Employee Engagement: Technology Is Not the Silver Bullet; People Are

employee engagement counts on people
Technology can do a lot of things, but it's not the number one way to increase employee engagement.

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As a software and services company with a major focus on helping companies improve employee engagement, we see (and build) a large variety of technology geared towards enhancing collaboration and communication.  Many of these solutions are very useful. Our own ElevatePoint solutions provide a set of great communication enhancements for SharePoint, and can really help communicators and content contributors more easily and effectively deliver communications that empower and engage employees. We often see that companies are continually seeking new technology solutions as if these alone are a silver bullet for employee engagement.  The plain truth is that while technology is a very important component of an employee engagement strategy, the real silver bullet is the people who will build, cultivate, and realize improved engagement through their continual passion, energy, and efforts.

Welcome to the jungle

Employee engagement is everywhere these days.  Most organizations are at least somewhat aware of the benefits of engaged employees, and the reality that the workforce as a whole is largely disengaged, costing organizations greatly in terms of innovation, competitive advantage, productivity and organizational health.  With so many employee engagement technology solutions on the market, it’s easy to be led into the trap that “if I just implement this great software, my employees will engage”.  However, often times the result of adding more technology to an organization’s existing “jungle” of different tools and frameworks for collaboration and communication only hurts the cause.  Companies may quickly become disillusioned with the technologies when the results aren’t automagically achieved, and employees may become increasingly skeptical of numerous engagement initiatives that realize mixed degrees of success.

What about people?

man using an intranet on his smartphoneMany companies allocate the budget to implement a collaboration platform (SharePoint, Office 365 or others).  In fact, many companies spend large amounts of money implementing these platforms, only to conclude that beyond traditional use cases such as document management and search, few communication, collaboration and engagement benefits are realized.  All too often, companies fail to allocate the appropriate amount of budget and organizational energy toward a strategic employee engagement initiative that places people – not technology – at the center of the program.  Technology will only take you so far — without the people behind the initiative, success will be limited.

  • Executive sponsors – it’s critical for one or more top executives to not only believe and buy into the employee engagement initiative, but to take a stand and clearly demonstrate passion to the entire organization.  If employees believe that C-levels are excited and take the initiative seriously, more will follow.
  • Evangelists or ambassadors – enlisting a small group of really excited employees to evangelize the program as a whole (including the technology) can help get other employees on board and ready to engage more in the corporate conversation and goals.  Most companies will have at least a few employees who are highly energetic and can positively impact those around them with their energy.  Find them and use them.
  • Communicators – corporate communicators play a critical role in any engagement program, and should have a clear leadership seat at the employee engagement table.  Communicators are often best positioned to lead and coordinate the program and provide communication planning and delivery to help the entire organization understand and embrace the program, both upon roll-out and over time.
  • IT – IT will of course implement the engagement technology, but their involvement shouldn’t stop there.  IT often has great ideas of how best to leverage the “jungle” of available technology to light up interesting engagement scenarios.  Lean on their experience and advice.

Approaching employee engagement holistically

Given the importance of a well-defined strategy that involves both technology and people, we always recommend employee engagement services that complement the technology.  For example, performing an organizational assessment often uncovers unique cultural, geographical, and other factors that may be contributing to a less-than-engaged workforce.  Understanding these dynamics and incorporating them into the engagement strategy increases the likelihood of success.  Out of this assessment process comes the ability to define an appropriate and effective employee engagement road map.  Additionally, working closely with the key personae above serves to get the right people involved and excited, with each person understanding the unique and important role they play in not only implementing the technology and program, but rallying the rest of the organization and keeping the engagement momentum up over time, long after the program has launched.

It’s always been about the people

As the title suggests, technology is not the silver bullet – people are. Anytime we overvalue the technology and undervalue the importance of people in collaboration and communication, we lose.

Understand that it has always been and will always be about the people, regardless of the quantity and sophistication of technology. There has been so much debate about whether technology makes for better employee engagement.  It most certainly can, but the truth is that 100% of the time it requires human effort and passion behind the technology to make an impact.

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