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Employee Engagement – Is more Technology really the answer?

Caitlin Evans / 2018-09-28 5 0

The Problem

Have you heard the outdated and much-repeated news that the UK (and the rest of the world) has a huge problem with employee productivity and engagement? If you haven’t, you need to get familiar with the issue fast, because as an employer it will probably be costing you a great deal of time and money. The Government report, Thriving at Work estimated that a lack of productivity, staff turnover and absence due to mental illness cost the UK economy 42 billion in 2017. Over half of this estimate is attributed to presenteeism, where employees attend their workplace but are unproductive and disengaged. Despite the well-recognised prevalence of the issue, HR departments across the world are still struggling to find a solution.

The Cause

CustomInsight.com highlight in their article What is Employee Engagement? two generally accepted causes of employee disengagement: their opinion of the company and their relationship with their immediate manager. The former is informed, among other factors, by their confidence in the senior management team and their support for the company’s culture. Employees that do not feel valued, are not given direction nor feedback, and who do not foresee opportunities to progress within the company are often disengaged and demotivated.

Software - The Answer?

Apps and platforms, like our own Weekly10, aim to aid both mid-level management and company leaders in developing a culture of feedback throughout the company’s structure. By facilitating regular feedback and communication all levels of management are given the opportunity to commend their employees, or monitor their issues, and conversely receive feedback on their own performance. It aims to create a culture of regular and accurate feedback, allowing employees to be a valued part of the larger company and their own department or team.

In an article by Josh Berin, ‘A New Market is Born: Employee Engagement, Feedback and Culture Apps’ comments from some of his readers criticised the argument that apps, anonymous or not, and more technology could possibly be the solution to employee disengagement. They argued that in order to develop a trusting relationship and effective communications between employees and their managers what was needed was ‘real’ communication, not ‘likes’ or ‘comments’. Managers might be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by their increasing managerial responsibilities. As disengagement, staff turn-over and employment well-being becomes increasingly costly issues, it might appear their only solution, while short staffed, is to spend more time ‘one on one’ with employees to manage both their working practices and now to also monitor their emotional well-being.

No good manager will underestimate the importance of approaching their employees in person and engaging in regular face to face meetings. However, the role feedback apps play, is to facilitate hands-on management rather than offering an alternative.

The Key is Feedback

As Adam Rogers writing for Forbes suggests, good managers will use these apps to give and receive constant feedback at a frequency unattainable face-to-face. They will be able to choose whether to pass this feedback on, implement it themselves or respond to their employees directly explaining why they have chosen not to implement change. Apps can provide a structure and record of a manager’s actions, to demonstrate their commitment to listening, and most importantly, acting upon employee feedback.

Feedback apps can help mid-level management teams struggling under time pressure and commitments to take a targeted approach to what’s important, helping ensure issues are addressed and projects completed. Rather than replacing ‘one on one’ sessions, these software applications aim to highlight when and who really requires this extra support.

There is a risk of higher level management relying too much on findings from the applications without taking the time to engage. The software should prompt and empower teams to take a balanced approach to engagement and support, which is necessary to achieve a cohesive team. Teams who have failed to build strong and honest relationships will struggle to show significant benefits with any software tool, but through building a culture of trust and openness they will achieve maximum benefit. At the Future for Management in an Artificial Based World conference in Barcelona it was recommended that company leaders also run randomised testing on all their data to prove out new approaches empirically. However, so long as the technology does not replace face-to-face conversations, it offers an unimaginably thorough and untapped resource of data. It allows management teams to reach into the heart of one’s organisation; a fantastic resource not to be squandered by resistance to technology.

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