Can technology drive employee engagement?

There are a lot of technologies promising to improve engagement these days. But my opinion is that technology itself doesn’t drive engagement. It is, however, a tool that can help in significant ways.

Engagement is driven by how people feel about their work experience. The more emotionally and mentally connected we are with work, the more engaged we are. What research reveals is that engagement is driven by employees feeling valued, cared for, trusted and appreciated. We can only feel valued or trusted by other human beings. Even today’s best technologies can’t do these things for us as humans (I don’t think my smartphone appreciates me…).

Jason Lauritsen
Jason Lauritsen

So, what role does technology play in engagement?

Technology can be a powerful tool to enable, facilitate and measure engagement. For example, the one-on-one meeting between a manager and employee is a powerful approach to improving engagement. It is the positive conversation between the employee and manager that actually drives engagement, but technology can play a big role in making it happen.

For example, a technology platform can remind the employee and manager to schedule the meeting, it can provide a template of questions to prepare for and discuss, and it can provide a way to document what was discussed for follow-up. In essence, the technology can help create both some accountability and guidance to enhance the effectiveness of the interaction.

Employee surveys, when well designed and understood, are great tools for measuring engagement and diagnosing problems. But surveys don’t actually drive or improve engagement on their own. It’s the actions of the people in the organization that must change as a result of the survey data to actually make a difference.

How should an organization use technology in support of engagement?

The key is to recognize that an employee’s experience of work is what drives how he or she feels about it. And experience can be designed with specific intentions in mind. Before buying technology, there are some questions you should be able to clearly answer:

  • How do we define engagement? What is it and why does it matter to our organization?
  • How do we want employees to feel about work and, specifically, working here?
  • What are the most powerful interactions and experiences of work that shape how an employee feels about it?
    The answers to these questions will point you toward your biggest opportunities to improve engagement by improving the employee’s experience. Perhaps it’s one-on-one meetings or performance reviews. Maybe it’s the onboarding experience or coworker relationships.

Regardless, once you know what matters and have clarified what kind of experience you want to create, you’ll be well equipped to find technology tools that can help you make it happen.

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