Improving employee engagement

The quality and level of employee engagement can have a direct impact on the financial and operational performance of organisations.  In an open letter (reported in the Financial Times) leaders of some of the UK’s largest companies are calling on business leaders to ‘engage for success’.

Meanwhile, in an extensive global survey of 32,000 people working in 29 countries around the world, Towers Watson sets out to uncover the current status of employee engagement and to give organisational leaders important insights into the key elements of the work environment that can help shape employee behaviour and performance in positive ways.  The report calls for a revised definition of employee engagement – sustainable engagement – which answers the complexities facing 21st century organisations.

Sustainable employee engagement

Employee engagement matters.  Highly engaged employees have lower levels of absenteeism, are more productive at work and are less likely to leave their employers.

The report recommends that leaders focus on developing their own competencies, particularly ones which will help strengthen the connections between themselves and their employees.  Leadership competencies to develop include: global and cultural acumen; rapid decision making; risk leveraging and technological competence and high level, agile interpersonal skills.

A shared view of goals

Stress levels and a sense of alienation are inevitable if employees feel confused about what they should be doing.  Leaders should attempt to identify the cause of this gap in understanding.  Remedies include:

  • Ensuring managers can understand the link between business strategy and individual/departmental objectives – and are able to communicate these
  • Ensuring information is cascaded appropriately
  • Ensuring goals and performance are communicated clearly
  • Ensuring performance management processes are robust

Organisational policies must enable employees to live more balanced lives, manage their own workload and benefit from increased autonomy about how, where and when they work.

The report, Global Workforce Study 2012 – Engagement at Risk: driving strong performance in a volatile global environment is available free of charge here.

Broadband coverage in Europe

The European Union has published a report on broadband coverage in the EU (Europe) for 2011.

The report sets out to map progress towards the broadband coverage objectives of the Digital Agenda.  This includes ensuring all EU citizens have access to at least basic broadband coverage by 2013 and broadband speeds of at least 30 megabits per second by 2020.

The report looks at the coverage of nine broadband technologies grouped into two broad categories

  • Standard broadband
  • Next generation access (NGA)

in 29 countries (the entire EU plus Norway and Iceland).

Main findings

  • 95.7% of EU homes already have access to standard broadband
  • 50+% of EU homes already have NGA broadband available (target 100% by 2020)
  • Just over 12% of rural homes have access to NGA

Belgium, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK show 100% standard coverage as do many urban areas across the whole of the EU.  Indeed, many additional countries have already reached 95% standard coverage.   Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovenia have seized the opportunity to overcome the deficiencies of their legacy networks by rolling out fibre coverage.

Next generation access

The Netherlands leads the table with 100% availability followed by:

  • Malta 99.3%
  • Belgium 98%
  • Luxembourg 75%
  • Portugal 74.5%
  • Bulgaria 71.4%

The report includes data tables for each of the countries studied showing total coverage and coverage by technology type.

The pdf report can be downloaded by following the link on this page.

Information security risks of mobile apps

Increasing numbers of employees are using their own devices (loaded with apps) at work and connecting to their company’s network.  The security specialist firm Bit9 analysed 400,000 mobile apps to explore whether they posed information security risks to organisations.  They discovered:

  • 72% of all Android apps use at least one permission that allows access to private data or control over smartphone functionality
  • 96% of respondents that allow employee-owned device access allow employees to access company email using their personal device.
  • 26% of apps access private information such as email and contacts, with only 2% of apps being from highly trusted publishers.

Although most of these apps are not malicious in intent, they are accessing such private information as GPS location data; phone numbers; contacts and email addresses.  Information can be gathered when you use any number of mobile apps including a phone flashlight or the mobile game Angry Birds (which has been downloaded over a billion times).

This issue of mobile privacy will become increasingly important as the numbers of people accessing the mobile internet continues to grow.  An article in the New York Times discusses this legal ‘grey’ area, pointing out that the majority of users simply do not read – or understand the implications of – privacy policies, even when such policies exist.  The European Union, which is currently discussing plans to bring web businesses into data protection rules, can expect to be challenged by the big companies for which advertising revenue is so important.

