Successfully engaging your employees is crucial to driving business success. Research has shown companies with engaged employees outperform those without by over 200%, while experiencing up to a 10% increase in customer rating and 20% increase in sales.

No surprise then that employee engagement has changed for what was once a HR ‘nice to have,’ to become a business priority on the agenda of the entire C-suite. This is a welcome transformation, although with this increased focus has come a fair amount of unwanted complexity and confusion.

Delivering sustainable engagement in the ever-evolving modern workplace is a big challenge. Despite what you might hear from some of the tech sector evangelists, there are no ‘silver bullets’ that will magically turn your demotivated workforce into your biggest advocates.

In today’s dynamic world of work, leaders need to go back to basics, re-focusing on the three fundamental drivers of sustainable engagement – a compelling story, authentic leadership and a day-to-day experience that reflects the brand and values of the business. It’s not easy and there are no short cuts to success. It requires senior leader alignment, a desire to embrace new technology without being led by it and perhaps most important, a willingness to really listen to the views, thoughts and ideas of employees.

When it comes to engagement today, one of the great ironies is the annual employee survey. Frequently the most significant investment of time and resource in the employee engagement approach, it’s also one that is consistently failing to deliver an engaging experience. In fact, for many organizations, it has the opposite effect by actively disengaging employees.

The traditional approach, where organizations send out a blanket survey to the workforce asking them to respond to a series of questions based on how they feel at one moment on one particular day, is as ineffective as it is frustrating. It can take weeks, if not months, to collate and analyse the results, at which point senior leaders will often lock themselves away to figure out how to respond. By the time the plans are shared, the business has already moved on and so the recommended changes have limited, if any, impact before it’s time to start the process all over again.

It’s the ‘rinse and repeat’ cycle that leaves employees feeling cynical and disenchanted.

Recent years have seen some improvements. Many organizations are moving in the right direction by conducting more frequent, shorter and snappier surveys. While this is welcome progress, the big opportunity – to really involve people in shaping an engaging everyday experience – is still being missed.

Today’s most progressive organizations have stepped up to the challenge, using innovative technology to tap into the collective insight and intelligence of their teams. They are empowering employees to get under the skin of the big issues and then to work collaboratively to identify the ideas and practical actions they would like to see. It’s this type of simple intervention that can have a transformative effect on the employee experience.

We know today’s workforce is eager for the chance to contribute, but to make it happen, organizations need to create a psychologically safe environment, where local leaders and their teams are can openly express their thoughts and perspectives, where ideas are democratized and where it’s easy to prioritize and focus. For a changing workforce that has grown up in an age of instant communication and social sharing, rapid and real-time collaboration and the chance to share, debate and prioritize ideas is becoming a ‘must have’ in the war for talent.

Breakthroughs in technology and the understanding of group dynamics now make this possible.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen first-hand how this approach has had a direct impact on client business performance, from building greater alignment and understanding of the business strategy to enhanced innovation and the removal of organizational complexity and red tape. By giving employees a real voice in this way, organizations are finding new ways to unlock the true potential of their most valuable asset – and by doing so, they’re creating an everyday experience that people enjoy.

In a changing landscape, the businesses set up for success will be those most responsive and agile – capable of and committed to involving employees in real-time to seek views, ideas and solutions to real business issues. This drive increased accountability, motivation and ownership which in turns creates more genuinely engaged employees. And as any CEO will tell you, that’s key to delivering sustainable business growth.

Originally published on the AdWeek 360 website.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash