As reported in Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, a shocking 70% of American workers are “not engaged” at work, costing the American economy as a whole somewhere between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion every year. This lack of engagement leads to unmotivated employees, which in turn causes tremendous losses in productivity. It is therefore critical for every manager, for every executive, to invest time and money in keeping their workforce engaged, motivated, and, most importantly, productive.
How can companies ensure that they are getting the most out of their employees day-in-and-day-out? There are a number of “right” answers here, but what’s certain is that companies need to invest in workplace systems that are themselves capable of facilitating increases in productivity. If a company’s tools end up being a burden on productivity, serious trouble is right around the corner.
This is why a cutting-edge, top-of-the-line learning management system (LMS) represents such an incredible value to just about every company. Whether used exclusively for employee onboarding or – as we’d recommend – for sustained, engaging corporate learning, a good LMS helps a company root out inefficiencies and centralize many of its workplace operations. If deployed correctly, an LMS enables companies to not only get 100% from each and every employee, but to increase each employee’s performance ceiling.
These kinds of small but consistent productivity boosts are what make the difference between being an industry leader and being just another nondescript member of the pack. That’s one of the major reasons why the global corporate e-learning market is expected to exceed $31 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. What follows are just a few of the many ways that companies can use an LMS to improve their workforce’s engagement, motivation, and productivity.
Creating (Productive) Autonomy
According to Michael Mankins, a partner at Bain & Company and the co-author of “Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power,” the average business loses around a quarter of its productive capacity to processes written into its organizational bureaucracy. As such, companies have the opportunity to significantly improve their workforce’s productivity simply by unleashing the potential lost to “organizational drag.”
But what is the most effective way to approach minimizing organizational drag? For starters, it’s helpful to emphasize the importance of employee autonomy, which is made much easier with a good LMS.
At first glance, the connection between employee autonomy and automated workplace tools may seem tenuous at best, but a closer look reveals that the two are often directly related. Employee autonomy must be built first and foremost on trust, but this doesn’t mean that managers should adopt a completely hands-off approach. Giving employees their space, allowing them to work in whatever manner they prefer as long as they produce, is certainly a key step toward building autonomy. That being said, a manager’s job is still, well, management, and even within environments where a premium has been placed on autonomy, managers still need to retain the ability to monitor productivity.
This is where automation tools come in handy. By enabling managers to keep tabs on what their employees have and haven’t accomplished, an automated LMS affords comprehensive oversight without the necessity of constantly looking over employee shoulders. Automated LMSs facilitate team growth and can even help build company culture by delivering what we like to call “just-in-time learning.” With this kind of tool, managers are able to craft company learning materials and distribute them based on what any given employee has already completed, encouraging self-paced learning and guaranteeing that the right employee gets the right information at the right time.
The automated learning process facilitated by a good LMS ensures that employees gain access to the insights they need at the precise moment they need them – neither too soon nor too late. As a result, fostering productivity no longer requires managers to constantly probe employees with well-intentioned but invasive questions about how things are coming along. An automated LMS offers managers the ability to orchestrate team growth, productivity, and efficiency all without having to micromanage employees’ everyday operations. In this way, employee autonomy is actually reinforced by automated workplace tools, a development that reduces organizational drag.
Facilitating Employee Improvement
As a supervisor, you’d like to see even the most experienced and well-qualified hires improve over time. Offering your employees the resources and opportunities necessary to consistently engage in on-the-job learning will not only help build a more skilled and competent workforce, but will also demonstrate to your employees that you are invested in their success and professional development.
Even if an employee’s job remains fundamentally unchanged, if through exposure to corporate learning materials the employee is able to execute his or her duties in increasingly efficient and adept ways, the likelihood he or she will experience discontent associated with professional plateauing and workplace monotony greatly decreases. Thus, fostering employee growth benefits a company not only as a means to increase human capital, but as a morale-boosting motivational mechanism as well. Both are critical to sustained productivity.
Beyond ensuring that employees have access to learning modules that are highly customized, tailored to his or her needs, interactive, and engaging, companies should consider using their LMS to help create workplace conditions that are amenable to learning. These include:
- Collaborative, communal learning: According to Bersin by Deloitte, 80% of workplace learning happens via on-the-job interactions with peers and supervisors. As such, an effective LMS should incorporate this collaborative tendency and recognize that learning is a fundamentally social experience. The workplace community is an essential support system for each constituent member, and recognizing the value of this kind of “blended learning” – that is, learning done both online and in-person – is fundamental to getting the most out of every employee.
