Disengagement is far from a new phenomenon, but there’s a brand-new version of it sweeping the globe that I like to call “Disengagement 2.0.”
Between the rise of the gig economy and the digital workforce, workplace drama and vendettas with bosses are no longer the primary causes of employee disengagement. Today, the main culprit is poor internal communication.
Modern employees are frustrated because traditional newsletters and mass emails don’t sufficiently keep them in the loop. They don’t know what’s going on at their companies, and they can’t see how their jobs fit into the greater plan.
It’s easy to bombard workers with generic content through generic channels, but what they really need is relevant, customized material that’s fast and easy to consume.
Early Warning Signs (and Consequences) of Disengagement
Disengagement isn’t always easy to detect; employees aren’t just going to stand up and shout, “I hate working here!” High turnover and low longevity are big clues, but there are also some subtle signs to look out for.
- Disengaged workers will frequently come in late and slip out early.
- They’d rather be on their cellphones than work toward the company’s success.
- They don’t ask many questions during meetings because they’ve stopped caring, and they won’t take initiative or help other employees.
A disengaged workforce isn’t a cohesive workforce; it’s a collection of isolated cliques.
It may be tempting to shrug and say, “As long as they do their jobs, who cares if they’re disengaged?” Well, you’d probably change your mind if you knew how much money they’re costing you. Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses somewhere between $450 and $550 billion annually.
It literally pays to have engaged employees, as an engaged workforce is more productive, has higher retention, and experiences lower absentee rates. It also encounters fewer safety incidents and fewer product defects.
Clearly, creating engaged employees should be a top priority for all business leaders, and a great way to do this is by upgrading your internal communications strategy.
Modernize Your Communications for Modern Employees
Flyers, mass emails, intranets, and other old-school forms of communication don’t provide today’s employees with the engagement spark they need. Here are two must-have ingredients of a modern internal communication strategy:
- Mobility — Today’s employees are digital natives, which means they prefer mobile communications such as SMS, IM, video, and small pieces of content. Given that 80 percent of smartphone users check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up, and 53 percent would prefer to lose their sense of smell than their access to social media, it only makes sense for mobility to be an essential part of your communication strategy. Zap your content straight to your employees’ phones.
- Creativity — Word docs, PDFs, and newsletters are surefire ways to create boredom rather than engagement. In their free time, your employees spend hours on their phones reading listicles, laughing at GIFs, and watching short-form videos. Why shouldn’t your content emulate these formats? The declining human attention span is a very real thing, so stop sending lengthy, bland content to your employees and start engaging them with stimulating visuals and succinct messages.
It’s human nature for employees to want to understand their jobs and how their work contributes to the big-picture success of the organization. And now that so many of them have gone remote, informing and engaging them has become a tricky — but not impossible — task for communicators.
Keeping the above two strategies in mind will lead to the creation of engaging, relevant content that both excites and informs the modern workforce.