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    How to Increase Employee Engagement and Experience through Texting

    As renowned business magnate Sir Richard Branson once said: "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients." One of the best ways of ensuring your employees are well taken care of would be to keep them constantly engaged. Engaged employees are often more productive, loyal, and have greater job satisfaction. When it comes to improving employee engagement, it is essential to understand their demographic makeup in order for your strategies to be effective.

    In today's ever-changing work environment, the use of technology has been on a rise. HR leaders could leverage these technologies to communicate with their hourly employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hourly workers make up nearly 60% of all wage and salary workers in the US. These hourly employees tend to consist of mostly Millennials who are constantly on their mobile devices. What other better way to reach out to them than to be on the platform where they're most at - mobile text messaging? 

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    Reducing Employee Turnover by Engaging Them

    Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) cited a study by PeopleMatter, a workforce management platform, that surveyed 974 service industry professionals. The study revealed that two-thirds of respondents stated they needed a larger pool of applicants and 60% are not satisfied with the current quality of applicants. As a result, turnover for those surveyed was extremely high - costing roughly $4,969 per employee. Pay service DailyPay found that the cost of turnover for warehouse workers can be up to 25% of an employee's salary. According to Salary.com, the average salary for warehouse workers is approximately $28,000, meaning employers spend about $7,000 to replace every warehouse worker that leaves. 

    It seems to be a universal fact that the turnover rates of hourly employees will always remain high. To reduce this high turnover rate, HR leaders could come up with employee engagement strategies since engaged employees are committed to their work, goals, and tend to be aligned with the businesses' mission and vision.

    Moreover, employee engagement increases customer satisfaction because people who are passionate about their work and truly in tune with their job description, are often the best people to interact with your customers. 

    The Rules of Engagement

    In a study conducted by Bain and Company, responses from 200,000 surveyed employees in 40 companies across 60 countries uncovered three fascinating trends: 

    • Engagement scores decline as employee tenure increases. In other words, employees who know the most about the company and have the most experience are usually the least engaged. 
    • The employee engagement scores decline at the lowest levels of the organization, meaning the front lines, or for most companies, the hourly employees.
    • Engagement levels are lowest in sales and service functions. Again, usually hourly employees, and unfortunately, where most interactions with the customers occur.

    To address these, HR leaders can apply five main practices to effectively engage their employees.

    1. Focus on the individual. While it is important to strive for teamwork, leaders have to first dedicate time to mentor their employees on an individual level and tailor the mentorship bring out individual employee's strengths.
    2. Apply the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle is a theory maintaining that 80% of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20% of the input. Putting this back into context, in order to ensure improve employee engagement by 80%, HR leaders have to focus on ensuring at least 20% of their hourly employees are engaged. 
    3. Make time for special days. This includes birthdays and work anniversaries. Reference how CEO of Envoy America, K.C. Kanaan, engages his employees by remembering all their birthdays and making sure he sends them an email wishing them.
    4. Give recognition frequently. Provide recognition and feedback for successful performances to show your employees that you value them and appreciate their work.
    5. Make it easy for employees to provide feedback. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Truly listen to your employees concerns, comments, suggestions and feedback. Let them know that everything they say has weight and as employees, your value their feedback.

    The Tools of Engagement

    According to a Pew Research Center analysis of US Census Bureau data, 35% of the US workforce is made up of Millennials. This is noteworthy, especially since Millennials are generally more tech-savvy. It would be a huge advantage if employers were able to tap on the latest technology to communicate with your employees. 

    One of the easiest and most basic uses of technology to reach your workforce is through text messaging. In fact, another Pew Research Center report found that text messaging is the most widely used smartphone feature - 97% of smartphone owners surveyed have used text messaging at least once over the course of the study period, making it the most used basic app. 

    With everyone on text messaging, what are you waiting for?

    Unlike typical salaried employees, your hourly employees often do not have access to email or Slack, depending on what form of communications the internal team uses. This could cause your hourly employees to feel disengaged and distant from the core team. Using text as an informal part of your company's digital internal communications system allows them to stay engaged and in contact with the rest of the company.

