The Tension Between Technology And Engagement In The Workplace
by Chris Cancialosi
Employee engagement has had quite a run in the spotlight and many organizations are intent on cracking the code to develop and sustain high levels of engagement that, in turn, drive other business performance outcomes.
Research suggests a direct connection between engaged employees and a variety of performance outcomes, including productivity, profitability, reduced turnover, and customer experience. Yet, sites like Gallup continue to report that only one-third of the global workforce is engaged at work.
There are multiple theories as to why employees may disengage with their employers, but my recent conversation with Mike Ettling, president of SAP SuccessFactors, shed light on a technological factor that I hadn’t previously considered.
Mike suggests that one major factor in disengagement is the technology people use in their personal lives is exponentially better (faster, more accurate, and a substantially better user experience) than the technology they interact within the workplace. He believes that by providing employees similar capabilities for people at work as in their personal lives, technology can enable new levels of engagement and a much more individualized work experience.
Consider these possibilities:
Learning and development. Consumers are familiar with user experiences provided by companies like Amazon and Netflix that utilize user-generated data to suggest products or movies that the user might like. Imagine if a company could track and analyze multiples aspects of an employee’s time spent, and experience, at work to deliver targeted learning and development content to their personalized social/learning feed? Companies would be able to better understand — in real-time — where employees are succeeding or struggling and automatically provide relevant support in true just-in-time fashion.
Development of informal networks. Informal networks within organizations can make a significant difference when trying to effectively accomplish one's work. Data could be used to track the work of employees and to help them understand who they should connect with to move the work forward and keep key stakeholders informed in the process.
Filtering meaningful information. How many times have you received a mass communication that has nothing to do with you or your work? Or, at a time where the information is not particularly relevant to you? Imagine if technology could understand when and how information was most relevant to someone, so they can get the information they need when it’s most helpful.
Increased transparency. Ranjit Jose, co-founder and head of growth for the engagement platform Hyphen, suggests technology can be utilized for continuous feedback loops. While this is being done today in some capacity, imagine if these tech solutions could filter and curate information and feedback opportunities to someone based on their specific, individual needs and interests?
These advancements don’t come without potential challenges.
Privacy. Philosophies on data privacy vary greatly from country to country. In the US, data privacy decisions typically reside with the individual. In Europe, the government has taken greater steps to regulate data. Although technology can offer a great many potential contributions in the workplace, it does feel a little like Big Brother, no matter what country you live in.
Integrity. For people to feel comfortable with privacy, the integrity of the data and the data collection process itself must be safeguarded beyond reproach. Misuse, or the perception of misuse, of the data constantly collected from employees, could quickly erode trust in leadership and the organization rather quickly.
Misinterpretation of data. Misinterpretation of data is a risk that must be dealt with as well. At best, misinterpreted data would lead to less than helpful recommendations for employees (and possibly lower user adoption). At worst, it could create greater levels of disengagement and eroded trust. Thankfully, with machine learning becoming increasingly advanced in recent years, computers can learn what data is most relevant and what suggestions are most helpful to employees, thus becoming more and more effective over time.
Rapid advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence are opening new opportunities to help understand and manage your workforce like never before. If utilized properly, these advances will undoubtedly impact the employee experience. As it stands, however, many of the apps and tools in the market aren’t reaching their full potential… yet.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.