tulips on a desk near a computer
Your physical office space gives employees a sense of purpose and connection with your organization. PHOTO: Alexander Filonchik

Organizations need to invest in culture, technology and their own physical space to keep employees happy and engaged.

Jacob Morgan, author and futurist, shared those thoughts on the CMSWire-Igloo Software webinar last week, “The New Rules of Employee Engagement.” 

“Your ROI doesn’t come from investing in one of these things, two of these things or even all three at a mediocre level. You have to do an awesome job at all three,” said Morgan, author of the upcoming book, “The Employee Experience Advantage.” 

Many organizations recognize these employee-experience tenets but usually only apply quick fixes to temporarily boost engagement and employee satisfaction.

Workplace Authenticity

Organizations have become great at providing “short-term adrenaline shots” for employees like “free-food Wednesdays.” The programs, however, are not enriched with truly engaging experiences that reshape the way employees want to work. Organizations do not base these programs on actual employee feedback.

Employees do not become more loyal, therefore, just because they can grab a free turkey wrap in the kitchen. 

“We know when organizations are trying to manipulate us,” Morgan said. “Most of these programs feel like manipulation.”

Morgan researched 252 companies and interviewed 150 senior executives about employee engagement recently. He found only about 6 percent of them are nailing it.

Culture, Technology, Office Space 

He often found a disconnect between employee needs, wants and expectations and an organization’s ability to deliver and design programs to match those needs. It comes back to investments in culture, technology and physical space.

By culture, Morgan referred to the feeling employees get working with a company. Technology, he added, is naturally the software, hardware, applications and collaboration tools organizations must support to help employees do their jobs and communicate.

It becomes a people problem when those tools break down, eroding employees’ confidence. “You need to have consumer-grade technology,” Morgan said. Make sure your tools are based on employee need and not just business requirements.

As for the physical space, Morgan called that an organization’s “bat signal.” It acts as your defining symbol, gives employees a sense of purpose and connection with your organization. 

“It’s really crucial you make sure you think about the physical environment,” he said.

Promote Good Leaders

Engaging employees means putting people in leadership positions who genuinely care about others. They need to show empathy and be inviting to employees, encouraging feedback, listening to that feedback and acting on it.

Build a bridge between employees and managers, Morgan added. Create a people analytics function team inside the organization whose job it is to look at performance. Start to understand what’s going on with employees inside the workforce.

“If you don’t have some sort of data,” Morgan said, “you’re flying blind. Design with employees. Not for them.”

Old Contract Done

igloo webinar

Stephen Rahal, VP of product strategy at Kitchener, Ontario-based Igloo Software, also spoke on the webinar. His findings agree with Morgan’s — employee experience remains a challenge, he said.

“Under the old contract, an employee got a good job and good pay, and an organization got a loyal and committed employee. That's changed,” he said. “Employees inside organizations are free and even encouraged to move from job to job. Loyalty is far more fleeting, and an engaging work environment is seen to be a fundamental baseline requirement.”

Put employees first and they’ll work harder.

“Ultimately,” Rahal said, “they’re your brand ambassadors. If you engage them, they’ll deliver more meaningful and compelling experiences for your customers.”