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The key ingredients for employee engagement (spoiler alert: SMS helps!)

Nicole Culver Nicole Culver
Nicole Culver
Image for blog on employee engagement

The idea of focusing on corporate culture has led to some rocky outcomes: the open office vs. closed office layout argument for example. This culture-centric mindset has been a driving force of change, though, for the past several years. Why? “Culture” is supposed to be a factor in employee happiness, thus leading to business effectiveness and success. But what does the word “culture” really mean when we think about influencing employee happiness? It’s not having beer on tap, unlimited vacation time, or a ping pong table (we actually had one here at Bandwidth and it got nixed for being too distracting)—the major influence on employee happiness can be measured by how engaged employees are. 

So what drives employee engagement? According to Forrester’s Employee Experience (EX) Index, the three major ingredients that lead to having more engaged employees are pretty simple: empowerment, inspiration, and enablement. All HR teams have to do to help empower, inspire, and enable employees is to ask them what they need and find ways to provide it or show progress. But doing this for the diverse populations within large companies can be a daunting or near impossible task. Employers everywhere want to improve productivity, increase profit, and decrease employee churn, but almost none want to do that using their in-house teams and halt productivity in other directions. Enter, employee engagement platforms and software.

These platforms are on the rise and seeing some great success. Gartner’s Hype Cycle indicates that the category of “Worker Engagement Platforms” is not only an emerging market, but is also a highly beneficial investment for companies. We are already seeing widespread adoption of employee engagement software, the full gamut of which can be found in G2 Crowd’s Employee Engagement Grid. However, few, if any, of these companies are using communications technology that could drastically improve their employee experience—text messaging.

From text message notifications and follow-up surveys to employee engagement and communication, text messaging is a critical add to any platform. I think this is best illustrated via real-life scenario. 

Imagine you’re at work and are required to complete an online training course for legal compliance. The training is flexible, allowing you to work on it as you are able, but you have a deadline for completion and a test to verify you learned the information. It is SUPER easy to put this kind of thing off in light of work needs, last-minute requests, and other deadlines. But if you don’t complete it, there are consequences. 

You get the standard 30-day, 1-week, and 1-day reminders via email. Your inbox, however, is 1,238 unread messages deep with more coming in every minute. Inevitably, you miss the deadline because you didn’t see the reminder emails.

This kind of situation happens all the time, but there is a way to ensure important things like this don’t get lost in your overstuffed inbox. Here’s how the scenario above could have gone.

Instead of email reminders that get overlooked, you opt-in for text message reminders. Conveniently, you receive a text from the training platform that says “[LEARN LABS] Hey, do you have 10 minutes? Watch part 1 of training now by clicking here: [app link]”. And throughout your progress in the training, you get convenient reminders to pick up where you left off, all via text. 

When the training is complete, you get a survey via text, which is quick and easy to respond to. Your certification is automatically logged in your employment record. Come mid-year reviews, you receive a reminder to fill out your assessment and are even able to submit 360 degree feedback to the platform from your phone. Every message is documented in the platform for record keeping and reference. 

It’s almost as though a personal assistant is messaging employees directly. This kind of user experience is not only more effective (98% of text messages are read versus 20% of emails), but it is also a more natural and easy way for employees to stay on top of training, internal surveys, 360 degree reviews, and more—effectively keeping them more engaged. It’s also not a difficult add-on to any software platform thanks to Bandwidth’s messaging APIs. So why don’t more platforms incorporate messaging? 

Now this is pure speculation, but my first guess would be that businesses just aren’t aware that using another app or communication channel outside of what they are already doing is just adding to the noise. Or they haven’t heard enough interest from their customers to invest any time or money into development for adding messaging to their product. Given that 90% of people say they’d rather receive a text message than a phone call, that the average response time for a text is only 90 seconds, and that 84% of businesses use or plan to use texting in their sales and marketing efforts, employee experience platforms should get ahead of the messaging revolution today.

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