Engaging employees in the digital age

Technological advances have, of course, changed the way all of us work and have the potential to make offices more productive and efficient places to be. But with new innovation have come a whole new set of problems, not least how to engage a workforce which is now fully connected to the outside world 24/7 and for whom distractions are seemingly never ending.

Lead by example, step away from the apps

The key to engaging your employees in a world of Facebook, 24 hour news, Twitter and LinkedIn, is to go back to basics and treat them as humans on a face-to-face basis.

Yes, of course there are times when an email or text are going to be the most efficient way of getting a message across, but they should not become your primary form of communication.

In order to fully engage your employees you need them to feel valued as individuals, and you cannot do this without demonstrating an interest in them. The only way to do this is to invest time building a culture that emulates your company values. Learn about your team, find out what makes them tick, what motivates them and where their skills lie. You simply cannot build good working relationships without spending time together, without this employees feel disconnected from the company and will not feel the affinity with it that you want them to.

Give clear guidelines about good communication

In the digital age, it is not only easy for employees to feel disconnected, but it is also easy for customers to feel the same way. Twitter has successfully been used to open lines of communication between customers and businesses, but it is not always the appropriate channel. There are times when only an actual phone call or even a real life meeting will do. For workers who organise their social and personal lives through social media, it may seem anathema to revert back to more traditional forms of communication, but it is in your best interests to reintroduce them to the all-important personal touch.

Communication should be a two-way process

The way that you manage your face-to-face time with employees is important. If most communication is done via email it can be tempting to spend one-on-one time talking at your employee, telling them what you think they need to know, but you need to utilise this time in order to listen as well. If workers don’t feel that they are able to reach you through open conversation they will lose the motivation to spend time in face-to-face meetings and will instead resort to complaining to other employees, most likely by instant message.

Listening needs to be done in a real-life environment, when you only take feedback from employees via digital forums it becomes meaningless to them, as they cannot gauge your reactions and are left wondering if or when you will address their issues.

Targets need to be clear to keep people on track

One of the main reasons for employees becoming unmotivated is that they do not understand why they are doing a certain task. They need to be made aware of the bigger picture, what the whole company targets are and what their own individual targets are, so that they feel that they are working meaningful towards something. Without this, they become distracted, which is easier than ever when your phone is pinging with notifications every minute or so.

Sometimes you need to harness the power of technology

There is no getting away from technology and sometimes it can be a hugely motivating force and we don’t mean that you should be texting employees on their mobiles at 9pm on a Saturday night.

One strategy to try is to allow employees to work using their personal devices, studies have shown that employees can often work more efficiently on a device that they are used to using in their day-to-day lives. Rather than forcing employees

to work from work desktops, it may well be worth looking at how they work using their own phones, tablets and other devices.

A positive way that you can use social media technology to motivate your employees is through social recognition platforms, which allow you to share praise company-wide. This not only engages the individual who is receiving the recognition, but also opens up lines of communication between colleagues, fostering a positive working environment. They can also allow you to attribute rewards to employee’s accounts, quickly and easily. Social media is a part of everyday life and to ignore its power would be a huge oversight. Yes, it can be a time-zapper, but used well, you can harness its positive effects.

Overall, the issue of technology is a double-edged sword, it can motivate and distract in equal measure. To ignore its power is not realistic, but to submit to it wholly would be to miss out on the opportunity to foster real two-way relationships between employee and employer. Use technology creatively, but don’t rely on it if you want to keep employees engaged.