Once relegated to human resources department meetings, employee engagement has become a priority topic on every boardroom agenda. Against the backdrop of a tight labor market, where the cost of attracting and retaining top talent is escalating, the energy and commitment of engaged employees deliver competitive advantage.
For more than 40 years, Siegel+Gale has studied the value that simplicity brings to brands as it relates to customer experience. With our “Simplicity at Work” study, we set out to quantify the relationship between simple workplaces and engaged employees. To do this, we surveyed more than 14,000 people in nine countries. Our research shows that simpler workplaces—those where employees easily get their work done and feel productive and fulfilled, without being bogged down by distractions or overburdened with bureaucracy—engender more advocacy, innovation, and retention.
Indeed, a lack of complexity keeps employees engaged and focused on the larger mission. In simpler workplaces, employees are 31% more likely to bring new ideas to the table, 22% more likely to look for ways to improve themselves and the workplace, 20% more likely to try to learn new things, and 25% more likely to handle unexpected problems well.
Removing complexity helps employees go the extra mile. It fosters an appreciation for the company, which leads employees to become a desirable asset to the company: brand champions.
What Makes An Organization Simple?
A common trait simple organizations share is clear communication of the company’s purpose and vision to all employees. Simple workplaces make it easy for everyone to understand how their contributions impact the customer and drive the bottom line. At simple workplaces, good work is met with rewards and recognition. Furthermore, clear communications bring comfort and psychological security, so employees have the confidence to express their opinions at work. When leaders clearly communicate company goals, 95% of employees are more likely to trust them.
An engaged work environment leads to better employee retention, referrals, and innovation. Employees who feel a sense of job security are more likely to take risks, which leads to a 54% increase in innovation. At a simple workplace, 65% of employees are more likely to refer a prospective employee and 84% plan to stay longer at their job.
Brand Champions Drive Value
Brand champions understand what their companies stand for and are committed to the organizations' success. Not surprisingly, our research shows simple workplaces have a higher rate of brand champions. They are motivated by personal fulfillment and growth, while disengaged employees focus more on salary and benefits. In fact, brand champions are 35% more likely to feel productive on a typical workday and 40% more likely to look for ways to improve their work.
Purpose-driven industries have a higher rate of brand champions. The military has a clear purpose, chain of command, and job responsibilities, so it is not surprising that 55% of military employees consider themselves brand champions. Compare that with just 20% of employees in the retail and grocery sectors. Geography and cultural norms also impact brand champions: In India, 48% of employees consider themselves brand champions, versus only 12% in Japan.
Combating Complexity In The Workplace
The study demonstrates that complexity is rampant in organizations over 50 years old with more than 1,000 employees and multiple lines of business. While growth is desirable for any business, its downside is the inevitable addition of layers of complexity.
Complex companies can’t change their legacy or size, but that does not mean they are doomed to complexity. Achieving simplicity requires strict discipline to evaluate organizational processes, structures, and communications. Break down unnecessary barriers to productivity, for example, by setting time limits for all meetings. Make it easier and more rewarding for employees to do their jobs with clear policies and transparency around growth opportunities. Create a culture of simplicity with clear, open communication from leadership that demonstrates how employees’ roles impact business goals.
A simple work environment fosters engaged employees. Every organization has the opportunity to further simplify the work environment and capitalize on the benefits of an engaged workforce. Our study shows that organizations with a focus on workplace simplicity will attract and retain the engaged employees who deliver extraordinary business results.