Technology is driving a massive shift in the workplace. According to Deloitte, digital transformation was ranked as the highest risk to culture in the next two to three years. CEOs also ranked disruptive technologies as one of the two most significant threats to their growth prospects in the coming years. While it certainly presents challenges for any organization, companies around the world are embracing technology in myriad forms to drive engagement and bring employees closer together. This seems like such a simple concept, yet many organizations struggle with finding the right technology and using it effectively.
Consider your personal life, technology delivers quick access to anything the heart desires. Want to talk to your best friend who lives 1,000 miles away to get the recipe for your favorite dinner? Facetime can connect you. Get home and realize you forgot a key ingredient for dinner tonight? Shipt will deliver it to your door within the hour. Burn the dinner you cooked after the ingredient arrived? Door Dash will bring you a professionally prepared meal of your choosing. Need to ease your bruised ego with a little bit of retail therapy from the comfort of your couch after telling your Google Assistant to play soothing music? Amazon’s got you covered.
As consumers, technology gives people what they want, when they want it (mostly), and artificial intelligence may predict their future actions better than they can. Consider: when an order doesn’t turn out to be exactly what was expected, consumers share opinions in online reviews, fully expecting an immediate response from the company. In the same way, employees are becoming consumers of the workplace. The experiences they have outside of work very much shape their expectations for their work experience.
"Engaged employees tap into their full potential, which will in turn create exceptional experiences for customers"
Let’s be clear: companies around the world are certainly embracing technology and digital transformation. They really don’t have a choice if they want to stay relevant in the business world. But as companies automate and digitize the way they create products and deliver services, they must also consider how to leverage technology to connect with, inspire and motivate (aka, engage) employees to do excellent work. And therein lies the challenge.
Let’s step back. Employees want to feel a sense of purpose in the work they do. They want to be recognized for doing good work, and they want to do that work with people they enjoy being around. Purpose. Recognition. Relationship. Basic principles that date to Fred Herzberg in his book The Motivation to Work, published in 1958. After 60 years, companies should have this engagement thing nailed by now, yet, Gallup’s most recent global research shows that only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged at work. How is this possible?
Rather than lamenting our lack of global progress in this area, let’s focus on how technology can help companies build engagement. Here are three fundamental principles that will boost the “engagement factor” in your workplace technology:
Be authentic. The adage “be the change you wish to see” absolutely applies here. In a recent keynote address at the Qualtrics X4 Summit, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, CEO of StubHub, talked about the power of “leading live” and connecting with your employees in an authentic way. Cassidy, herself, regularly connects with StubHub employees on Slack. At Allegion, close to half of our worldwide employees are on Yammer, and they use it to showcase what they’re working on, ask for advice, share news and celebrate; many post photos and links to videos and articles. The executive leadership team regularly comments on employee posts on Yammer, delivering a healthy dose of recognition while helping employees connect the work they’re doing to the broader mission and purpose of the organization. According to Gallup, when eight in 10 employees can strongly agree with the statement, “The mission and purpose of my organization makes me feel that my job is important” business units have experienced a 51 percent decrease in absenteeism, a 64 percent drop in safety incidents, and a 29 percent improvement in quality.
Be open. Employee feedback is one of the most powerful assets a company has. When employees have a voice, it creates a sense of ownership in the organization’s success. When IBM embarked on revamping its performance management system the company invited all 380,000 employees to co-create the new process with HR. Leveraging the intranet site, IBM hosted virtual deliberation forums and polls to gain insight into what employees were seeking from a new process. After a series of prototypes, IBM tested with employees and launched Checkpoint, also named by employees, in a mere 90 days! When asked what the No. one influence on engagement was that year, the majority of IBM employees listed Checkpoint.
Be bold. One of the challenges many organizations face when adopting technology is simply fear of failure. When Allegion’s Chief HR Officer, Shelley Meador, announced that the HR &Corporate Communications team would gather in a global conference in 2019, the excitement was palpable. Logistics, budgets, and scheduling made it impossible to pull the entire organization together in person. Rather than foregoing the event altogether, Meador empowered a team to be bold, take risks and introduce new technology to deliver a global, virtual conference. In February, employees spent four hours a day over the course of four days connecting via Microsoft Teams. Using live video streams allowed Allegion to connect visually while a real-time conversation thread and small-group discussions provided interaction throughout the event. The conference gave the global team an opportunity to build relationships while highlighting industry trends and building business acumen; the virtual event far exceeded participants’ expectations. It also created buzz and opened doors in other business areas, all eager to try virtual conference technology on a large scale.
Technology will continue to evolve and disrupt the workplace. HR leaders must challenge themselves to consider how to leverage technology to deliver engaging employee experiences in the same way they deliver customer experiences. Leading companies embrace technology to connect with employees in authentic and meaningful ways. Engaged employees tap into their full potential, which will in turn create exceptional experiences for customers.