Using digital technology to improve employee engagement & productivity
In part 1 of this blog series, we set the stage for why organizations need to use digital technology and a digital mindset to engage their workforce, help improve productivity, and inform better business, and people, decision-making. The workforce has changed— digital technology is embedded into the flow of work and life, making life easier and better. Today’s workers are used to convenience, customization, and real time interactions and transactions in their personal exchanges and consumer experiences. Attention spans are short, and things that don’t work or aren’t engaging will be left behind for one of the millions (literally) of other options—whether it be a good, service, digital platform, or job.
Last time, we mentioned how 85 percent of employees around the world are not engaged, or are actively disengaged, from their jobs. This statistic is staggering. What do you think an engagement rate like this means for an organization’s productivity and the bottom line? Hint, it isn’t good. As a matter of fact, MIT research shows that enterprises with a top-quartile employee experience tend to achieve twice the innovation, double the customer satisfaction, and 25 percent higher profits than organizations with a bottom-quartile employee experience.1
All of this means that employee engagement is paramount to productivity. With today’s always-on, untethered, and geographically dispersed workforce, engagement cannot be effective without technology. HR has a unique opportunity to lead the organization to success through innovative digital workplace strategies and implementations. However, any change without a clear, informed plan will fail. Let us be clear—implementing digital tools just to say you have will not lead to better engagement, but instead will likely do the opposite of what you had set out to do—it will breed frustration that causes active disengagement and resentment. Instead, leverage digital tools & platforms to be smart about how to interact and engage with your workforce. Don’t fall into the tech overload trap where employees become fatigued by too many options. Find out what kinds of technology and functionality your employees really want and go from there (more to come on this in blog 3). And get creative! Here are some new ways to think about leveraging technology for engagement and productivity:
Technology for the untethered workforce: using digital platforms to engage from afar
A key first step in meeting your digitally versed workforce where they are is to implement a digital workplace platform to unite all your content, providing a one-stop shop for your employees to access all things HR. The platform should allow users to quickly access relevant content, get help in real time, initiate tasks, and streamline processes, freeing up employees to focus on their real job and not “doing HR stuff.” It should be fully mobile and user friendly with interactive, intuitive navigation and provide relevant information right up front.
Once you have a central digital workplace platform in place, you can begin to leverage it to engage your remote, international, traveling, or deskless workers. After all, by 2020, 72 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be mobile.2 And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 8 million Americans now primarily work from home, with more than half of them working for companies, not themselves. These are folks who may not be sitting at a desk or in an office all day and aren’t regularly seeing their teams/coworkers/HR in person, but who need to stay connected to their organization and to their coworkers in engaging, interesting, and most importantly, convenient and flexible ways. If workers feel isolated, unprioritized, or just generally unplugged from company culture, digital platforms are a great way to bring them back into the fold to feel connected and engaged. Moving folks to remote or offsite locations means workers must go to greater lengths to communicate, which can breed distrust, even in instances that would seem totally benign with someone they see every day. Something as simple as not responding to an email may seem sinister or purposeful, whereas in an office, it may not seem that way due to interpersonal relationships and trust.3 This is why it’s important for companies to foster these workers—engaged workers are less likely to leave and more likely to be productive.
If this still feels a little “squishy” to you, let’s examine a real-life example of how digital platforms directly affect the bottom line and customer experience. Verizon has a mobile-enabled employee base of around 25,000 retail associates across 5,000 retail locations in the US. Over the last 5 years, Verizon has transformed the customer service experience in its retail stores by shifting to a completely mobile solution for customer interaction. The company aimed to get associates out from behind the counter and to better connect with customers. Rather than watching associates’ heads staring down at screens, the system’s design ensures the customer can also easily see the screen, and allows for the associate to be more mobile around the store.
The results showed that mobile-enabling retail associates has increased customer eye contact by 30 percent, transforming the way associates sell and vastly improving customers experiences. Not only has this digital process improved customer satisfaction, but helps employees feel empowered to sell and interact—acting as well-trained brand ambassadors.4
Using digital HR for creative problem solving
Technology brings new opportunities to tackle problem-solving while engaging with your workers. Have you considered how virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence can improve processes and engagement rates? How cool would it be to use a VR headset to demonstrate what relocating to a new country on assignment could look like in real life? What if you could simulate real-life situations, without massive coordination, travel, or risks? Imagine being able to train factory workers or seasonal retail workers, or push out new safety training through VR headsets, independently and interactively, all before someone even starts day one on the job if you wish.
