4 Keys to Workplace Engagement

February 24th, 2017

Jon-Mark Sabel



Every week we comb the internet for the finest HR news, articles, and insights, compiling them here in a weekly roundup. In this week's roundup we look at some unconventional ways of improving engagement in the workplace, and we'll also examine how to hire and engage freelancers. and the future of on-the-job training.

New Data On Impact Of Office Design and Decor

Matt Zajechowski, TalentCulture

According to a survey of 1000 American workers, furniture, lighting, functional space, and ambience like plants and art all contribute to the way they perceive their workplace environment. Matt Zajechowski examines these attributes of office design and decoration and reveals how each has an effect on the worker.

  1. Furniture. Employees who considered their office furniture “bad” were 3x more likely to feel as though the work environment hurt their productivity.
  2. Lighting. Employees exposed to “a lot” of natural light in the workplace are 35% more likely to say their environment increases productivity.
  3. Functional Space. Functional spaces, like open meeting rooms, are critical for brainstorming as well as relaxation. Employees who felt their productivity hampered by a poor office environment listed a lack of functional spaces as one of the most important determining factors.
  4. Art and Plants. People who reported a lot of plants in the workplace were 85% more likely to feel that the environment helped their productivity. Art, on the other hand, plays a huge role in creating an “uplifting” office environment.

Read the full results of the survey here.

HV Analysis:

This is interesting, if only because it finally puts some numbers to what should be pretty obvious. It is hardly surprising that uncomfortable furniture, poor lighting, and a dull office environment are productivity killers. Perhaps most striking is the effect of potted plants - as mentioned above, those with lots of plants in the workplace were 85% more likely to feel that the environment was helping productivity. Compare that to the much smaller 35% associated with natural light. Since most workplaces can’t exactly go knocking holes in the ceiling, turning the workplace into an arboretum seems like a fair compromise.

Say Yes To Gamification

Meghan Biro, Converge.xyz

“Gamification is proving to be an effective tactic to help motivate employees and increase engagement,” Meghan Biro begins. “We love logging on and tracking all sorts of progress on a digital screen to enjoy small, personal victories. So why shouldn’t the workplace capitalize on that mindset?” Nike, Codecademy, and Starbucks are all leveraging gamification to increase engagement - Biro provides six reasons why this trend will continue its upswing:

  1. It gives employees a chance to “level up.” Getting frequent feedback and recognition for accomplishments is a top priority for the modern worker. By tracking performance in real time, gamification provides just that.
  2. It helps them earn a high score. “Adding a gaming element to departmental projects can help workers understand how and why their contributions add up and in what ways they are impacting the team,” Biro explains.
  3. It taps into our competitive nature. Friendly competition can boost morale and build camaraderie across departments.
  4. It appeals to the digital generation. “Gamification can offer a more personalized work experience for millennials all about being in control of their career destinies,” Biro says. “Gamification provides the instant gratification they so crave but is often missing in a more traditional corporate structure.
  5. It helps avoid “game over” scenarios. As a form of workforce intelligence gathering, HR can make informed decisions based on the actions workers take inside the game. This ensures that potential hazards are avoided while great contributions are recognized.
  6. It helps your employer brand. When employees are engaged at work, they become walking, talking brand ambassadors. In this role, off-hours employees can do wonders for your recruiting efforts.

“Only good things can happen when your team is engaged and striving for a higher success score,” Biro concludes.

HV Analysis:

Gamification has become a popular topic of late, and its precise definition has become muddled as a result. Let’s start from the top: the companies leveraging “gamification” (Nike, Codecademy, and Starbucks) are not doing so with their employees. They are using app-centric rewards and challenges to engage their consumers. This is a critical distinction to make, as building relationships with the consumer is hugely different from crafting a productivity-enabling experience for employees. Boosting employee engagement with gamified challenges has great potential - but employers should be careful. When overlaying the traditional work environment with games and achievements, it is crucial that these efforts are not construed as patronizing, else they backfire and create employee resentment.

More Intent to Hire Means These 5 Hiring Trends

Jennifer Grasz, CareerBuilder

According to CareerBuilder’s latest jobs survey, 40% of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2017, up from 36% in 2016. This uptick doesn’t just stop at full-time, however: part-time and contract positions are expected to increase as well. With this in mind, CareerBuilder provides five hiring trends to watch in the coming year:

  1. Companies will be under pressure to offer higher pay. With two-thirds of employers planning to increase salaries on initial job offers, it is apparent that the war for talent is in full swing. With more options to choose from, the best candidates have the liberty to be picky.
  2. Job seekers will need to emphasize their soft skills. Soft skills continue to be in demand as automation takes over mundane tasks.
  3. Employers will communicate with candidates via text. Texts are unique in that they have a near 100% open rate - for recruiters short on time, there is no better way to make contact with candidates.
  4. Workers in general will need to become more savvy on social media. 63% of employers expect employees to have some experience with social media, across job functions.
  5. More companies will be open to hiring workers who are short on experience. Remember that the war for talent is continuing? Some companies will need to make due with less than they initially planned.

