increasing employee engagement through technology

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Bob’s worked for the same company for three years, and for the first two years, he loved his job. Last year, however, Bob was promoted to a role where he frequently holds phone conferences with clients. He doesn’t mind interacting with clients—he loves the social aspect—but the phone conference software at his company is horrible. No matter how well he prepares, a technical challenge always arises during each conference. This led to Bob feeling first discouraged and then apathetic about client phone conferences, which has quickly infected the way he feels about the rest of his job.

How can bad phone conferencing software lead a dedicated employee like Bob down the path to disengagement? The truth is that technology has a profound effect on employee engagement. Dion Hinchcliffe says workplace activators are an important factor in engaging employees: “Activators include good tools to support the work being done, a supportive team-based environment, having a voice in matters and being recognized for good work, having room to learn and grow, as well as having a measure of workplace autonomy.”

Technology affects all of these activators. Let’s look at how.

Good tools to support work

To stay engaged, employees need to feel successful. However, as we saw with Bob, success is difficult without the right tools.

Luckily, today’s technology provides many useful workplace tools. It’s worthwhile to evaluate and re-evaluate the technological tools (both hardware and software) that you’re using to complete business processes. Check in with employees regularly to make sure they feel they can do their jobs effectively with provided tools. If a tool causes constant frustration, switch it with a different technology that will better meet employee needs.

A supportive team-based environment

Employees that are engaged usually feel supported by their workplace team. Technology that fosters communication and collaboration helps a team bond and makes team members readily accessible to one another.

In the past, the number one technology for team interaction was email, but many workplaces are supplementing or supplanting their inboxes with casual chat apps like Slack and Google Hangouts. Depending on your workplace culture, you may prefer one chat app over another, or you may look for a different kind of collaborative tool altogether.

Having a voice and being recognized

Who doesn’t feel more engaged when they know that their contributions matter and that they’ll be recognized for them? Many technologies—such as online survey tools or the comments feature on Microsoft Word documents—allow employees to voice thoughts and opinions on various topics. There are also some great apps out there to ensure tangible and effective employee recognition.

You can take these activators a step further by allowing employees to simultaneously have a voice and be recognized. Use technologies that let employees to give their own recognition to one another. Recognition from the manager is important, but employees also appreciate peer-to-peer recognition. They also feel like a needed part of the team when they’re encouraged to give recognition to others!

Room to learn and grow

Learning and growing has a direct link to engagement. Providing training to employees at all levels helps achieve optimal engagement, and with the right technology, it’s easy to do. Employees don’t have to be formally trained in groups—they can learn individually, on their own time, and about topics they personally are interested in.

Depending on your industry and needs, there are lots of different technologies you can use for training: an online library of process steps. Short video demonstrations perfect for viewing on a mobile device. A wiki of institutional knowledge that all employees contribute to. As long as the tech is accessible, easy to navigate, and makes sense for your workplace, you can use almost any medium to provide training for learning and growth.

Workplace autonomy

Evidence suggests that the autonomy that comes with a flexible work schedule help employees feel more engaged. This autonomy may come in many forms: the freedom to work at different hours than other employees, the freedom to come and go in throughout the day, or the freedom to work from home. Technology is the key to keeping autonomous employees connected no matter where or when they work.

For workplaces with highly autonomous employees, providing company-issued laptops and/or cellphones is a straightforward technological route for keeping in touch. Even if your workplace decides to go with BYOD, having standard tools for sharing and communication (such as Dropbox and Skype) is a must.

Like all workplaces, you want your engaged employees to stay and engaged and your disengaged employees to become re-engaged. Evaluate how you’re currently incorporating these employee activators, and be sure that the technology involved is the best it can be to engage your employees.

By blake beus
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