By MITHRAN BALAKRISHNAN
Employee engagement is a topic close to my heart and is one which I have typically discussed from a synergy, leadership, and/or emotional intelligence (EQ) point of view.
However, here, I would like to focus on how technology plays a key role in this entire process and how it is essential for employee retention and success.
The impact of low employee engagement is certainly not alien to us; to name a few:
- Low morale across the company/team due to a revolving door situation
- Negative impact on productivity, which subsequently affects the team’s ability to meet deadlines and the company’s deliverables
- The high cost of rehiring and retraining involved
- Loss of customer confidence, particularly if key customer-facing employees are no longer around or are frequently changing
One of the most important aspects of an employee’s journey is the onboarding process which takes place in their first few weeks at the new workplace.
Many companies miss out on this step and go straight into getting the new employee into ‘production’ mode or started on reading technical materials to get them ready to start delivering.
The onboarding session is key in ensuring that new employees get the ‘big picture’ – what the organisation does, people to liaise with within the organisation to get relevant information, dos and don’ts, and what to expect in the upcoming weeks.
This is important to ensure they settle into the new environment comfortably and feel empowered to ask for help rather than shy away from it. This also promotes healthy conversations between the new employee and their immediate supervisor.
Overall, the entire onboarding should go beyond name introductions and get new employees introduced to ‘this is how we work in Company X’.
Read this: How Do You Onboard a Senior Leader?
Technology eases the onboarding process
With advancements in technology, there are now tools which simplify the onboarding process and provides a unique and welcoming experience for new hires.
Collaborative tools are a great way of easing the onboarding process – take Google’s G Suite app for example. Human Resources (HR) can use Google Calendar to schedule and send out invitations for separate onboarding sessions.
Perhaps they can schedule every newbie to have a coffee session with each head of department to get an understanding of what each department is all about. For new hires that require training, having a one-stop portal of information such as Google Sites is a good option.
Trello, a project management app,gives an interesting perspective on onboarding by preparing a Before Day 1 list which indicates what the company’s onboarding team needs to prepare before a newbie turns up on the first day.
Once a new employee joins the company, an online Trello board with their name is added and they are tagged to relevant managers, mentors and IT staff who are their go-to people. This is so that they can easily identify the stakeholders who are supposed to help them through those tasks.
These tasks are placed on ‘To Do’ cards which the employee can mark as complete when they have gone through and done what is required e.g. filling up the required paperwork. The board is also customised for different employees – with different backgrounds and different team information.
These apps provide a way to structure processes and ensure that key things to learn and know are documented as part of an effective onboarding process.
Keeping the human element
However, it is important that the human factor is not lost in this entire journey. Having an actual tour rather than merely showing a display of photos/videos of the office, and giving the opportunity for physical interactions such as handshakes (not just the virtual hellos) – or maybe even making them their first cup of coffee – goes a long way in humanising the process and breaking the ice for newbies.
The impact and initiative taken in the first few weeks of an employee’s journey at a new workplace is key in influencing the rest of their journey with the company.
Whilst you and your buddies at work have already bought into the company brand and have grown somewhat loyal to the organisation, it is important to realise that different individuals take different periods of time to acclimatise and settle down.
Their first impression is important – just like in all other situations – and is something the company portrays through onboarding, and it isn’t just about the initial handshakes and greetings. The company really has one shot at making an impression on a newbie.
The wide learning opportunities
Once newbies are in through the door, the learning journey begins and various platforms can provide opportunities to ease and even accelerate learning.
Sites such as Udemy allow newbies to gain new knowledge or pick up new skills at their own pace. Being cloud-based, newbies can access the platform and learn from anywhere and at any time, for example, on the train during their commute to work or even at the gym while on the treadmill. This certainly breaks down barriers by democratising the learning experience.
Another example is customer relationship management (CRM) companies such as Salesforce, which has done extensive work to gamify the learning experience by introducing badges and seniority levels. This motivates users to collect points, level up, and learn more at the same time.
It is true that different generations learn and adapt differently, and while technology is key to automating and easing business processes, it does not substitute the need for face-to-face interactions, which continues to remain relevant.
The blended learning approach is something certainly key i.e. not taking the extremes of only online learning or only physical mentoring as a means to learn. Setting clear expectations from the beginning would help team members be sure of the plan, timeline, and what is expected of them to be considered ‘on track’ in their progress within the organisation.
Retaining existing employees
Innovation in technology is typically focused in the areas of sales or customer engagement, as that is where the money lies. However, technology that is focused on employees as the ‘customer’ has been growing in recent times.
Typical automation technologies we may be familiar with are workforce management, employee appraisal systems, and of course, payroll. However, further intelligence is being incorporated into these tools, for example, some workforce management solutions now include location intelligence functions, skill set matching, and suggestions of tasks and actions.
A local integrated HR consultancy firm, Accendo, is an example of a company that uses technology to digitise and virtualise the entire talent lifecycle. They analyse behavioural data and extract insights about people within a company, identifying top performers and individuals who need development, thus enabling their clients to make better-informed decisions for the whole organisation.
Bringing it all together
Technology is great in the way that it has evolved significantly. Today, it is a matter of whether we are ready for technology vs whether the technology is ready for us and our needs, and is no longer a question as to whether an organisation should adopt technology.
Therefore, one needs to consider these points: what the organisation’s objectives are, its roadmap, budget, and whether the current processes work/can be optimised. Only then should we think about how technology can augment what we aim to achieve, as it can indeed help us with employee engagement, but we must also be smart about the role it plays.
As Accendo chief executive officer Sharma KSK Lachu once said: “It’s important to remember that technology is an enabler for what you are trying to achieve. If your process is rubbish, technology is just going to enhance that.”