Technology and Employee Engagement-  Just another Romantic Story (Article)

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At one of the most recent weddings I attended, the groom was asked how he met his bride. I find it fascinating how most of the stories sound the same. He started by explaining how they met through a mutual friend, and then how one date led to the other and so on. As expected, he ended with the cliché “…and the rest is history.” Similarly, I find that the adoption and use of technology follows a similar trend. One person starts using a new invention, then two people, then an entire society, etc. and the rest truly is history. Take the use of mobile phones for example. Once upon a time, they were very rare commodities. Owning one placed you high above the social ladder. However, as time elapsed, they have become basic tools to the extent that it is almost difficult to go about executing daily duties without them.

The surge in the use of technology in all aspects of human life presents organisations with the opportunity to adopt technological inventions in an attempt to achieve overall goals. One area in the organisation where technology has been adopted is employee engagement. I initially brought up the story of the groom because the use of technology to facilitate employee engagement has not caught up with inventions such as the internet or even mobile phones. To wit, not every organisation is focusing on technology to enhance employee engagement. However, it has been found that gradually, employee engagement is improving, more so through the use of technology. For the purpose of understanding, let us agree that technology denotes hardware and software that makes life easier. When carried out effectively, employee engagement contributes to good staff retention rates and increases productivity. According to a report by Oracle in 2014, engaged employees care about the tasks they are charged with. So now, let us look at how some organisations are using technology to support employee engagement.

 

Social Media

Some organisations are using social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, among others to facilitate engagement. Closed organisational groups are created to facilitate regular flow of information and coordination between members. The creation of such groups in no way breaks down the traditional structure of the organisation but rather enhances it. For businesses with many branches nationwide or worldwide, the use of these platforms also brings employees located in different geographic areas together. Decision-making, policy circulation, among others, are done seamlessly with contributions from all members.

 

Instant Messaging

Whoever thought that instant messaging would exist outside the traditional Yahoo and MSN messengers? Increasingly, organisations are using instant messaging platforms such as Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber to keep conversations going. Groups that are created serve as catalysts for give-help and get-help gestures from all employees. It facilitates instant response to concerns, surveys and queries. Undoubtedly, it has the tendency to speed up the decision-making process within an organisation. It also provides a platform for employees, who would, naturally, have shied away from contributing to relevant organisational discourse, to be heard.

 

Shift from Traditional Rules

Have you ever experienced the situation where your employer prevents you from using your personal electronic devices at work (for example laptops, tablets, etc)? Some even go to the extent of blocking websites (such as Facebook, YouTube, etc) that “distract” employees at work. Well, worry no more. If this romantic walk between technology and employee engagement is anything to go by, your fortunes will change soon. Recent employee engagement strategies require workers to create profiles on social platforms to enhance workplace interactions. Organisations can no longer hide behind excuses such as “social media makes one ineffective.” The wind of change will catch up with the global economy soon. It will therefore be prudent to prepare adequately for such changes.

 

I relate the use of technology in enhancing employee engagement to the romantic story of the newlyweds because, like any love relationship, the individuals gradually get to know each other and then eventually, decide to live together. “Getting to know each other” involves studying strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc. In a similar manner, organisations are investigating how they can enhance productivity through the use of technology. Employee engagement has been identified as one of the contributing factors to productivity. Hence, the need to gradually infuse modern technological tools and services to support current traditional employee engagement strategies such as occasional meetings, among others.

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