Sources:; The New York Times via @Marydeeo

The (Australian) university of the future

The Australian university of the future

In a report by Ernst and Young, Australian universities are described as being on ‘the cusp of profound change’, with current models unlikely to remain viable over the next decade and beyond.

The report discusses five ‘mega-trend’ drivers of change in the academic sector:

  • Democratisation of knowledge – access and availability of knowledge growing globally (especially in emerging markets)
  • Fierce competition for both students and funding
  • Digital technologies transforming the way people access education
  • Globalisation – opportunities for global mobility and partnerships and the emergence of global, elite university brands
  • Integration with industry – driving innovation and research via deeper relationships and new partnerships

If they are to be successful, universities need to respond by creating new lean business models (which involves reducing the ratio of ‘support staff’) and becoming more ‘corporate’ in the way they work.  This may include the streamlining of the number of subjects/programmes offered and taking decisions to focus on specific sectors.

New business models

The report describes three potential business models (while acknowledging that there are other models open to universities):

  • Streamlined status quo –in which established universities maintain broad-based teaching and research but transform the way in which these services are delivered and administrated
  • Niche dominators targeting customer segments and refining their services
  • Transformers  - new entrants, new market spaces, new sources, new partnerships


The report also explores future scenarios for research within university

  • Research will  become concentrated on universities that can demonstrate research impact and excellence
  • Smaller universities will focus on narrower range of research programmes, and build links with partners

The report is free to download.

Young people, libraries and reading

Young peoples’ attitudes to books, reading and libraries are assessed in research from Pew Internet.

In the US high-schoolers (those aged 16-17) are the group most likely to be using local libraries and borrowing books, whereas older adults are much more likely to have bought the last book they read, rather than borrowed it.  However, although they are the most intensive users of libraries, young people are the least likely to actually appreciate the services they receive from their libraries.

The research looked at just under 3000 people aged 16-29 and discovered the following:

  • 83% had read a book in the past year
    • 75% read a print book
    • 19% read an e-book
    • 11% listened to an audiobook
  • 60% had used the library in the past year
    • 46% used the library for research
    • 38% borrowed books (print books, audiobooks, or e-books)
    • 23% borrowed newspapers, magazines, or journals

Young people and e-book borrowing

The majority of e-book consumers under the age of 30 are not using dedicated devices but are reading via their desktop/laptop computers or phones.  Many respondents said they had been unaware that their local library lent e-books until they had sought out information after buying e-reading devices.  For some respondents, e-borrowing was easy, but others expressed frustration with multiple log-in screens.  Young people also expressed interest in borrowing ‘pre-loaded’ e-readers and attending classes on how to use e-reading devices.

Attitudes to libraries

Worryingly, 45% of high schoolers (and 37% of ‘older’ young people) stated that the library is not important or not too important to them and their families.  Combine this finding with the feedback from many respondents that they had been unaware of e-book lending services, the implication is that libraries would do well to design marketing and awareness campaigns that specifically target young users.

Download the research here.

Creation and curation – image sharing on social media

The rise in smartphone ownership and the continued growth of social media are contributing to the rise in picture and video sharing online. These image-driven activities are most popular amongst those in the 18-29 age bracket.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project conducted a telephone survey of just over 1000 US adults to explore how they curate and create and share images via:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

Key findings

  • 56% of internet users are either creating or curating images
  • 32% of internet users are curating and creating
  • Women dominate Pinterest (12% overall use of Pinterest; 19% of women use Pinterest)
  • Young people dominate Instagram (overall use = 12%; 27% of 18-29 year olds)
  • 5% use Tumblr (11% of young adults )
  • 66% use Facebook
  • 20% use LinkedIn
  • 16% use Twitter

The Pew figures include demographic details such as age, income and education levels.  The report is free to download from the Pew websiteSocial Media Today analyses these figures here.

Learning from 36 million Twitter users

The social media monitor company Beevolve has studied 36 million Twitter user profiles around the world to produce some interesting Twitter trends and statistics.

  • 25% of Twitter users have never tweeted
  • On average a Twitter user follows 102 people
  • 10% of users follow no-one
  • An average Twitter user has 208 followers
  • 6% of Twitter accounts have no followers
  • Overall gender split – 53% female; 47% male
  • Female Twitter users outnumber males up to age 25. But after age 35, female users start dwindling relative to males.

