How Much Can Technology Help With Employee Engagement?

© frank peters -
© frank peters -

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Employee engagement has been the buzzword that has dominated HR for the last five years. With so much focus on the topic though, there seems to still be confusion on how to get the most out of your workforce through engagement.

One solution that is looked to is technology. How much can it really help though?

Technology and engagement

On this week’s podcast, I talked with Ephraim Freed from social intranet provider ThoughtFarmer about how technology and employee engagement. They released a white paper on the subject yesterday, and we talked about the true impact of technology and how it can really drive better engagement.

Admittedly, I think that many companies put the cart before the horse when it comes to HR technology implementations. They think they have a problem (whether it be engagement or poor HR processes) and instead of thinking about the core of the issue and examining possible solutions, they push straight through to technology based solutions.

For example, if I was having a tough time getting my work at TLNT done on schedule, the appropriate thing to do would be to ask me what the holdup was and try to figure out ways to solve it. Instead, a lot of HR technology purchases resemble buying me a new computer and monitor to be more productive. It’s appreciated, but it doesn’t help and then the people that spent money on these systems ask why things aren’t suddenly better.

Social intranets and making the connection

Vendors who stake their success on their client’s success understand that aspect of the process. But, even more important to me is making the leap between technology and results.

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Certainly in the right environment, a social intranet can help communication and improve engagement. I’ve used Yammer, intranets, closed social networks and even email lists to keep communication flowing. All of that helped me understand what was going on beyond my little world. The white paper explains a little bit of that, but for anyone who has used these technologies in the past, you know it helps continue and create conversations at about the same rate the organization already communicates.

The net gain is in whether it can help gain a greater understanding of what happens elsewhere, or if it helps reduce bottlenecks and communication breakdowns that occur in every organization. A properly created system should eventually help that, but it won’t do it overnight.

But if you are implementing technology like this in an environment where communication is awful and people are passive aggressive, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle until you (or your boss) waves the white flag and surrenders. It may take time, but fixing that culture first is going to be crucial to the success of any technology that looks to enhance your overall employee engagement.

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