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How does technology affect employee engagement?

16 Dec, 2017

According to a Gallup Study Poll, only 30% of employees studied were actively engaged at the work place. The same study showed that more than 50% were not engaged and 17.2% were actively disengaged. This shows that organisations still have not achieved the sweet spot of having the desired level of engagement.


Past research has shown that employee engagement contributes to improved performance, reduced turnover, improved employee satisfaction and even better customer experience. Engaged employees are emotionally invested to the organisation and according to Forbes; emotional engagement shows emotional commitment that an employee has to the organisation and its goals.


The more emotionally invested employees are, the more they are happy to spend more time and energy working on organisations goals. Knowing this, organisations constantly seek for ways to engage employees more since engagement can always improve. 


Technology and engagement


The relationship between technology and employee engagement has been a source of debate for a while now. Increase of technology usage at the work place has employers worrying about what employees are really doing when they are glued to their smart phones, tablets or laptops.


On the other hand, technology has been shown to play an important role in improving engagement and productivity. The way to understand how technology influences engagement is to look at both sides of the coin.


How technology influences engagement?


The role of technology on flexibility


Today, many organisations do encourage flexibility at the work place to bring some work-life balance, help employees manage stress level and improve employee satisfaction. As a result, employers are encouraging telecommuting which allows employees make use of the internet and work from their locations of choice. Telecommuters are more likely to work more hours a week when compared to those having to report to the office daily.


According to PGi Telework Week Survey, 80% of the respondents who are allowed to work from home consider it as one of work perks. Further, 82% admitted to less stress levels and 80% admitted to having high morale when allowed work flexibility. In addition, a Connected Workplace report found that while 62% of employees without access to digital technologies were satisfied at work, 83% of employees with flexible digital technology were satisfied.


These studies show that employees are happier to work with technology more so when it is gives them flexibility. 


A blend of generations


In the current work place where the work force is made of a cocktail of generations, technology makes it easier for managers to work with such a diverse workforce. With the Millennials and Generation Y employees increasing at the work place, technology can help improve engagement by giving employees some autonomy. Most modern employees mostly prefer to use their own technology devices at work as opposed to using office devices.


More employers are encouraging employees to bring your own device (BYOD) to the work place if it makes them more engaged. Employees prefer this since they have customised their devices to their suitability. In this era where smart phones have got even smarter, individuals can access office information just from their phone.

Further, adoption of cloud services enable employees access their work from different locations.  The BYOD device culture is catching on and contributes largely to encouraging flexibility, engagement and therefore productivity. 

Collaboration across departments and allowing feedback


When managing groups across a vast geographical region, technology encourages employee engagement. Individuals from different departments or branches are able to communicate more effectively than how they would if they were working remotely. Technology can help employees and their managers keep in touch when working on a project and even give and receive feedback in real time.


Some apps such as Impraise, Heartpace and Reflective can allow members to connect, help teams correspond, encouraging integration with employer and employee making work engaging.  Ideas and opinions can be more easily conveyed through the use of technology. 


The pitfalls of technology in relation to engagement


Despite the valuable benefits, use of technology at the work place does have its pitfalls. First, in this era of social media, technology can be distracting. Use of personal smart devices makes it impossible for employers to track or monitor employees at work. A survey by showed that employees do waste time surfing on the internet during office hours. 64% employees visit non-work related websites while at work daily with 21% spending even 5 hours a week on the said sites.


Social media plays a big role in the distractions with 41% admitting to spending time on Facebook and 25% online shopping at Younger generations who are more tech-savvy showed the biggest number spending time on social media platforms with 73% admitting to get distracted on a daily basis. While taking breaks is important to boost productivity at the work place, social media has the ability to make one lose the track of time and take longer breaks than necessary. 


All in all, after a cost and benefit analysis, employers seem to gain more by encouraging technology use at the work place than what they have to lose. If employees are putting more into the work basket than they are taking out, then it is safe to say that technology does positively contribute to employee engagement at the work place. 


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