The research points to the correlation between the number of tweets sent and the number of followers.

Top ten countries by % of Twitter users

  • US             51%
  • UK             17%
  • Australia       4%
  • Brazil            3%
  • Canada         3%
  • India             3%
  • France          2%
  • Indonesia      1%
  • Iran              1%
  • Ireland          1%

US trade e-book sales trends

In a blog post published ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Publishing Perspectives explores sources of data on the e-book marketplace in the US.  Two major sources are the BookStats project (run by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group) and StatShot, which collates actual revenues reported to AAP by a growing list of participating publishers.

2012 trends

  • Slowdown in e-book growth – e-book growth is no longer doubling year on year – 2012 should see growth rates of approximately 33%
  • Adult e-book sales increase slowing down (they drove much of the increase in e-book sales between 2010 and 2011).  The latest figures suggest a ‘modest increase’ of 27%
  • Emergence of a digital children’s market – children’s e-book sales have gained much more
  • Total trade e-book revenues have comprised 23% of sales for the first four months of 2012
    • 27% of the adult trade market
    • 13% of the children’s market

Individual publisher reports for first half of 2012

  • Simon & Schuster – digital content responsible for 23% of worldwide sales
  • Penguin – e-books  account for 19% of total sales (30% of US sales; 15% of UK sales)
  • Harlequin – digital accounts for 20.5% of sales
  • Hachette Book Group – e-books account for 27% of US revenues and 23% of UK sales

Access to ICT in developing countries – the value of libraries

The Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington’s Information School explores how information and communications technologies (ICT) can impact communities – in particular those which face social and economic challenges – and explores how public libraries can help.

Its latest briefing paper (Public access and development: The impact of public access venues and the benefits of libraries) explores the impact of public access to the internet and computers in developing countries, and in particular explores the value of public libraries in enabling this access and improving ICT skills.  5000 users of public access services were surveyed in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, and the Philippines

The importance of public access venues

  • Half of those surveyed said they had first used computers at a public access venue
  • 62% first used the internet in such a venue
  • 50% said that these venues were the most important place they honed their internet skills
  • 34% said that public access venues are their only route to internet access

A range of positive impacts were mentioned by those surveyed

These include improved communication (79%); education (78%); meeting new people (73%); access to employment resources (57%); access to government information and services (40%) and access to health information (37%).

The benefit of libraries

Some activities are more likely to occur in a library setting and with a greater impact.  These include accessing health and government services.  This may reflect the additional support provided in public libraries.

Public access to ICT plays a critical role in development and libraries play an important role in this.

You can access the briefing, and more information about TASCHA, here.

How mobile affects customer services

As customers become more sophisticated users of devices, organisations need to be able to offer smart, connected interactions that link customer information and unique, mobile-optimised data. When they get this right, organisations can offer personalised interactions and improve the overall customer experience.

According to Ovum, by 2016 over half of inbound customer service calls will be made from mobile devices.  The increasing use of smart and mobile devices means that more sophisticated and interactive customer service experiences are inevitable.  In other words – we all need to rethink our customer services strategies.

Customers are increasingly demanding ‘online attention’, turning to social media to vent their dissatisfaction and concerns.  Brandwatch, which produces an annual customer services index, has explored the ways in which leading brands are using social media to deal with this increased demand for attention from customers.   John Lewis scores highly amongst the retailers studied.  It was quicker to respond to customers tweets than other retailers (with a median time of only 16 minutes) and was also the most prolific tweeter.  It also responded to almost a third of Facebook posts.  64% of social media mentions of John Lewis were positive ones – a massive 47% above the average.

(Libraries, it seems, can learn from the retail sector. At Internet Librarian International this year, Liz McGettigan of The City of Edinburgh’s Library and Information Service will describe how their new strategic model for library services borrows heavily from the retail sector.)

Social media opens up new customer conversations.  Many of us blast out exasperated tweets when we feel let down.  But an instant and genuine response can quickly turn around our negative opinions. It’s great to talk – but it’s even better when someone listens to us – and acts accordingly.