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PHOTO: Annie Spratt

It will probably come as no surprise that the recently published Gartner report into CEO priorities found CEOs naming "growth" as their priority for the rest of 2018 and for 2019. What the research also found, though, was CEOs are finding it harder and harder to achieve said growth and that, as a result, they will also spend the same period changing and upgrading the structure of their companies.

The Gartner 2018 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey (registration required) findings are based on responses to a survey conducted during the fourth quarter of 2017 from 460 CEO and senior business executives working in companies with an annual revenue of more than $50 million. While IT remained a high priority at third position, and digital transformation a frequently mentioned focus, workforce and its development was in the top three priorities of 28 percent of companies, up from just 16 percent last year.

More to the point, CEOs pointed to the lack of talent and workforce capabilities as the biggest single inhibitor to digital business growth and acknowledged that culture change in the organization is a key aspect of that growth, even if only 37 percent said it was a priority before 2020.

Leaving aside the purely technological issues, the report showed several other factors directly related to the workforce gaining notice, including management, goal setting, performance management and leadership development. Mentions of efficiency and productivity also doubled over the last year. The report states: “With decreasing unemployment, stronger economies and shifting skill sets, workforce issues are rising. Once slack capacity has been taken up, management discipline needs to be tighter to maintain performance. During times when adding head count to increase output is not so easy, attention turns to productivity and efficiency initiatives.”

We already saw in a study from independent research organization TMR that tools and services are key to maintaining performance and ensuring workplace transformation and services. These services are widely regarded as a way of enabling workers to complete tasks on time, ensuring better productivity and even happier work. Those services include core enterprise applications, collaboration applications, instant messaging, enterprise mobility and workplace automation tools. Several different tool categories apply here.

Related Article: Digital Employee Experience Bridges the Gap Between HR and IT

1. Internal Social Feeds

Nigel Davies is founder of Brighton, UK-based digital workplace development company Claromentis. He said internal social feeds fueled by employee-generated content can result in major improvements in staff engagement. The feeds can be inter-departmental or companywide and — as with any social media platform — require filtering to keep the content relevant and useful to those who see it. He also said these tools should contain components for peers or managers to single out a staff member for great work or a standout effort to improve engagement. He pointed out that peer-to-peer appreciation is recognized as an effective confidence booster.

Finally, he said, personalization is key, whether it's an onboarding page that gives a recruit a warm welcome with messages from the team and a bespoke itinerary, or a personalized online learning program devised by a manager for a member of staff who wants to develop in their role. It shows care, attention and thoughtfulness, all of which will make an employee feel valued. The knock-on effect is enhanced engagement.

Related Article: Turn Your Enterprise Social Network Into an Innovation Pipeline

2. Engaging Through Chat

For Steve Pritchard, human resources manager at UK-based online insurance seller Cuuver.com, chat-driven programs encourage employee engagement. These tools, he said, are especially effective in large corporations where it isn't as easy for employees to engage with each other. In smaller businesses, it’s much easier for workers to communicate, both about work and about more fun and personal topics.

“A great working environment full of friends working together is a wonderful, tried and tested way of building engagement. If employees are happy in their role, surrounded by people they feel a connection with, they have very little cause for wanting to leave,” he said.

3. Multiple Communication Options

RJ Martino, president and CEO of Little Rock, Ark.-based Scale Technology believes enterprises should have an intranet installed for internal interactions that is accessible to members, employees or other authorized personnel in an organization. However, for some organizations an intranet just doesn’t cut it and there are other possibilities.

“File sharing programs can supplement what can't be contained in the wiki. Instant messengers work great at holding information that's intended to be temporary. Password management programs can cover password handoff security holes. Outsourced accountants can reduce the physical papers found in the office and minimize the risk of sensitive data from exposure,” he said.

Related Article: 5 Common Reasons Collaboration Tools Fail

4. DAM Engagement

Carlie Hill is the content marketing manager at MediaValet, developer of a digital asset management system based in Vancouver. She said a digital asset management system helps companies manage, organize, share and distribute their photos, videos and other marketing collateral from within a single, central library. It acts as the source for all a company’s content, improving internal process efficiency, enhancing team collaboration and making repurposing content easier and faster.

“In the last few years, DAM systems have added integrations into existing business tools, such as Office 365, Slack and Hootsuite, which has transformed it from a marketing platform into a cross-organization collaboration tool,” she said.

Related Article: DAM's Reach Spreads Across the Enterprise

5. Email (Yes, Email)

Finally, engagement without email is just about unthinkable. Natalie Lambert, VP of marketing at San Bruno, Calif.-based Sapho, which offers a modern employee portal said that despite the decade-long debate on its relevancy, email is here to stay. While email can be distracting and disruptive to everyday workflows, the reality is its familiarity, standardization across organizations, ability to scale, searching and archiving features make it the go-to communications solution across organizations worldwide.

However, there is a huge opportunity for email to become more useful and provide an experience in line with how employees want to work. Emerging technologies are taking advantage of email being a single aggregation point for information and providing employees new types of access to workflows and data through this channel.