Strategic HR

Improving Employee Engagement with HR Technology: A Look at Tech Focused Strategies

With employee engagement being such a covered topic due to the benefits it provides to strategy development and overall business improvement, you would think that statistics in this area would be booming – unfortunately, that’s not the case.

If we take a look back prior to 2012, a global decrease in employee productivity was estimated to have cost the US economy up to $550 billion dollars per year.  ‘Employee Engagement’ soon became a buzz-phrase which companies began to adopt into their business strategies ever since and even though there was a steady yet noticeable increase in engagement, it took another hit in 2016.

But how could this happen when we have been working so hard to engage our employees?

Aon Hewitt went on to conduct an analysis of 5 million workers across 1,000 organizations and found that alongside the political climate, rapid advances in technology was a causing factor for this decrease of employee engagement.

Technology?  I hear you say.  What are we missing here?

Millennials make up a large percentage of our workforces, closely followed by Gen-Zers, who are both renowned for being tech-savvy, fast paced and in need of constant reassurance.  They search for ways to develop and thrive and so failures by organizations to meet the technological expectations of these employees is affecting their productivity and ultimately disengaging them.

As more organizations try to get a better understanding of how engaged employees can affect their bottom line, we take a look at some of the areas where HR technology could support a better engagement strategy for 2018 and beyond.

#1 – Have an Engagement Strategy in the First Place

There’s no point in looking at ways to advance your strategy if you don’t have the fundamentals to begin with.  90% of leaders believe that an engagement strategy would improve their business success, so you might be surprised to learn that less than 25% of them have one!

Effective ways to develop a strategy include conducting one-on-one meetings, implementing employee satisfaction surveys, performance reviews, asking for regular feedback and then analysing the data properly before taking action with the issues highlighted.

And it doesn’t have to have a huge impact on a company’s workload or paperwork either.  There are numerous HR software platforms available that fully support these processes which can be quickly set up and implemented, so there’s no reason for employers not to put the basics of a strategy into effect.

#2 – Communicate Across Multiple Platforms

There are many ways to communicate and share documents with employees in real-time thanks to HR software.

Different generations and people with certain personality traits (such as introvert/extrovert) have their own preferences on how they like to communicate, whether it is by a phone-call, a quick message or face-to-face contact.  Modern technology covers all the bases, giving users multiple options from instant messengers to video calls and intranet and mailing systems.

With this in mind, employers could look at mixing up how they communicate to engage each individual of their workforce instead of continuing with rigid communication methods for certain situations (for example, in-person office meetings for performance issues or requesting that staff phone the head office when absent).

Having a range of options can make it easier for employers to interact with their employees and for global teams to come together, even when some may be located remotely.  Being able to communicate business objectives, getting regular updates on employees’ personal goals and creating a virtual ‘open door’ policy will all have a major impact on overall engagement.

#3 – Gamification Techniques

A practice companies are using to stay relevant in these times of continuous change is to introduce gaming methods that drive higher engagement, productivity and ultimately make the seemingly challenging or less exciting tasks at work more fun.

“The application of online game mechanics in a non-game setting to motivate users to engage, achieve goals and build loyalty through use of intrinsic (and extrinsic) rewards and recognition” – Deanne Belle, Former SMM Manager, Cisco

It was estimated that 70% of Forbes Global 2000 companies will use gamification techniques in the future, helping engage larger audiences.  If we look at Cisco for example – they introduced gamification as part of their global social media program, mixing in team challenges for healthy competition between colleagues and the chance to get properly certified.  Due to the positive results to their employee engagement stats and 13,000 courses completed later, they continue to use gamification in other areas of their business.

Gamification can be applied via mobile apps or online meaning any results or certifications achieved could be held on a HRIS system, allowing management and employees to view progression and track engagement rates electronically.

#4 – On the Go Learning

It’s no secret that employees today are striving for the perfect work-life balance and with mobile learning accessible across multiple devices (smart-phones, tablets, desktops, etc.) flexible learning methods offer employees the opportunity to learn at their own pace, from a place they are comfortable.

Although it is seen as a more attractive way to learn from the Millennial or Gen-Zers perspective, it would be fair to say that irrespective of age, a large majority of us spend time on our mobile devices so it makes perfect sense to enable learning this way.

Real-time module data can be uploaded to an employee portal, keeping results stored and managed at the click of a button which makes it easy for management to run reports, flag up issues and schedule training in a shared calendar.  Simple!

#5 – Recognition, Reward and Feedback in Real-Time

Rewards and recognition was ranked as the strongest engagement opportunity in 2017, up from 3rd place in 2016.

HR technology can support leaders’ efforts to engage staff by virtually creating and maintaining an engaging workplace.  Even the most modest forms of recognition such as a ‘thank you’ have a huge impact on employee morale.  Online platforms offer quick, real-time solutions to acknowledge performance when it matters most and request feedback when it’s still fresh in an employees mind.

Companies that want to add value to achievements with rewards, can also be conducted virtually by means of an employee recognition platform, offering perks such as:

  • Online gift cards
  • Scan codes for coffees
  • VIP parking spaces
  • Virtual plaques

Studies have shown that employees are increasingly favoring virtual rewards over those which come with monetary value, however, an employee’s best efforts should continue to be recognized by management in person for a more personable touch.

So, will technology focused processes improve employee engagement strategies going forward?

I believe so.  Even though there are still many other ways to engage your staff which don’t involve technology in the slightest, by incorporating a mixture of online and offline techniques to suit the needs of your business, the needs of the different generations within your workforce and support your company culture is ultimately what is going to drive engagement rates up.

Has your organization used HR technology to engage its employees?  Tell us more in the comments below.

Norberts Erts is co-founder of HR management system CakeHR, that streamlines attendance and performance management for customers worldwide.