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Employee Engagement is widely used to understand the status of an organization’s climate. Over the years, technology has played a big role in measuring employees’ perceptions of their work environment and addressing many of the challenges we face in today’s evolving world.To take a closer look at the drivers and consequences of Employee Engagement and how technology fits into the picture, let’s start with a common definition of Employee Engagement. In this article and based on numerous scientific studies and research, Employee Engagement is a state where employees are devoting their mental, physical and emotional energies in the context of role performance (often expressed as a feeling of “flow”).
Employee Engagement is mainly influenced – positively or negatively – by job resources (e.g., autonomy, pay, and infrastructure) and job demands (e.g., work pressure, appreciation, and emotional needs). Beyond this, there is clear empirical evidence that Employee Engagement is linked to business KPI’s, e.g., customer satisfaction, sales, and revenue. And since Senior Management has the authority to define an organization’s job resources and job demands, we find leadership behavior being the primary driver of Employee Engagement in our data sets. Interestingly, when there is a climate of trust and group cohesion among teams and organizations, we often see senior leaders role modeling these critical behaviors themselves, leading by example.
In times of disruptive change, as we have seen this year with the COVID pandemic, caring for employees’ wellbeing (e.g., through adequate resource allocation, flexible working conditions, etc.) is of the most importance. As a result, employees are more likely to be engaged if they believe Senior Management cares about their well-being and can create connections. As we’ve seen in 2020, this can be difficult during lockdown periods; however, current technology has enabled and ensured the achievement of this through:
• Video collaboration platforms to stay in contact and align on priorities
• Virtual learning journeys, customized to specific development requirements (especially relevant to close skill gaps in the context of working remote)
• Online survey feedback platforms to quickly get information about employees’ needs and their emotional state for the development of adequate support measures
Employee surveying has also substantially changed by using technology. It is now possible to link several data points measuring the employee experience along the employee lifecycle. From recruitment and onboarding to performance management, career and development, and exit—organizations can run predictive analytics to assess essential business items like “flight risk” for critical positions. However, along with the benefits seen with technology, there is also a flipside. The (mis) use of these tools for controlling employees’ behaviors (due to a lack of trust, especially when people are working from home) will increase work pressure and minimize Employee Engagement, with a possible negative effect on business results.
From employee surveys conducted during the first wave of the pandemic, where a high percentage of the workforce was working from home, we know that both managers and employees perceive the same (or even improved) level of efficiency compared with the situation before the crisis. But these views are also clearly linked to the family situation at home (e.g., caretaking, homeschooling) and the available IT infrastructure (both equipment allocated by the employer and availability of a fast internet connection at home). Employees who feel psychologically safe in crisis, meaning they trust their leaders and colleagues, are the backbone of organizations successfully managing times of change.
Together Employee Engagement and technology have enabled global corporations to steer and adapt to many of the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic. And even more important, leaders and employees can stay in touch and learn and practice a trustful working climate, which ensures levels of engagement will be maintained or even improved in the current environment and the future.