NOTE: The opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Shortlister
For the nearly 20 years of working in the HR technology space, I have witnessed a healthy and continuous growth in innovation. Employers are automating more of their HR and benefits process faster and more affordably than ever before. And, employees are accessing these tools through their smartphones and other devices at record-setting levels. But, the age-old challenge of employee engagement persists and is even more vexing with more technology at our fingertips every day.
Engagement is an elusive topic that can be difficult to get your arms around, let alone have success with. For starters, let’s outline what Engagement is. I prefer a simple approach by defining engagement as making sure “employees know what to do and are motivated to do it”. Seems simple, but hard to achieve at a time when distractions are everywhere. A 2016 Gallup poll found that only 32% of employees are engaged at work suggesting that the other 68% are not paying attention to HR policies, benefit offerings, employee systems or other parts of workforce delivery.
To remedy this problem there are several ways to drive and measure employee engagement. The basic “blocking and tackling” of HR and Benefits engagement includes making sure employees utilize their employee self-service tools for instance paystub access, requesting vacation time or enrolling in benefits. Connecting with benefits tools, understanding and general job appreciation are all interrelated. Success on all these fronts has huge payoffs and is the holy grail of HR engagement.
There is a straight line between benefits and job satisfaction. The appreciation for benefits is a driver of plan participation and perceived value. If the benefits are not understood the perceived value is not as high as it should be. A 2016 study commissioned through IFEBP found that only 50% of employees understand their benefits. Several HR professionals will argue the true number is even lower.
There are several pathways towards achieving high level engagement with your workforce. Like any other business objective, you must market to your audience which in this case is your employees. Applying basic principles of marketing such as segmenting your target group, using several channels to deliver your message, measuring utilization and collecting feedback are all part of a successful engagement strategy.
HR technology platforms such as complete Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions or more specialized benefits administration include the ability to segregate information or measure feedback, but many lack in their ability to send the message through several channels, engage through communication or collect feedback. For example, for most systems we see a lack in good benefits communication and decision support, as well as several missed opportunities to get the message out or collect feedback. Furthermore, it may be beneficial to separate the engagement process from these systems during times of orientation such as for new hires, open enrollment or other employer initiatives. For this reason, supplemental employee engagement solutions fill this gap and enhance overall communication.
Employee Engagement solutions come in a variety of formats from multimedia solutions that deliver captivating education to more complete applications. The complete solutions can combine decision support with the ability to segment your audience, send email/text promotion, measure and collect feedback. Most Engagement solutions link to and from HR and benefits systems. Set up can vary depending on complexity but in some cases can be accomplished with a simple Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.
With the vast array of HR initiatives that take place during the year, we are seeing an increased demand for more options for effective employee engagement. While the concept is not a new one, it has increasingly become critical to overall success in HR.
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Article By Michael Weiskirch
Michael Weiskirch is principal and founder of EmployeeTech, a leading provider of ACA reporting and employee engagement solutions.