Overwhelming communication

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Written by Armin Hopp on 23 April 2014
There’s been a lot of talk about the overwhelmed employee lately, as well as organisations’ failure to truly engage their workforce. According to Gallup research, only 13 per cent of employees worldwide are engaged in their work. Furthermore, Bersin by Deloitte shows that a staggering 78 per cent of business and learning leaders consider engagement an urgent or important issue. This poses a significant risk to organisations when it comes to attracting and retaining talent and it got me thinking about where we’ve gone wrong.
Today, we’re asked to invest more time and brain power in our professions than ever before. Skill requirements and the nature of work have changed, just as our own expectations have. Employees want to identify with their work and feel passionate about it. To me, engagement means that you’re intrinsically motivated, believe in what your company is doing and are prepared to go that extra mile because you care, not just because of the pay check at the end of the month. But how many of us are really being fulfilled?
New channels 
This isn’t the only thing that has changed. The way work reaches us has, too. Most of us don’t clock in and out or work anymore – in fact, most can’t. With the rise of the internet and mobile devices, work has become fluid and flexible. We’re available 24/7 – even during evenings, weekends or while on holiday, and we can’t just forget about work once the office door closes. 
I’ve lost count of the number of communication channels through which people and information reach me, for both private and work-related matters. There’s a whole stream of updates and messages filling my displays every day, including emails, text messages, LinkedIn, XING, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Skype notifications. Then for the younger general, including my kids, there’s WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat. Next, Flipboard and Twitter for my daily news feed. And of course, web conferences for discussing business matters. And I almost forgot – the good old telephone call! It’s almost impossible to separate our work and private lives in the modern world, where communication channels have silently blended into each other. One of my favourite lines coming from both friends and colleagues is: “I just sent you something, did you get it?” My automatic response is simply “Where?”
The overwhelmed learner
Learning in organisations is undergoing a similar change. With the progress of technology, employees are increasingly expected to study in a flexible, self-paced learning environment which they can access anytime, anywhere and from any device. But let’s face it, if left to their own (mobile) devices and with all that other communication coming through around the clock, they’re more likely to lag behind, watching funny videos or reading messages from their friends than actually learning something work-related. The constant flow of information is making it difficult for us to pick out the really important information and to use new skills and knowledge to our advantage.
In fact, many organisations haven’t even clocked on to the mobile learning revolution yet. The Speexx Exchange 2013-14 Survey shows that, while 76 per cent of organisations have a BYOD strategy only 35 per cent use mobile devices for training. For a mobile learning strategy to work, content needs to be easily accessible, relevant and compelling – and it also needs to beat that funny viral YouTube video that may be also competing for the employee’s attention.
Back to basics
But even the best technology won’t keep a learner engaged long-term. At Speexx, we’ve found that something as simple as contact with a human being can make all the difference. According to our internal data, 95 per cent of learners who receive personalised email coaching on top of their e-learning content complete their course successfully. 85 per cent of temporarily inactive students are put back on track with their communication skills training after a simple phone call from their trainer. It’s about adding a human touch to all the screens and pixels.
Managers play an equally important role in informing their workforce about new learning and development strategies. Engagement needs to become an issue in its own rights with a designated manager taking responsibility for it. Today’s employees are empowered and informed – they want to know why they need to acquire a new skill. They want to understand their role in the company’s overall mission. Which brings us back to basic communication: A corporate mission needs to be communicated concisely and transparently with employees of all levels and across all regions with no exceptions. This is the first step towards building true engagement for your workforce instead of overwhelming them with unnecessary information.
Only the right combination of compelling technology, human collaboration and clear communication will result in an engaging environment where employees will feel motivated to drive real business.
About the author
Armin Hopp is the founder and president of Speexx. He can be contacted via www.speexx.com

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