"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Kathleen Grigg, senior vice president of client solutions at 84.51°.
Marketers largely understand the importance of leveraging data to understand customers and how their actions impact consumer behavior. Companies across the media spectrum know that there is power in turning data into information and acting on it.
Those at the forefront have built into their businesses the discipline of measurement, learning from what works and what doesn’t, and making adjustments in a continuous cycle of improvement.
We all feel the constant pressure to grow our businesses while reducing costs and increasing productivity. Is there more we can do? Technology helps to automate routine tasks and make better decisions, but what are we doing to foster the creative output of our people?
What if we applied the same disciplined approach to improving employees’ creative energy as we do to improving our advertising productivity?
More Than Free Food
At first blush, a focus on employee engagement might appear to be a feel-good call to offer more perks and free food. But engagement is about much more than making employees happy through extrinsic motivators. It is about creating a deeper level of fulfillment and instilling passion so that people can deliver their best work.
Engagement also makes good business sense. Numerous studies have shown a direct link between higher levels of engagement and increases in revenue and profit. In a 2013 study, Gallup found that companies “with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher EPS (earnings per share) compared with their competition in 2011-2012.”
In the simplest terms, what would a 20% increase in revenue per dollar of salary mean to a company’s bottom line?
A significant increase in productivity might sound like a daunting challenge to already busy organizations, but a 2015 Gallup study showed that fewer than one-third of US employees are engaged in their jobs, while nearly 20% were actively disengaged. Business leaders should be deeply concerned by this.
So where to start? Many companies have used annual engagement surveys to measure and diagnose how employees are feeling about their work and what drives them. These surveys give employees a voice and provide benchmarks to direct organizational efforts for companies looking to begin the journey. While comprehensive, those companies further down the path can feel a bit like they are reading last year’s news.
Leveraging the power of real-time data allows companies to monitor the engagement of their businesses and act in a timely and relevant way. A number of companies have launched tools that will allow companies to measure the pulse of their organizations monthly, weekly or even daily.
While the optimal frequency and method of data collection will vary for each organization, it is important that managers are prepared to act on the information and begin to remove roadblocks to engagement. The best leaders know that teams perform at their full potential when they are aligned to their organization’s overall mission. That includes understanding how their strengths contribute to making it happen and how they are connected to the people with whom they work. But how many leaders and managers know how their employees are faring?
Many times removing barriers to engagement are less daunting and expensive than we may perceive. For individuals or teams feeling that their efforts are not appreciated, an old-fashioned handwritten thank-you can make a huge difference, for example. Teams not feeling connected to the people around them can benefit tremendously from investing time to get to know each other on a personal level. Managers asking a team to share what inspires them or about work they are most proud of can open the dialog to a deeper understanding of why they do what they do.
While these gestures are no substitute for confronting the tough systemic challenges that some companies must wrestle with, we should not underestimate the power of really seeing and understanding the people around us.
As with advertising initiatives, we shouldn’t stop with the action but continue to measure the impact. This requires patience. As anyone who has ever repositioned a brand will know, it takes time to change people’s perceptions. However, applying the same rigor and discipline to talent practices as we do to our advertising initiatives is well worth the effort. By understanding our employees as well as we understand our customers, we can not only improve our business but also create richer more productive work environments that ultimately get us closer to our customers.