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Employee Engagement In A Digital World

Thursday 04 May, 2017

For those of you who have kids and frequently think:

“Would I be better off trying to talk to them on What’s App / SnapChat / Kik / Messenger…?”

One of the key themes from the Coeus 2017 survey was the increased adoption of technology driving organisational evolution. 'What form does this technology take?' and 'Who does it impact?' are two questions that immediately come to my mind when reading this.

Technology can help us build better services, relationships with customers and better internal relationships. In this article I want to focus on how technology helps us engage with our colleagues and work together better.

The pace of technology change is ever increasing, hardware refresh cycles have increased from around 5 years for PCs at the start of the 21st century to 1 year for phones and tablets and often even less for more specific use-case devices. Software update cycles and new releases are much shorter, with the ‘software is eating the world’ soundbite from Marc Andreessen becoming truer every day.

The impact that this has on all of our lives is different though – different generations and individuals respond to technology changes in different ways. Parents of pre-teenagers only have to hand over their smart phones to see how a different mind makes use of the same device and applications (e.g. video messages, text to speech). This difference in usage and attitudes also happens in the corporate world. Employees at the start of their career are likely to have hugely different expectations and experiences around the use of technology than those who have been climbing the career ladder for a little longer.

This has been shown in a number of different research studies showing that millennials have different expectations to baby boomers and other generations about how they work, where they work, flexibility and many other factors including corporate social responsibility.

This can very often lead to a communication gap where 2 (or more) groups of employees end up communicating using different methods - resulting in lack of engagement across teams, re-work, missed collaboration opportunities and a lot of frustration. This then impacts productivity, morale, innovation and creates artificial barriers within organisations and teams. Imagine a product development team where the senior, experienced manager prefers to catch up by phone and send emails to share documentation and other assets with the team and new hire team members are used to messaging and collaborating in real-time using Slack. Others often use What’s App, Skype and other consumer tools. All are likely to feel left out of the loop at some point and possibly miss the chance to contribute key information at the right time. This situation is compounded further when we consider what devices these employees have a preference for and whether they can access (or should access) the information needed using smart phones, tablets, smart watches, laptops and other hardware.

So how can this situation be harnessed positively? A good place to start is by planning to understand, influence and support.

Understand the different employees, the tools they prefer to use and the applications they need.

Agree a broad set of suggested applications to meet communication and collaboration needs and influence all employees towards these.

Support employees by making sure that the information they need for their role is available on preferred (not necessarily all) platforms and by regularly updating both the understanding and suggested applications as the technology evolves.