Invisible employees

Engaging invisible employees

Karen Rayner Employee experience, Engagement Leave a Comment

You can’t be inclusive if you’re exclusive

We’re all striving for an inclusive organizational culture. We want work to be a place where everyone feels heard, and valued, and everyone has the chance to contribute.

But when we say ‘everyone’, do we really mean everyone?

All people are included, but some are more included than others.

A retail chain has a lot of moving parts. There’s head office, with HR and marketing and accounting staff. There are stores, with sales associates and security and inventory managers. There are warehouses, with stock handlers, forklift operators and truck drivers. There are people out in the field buying and selling and wrangling suppliers.

All these people make up the company, but when it comes to employee experience, it’s not typically the truck drivers who get the most attention.

It’s not unusual for large companies to consider office-based staff as the people that need to be engaged. Head offices have Friday drinks and team lunches, breakout spaces and lunchtime yoga. Workstation ergonomics are assessed. AC levels are monitored. Email and Slack are used for team communication and company updates.

Branch offices may get some of that love, warehouses very little. There might be a corkboard.

Inequal opportunities

It’s not just the ‘stuff’. Office staff have more access to the leadership team. They have more opportunities for training and team building. They’re more likely to have HR contact that isn’t a mandatory review or disciplinary meeting. Software and systems decisions are more likely to be made at C-level, so technology is more likely to suit office workers. And so, these more ‘visible’ employees get more attention, and tend to be more engaged as a result

Two stats from Bain & Company really highlight the importance of visibility:

  1. Engagement (as measured by eNPS) falls with each level an employee is removed from the CEO: from 62% at the C-level to -5% 7 levels down.
  2. Service and production staff have the lowest levels of engagement: 6% vs 33% for management.

71% of non-desk employees are not actively engaged in their company, and only 22% feel connected to the organization’s purpose. Clearly, we still have some work to do to bring these invisible employees into the fold.

Exclusion by (HR software) design

Approximately 75% of all employees are non-desk employees, so implementing systems that require regular computer access risks excluding a lot of frontline and behind the scenes staff. Ditto if people need email to log in to your system of choice – 83% of employees don’t have a company email address.

While nobody’s suggesting a return to paper-based systems, access and ease of use should be a consideration in all technology decisions. Mobile is one option for improving accessibility: 95% of people in the US and UK own a cellphone of some kind, and 94% of companies already use some kind of mobile solution. So even if people don’t spend their days behind a desk, there’s still technology you can use to reach – and engage – them.

Turn on the light switch

The less visible employees are to head office, the less engaged they’re likely to be. Which is unfortunate, because they want to contribute and have a lot of useful information you might not get otherwise. Increasing visibility to all levels of the organization should be a priority: start by opening communication channels and giving all employees equal air time.

If you want to build an inclusive culture you need to include all employees in the conversations, not just the ones you see most often.

75% of all employees are non-desk employees
80% of the global workforce doesn't have enough access to technology.
The Employee Experience Genome Project

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The best way to find out how your employees feel is to ask. The Employee Experience Genome Project gives you a library of simple questions and conversation starters that help you talk about work with your people.

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