Digital HR tools and career development can re-energize workers

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Employee engagement, especially among millennials and Gen Z, is at the lowest point it’s been in the last decade, according to a recent poll from Gallup, and companies need to find the HR solutions to re-energize them, or face lower retention, productivity , and profitability.

Two of the main contributors to lower employee engagement are the lack of opportunities to learn and grow, and the lack of feeling cared for at work, according to Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing at Gallup.

Harter said career development and upskilling can help re-energize workers. But what does that look like for a workforce with diverse voices, various post-Covid working environments, and even different multigenerational priorities at work?

Workers want HR resources at their fingertips

Some solutions to lagging engagement can be amplifying employees’ voices, supporting their career growth and evolving internal HR practices to be digital-first, said Mike Morini, chief executive officer of WorkForce Software, a management software company offering digital HR capabilities and workforce analytics.

“Typically, companies spend less than 1% of their technology budget for their deskless workers,” Morini said. “They aren’t investing in finding ways to engage with their employees, how to collaborate with them, or how to make sure they’re well aware.”

Whether it’s finding a recent pay stub, seeing a weekly schedule, or looking to see what types of benefits your company offers you, workers want all of these HR resources easily accessible on their phones, Morini said.

Morini shared a story of his colleague’s teenage daughter who had the choice of working at a grocery store or at a trendy retail store. Morini said he chose the grocery store solely based on the grocery store offering everything he needed — scheduling, pay stubs, shift changes — on an app, while the retail store did not.

“If you’re not modernizing and providing employees with digital tools, so they can get visibility into HR resources, you’re losing talent,” Morini said. “Companies now need to step up and make investments in that technology, so they can better communicate and collaborate with their employees in an experience on their phone.”

Digital-first offerings can also give employees better visibility into how companies are driving strategies and business practices, Morini said, especially in a world where everyone is working from different places.

The digital transformation of HR is a two-way street, Morini said. Not only will employees feel more engaged and cared about, but companies can get insightful data about their employees for managers and HR professionals to take appropriate action to alleviate HR issues.

Morini said offering employees more visibility into scheduling and compliance used to be added benefits, but now with digital tools, they’ve become strategic priorities for both employees and companies.

“With compliance being an issue across the board, companies are figuring out: Do employees have the flexibility they want? Are they getting the communication they want so they feel valued?” Morini said. “Making sure managers are informed with this type of data gives them the opportunity to take good action to better engage their employees.”

Harter said 70% of the variance in engagement can be explained by the quality of managing, so upskilling managers is key.

Managers becoming better coaches involve teaching them science-based insights about how to improve employee engagement, how to leverage their strengths and the strengths of their team members, and aiming their coaching at performance management, Harter added.

Employees want career growth

The majority of workers, especially among Gen Z, want to not only feel valued but also want opportunities for upward mobility and continued learning at their companies.

“Learning is one of the key elements at the cornerstone of a healthy relationship between an employer and employee,” said Dimitris Tsingos, co-founder and president of Epignosis, a learning management platform.

It used to be that employees did their work and received compensation, but Tsingos said that’s not enough for employees today. He said forward-thinking companies also invest in their employees’ personal development on all levels.

With a plethora of digital HR tools available, Tsingos and Morini agree that companies need to give employees access to continued learning and career training.

“If workers are already switching shifts on an app, let’s say they try to switch a shift with a coworker and they’re not trained enough, we can highlight that if you have this certification or training, you would be eligible to do this shift ,” Morini said. “This can also energize workers by saying ‘Oh, by the way, the pay there is 15% more’ or ‘Oh, by the way, you can take this training online, right here on your phone.'”

This provides employees with the tools to continue learning and gives them the opportunity to be go-getters, Morini said, and it paves the path for how they can move forward.

“You’ll see the right level of engagement when employees see your empathy towards their work-life balance and you’re showing them a path to career growth if they take these steps,” Morini said. “You’ll then have an informed, energized employee base.”

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