Digital Transformation

Innovate to motivate: maintaining employee morale in uncertain times

As we move away from lockdown and into something that resembles normality, it can be easy to expect status quos to return instantaneously. In reality, though, we are merely witnessing the dawn of a world that is radically different to the one we had known previously. Over the coming months – and possibly even years – organisations will be adapting to change at a rate that was unforeseeable just six months ago.

With the vital practise of reviewing strategies and processes accelerating, change fatigue will need to be managed with proficiency. Alterations have historically brought lulls in productivity that, whilst undesirable, could be tolerated in exchange for the improvements that would follow. Employee stress was another undesirable though manageable by-product that could be addressed with patience and reassurance. Within the current climate, though, the negative consequences of inefficiency and employee dissatisfaction – even if present over only a short period – will be magnified considerably.

The frequency with which change will need to be implemented will render previous management techniques ineffective. Organisations must seek innovative means of maintaining employee performance and morale throughout the uncertain times that lie ahead. Here are several strategies organisations can leverage to improve employee performance and engagement – along with an overview of the technology that will help them do so:

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Author:

Kim Aitchison
Kim Aitchison Chief of Staff

Gamification

Studies have revealed that social motivators created by an awareness of competition improve performance, making participants more alert and able to recall information.1 The process of gamification – wherein features one would typically expect to see used in competitive games are used in other scenarios – allows organisations to take advantage of this phenomenon. Surveys undertaken within organisations leveraging this tool have revealed that 72% of employees believe they have made a more concerted effort because of its implementation, whilst 95% believe that gamification makes work more enjoyable.2

Put simply, the creation of a more competitive environment that sees individuals or teams trying to outperform one another is conducive to better performance. The potency of gamification is enhanced when real-time metrics concerning others are fed through to participants. This can be achieved by using APIs to feed information from a variety of sources into customised dashboards.

In order to temper the potentially negative consequences of excess competitiveness internally, it’s advisable that core messages regarding teamwork are galvanised in tandem with the development of gamification strategies.

Data analysis

The vast majority (89%) of senior HR professionals agree that consistently delivering constructive feedback to employees is a vital practise key to successful organisational outcomes.3 Identifying the areas where improvement is required can be difficult, however, and a failure to accurately determine this will result in both employee development stagnating and the profligate use of training resources.

Further studies have revealed that a fifth of all employees expect their contributions to an organisation’s success to go unnoticed.4 Should such assumptions be fulfilled, the effects on morale can be devastating, particularly if the afflicted individual or team believe their involvement to have been pivotal.

How, then, can senior leaders identify where employees need to improve and which are making a telling contribution with absolute certainty? By identifying key data, determining how to extrapolate findings from it and then utilising transparent marking systems that are disseminated throughout the organisation.

Whilst the identification of the right sources and the tools that will analyse them most efficiently can be problematic and, at times, best left to a team of data and analytics consultants, a robust and well-developed framework is invaluable. It will provide employees with immeasurable confidence in both an employer’s ability to aid their professional development and to recognise their contributions.

A mobile digital workplace

The opportunity to work flexibly was, many commentators had argued, likely to become more widespread even before the coronavirus pandemic transformed it into common practice. This, though, has generated considerable problems within organisations, chief amongst which has been diminished productivity attributable to resources being inaccessible to employees working from home.

Decision makers have, as a result, concluded that remote work is not feasible and that workforces should return to centralised locations as soon as it is practicable for them to do so. Research suggests, however, that adopting such a stance will likely have a negative impact on employee morale and performance.

A study conducted by the American Psychological Association, published in May 2017, found that organisational change substantially and adversely impacted employees’ work-life balance.5 A further study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has noted that employees afforded flexible working conditions stated that it positively impacted their ability to balance work and personal commitments.6 Vitally, studies have also shown that employees that are able to work flexibly are typically more productive.7

Continuing or developing remote and flexible working practices will provide employees with an elixir that combats the negative effects of constant change. It may be necessary to implement improvements to data networks or develop more robust cyber security practices but the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.

Process automation

Mundane and repetitive tasks are typically essential components of organisations’ day-to-day operations. Updating spreadsheets, chasing invoices, stock checks, etc. are vital but also consistently demotivate and demoralise the employees undertaking them. Mistakes, too, are inevitable when repetition is required.

Automation technology provides an effective solution to this problem. Studies have suggested that as many as 90% of all employees regularly undertake repetitive tasks that could be easily automated8 and this technology is likely to benefit morale throughout the majority of organisations as a result. It will also ensure tasks are completed to a uniform standard and, with it having been shown that a failure to automate processes costs US businesses $1.8 trillion per annum, deliver considerable fiscal benefits, too.9

Of course, it could be argued that the utilisation of automation will adversely affect employee morale by generating concerns over job security. In truth, automation is only adept at fulfilling tasks rather than entire roles and will, as a result, instead allow employees to focus on more fulfilling duties and adding value to organisations.

Include people in digital transformation strategies

Digital technology is the most potent driver of meaningful organisational change. As a direct result, the vast majority of organisations the look to make alterations will, in some capacity, be developing digital transformation strategies – and a failure to consider end users is perhaps the most common reason such plans fail to generate results or traction.

Such problems, though, are typically brought about by over eagerness and a lack of planning. By making the effort to truly understand the typical challenges employees face and their activities, organisations can ensure they are far better placed to identify the technology that will help them meet their goals. Such discussions yield further benefits, too, with surveys showing that employees who believe their managers value their opinions are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered and able to perform their best work.10

References:

  1. Frontiers in Psychology (2015) The power of competition: Effects of social motivation on attention, sustained physical effort, and learning, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4554955/
  2. Review 42 (2020) Top Gamification Statistics of 2020: Next Level Gaming, https://review42.com/gamification-statistics/
  3. Forbes (2019) 10 Timely Statistics About The Connection Between Employee Engagement And Wellness, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nazbeheshti/2019/01/16/10-timely-statistics-about-the-connection-between-employee-engagement-and-wellness/#5279b03d22a0
  4. Quantum Workplace (2015) Crisis of Confidence: 9 Uncertainties that Affect Employee Engagement, https://www.quantumworkplace.com/future-of-work/crisis-confidence-9-uncertainties-affect-employee-engagement/
  5. American Psychological Association (2015), Change at Work Linked to Employee Stress, Distrust and Intent to Quit, New Survey Finds, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/05/employee-stress
  6. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2019) UK Working Lives: The CIPD Job Quality Index, https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/uk-working-lives-2019-v1_tcm18-58585.pdf
  7. Natural HR (2018) How flexible working can improve productivity in your organisation, https://www.naturalhr.com/2018/07/10/how-flexible-working-can-improve-productivity-in-your-organisation/
  8. Information Age (2017) Productivity pains: 90% of workers burdened with boring, repetitive tasks, https://www.information-age.com/productivity-pains-90-workers-repetitive-tasks-123468116/#
  9. CIO Insight (2016) How Repetitive Tasks Waste $1.8 Trillion, https://www.cioinsight.com/it-management/workplace/slideshows/how-repetitive-tasks-waste-1.8-trillion.html
  10. Forbes (2019) 10 Timely Statistics About The Connection Between Employee Engagement And Wellness, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nazbeheshti/2019/01/16/10-timely-statistics-about-the-connection-between-employee-engagement-and-wellness/#5279b03d22a0

 

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