    The use of text can also provide the flexibility of scheduling or rescheduling shift work. Often, these Millennial hourly workers will face many conflicts in schedule due to school commitments. By providing text messaging as a form of communication with you, your hourly employees will be able to manage their schedule easily on-the-go, with their mobile devices.

    Workstream tip: It is important that your text messages are genuine with the aims of encouraging and motivating your hourly employee.

    Begin with Texting

    When should you begin to use text to communicate with your employees?

    I recommend employers to start using text communication right from the very start, even before their first day as part of the team. You can use text to help onboard your new hourly employees, send them reminders to fill out paperwork, or even schedule interviews during the hiring phase. This helps employees understand the basic communication practice in your company before they join the team.

    Once the use of text is set as a standard mode of communication, texting can then be used to achieve the five practices mentioned earlier to strive for effective employee engagement and retention. For instance: 

    1. Focusing on the individual. Leadership expert and author of Developing the Leader Within You, John C. Maxwell, states that six of the most important words an employee can hear is, "What you do makes a difference". When an employee doesn't believe that what they are doing has a positive impact on the success of the company, they lose interest and become disengaged in their work. Make the effort to text your employees and let them know how important they are to the organization. Using text to motivate your employees can be extremely powerful. For most Millennial hourly workers, smart phone can be seen as their world. Receiving an encouraging text from their employer has an immediate impact especially when they least expect employers to show their appreciation while they are physically not at work.
    2. Applying the Pareto Principle. Text communication with your hourly employees can bring about two huge benefits. It is important to note that when you apply the Pareto Principle, it doesn't mean you only try to engage 20% of your employees and neglect the rest of the 80%. It simply means that you need to pay EXTRA attention and focus to 20%. When you pay much more attention to this group of 20% through your encouraging text messages, they start growing to become strong and loyal to your company. They may start feeling engaged and that their work has been noticed and appreciated by the management team. When done well, this group of 20% would then be able to motivate the rest of the 80% of their co-workers and help the whole workforce grow together and strive for greater productivity.
    3. Making time for special days. Keep a calendar of special days such as birthdays and work anniversaries of your employees. Take note of the small details of their lives like the name of their first child etc. Remember to address your employee by their name along in a text that either congratulates or wishes Happy Birthday with a personalized note. Everyone wants to be remembered on these special days. By sending a text message to your employees on these dates, they will feel valued and touched that their employers bothers to remember the smallest details of their lives.
    4. Give recognition frequently. There are many ways to show appreciation to your employees. Avoid waiting for the next time they come for their shift work to tell them how much of a great job they did the previous week. Instead, send a text message directly to them, showing them that you appreciate their work and you value them so much that you decide to send a text just in the middle of the day. You can also opt for company-wide text messages to give kudos to your valued employees. Let's say you learnt that an employees went above and beyond to ensure customer satisfaction. You can send a company-wide text to thank them for their hard work so they feel recognized, and also allows for other employees to learn from him or her. This helps to set the tone that every employee will get recognized for their hard work by the entire team, and hence engaging them in an inclusive community.
    5. Make it easy for employees to give feedback. When you open up the use of a two-way communication tool like text messaging rather than a simple survey form for employees to give feedback, you will feel an increase in employee engagement. Make it known via the employee handbook that any feedback is accepted via text. Let your employees know that they are empowered to send creative ideas, suggestions, critique of a policy, customer service comments and generally any feedback to you directly. However, that's not all. You have to ensure that these feedback provided are acted upon. The ideas, suggestions and comments should be addressed in a timely manner and a personal return text should be sent so that employees feel that their opinions matter.

    For some, texting may not come naturally. In fact, some may even consider this to be impersonal and too casual. Yet, it is important to acknowledge who your employees are and be the one that engages them on a platform that they are most familiar and comfortable with. Text messaging has been their number one form of communication.

    The tools that can be used for creating a more engaged workforce will continue to evolve as technology continues to advance. If you're still struggling with employee engagement, feel free to check out the Workstream blog for more tips and tricks.

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    Camille Ranullo

    Part-time content marketing writer at Workstream, full-time mom and chef wannabe. Currently catching up on her reading and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

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