Employee Engagement – Going Beyond the Buzzword

By Cllement Tan

An “employee” is an ever-changing concept. Gone are the days when an employee is known only as an individual seeking work in exchange for monetary gratification. Today’s employees are motivated not only by money but also by the ability to create, innovate, ideate, problem solve, and do their part to bring a certain degree of change to the world. A change to create a positive impact.

So how do you engage an employee that does not just respond to a pay rise?

I have had my fair share of exasperated looks from HR executives when asked this question. The problem with employee engagement in today’s working landscape is that it has become too regimented and rigid. When an employee seeks help, the reply from HR is always something out of the textbook of a Management 101 course.

What HR executives need today more than ever is to engage with employees is dynamism and innovation. It is time to think outside the box, go beyond Employee Engagement conventions and recognise that it’s not just another buzzword.

New normal, new worries

The reason why employee engagement is now a more pertinent issue than ever is because of the new working styles we find ourselves in with so many of us either choosing to work from home either full-time or on a rotational basis to remote working. For most of us, remote working is the response we have come up with for maintaining organisational preservation in the face of a pandemic-caused economic recession. While it may sound like a perfect solution in theory, in practice, its effects vary according to the employee.

Some have taken to it easily. Having either had previous experience working from home or being more technologically savvy, they may find remote working a breeze. Others have not. A survey by Ipsos earlier this year revealed that 63 per cent of Malaysian workers are finding it difficult to achieve work-life balance with more than half of Malaysian employees (57 per cent) feeling lonely and isolated while working from home.

Maintaining company culture and building synergies doesn’t stop just because the workplace is now virtual. HR executives must be agile enough to adapt to new circumstances and opportunities to engage employees. Be more empathetic towards their feelings and communicate openly and transparently.

An employee must know that they are being heard – that their contributions are still vital to the going concern of the organisation. They must never assume themselves to be mere expendable cost centres. It is not all about the money. A well-motivated workforce offers longer-term business sustainability compared to a company with a high turnover due to high levels of employee burnout.

Nurturing a happy workplace

When I started RAMSSOL back in 2010, I was driven by a necessity to succeed, but I knew I could not get there with an army of unhappy employees. Two things struck me the most – the need to keep my employees happy, and creating an environment that allows them to turn that happiness into productivity.

As such, HR staff needs to be proactive when managing employee wellbeing. To do so, always monitor employee engagement data. Be on the lookout for any issues or concerns that may be creeping out. Watch out for trends in productivity and the sentiment of employees on the ground. It would be useful to have a system in place to gather employee comments, follow that up with action and assess those actions to keep abreast of workplace morale or identify gaps that must be addressed.

This may seem like much work but not when we leverage readily available technology out there. We are now knee-deep in the digital age where common knowledge dictates that to be successful, tech adoption is vital. HR is no different. HR processes are perennial – as long as there are human beings and organisations, there will be a need to manage human resources. So, HR must move hand-in-hand with the digital transformation of the industry or face certain failure. When I started almost a decade ago, I did not imagine the landscape of our industry would change as drastically as it did. But consternation is not a reason for inaction. The tenacity to change with the times’ lands squarely on organisational leaders.

Enter Feet’s – developed by RAMSSOL Group as part of its efforts to revolutionise human capital management and talent mobile application. Feet’s provides cutting edge employee engagement solutions using artificial intelligence (AI). The app pushes out questions on happiness, stress and various engagement-based topics to employees throughout a stipulated period and the feedback received is then run through proprietary AI and data analytics tools to profile employee behaviour and interaction.

“Happy Technology” – the AI which is at the backbone of Feet’s – is a game changer to HR best practices as it transforms how we think of employee engagement. No longer is it based on yearly reviews at best or guesswork at worst but by using AI, it analyses data on employee happiness, stress and engagement levels and churns out relevant information on how best to engage the said employee. This is facilitating HR decision-making at its most effective!

We like to think of employee engagement as a dance between employer and employee – it takes two to tango and ours is a performance backed by science and utilises the most advanced technology out there. Through Feet’s, we are starting to understand what makes employees happy in a deeper and more nuanced fashion.

Happiness in the workplace provides the employee with the fuel to sustain innovation and creativity that results in a positive attachment to the workplace. No longer is work something to lament about – but an achievement to be proud of. When this happiness, the multiplier effect is translated into better workplace performance and productivity. Research conducted by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School concluded that workers are 13 per cent more productive when happy. Happy workers don’t work more hours than their disgruntled colleagues but are simply more productive within their time at work.

In any circumstance, the onus is on the organisation to ensure the sustenance of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the work they do, their teams, and their organisation. Remember, profit is a by-product of good work accomplished by good people. To achieve this, the organisation must be a well-oiled machine and its most important components – the employees – should be well taken care of especially in the post-pandemic new normal.

About the Author: Cllement Tan (pictured above) is the founder and Group CEO of RAMSSOL Group Berhad. This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed here are those of the author.

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