This is exactly what some businesses are doing—finding broad uses for VR technologies. For example:
- Retail—virtual stores and showcases; tours of buildings or events
- Product Design—visualization and review of new designs
- Employee Training—virtual classrooms and hands-on simulations of real-life job scenarios
Field and Customer
- Service—virtual concierge; troubleshooting and repairs in fields like maintenance and manufacturing
Outside of VR, personalized, 24/7 digital workplace solutions are changing the game for relocation, especially internationally. The solution could offer a mobile, one-stop shop for information about the move and the new location, itineraries, moving advice and special offers, immigration and government paperwork, checklists, and communications (with HR, managers, or through virtual assistants). This tech also helps employers to do things like conduct cognitive talent assessments (when considering relocations, promotions, etc.), streamline and automate HR processes and specific personnel management tasks, and provide any relevant relocation management tools/information.
Technology that people want
As mentioned, employees today are digitally savvy. They want the way they do things to be easy, digital, fast, mobile, and bite-size (easy to process). As consumers, they are used to chatbots, virtual assistants, digital voice assistants (think your favorite voice-enabled smart speaker) helping them make purchasing decisions, answer banking questions, or suggest new content they may be interested in based on past activity. They use social networking tools to stay connected to friends, family, and colleagues, and they use apps to track information that is important to them (88 percent of Americans’ mobile minutes are spent on apps, 12 percent on browsers5). This all means that employers need to meet the workforce where they are and bring these kinds of technologies into the workplace.
For example, a work-based social media tool allows workers to communicate with each other how they choose to communicate with people at home. It helps develop a culture where people share more than work information with each other, and where work can be fun. Colleagues can become friends, which breeds loyalty. Virtual assistants and chatbots make finding information quick and easy without response time issues or human error. Instead of using email for every update, try putting pertinent yet fun information on screens throughout public office areas like kitchens and elevators that tell employees things that matter to them (whether it be new programs being introduced, training opportunities, meeting space availability, upcoming events and happy hours, etc.).
Let’s take this idea a step further. Imagine a parent is home with a sick child right before they are supposed to leave for work. What if they could ask their voice-activated speaker, sitting right on their kitchen counter, about their PTO balance, backup childcare options, and health plan information, all while they tend to their child? The voice-activated assistant could then initiate a workflow letting the parent’s manager and HR know they will be taking a PTO day, so that parent can focus on taking their child to the doctor. Now that would be a game changer.
The bottom line is that people want options in life, which means options with technology and how they interact with their employer and their peers.6 Sometimes a chatbot is enough; other times, there is no replacement for direct human interaction. Having options to pick up the phone, screen share, share a social media post, or instant message someone makes communication easier and teamwork a no-brainer. Being able to use tech in creative ways will help keep your employees interested and engaged by keeping their attention, reducing administrative burdens, and breeding loyalty. Having a digital workplace enables the flexibility, customization, and innovation today’s workforce demands.
In our final blog coming out next week, we will talk about how using sensing to get a pulse read on your workforce and the external forces affecting them informs strategic workforce decision-making. We will also dive into how the ways you communicate with your employees can make or break their experience (hint, 69 percent of deskless workers would be less likely to quit, even with less compensation, if employee communication was better7). Stay tuned!
1 Deloitte 2019 Global Human Capital Trends Report
2 Joe Karbowski, “4 Workplace Tech Trends to Foster Engagement with Mobile Workers in 2019”,https://www.hrtechnologist.com/articles/mobile-workforce/4-workplace-tech-trends-to-foster-engagement-with-mobile-workers-in-2019/
3 Marketplace.org: Remote offices find creative workarounds as more Americans stay home
4 Michael Brinker and Jeff Schwartz, The untethered workforce, Deloitte Insights, Dec 7, 2018. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/technology-and-the-future-of-work/untethered-workforce-mobile-workers.html
6 Deloitte 2019 Global Human Capital Trends Report
7 2019 Dynamic Signal’s Annual State of Employee Communication and Engagement Study, https://resources.dynamicsignal.com/ebooks-guides/state-of-employee-communication-and-engagement-study2019?_ga=2.235931457.1720466719.1553528954-905396479.1552336231