A CTO’s Perspective: Engaging Employees Beyond The Four Office Walls

Ben John
Ben John
Apr 2 · 4 min read

According to research from Gallup, organizations with the highest employee engagement rates “have leaders who encourage their teams to solve problems at the local level rather than using top-down commands. They focus their training and development programs on building local managers’ and teams’ capability to solve issues on their own.” Further, these organizations see employee recognition as a means to develop and stretch employees to new levels of success, because recognition of outstanding team leaders sends a strong message about what the company values.

When thinking about how we keep employees engaged, in particular those who sit in the technology organization, what exactly does this mean? At my company, it means facilitating a culture of growing, learning and continuing to make an impact on the business by solving problems, no matter what the climate of the industry or the world. With the recent rise of health and safety concerns around COVID-19, many organizations have implemented working-from-home policies. While some consider this temporary, there are many for whom this is their norm, meaning that we should always be thinking about how we can keep employees engaged and, ultimately, our businesses successful.

Maintaining Open Lines Of Communication

Corporate culture has changed. Long gone are the days of cubicles, shiny corner offices and strict rules for leadership engagement. Between open office floor plans and endless ways to communicate — whether it be Webex, Zoom, Slack, Skype or Microsoft Teams, just to name a few — we have both literally and figuratively broken the walls between us, creating more access to each other than ever before. So why should the rules be any different for how we, as leaders, engage with our teams?

I am a firm believer in having direct communication with my team, and Slack is one way I’m able to do this. I actively participate in several channels to share messages widely and to engage with my teams, whether it be asking for feedback directly, sparking ideation and brainstorming sessions, recognizing specific employee achievements, or sharing a funny meme that might bring a smile to someone’s face that day. Taking the time to hold one-on-one meetings with team members of all levels over Slack has also been integral to maintaining community and togetherness across our organization.

Also facilitating open lines of communication are our “ask me anything” sessions. Led by our technology leadership team, leadership Q&As are open to the entire technology organization, giving employees direct access to leadership and providing the opportunity for certain team members to get to know leaders who they may not work for directly or interact with on a regular basis.

Creating Opportunities For Continuous Learning And Growth

While challenging, this new climate has presented us with the opportunity to learn and grow not only as leaders, but as organizations. We’re constantly exploring ways to inspire creative, out-of-the-box thinking that brings continuous learning opportunities.

For example, we recently introduced virtual “tech-n-tell” sessions, which give our entire tech organization an opportunity to tune in for a deep dive on specific technology, led by our internal experts. With tech-n-tell, employees are motivated to think about the challenges they are facing and create new, innovative solutions that they can eventually share with the entire team.

Connecting Work Directly To Strategy And Vision

It’s important for leaders to reiterate how the work their organization does lines up to overall company priorities and business growth. This is particularly true in technology, where engineers rely on company goals to create road maps for new products and innovations.

For this reason, my team and I share yearly priorities in every possible venue, providing transparency into our progress and accountable team members. Often shared through forums like quarterly all-hands meetings and roundtables, these concerted efforts ensure that our teams are always in lockstep with where we are and can make the connection to how their work aligns to the broader company vision and strategy.

Reflecting Core Values And Culture Every Day

It’s critical that we reflect our core values in the work we do every day, so we make it a priority to listen to and address the wants and needs of our employees around the world. Our tech community team, dedicated to providing our tech organization with the best cultural experience possible, has been critical in this. From organizing internal and external speakerships to creating and distributing newsletters and ensuring all new hires and employee successes are recognized across the company, they truly facilitate an open and dynamic culture for our team — both in the office and virtually.

Solving Challenging Business Problems And Celebrating Successes

As technologists, it’s our innate instinct to solve complex problems. This isn’t limited to technical or algorithmic challenges — it is to ensure we are creating the best solutions for our clients while maintaining a positive environment dedicated to the growth of our teams and employees all over the world. As the global business climate has become more challenging in recent months, technology talent is key for any business success in this connected world.

This story was originally published in Forbes.


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Ben John

Written by

Ben John

Chief Technology Officer at Xandr


Our latest thoughts, challenges, triumphs, try-again’s, most snarky and profound commit messages. Our proudest achievements, deepest darkest technical debt regrets (just kidding, maybe). All the humbling yet informative things you learn when you try to do things with computers.