Ironically, it is the structured nature of corporate business organizations that come in the way of total employee engagement.
Most organizations today (consciously or unknowingly) foster a compartmentalized existence of their employees. One is the employee’s real natural existence, call it the “real me” – it thrives on the innate human need to socialize and the second split personality of the modern worker is his “workplace avatar”. The “workplace avatar” networks professionally and ponders over complex consulting terms like constituency management as opposed to plain old getting to know people, their likes, dislikes, what motivates them, who they are? their concerns and ambitions. Moreover, while the “real me” liberally engages with social networks like Facebook to keep in touch with friends regardless of any immediate vested interest, the professional avatar selectively picks out the right people to network with.
On a related note, I often wonder why do modern offices work on the factory model of seating each department together in their respective silos, and the managers in the same offices then go on complaining about a siloed culture. In today’s knowledge economy wherein every person of your team is an email or phone call away, and even better a post or like away from an enterprise social network or click on an IM chat window, wouldn’t it make sense for corporate memes, ideas, and knowledge to cross-breed across departments.
Case Study – Online Employee Engagement at a Fortune 500 Company
In a recent deployment of MindTickle’s employee engagement product, HiFli at a Fortune 500 client, we conducted a survey of the ~400 employees who participated in our online ice-breaking social game. The metrics were very encouraging and indicated a clear need on part of the employees to engage in online ice-breaking.
- >90% participation
- >70K profile views over the course of two weeks
- >5K social exchanges/interactions
- Avg. user engagement of ~3 hours
The surveys revealed that ~70% of participants were drawn by the fun and engaging format, while ~55% users were looking for opportunity to break the ice with colleagues from other teams and departments. After participating in HiFli, ~60% of the participants reported to have broken the ice with a number of colleagues whom they did not know before and majority of participants indicated that they benefited by rejuvenating their relationships with existing contacts and learnt about their interests and something unique about them which they would not have found out in regular course of business.
Jason Averbook, CEO of Knowledge Infusion had some very interesting and related observations: “While we work hard to get people paid and give them benefits, we do little to understand their true interests, talents, and backgrounds that could help us engage and retain our workforce.” This disparity of engagement is almost taunted by a growth in technology-enabled opportunities. “The world of Software as a Service combined with access to technology in an unlimited number of ways through mobile, broadband, etc creates a major transition for all HR and talent leaders in the world,” he continues.
The importance of a strong social community within an organization has long been recognized as a positive influence on productivity and retention, so I guess it would be safe to say that ice-breaking across silos is in line with corporate objectives, no great shakes here. But the interesting thing is that these data points also highlight the willingness to engage and interact with their colleagues across team boundaries. Then why do employees sit next to and talk to the same people they regularly interact with at work? Is it human tendency to seek comfort zones and fear of rejection? I am sure it is a combination of various factors, but what can we do about it?
Well – here is an interesting product that builds on the power of online social networks and Gamification to help break the silos.