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Engaging Employees: 3 New Strategies For Your Changing Workplace

At Zeno, we see many clients wrestling with the complexities of a new employee engagement environment. The business benefits of engaged employees are well known and countless resources promote best practices, but even high-performing companies struggle to keep pace with changes.

Which trends should you be watching now?

In Harvard Business Review’s cover story “The Overcommitted Organization,” authors Mark Mortensen and Heidi Gardner describe a growing trend called ‘multiteaming.’  Their research found that 81% of those working on teams today work on more than one team concurrently. The article calls for renewed attention on the changing collaboration between workers, managers and teams. Teams are now exponential, and engagement with them must follow.

At the same time, Gallup reports on another overlooked dimension – schedules. The modern workday is filled with more variables, Gallup observes, with flexible schedules now the norm for many employees. Many workers like it, with a majority (52%) preferring their hours to vary.  For leadership, however, employee outreach faces new challenges. The conventional business update meeting or leadership townhall is becoming obsolete.

Together, these findings describe a workplace that is more dynamic, more fluid and less dependent on time and space. They also suggest that new strategies should be added to the engagement playbook:

  • Rethink the concept of teams.  Forget departments, business functions and job titles as drivers for employee engagement. Turn instead to strategic initiatives, influence maps and annual operating plans for alignment. Create and empower enterprise-wide conversations.
  • Make mobile your lead channel.  Employees today are working across teams and borders, but less likely to be present at specific times. Consider the smartphone as the new desktop; look to social platforms as today’s preferred news source.
  • Elevate employee experiences.  Stories are still the best currency for developing culture, collaboration and camaraderie.  Use employee experiences as the default setting for communications that can endure and engage at every level.  Good stories transcend time and place.

Mark Shadle is managing director of the Zeno Global Corporate practice. Follow him on Twitter at @Shadlemark or reach him directly at mark.shadle@zenogroup.com.