Employee engagement in the age of technology
Today, business is continuously evolving to keep pace with Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), consolidation of various verticals, and diverse businesses integrating together. Technology is the one unifying medium that binds companies together, be it an IT services company or an FMCG brand. Whether it is by affecting final products, customising solutions for end consumers, providing actionable insights to business heads or by simply bringing together communities, it is technology that permeates every function of an organisation.
HR functions are no stranger to the use of technology, they are increasingly using it to not just monitor employee engagement, but promote it as well. Though technology has many advantages, it can also prove to be intrusive and impact employees’ personal space. With the workspace evolving so quickly, the challenge of balancing professional work with personal space in order to retain employees and get maximum productivity is of extreme importance.
Social media platforms – How much is too much?
The explosion of social and professional networking not just in real world, but in the virtual world is blurring the lines between personal and professional space. Most companies engage with their employees on a variety of social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, WeChat, Tumblr, Glassdoor etc., by using personal as well as group chats. It is like creating the green/ lung spaces in the concrete edifices. They are needed, and highly relevant to create the stickiness among not just the millennials, but also between these millennials and their managers or parents and grandparents. While this increases communication between team members and reduces response time, it works real-time and bears the risk of impinging on personal space.
The challenge in extensively using social tools such as WhatsApp and Facebook is the over exposure of personal information, giving colleagues and bosses more insight into one’s personal lives. An employee might not prefer his/her boss to know where he/she spent the weekend, since it might be referred to in a future conversation. This internal struggle of not being able to draw a line between personal and professional space is a common affliction plaguing most employees. Striking the right balance and drawing the lines when necessary is critical for the growth of employees and the organization. Managing the seemingly blurred lines between the personal space and professional space is hence of utmost importance to continue to keep the new age employees engaged. At the same time, employees need to be educated about keeping their private matters away from intruding into the professional domain.
Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) – The new norm for business
The use of Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) is fast becoming an important mode of communication in organisations overcoming the barriers of location, language and time zone. While townhalls used to be an important tool for leadership to communicate the plans and vision for the company, more technologically advanced platforms such as Yammer are now gaining popularity by the day. These platforms have not only proved helpful in disseminating information but have also made employees feel a part of the organization as a whole and not just a business unit.
Does decreased engagement impact productivity?
Surveys and research findings have successfully proven that decreased engagement does affect productivity. Various studies indicate that organizations with low employee engagement scores experienced lower productivity, lower profitability, lower job growth, and lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications. The recent Gallup survey revealed that only 13% of the global workforce is engaged and that a single disengaged employee costs an organization nearly $3,400 for every $10,000 spent on compensation.
The future of technology in employee engagement
According to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016, two in three millennials – who will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020 – are expected to leave their jobs to join a new company or to do something different. In India, close to 76% of millennials would have moved on to new opportunities before 2020. Therefore, the company’s flag bearers must provide the necessary commitment to a consistent employee engagement program.
While technology will evolve and vendors will provide unique solutions to companies, companies have to start looking inwards. Already there is a trend towards companies themselves equipping employees with tools such as cloud computing and SaaS. This in turn fosters an innovative home-grown ecosystem where employees provide new technologies to further customise their networks.
While some may view tools such as WhatsApp to be intrusive, it is important to keep in mind that the intersection of technology and business will only grow in the future. There needs to be an organisational framework in place, along with sensitization sessions led by HR to prepare employees for this change. Technology is a lever to be utilized for enhancing and enabling employee engagement, while managing the fine balance between personal and professional space.