Technology—a boon or bane for employee engagement

By: |
Updated: September 21, 2015 11:48:43 AM

Businesses are increasingly conscious of the importance of employee engagement in achieving business goals and excellence.

employee engagementAt the same time, because of technology facilitating higher levels of proximity, increased pace of transactions and individual connect with employees, managers face challenges of new kinds which require to be handled with sensitivity.

Businesses are increasingly conscious of the importance of employee engagement in achieving business goals and excellence. Over the years with the growth and the geographical spread of Indian organisations, employee engagement has received heightened attention as a consequence of the constraints in ensuring frequent touch points and personal conversation opportunities. Technology has now made it feasible to shrink distances and time zones and bring people closer to each other than ever before. Emails, virtual sessions, mobile connects, social media, blogs and customised intranet portals are some of the ways by which managers are able to connect with their employees anytime, anywhere and thus are able to create a new impetus for employee engagement. While HR function continues to act as the catalyst to enhance employee engagement, immediate managers play much bigger role than ever before in building teams that are engaged and motivated.

At the same time, because of technology facilitating higher levels of proximity, increased pace of transactions and individual connect with employees, managers face challenges of new kinds which require to be handled with sensitivity. The expectations of employees in terms of response time to their queries have changed. Queries raised if not addressed within a reasonable period of time do get escalated and interpreted in different ways. Initiatives concerning matters such as compensation, promotions, celebrations pertaining to a specific geography cannot be kept confidential anymore as employees tend to broadcast through Facebook or LinkedIn faster than organisations can and if such communications are not planned well, could lead to unintended confusion or misunderstandings.

Messages left by employees or ex-employees in websites such as Glassdoor can lead to sleepless nights for recruiting managers if not monitored and responded to swiftly. As a result HR function now has the added responsibility of organisation brand and visibility management for the business which are in turn dependent upon how effectively internal and external communications and employee engagements are managed.

Despite multiple new channels available for engaging with the employees, there is a school of thought which believes that employee engagement levels have fallen or have remained flat compared to the previous era when there was limited or no access to these channels. Communication is a crucial component in employee engagement. Often, in order to communicate important changes, we use a combination of media such as email, intranets, portals, FAQs etc. and assume people will read the contents and get the desired understanding or takeaways from them. However,
because of information overload, sometimes people read partially or pick up the threads in social media even before they read the entire text and make their own conclusions resulting in communications misfire and disgruntlement of employees. The problem could get exacerbated with diversity in culture and language barriers that large organisations have to deal with. Hence it is important that HR, internal communications, PR and business teams are aligned and have to work in unison at the same time paying attention to the choice of the right technology tools, language, timing and medium for communicating important changes.

Technology platform used creatively offers several ways of enhancing employee engagement. The scope of employee engagement has got widened on account of everyone in the organisation being connected. Counselling and mentoring for career advancement are two dimensions of employee engagement which employees eagerly look forward to. While some organisations have internal mentors, the face time that the mentors and mentees get, is limited.

Technology platforms address this problem and enable them to engage productively with the help of useful tools that these platforms provide.  Increasingly, employees are eager to be associated with causes close to their hearts and thus volunteer their time for worthy causes. It has been found through several surveys that organisations which facilitate such associations for their employees rate high in employee engagement. Here again technology platforms specially designed for supporting voluntary work provide information of such opportunities and also connect directly with the beneficiaries if their services could be offered via online medium. Organisations are also taking advantage of the technology medium and encouraging employees to voice their likes and dislikes and opinions either through structured online surveys or in free formats through the intranet and in some cases are welcome to write directly to the CEOs.

The ability of the digital platforms to nurture collaborative environment is the critical dimension of technology which enables the manager to pool in ideas and experiences of the team and create pride and ownership in their offering or creation. This is a powerful tool at our disposal that helps in keeping the team together over a long period of time without meeting in person frequently. However, often managers are paranoid about information leakages and disputes arising out of IP  that get reflected in low trust levels between the members of the team leading to loss of morale and interest amongst the employees. The inherent advantages of collaboration are lost as a result of the inability to keep the team together in such an eventuality. What is important to recognise is that many organisations continue with their top down hierarchical structures and persist with old closed culture but superimpose networked, collaborative systems supported by technology.

In today’s context more and more businesses are moving away from being stand along entities to becoming networks or being part of larger networks and this means encouraging employees to interact and share and receive information with responsibility would be the key to success. If organisations are embracing social media, they have to shed old ways of one-way communication and empower employees to respond proactively. Without the organisation accepting the need for change in culture and readying itself to the new realities, simply investing in technologies alone will not result in tangible benefits of better employee stickiness or engagement.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.