September 2018

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Workplace

5 super-effective ways to quickly boost employee engagement

Employees expect more from their jobs than they ever have. Whereas previous generations stuck it out long-term at companies because of the security and financial freedom it gave them, the new generation of workers are looking for a career that’s fulfilling — not just a day job.

This new reality is putting additional pressure on employers to keep their staff engaged. Research shows that the majority of UK HR managers see employee engagement as their biggest challenge, especially since disengaged staff at work cost businesses an average of £605 a year per person.

Thankfully, overcoming the disengagement problem isn’t as difficult as you might think. With the right initiatives in place, you can turn your entire team into innovators and brand advocates who’ll take your business to a whole new level.

Here are five effective employee engagement initiatives that you can start today.

1. Public praise

One of the key reasons why employees start to feel disengaged in a role is that they feel their work has no impact, which drains away their motivation faster than any physical tiredness could.

You can easily combat this by identifying something great that one of your employees has done and sharing it in a public space, whether that’s in the meeting room or the breakout area. This kind of recognition provides positive feedback to an employee that what they’re doing does matter and that it makes a difference.

The best kind of praise is specific. If possible, tie in your praise with a statistic that proves the work had a tangible impact and if not, tie in your praise with one of your company values.

Tying praise to company values is especially useful when recognising an employee who went beyond the call of duty: perhaps they worked overtime to help a customer or devoted an evening to mentoring a new member of staff. Whatever it is, make sure you publicly recognise it.

2. Write a job description

You may have started the recruitment process with a specific job spec, but it’s not uncommon for roles to evolve and change over time. A great way to identify this is to ask your team to write their own job descriptions as they understand it, and ensure that it’s reviewed in a month or a quarter’s time with their manager.

By reviewing this description with their manager, employees can see where parts of their job have changed — for better or worse. Your staff can then highlight those responsibilities that have crept into their role which they don’t want, giving you a chance to rethink how to optimise your team structure.

Ultimately, employees who are working on things they care about will be far more engaged, so writing and reviewing their job description is a great way to nip those detrimental tasks in the bud and help your people thrive.

3. Run knowledge-share sessions

Research shows that millennials are constantly looking for opportunities to learn and develop — it’s a determining factor in whether they’ll stay or go.

Thankfully, you can foster a learning culture without sinking thousands into an elaborate training budget. Instead, promote training sessions between different members of staff. This is a great way for teams to develop their understanding of different departments while building relationships.

Better still, it’ll benefit the session host as much as the learners; not only do they get a chance to touch up on their presentations skills, but they’ll also learn how to explain complex concepts more simply. It’ll remind them why they’re an expert at what they do, giving them that little boost of self-esteem that will go a long way in keeping them engaged.

Woman laughing while running an ideas workshop

4. Encourage innovation

Google is one of the most sought-out employers in the world and whose employees are known to work hard and love what they do. Famously, Google ran a ‘20%’ initiative, in which staff were encouraged to spend 20% of their time on a personal project that they believed could help the company.

The 20% initiative works: it produced Gmail, Google Maps and spawned the beginning of Google Home. But it also creates a culture in which employees feel trusted and empowered to make decisions.

By adopting a similar rule in your business, however that might look, you can re-engage employees. People are naturally more invested in an idea that they came up with, so by giving your team some free reign to start a project they’re passionate about, you reignite that flame that keeps them engaged in the rest of their work, too.

The best way to sustain this kind of innovation and keep engagement high is to use those ideas or developments that can add value to the work of the wider company, giving credit where it’s due. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the seed of your idea bear fruit in your environment.

5. Volunteer together

The new generation of workers is more interested in whether or not their employer is ethically minded and committed to a good cause than if their profits are at an all-time high.

With that in mind, many companies today donate to a range of charities both locally and overseas. But there’s one thing that a lot of businesses miss: encouraging staff to volunteer together.

Volunteering to do work for charities is an ideal way of keeping your staff engaged because it helps them bond with others in their team over a good cause.

These five initiatives are not only easy to implement and generally free to do, but they’re also long-term solutions to your employee engagement problem. In time, the benefits of having a more engaged team will drive your business forward and help you thrive.

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The 5 best apps for employee productivity

The digital revolution has mostly changed our lives for the better, but there’s one way in which it’s hurting businesses: employee productivity. Limitless distractions are now available at our fingertips, on both our computers and our phones, and only the strongest-willed among us can resist.

