buy-in. For your tool to achieve the desired outcomes, both company executives and employees need to be on board. Executives should be seen on the platform, sending company-wide messages and promoting a positive company culture. Executive engagement encourages employees to explore what the tool has to offer. And to encourage peer-to-peer use, empower employees to create discussion groups for topics they’re passionate about, from book recommendations to Taylor Swift.
- Think visually. Today, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Consider the way people use video and photos to communicate on social media and apps every day. We have to meet employees where they are; video improves engagement with content, so look for ways to incorporate video from leaders into company-wide communications and trainings.
- Monitor the tool’s impact. As you implement the tool, measure how it improves company-wide engagement by conducting employee surveys, documenting improvements to project workflows or tapping automated insights. As employees use the system more, HR and training professionals can tap into richer data and draw insights to tackle more strategic priorities. If the results aren’t improving, it may be time to try different engagement tactics or even switch vendors altogether.
Bridging the Gaps Created by Virtual Work
Workplace relationships are essential to keeping employees happy. But in a remote or hybrid setting, these bonds are far harder to come by. That’s why it takes intentional action from your training team to make these connections possible again.
Social learning and engagement tools help you improve the employee experience — regardless of location — and smooth out company workflows in the process. These tools help build a sense of community that increases employee retention and entices job seekers to apply. Because at the end of the day, your employees want to forge connections with others in the workplace — even if they can’t always be together in person.