HV Analysis:

For organizations still recovering from the recession and brand new startups, talent acquisition is competitive sport. Creating a strong employer brand will be critical for these companies to attract elusive “top talent,” and one of the best ways to positively impact employment brand is by crafting a great candidate experience. Those that can streamline their processes, identify, and snipe the best talent fastest will be the ones that come out on top.

Employees Need to Learn Freelancing Skills

Sharlyn Lauby, HRBartender

“Freelancing represents 35% of the U.S. workforce,” Sharlyn Lauby begins, reflecting on this recent WSJ article. “And a growing number of individuals are choosing freelancing as a career (63%).” In other words, freelancing should no longer be considered a side gig that people do when they can’t find a real job. When it comes to freelancing, there are benefits for both freelancers and those that employ them. Freelancers, by definition, work as they please - so while they might not get the same benefits they would as full-time staff, they have the freedom to juggle personal responsibilities and interests. Lauby provides two tips for individuals looking to turn freelancing into a full-time gig:

  1. Learn the critical skills associated with freelancing. Creating a productive workspace, leveraging your own tools and tech, and budgeting are all skills freelancers need to succeed.
  2. Get comfortable with the unknown. You won’t always have a steady paycheck, and you’ll work with minimal supervision. Being able to budget time (not just money) and prepare for gig droughts is necessary.

Employers, on the other hand, “can flex up or down their operations easily.” Hiring full time (or even part time) staff is a lot of work, and in industries prone to flux, the ability to scale up or down at a moment’s notice is a godsend. Lauby gives these two tips for organizations looking to get into the freelancing game:

  1. Put a process in place to source, select, and onboard freelancers. “Do your homework and understand the market,” Lauby explains. “Select a freelancer who will work well with the team and give them the tools to be successful.”
  2. Engage your freelancers. Your freelancers are not full time, but they should be available as needed. By keeping them engaged with your organization (informing them of recent events, inviting them to internal gatherings, sending thank you notes), you ensure they will be available when you need them most.

HV Analysis:

The “gig economy” is creating an opportunity for people to work profitable side gigs that create the opportunity for increased flexibility in their work. So what happens when the best know they’re the best? Many start their own businesses. They become freelancers, further contributing to the talent shortage among top talent. The best freelancers have limited time, as well as the freedom to allocate it where they choose. Creating an organization that freelancers want to add to their portfolio will be critical to engaging the top freelancing talent.

The Future of Training is Competencies, Not Skills

Mike Haberman, Workology

“The speed of change has many companies flustered and HR and training professionals wondering what needs to be done in order to keep up with changing technology,” Mike Haberman begins. “How do you teach the skills of the future when the skills of today are obsolete tomorrow?” The answer: don’t teach skills. Teach the competencies required to quickly grasp new skills as they become necessary. The German economist, Michael Zibrowius, puts it this way: “it was not enough to know how to lay bricks on mortar; one had to understand why and how a wall functioned, since they way to build it years down the line might be entirely different.” For the HR professional, the SHRM lists 8 behavioral competencies:

  1. Leadership.
  2. Ethical Practices.
  3. Business Acumen.
  4. Consultation.
  5. Critical Evaluation.
  6. Relationship Management.
  7. Communication.
  8. Global and Cultural Effectiveness.

“These to not refer to a single skill set that requires technical knowledge,” Haberman explains. A perfect example is that of social media. Leveraging social media to recruit, retain, and engage talent is a skill, built around the competency of communication. If you don’t know how to communicate, you won’t be able to successfully use social media. Building competencies means learning how to learn. As required work skillsets continue to evolve, no aptitude is more necessary.

HV Analysis:

That we should learn overarching competencies (ie, learn how to learn) rather than specific skills is an idea that goes back to Plato. It is intriguing that somewhere down the line we lost this notion, content with the knowledge of a single, unchanging craft. The HR professional will play a critical part in this change, not only because of “big data” and the metrics it provides, but because they will be the ones implementing a “learn to learn” mindset within the workplace.