- Open, frequent communication: While collaborative learning is a great goal, companies can’t expect a team to learn together before they’ve even become a cohesive unit. As any seasoned manager will tell you, team-building depends first and foremost upon good communication. If team members aren’t talking to each other, there’s a good chance they aren’t learning with each other. It is therefore absolutely essential that a company’s LMS seamlessly integrates with its existing communication tools. For example, Slack integration enables employees to receive notifications and assignments even when they aren’t logged into their company’s LMS. When learning materials are interwoven with day-to-day communication in this manner, collaborative learning becomes just another part of ongoing workplace conversations.
- Learning-driven company culture: It’s no secret that company culture can be a difficult thing to pin down. Hiring practices focused not only on skill and experience but on compatibility and fit are a requisite first step in preserving a corporate ethos, but successfully integrating new employees into your company requires an ongoing effort, as does keeping them productive once they’re onboarded. Even if a new hire is an expert in his or her field, he or she is not automatically an expert in the way your company does business. Companies must make an effort to create a corporate atmosphere in which even “experts” feel comfortable admitting what they don’t know and taking the requisite steps to close their knowledge gaps.
Fostering a culture of recognition is another simple – and extremely cheap – way to build and sustain worker engagement and, as a result, productivity. Recognizing a job well done produces more positive outcomes than you’d imagine, but on account of its inherent simplicity, many companies overlook this solution to checked-out employees.
Companies that have managed to develop a culture of recognition understand that it motivates employees by providing them with a sense of accomplishment and showing them that management values their hard work. Motivation leads to increased productivity and loyalty, a correlation which bears itself out in the fact that under-recognized employees are twice as likely as their counterparts to claim they plan to quit in the next year.
In order to be effective, though, recognition must be well-conceived and appropriately delivered. Workers do not appreciate an “everyone gets a trophy” system, meaning positive reinforcement should first and foremost be honest and deserved. For instance, unless they are a truly remarkable talent, companies should refrain from naming the new guy or gal employee of the month only several weeks after they’ve joined the team, as doing so tends to sour veteran workers on recognition culture as a whole.
Further, research indicates that public recognition is typically the most appreciated, and that employees especially enjoy public shout-outs from either their direct manager (because they are an authoritative source on the employee’s work) or a C-suite executive (because everyone likes being noticed by the bigwigs).
And while verbal praise is generally your best bet, it isn’t the only form of recognition that employees value. This is where a good LMS comes into play. Among the many ways an LMS can help engage your workforce, the “crowd-sourcing” of worker recognition is one of the most potent. By enabling team members, managers, and execs to easily comment on, like, and share the achievements racked up by employees, an LMS facilitates recognition of the small, everyday successes that fall through the cracks between formal performance reviews.
These small reminders that management sees and appreciates everything an employee does go a long way toward guaranteeing that everyone stays engaged, motivated, and productive. It’s a process as simple as it is powerful, and by boosting your workforce’s morale, it also fortifies your bottom line and ensures that your entire corporate apparatus operates with maximum efficiency.
Establishing a Sense of Purpose
Generally speaking, an understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing undergirds our willingness to march on. Having a clear purpose at work helps employees recognize that all of their efforts, all of their hard work, are contributing to something greater. While fair wages and a supportive workplace are certainly key components of a happy – and productive – workforce, a defined sense of purpose is just as important.
Simply put, most people – especially Millennials, who are already a plurality of the American workforce – strive to find some sort of meaning in their job. As such, companies hoping to attract top talent – and keep them productive – must not only be able to articulate a clear, ambitious corporate vision, they must also be prepared to elucidate precisely how they hope each particular employee will contribute to the organization’s overarching mission.
Like with learning itself, purpose – especially in a broader sense – is most powerful when encoded in a company’s workplace culture. Fortunately, a good LMS can be used to distribute an in-depth, interactive company “manifesto” that not only reinforces leadership’s mission and values, but also clarifies where the company is, where it wants to go, and how each employee will have a part in getting there.
A company that offers its employees autonomy, opportunity for improvement, recognition, and purpose will ultimately develop a workforce that is more engaged, more motivated, and more productive than its competitors’. As the Gallup report makes clear, there is a great deal of room for improvement on these fronts. As everything above makes clear, an LMS is a great way to make strides in the right direction.
With the ever-increasing speed at which business takes place, companies are finding less and less time to onboard employees and to expand their skill-sets once they settle into their daily routines. E-learning platforms offer an elegant solution to this time crunch, and ensure that companies don’t have to choose between workforce productivity and meeting their daily business obligations.
At Continu, we’ve built a learning management system that is expressly designed for the realities of the modern workplace. Our platform delivers connectivity, integration, mobile optimization, and smooth social functioning, all of which greatly contribute to workforce productivity. We eat, sleep, and breathe corporate learning, and we’d love to answer any questions you might have about LMSs, productivity maximization, or anything else related to getting the most out of your employees.
Feel free to drop us a line, or better yet, take the first step toward unparalleled workforce productivity and sign up for a free personalized demo of Continu.