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Organizations are struggling to get the communications balance right. Here are a few tips to help out PHOTO: Ian Espinosa on unsplash

Change is the new normal in today's hyper-connected world. Fundamental changes, both physical and emotional, are taking place in our working environment, and those changes require companies to take a new approach to employee engagement, communication, training and business transformation.

In a recent study we commissioned of 5,000 U.K. employees, we looked at the drivers behind the changes (pdf), from social media to flexible working arrangements, globalization and personalization, and assessed the way organizations and their people are adapting to those changes.

Chaos Hinders Communication and Collaboration

The results are concerning. Organizations seem to be losing control of the impact of technology in the workplace, and they are struggling to get the communication balance right. They are in “digital chaos” — their people are disillusioned with the tools provided and the communication channels used.

This chaos is hindering communication and collaboration in the workplace. We’re facing a crisis in employee engagement.

But there is an opportunity for businesses to take back control. We believe that the most engaged and productive people are those who have the ability to design their own working experiences, are given communication tools that offer flexibility and personalization, and are afforded opportunities to learn new things and develop new skills.

An Opportunity to Take Control

Business leaders can and must implement a more structured approach to communication and engagement across all available channels. They should also provide transformative training tailored to individual employees. Because we can either fall victim to digital chaos or harness the opportunity to take control that technology gives us.

Here are some tips for how we can do that.

Don’t lose employees to Instagram

With the number of channels and tools increasing, organizations need to strike the right balance between the frequency of communication and the channels through which messages are delivered. In our survey, 33 percent of the respondents said that the collaboration tools they use in their personal lives are better than the ones they use at work, which means that many people are bypassing their organizations’ IT systems. 

This is a lost opportunity for employers who need to find innovative ways to communicate with employees across multiple channels. Instead of simply hosting content on an intranet, set up a Facebook group or make better use of live chat and interactive games and quizzes so everyone can participate in real time.

Design a new way to work

We know that the concept of the traditional nine-to-five workday is becoming obsolete. A recent Timewise and EY survey found that 90 percent of employees dislike the rigidity of the nine-to-five routine. And in our own survey, 44 percent of the respondents said they would like to work from home regularly. 

Organizations should take note — as we become increasingly mobile, it is possible for us to break that mold. However, structures must be put in place to manage the change. As we become decoupled from a single physical workplace, it is more important than ever to provide a sense of community. So instead of just providing a physical office, the workplace of the future needs to provide a digital infrastructure that enables people to do their work wherever they may be. This is about finding tools and communication channels that provide freedom and flexibility and also encourage participation and engagement.

Let employees learn

Learning and personal development have never been more important to people in the workforce. But not all training programs are created equal, and businesses are struggling to train their people effectively. As organizations grow and their workforces become more geographically dispersed, traditional training becomes more difficult to deliver. 

That may not be such a bad thing. Old style forms of face-to-face training have been found to be both less effective and more expensive than the learning options offered through digital technologies. As is the case with communication channels, people are seeking highly tailored, individual learning experiences. This means designing bespoke experiences that combine self-learning, virtual and face-to-face classrooms, virtual coaching, and innovative games and technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). 

Allowing people to structure their own training programs and take control of the process will lead to much greater engagement and a more capable and skilled workforce.

The intergeneration game

Generational diversity within organizations is increasing. The workforce is aging and, when it comes to communication, age matters. Consider that only 16 percent of 45-to-59-year-olds typically use a messaging platform such as Google, Slack or Skype for business, compared with 30 percent of 16-to-29-year-olds. 

Businesses can’t afford to focus only on their young employees. They must also support — and capitalize on — the benefits provided by their older employees. Investing in communication channels and training and development programs that cater to all age groups is paramount. The development of older people should also remain high on the agenda. In our study, 35 percent of the older respondents said that they felt they did not receive as much training as their younger colleagues.

Focus on your purpose

Organizations are becoming more tribal as they become more digital, with diverse groups of people identifying with a single organization or brand. As the people who make up the workforce require more flexibility, and as workforces grow more diverse and more geographically dispersed, clarity of purpose and the identity of an organization’s brand will have a direct impact on a company’s ability to attract and retain the best talent. 

The strength of an organization’s culture across diverse groups of people who work from multiple locations will impact the organization’s ability to execute and remain competitive. Those with compelling values that create meaning for their people will have a strategic advantage with millennials in particular.