Employee Engagement: Automate to Re-Engage Your Team

I got a note this morning from a friend and former colleague regarding a trending topic about employee engagement:

I did some research and what I saw was cringy (funny, but cringy):

(a great plug, as a BC alumn I’m a big Drizly fan, but this was “too true”)

(seems like there may be a theme…)

(yep…yep there’s a theme)

(sigh)

Funny to be sure, but the hashtag #HowIStaySaneInMyWorkspace backs up the data:

  • 51% of Americans aren’t engaged at work.
  • 17% of Americans are “actively disengaged” at work.

The New York Times took a look and concluded that people don’t enjoy work because they don’t get to do what they enjoy and feel drowned by the volume of busy work that they have. In short, employee engagement is at an all time low. Here’s what they found:

The problem is apparent, now what’s the solution?

Answer:
Automating minor, repetitive tasks and processes to increase employee engagement.

The benefits:

  • You don’t have to do them anymore.
  • They’re done more often and more correctly because they’re being done by a machine, not a frustrated person.
  • The system doing the automating can track task completion versus adding more busy work for your employees to do.
  • Employee hours can be spent thinking, strategizing, and working on more complex tasks rather than the day to day minutiae.
  • Happier employees working on bigger tasks end up being more productive (on more important things).
  • Your customer satisfaction goes up (way up).
  • The company saves money, produces more (faster), and has lower employee turnover.

There are tens (hundreds, at some companies) of tasks at most companies that can be automated in this way. Here’s a recent example that added hours back to a company who automated small tasks that historically took up a lot of time, but added very little value in terms of having an employee do them versus a machine. Hopefully this will get you thinking about how you can do this at your company.

Example:

At one company, a large youth soccer club, ordering jerseys for the 50+ teams in the club was a highly manual, very tedious task involving sending the same series of emails over and over again, clarifying the same things, and tracking all of it in email (this is equivalent to the work done while provisioning new accounts at tech companies–or doing a technology refresh).

What they did to free up hours of employee time was set up a system where they could build a templated message with merge fields, send the message to a large group of people, and then have those people list the task as “completed” as they finished them with built in automated follow ups if the task wasn’t completed. Here’s a quick visual of how they thought about the process:

By creating a process that allowed them to do all of the normal set up work once, and then have the system automate completion, tracking, and clarification they freed up time for employees to make other systems better, focus on larger projects, and spend less time doing a task that’s essential, but non-complex.

Old way:

  • Send emails to each team manager outlining process.
  • Once step one is completed the person completing it emails the club to tell them it’s been completed.
  • The club then emails the person who needs to do step two to keep the flow moving.
  • Make a spreadsheet to track completion that you update as you get replies.
  • Manually answer questions that come up.
  • Follow up as needed to make sure the process gets done.

New way:

  • Set up the entire workflow once with merge fields so that as one step is completed the second part of the step gets automatically initiated with the next person in the process.
  • Hit send once and send the email to all team managers.
  • Automatically track task completion in the system being used to send the initial message and see which step the process is at with each team so you can passively see where in the process every team is.
  • Automate follow ups– “If task not completed send X message”

Whether it’s HR emails, setting teams up in Slack, or getting a new employee set up with a computer, there are numerous tasks at every company that can benefit from a system like this that will free up employee time for higher value tasks that both benefit the business and result in happier employees. Not only that, but these tasks being automated increases the accountability of those processes (the system will show you any bottlenecks) and ensure that no balls get dropped.

The number one thing employees lack is regular time for strategic, creative thinking. Automating the little things creates this time and empowers employees to innovate rather than simply pull the levers that keep the business going. Employee engagement, especially focused around strategic and complex tasks, can be a huge driver for your business. Thinking this way for you business will create not only better processes and better products, but happier employees and more satisfied customers.