Luckily, there are innovations that can help remedy this problem. Some come in the form of restructuring the very spaces we work in: roomy breakout spaces and standing desks are known to improve employee productivity when implemented correctly.

There are also plenty of clever ideas to tackle distractions that are available on your phone. So, if you’re are struggling to stay productive, the good news is that there might just be an app for that.

Here are our 5 favourite apps to help you and your team stay focused at work.

1. Forest

Screenshot of the Forest productivity app

Available on: iOS, Android

Price: Free (Google Play), £1.99 (App Store)

Remember when Tamagotchi was all the rage? Forest uses a similar concept: you nurture a virtual being until it reaches full growth, which Forest uses it to “gamify” your productivity.

When you want to focus, you plant a tree in the Forest app. In your focus time, the seed will begin to grow, slowly developing into a sturdy digital tree as each minute passes.

However, if you leave the app and do something else on your phone during your focus time, your tree dies. Whether it’s to check Facebook, your emails or to indulge in some Buzzfeed clickbait, there’s suddenly something to lose. By providing an immediate consequence of distraction, Forest deters people from using their phones unless they absolutely have to.

The app helps employees stay on track by not only raising the stakes in the game but in the real world, too. As employees build their own forest of trees (a great visual representation of all that good focus time), they earn points that they can spend on planting trees in real life.

It’s good for your business and good for the environment. What’s not to love?

2. Trello

Screenshot of the Trello desktop appAvailable on: Desktop, iOS, Android

Price: Free

Losing track of tasks can be a big productivity killer. Trello helps prevent that by providing you with a way to visualise all of your projects at once.

When you want to create a new task in Trello, you create a ‘card’. You can then add attachments, comments, deadlines and other users that the project is relevant to each card. Each user on your card will get notified each time you update it and can add their own comments, too.

Cards go into lists that you can label according to status. For example, projects that haven’t yet been started might go into a list called “Pipeline”, whereas tasks awaiting some feedback or need more information might go into a list called “Blocked”. Ordering your tasks like this lets you quickly see where any project is up to — no more wasting time sifting through emails when Karen from Accounts needs an update.

Best of all, Trello is free to use, so you can add everybody in your team to your board and start working together straight away.

3. Hours

Screenshot of the Hours productivity app

Available on: iOS

Price: Free

Sometimes you’ll be in the middle of a task, get distracted, and then before you know it, an hour’s gone by.

Keeping track of how you’ve used your time helps you retrospectively identify where you’ve used your time well, and where you might have idly whittled those minutes away.

Hours makes tracking time easy. You add new tasks that you’re working on and click the timer next to them when you start. Whenever you switch your focus to something else, you can start timing on the next task. When your day has finished, you’ll have a timeline that displays how you’ve used all of your time in a simple way.

Not quite accurate? You can go back and edit your timeline to ensure it’s a true representation of your day to factor in for those ad hoc requests.

4. Slack

Screenshot of the Slack desktop appAvailable on: Desktop, iOS, Android

Price: Free with Premium plans available

Slack is so revolutionary that it’s already found its way into thousands of workplaces across the world. It removes the pain of sifting through emails by providing an easy-to-use internal communications tool.

Slack helps teams work on projects together with instant messaging. Users can create separate ‘channels’ in which specific projects, clients or even company events can be discussed. You can tag other users to alert them to messages that they might need to see — that way, rather than asking you to dig out an old email, your colleagues can simply check through the channel to find the relevant conversation thread.

It’s free to use, too, so you can get your team signed up and tackling those big projects together in no time without having to leave their desks.

5. Grammarly

The Grammarly logo

Available on: Desktop, iOS, Android

Price: Free with Premium plans available

I know what you’re thinking: a grammar-checking tool isn’t a productivity tool. However, bad grammar can actually cost your company hundreds of hours of employee time; with every “Can you check this email for me?”, someone gets pulled away from a task that’s more important.

Grammarly buys you time back by working as a language assistant wherever you’re typing. When you install Grammarly on your browser, it will proofread your emails, social posts and documents, making quick suggestions to improve that clunky turn of phrase or wordy sentences.

Best of all, the basic version of Grammarly is free, so you can ensure your employees are outputting well-written, professional-sounding work without it costing you a penny.

 

Smart apps like these are helping offices around the world stay motivated and productive amidst a growing tidal wave of digital distraction.

Worried that young workers have been conditioned to be distracted online? Find out why Millennials actually make the best employees.