Employee Engagement Trade Secrets Revealed: An Interview with Joelle Kaufman of Dynamic Signal

February 26, 2019

“I think the biggest issue for HR is to go beyond perks and benefits. How do we create and sustain a compelling employee experience? What mechanisms do we use to reinforce the employee experience and measure what we’re doing and improving on it?”

The Chief Marketing Officer of Dynamic Signal, Joelle Kaufman, talks to HR Technologist about how to create a winning strategy for better employee engagement. When it comes to addressing talent managers’ questions – employee engagement appears as the number one issue to grapple with. Dynamic Signal is a leader in employee communication and engagement, serving Fortune 500 companies HR tech solutions through their platform.

In her role, Joelle has built strong, self-directed teams and leveraged extensive analytics to ensure that marketing and HR partnerships deliver clear value to the company. Her teams are reputed to get work done efficiently and have a lot of fun doing it. So, it’s only natural that we asked her to share her trade secrets on employee engagement.

From modernizing to measuring employee engagement, Joelle shares it all with us in this interview. We delve deep to understand how to increase productivity and empower advocacy amongst employees by delivering timely and relevant information across any channel or device. She answers our questions on: What role technology plays in employee engagement? How HR leaders must look at employee engagement and communication today? What trends to follow in this space and how to make an informed decision?

Key takeaways from this interview:

  • The best of employee engagement strategies of HR leaders
  • Complete guide to building positive employee experience
  • Trends to track in the employee engagement & HR tech spaces

In conversation with HR Technologist, Joelle muses on all these questions and a lot more:

How has the concept of ‘employee communications’ changed in our global, omnichannel world?

It’s become much more challenging and employees have much higher expectations on how they want to receive communication, how they want to engage, and much less about how we as leaders want to communicate with them. What’s most important is that your message is received and heard. With the advent of smartphones and personalization, employee communications must meet the standard of meeting people where they are with relevant information. 

People are also demanding authenticity. People can know if you’re being truthful and authentic. People are not even sure if we can trust what we’re reading or seeing these days. You must be communicating faster than the gossip mill and reaching people where they are. You no longer have a few days or a week to figure out your perfect response – you need a fast response.

What role does technology play in the way companies create a valuable employee experience in this context?

I think people are hoping and expecting technology to be a major piece of the puzzle. A valuable employee experience is not “here are a dozen apps I have to use.” That’s a lack of intentional experience design.  The way technology creates a valuable experience is in streamlining the experience for employees. You make it simple for them to access what they need. Technology can give you a way to measure an employee experience and give a better experience.

How would you define ‘employee engagement’?

Employee engagement is when employees know and feel confident in what’s important to the company and to their jobs and are motivated to improve how they do the job and how they serve their customers.  It isn’t about rewards or how many people are coming to an event. Those are good indicators, of course. But you must validate that they know the company, their goals, not just to meet expectations but to go beyond.

To measure employee engagement – there should be annual comprehensive employee happiness surveys but in between those annual efforts, one should use both active and passive metrics. Active metrics are pulse surveys, focus groups, small surveys. Passive metrics are engagement with company content from leadership, from HQ, sharing content, generating referrals and leads. The passive metrics avoid the survey bias of the active metrics, but they often have less detail.

The workforce is changing. People now have the options to work remotely, or contractually, even for central roles, not just incidental ones. How does this change the way a HR leader must look at employee communications and engagement?

I think it’s very hard. We’ve always counted on face-to-face communication with managers – and there is no question that’s the most important thing and there’s no technology that can convey that for you. Nobody wants to get and read a memo. We want content snackable and short. So, with a gig economy, we must be thinking about how we reach people when they choose or when they are working. Some interesting research came out recently about how the extent to which tech has been built for the office employee. These remote employees don’t work in your office – all the technology built for that creates barriers for them to complete their best work. Use of mobile communication and online meetings will help align the entire workforce.

Do newer generations of workers need new forms or approaches to employee engagement?

Yes and no. The millennials and Generation Z grew up mobile-first. They don’t think it’s reasonable that what they need isn’t coming across on their phones that they can swipe and react to. But it’s not just them. The penetration of smartphones is so high that you can count on virtually every person who works for you having one.  That’s how they get their news and communicate with friends and family. Are you going to adapt or are you going to ask them to do something more? If that’s your plan, you’re going to struggle with people engaging with your content because you put it outside of their stream of consciousness and outside their digital field of view.

