We’ve heard the term “employee engagement” a gazillion times, and one could even say it’s now just a buzzword. If you ask me, it is the most critical aspect of any successful organization….without a doubt! A positive correlation exists between employee engagement scores and business results (via Right Management – “Employee Engagement, Maximizing Organizational Performance”).
I have worked with a dozen plus diverse organizations on their employee engagement strategies, not only identifying their top engagement drivers, but facilitating strategy design and execution. I can see how it could be a buzzword to many because they have not the slightest clue how to take employee engagement beyond just simply talking about it.
Regardless, my definition of employee engagement is, “an intimate emotional connection that an employee feels for the company they work for that propels them to exert greater discretionary effort in their work.” Take note that their are many definitions that exist, and whichever one you favor, remember this…it all comes down to the positive emotions that employees possess, individually and collectively. In my experience the top 4 engagement drivers are the following:
- Strength of leadership capabilities of direct managers.
- Perception that advancement opportunities exist, and are attainable.
- Opportunities for personal growth and development.
- Appropriate recognition for the good work that I do.
The “What” Versus the “How”
I just listed what I have seen to be the top 4 common engagement drivers. The next natural question would be, “now what? How are we supposed to improve engagement if we now know where our focus needs to be?” There is no cookie-cutter response because it depends on each organization, because each organization is unique due to the distinctive make-up of their workforces. But, I will say this…the “how” (i.e. executing an employee engagement strategy) is as important, if not more so, than the “what” (i.e. what we need to focus on).
This is where social technology could theoretically play a huge impactful role. I say theoretically because again, the success of strategy execution does not lie in the technology/platform itself, but in how it’s executed. At the top of my head, key things that are required for successful execution are strong leadership, people change management, communication, trust, authenticity, and ultimately a strong perception of competence in the eyes of employees. Notice how this is nothing different than any other major organizational initiative?
One Step Further
You need to also recognize that workforces in North America are more diverse than ever before. Work is now fully integrated into our personal lives, rather than being completely separated like it was just a few decades ago. We value customization, personalization, flexibility, variety and choice. Organizations need to understand this, and find a way to fully integrate these characteristics into how employee engagement strategies are executed. Now enter social technology!
Where Technology Could (Really Should) Play a Role
Keep in mind that technology by itself means very little. It’s a very similar concept to strategy, which I’ve said many times before, “is just a piece of paper with words on it” (see “Strategy = A Piece of Paper…“). If you don’t execute it well, it doesn’t matter how great the technology/strategy is. All technology does is enable organizations to be flexible, offer variety and choice, enable personalization and customization. It’s a vehicle, albeit a very effective one ONLY if you actually get the “how” part and focus on executing.
Having made my point about what technology is I will say this. The market has just been bursting with new niche social technology platforms that aim to help make business easier, more effective and efficient, and ultimately more successful. The mainstream platforms include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google and others. Example niche HR platforms include Rypple, ZuzuHire, SurgeHire, Yammer, Yackstar, ClearFit, Success Factors and I Love Rewards. Thousands more exist out there, but you get my point.
Tying it All Together…
So, I have talked about the following:
- How employee engagement strategy is executed is more important than what you’re executing.
- Impact of workforce demographics on our preferences for customization, flexibility and personalization.
- Work is now fully integrated into our personal lives—no longer separated.
- Social technology is a huge part of our lives, and social platforms are highly effective vehicles to support strategy execution.
- The key in all of this is that leveraging technological platforms within traditional HR functions, particularly as it relates to employee engagement strategy will enable organizations to optimize their ability to drive positive employee engagement results.
(Note: The next post in this series of 3 posts will explore a case study of an organization that integrated social technology into its employee engagement strategy to drive positive results.)
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