Also Read: Communication Strategies for Employee Engagement: An Interview with Jeff Corbin of APPrise Mobile

What are the biggest issues and challenges HR leaders need to be aware of today?

I think every leader is aware that the labor market is incredibly tight. The costs of disengaged employees, in productivity, attrition or hiring, are high and unacceptable. I think the biggest issue for HR is to go beyond perks and benefits. How do we create and sustain a compelling employee experience? What mechanisms do we use to reinforce the employee experience and measure what we’re doing and improving on it? The concept of measuring an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) matters – if you don’t measure it you can’t improve. The economics of organizations with strong Employee Value Propositions are dramatically better than organizations who don’t invest in employee experience.

What are the typical mistakes you see talent managers make when it comes to building a staffing strategy for the current omnichannel, digital, distributed, remote and millennial workforce?

If you don’t have a way to keep people aligned, your ability to take advantage of people working everywhere will be limiting, making you less competitive. For example, Invision has 800 people and no offices. Their staffing strategy is dramatically more competitive. They hire the best people where they are and give them the tools to be able to work together.

The other mistake is that recruiters hire people who have already done what they want them to do, when they really need people who can do what’s next. They need people who can change and innovate, which is a harder thing to search for. We’re using an AI-based tool to source people who can be resilient, responsible risk takers.

Regarding workplace technology for your employees, if your answer is “it works for me,” you’re probably not thinking broadly enough. Almost all staffing activities are done by people who work together in an office. Does it really work for people who work a different shift or at a different location? We can fix these problems, but we must do it proactively and deliberately.

Data-driven everything is the reality today. How does Dynamic Signal help companies understand their employees better and make more informed decisions about their workforce?

You’re able to measure what information is being engaged with, shared, etc. This information becomes shared specifically by division, function, location, roles and so on. That gives you unprecedented insight into what’s working and what’s not.  It also shows you where you have highly engaged people and where there is a lot less engagement – targeting your intervention efforts.

For example, it’s a commonly held belief that video is better than text. However, what we found in our data is that when the information is coming from a trusted source (like a CEO or a manager), the engagement with the content is the same whether it is video or text – because the quality and trustworthiness of the author matters most. That should make everybody feel good. Based on that information, you can make decisions about what content to curate, who should get what. You can also be sure that the right people got your message and follow up. You can’t do that with any other employee communication technology in your organization. If you’re not measuring your ability to communicate with your people, you’re hoping. Hope is not a strategy, no matter what you think you’re doing. 

How are the new workplace and workforce realities/ challenges impacting how HR leaders approach the use of technology in HR? What are your top tips to CHROs and CPOs wanting to build a sound business case for innovation and technology use in the HR function?

Like every other function, HR has found tools that help them do their job well. Now they must think about what are the tools that help employees do their work well. You must think about this consolidation point: are we creating too many things for employees to do? All of that should ring alarm bells: This is not an accessible employee enablement solution. What are the integrations to make this simpler for the employee?

The other thing is how important targeting and personalization are. HR hasn’t had to do that before. Targeting information and ensuring people are getting it and engaging with it – that’s a big lift, and you need to be talking about the economics of continuously targeting and improving the relevance of your communication. Companies with a strong employee experience always outperform. Talk about how you are measuring and driving a great employee experience through technologies that deliver leadership to the front lines, ensuring that people know how valued they are and that they have a voice. You can tie it all to the economic value. The most competitive and profitable companies create the best and most sustainable employee experiences.

Also Read: How to Craft an Effective Employee Engagement Strategy: An Interview with Siddharth Reddy of BI WORLDWIDE

What workforce/workplace trends, technologies, and concepts are you taking the most seriously as we head into the next decade?   

I think measuring and optimizing the employee experience. You’re going to have a tight labor market and competition for the best people – those people will always be in high demand. In order to compete with agility and speed, you will need them. You need to ensure each of your compensation, bonus, and promotions systems are all re-jiggered to encourage risk-taking and creativity. Playing it safe will get you out-competed.

You can start by improving the way you communicate. What conveys value to people is to communicate, consolidate and streamline and then work through the ramifications to your compensation system and your professional development pathways.

I think in recruiting, there are some exciting things such as using machine learning to surface the right candidates who have the characteristics and mentality, on top of the skills, to make an impact.  

Neha: Thank you, Joelle, for sharing your learnings on employee engagement and lessons for talent managers to build a sustainable staffing strategy. We hope to talk to you again, soon.

This article originally appeared on hrtechnologist.com

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