How CEOs can use Digitization to Enhance Employee Engagement

Unhappy and unengaged workers cost U.S. companies an estimated $550 billion in lost productivity every year, according to Gallup. While employee engagement has concerned companies since before the industrial revolution, improving it is more important than ever in today’s age of digitization.

Robert Ruocco, VP and CTO at HealthNow New York, feels that in our current era of constant change, CEOs must continue to build their workforce around teams who are equipped and supportive of change to support companies’ strategic plans. And as millennials become the majority of the workforce, companies must adapt. “No longer can you expect the best and brightest talent to want to work for your organization…We must go on the offensive and engage them,” Ruocco said.

He added that in the digital age, organizations need to nurture their best and brightest talent by giving them an environment where they not only want to exist but can thrive and will be given the resources that enable them to learn and master their performance.

How to implement engagement
He said organizations should start by ensuring they’re fostering a digitally-updated workplace as younger workers have little patience for outdated and ineffective technologies. Organizations also should look to new digitally collaborative work environments used by hip companies such as Google. This means moving away from boxy cubicles and more to team rooms and collaboration spaces that can foster creativity among staff. Something as simple as a room with game systems or a foosball table can be used for team building and informal collaboration.

“No longer can you expect the best and brightest talent to want to work for your organization…We must go on the offensive and engage them.”

These things may sound absurd by traditional standards but they’re highly effective at top-performing tech organizations. Break rooms, for instance, also are catching on at many firms and that games actually can enhance productivity.

In addition, more organizations are using software to gather data about employee engagement. These solutions can use frequent pulse queries to measure things like recognition, career growth, feedback, purpose, role fit, confidence in senior leadership, management effectiveness and empowerment. Some of these products range from “electronic attaboys” to high-end social science technology that monitors employee activities.

In one example, California-based human resource firm The Marcus Buckingham Company’s StandOut enterprise platform includes real-time data that allows managers to compare engagement across teams and against a country average. It uses technology, coaching and data to discover team leader potential and accelerate engagement and performance. “Technology is a powerful vehicle; but to be truly effective, it requires the human touch working with the machine, not against the machine,” reports the Society of Human Resource Management.

Meanwhile, digitization is also creating more dispersed workforces where employees are located around the globe. This means organizations are increasingly challenged to foster engagement across multiple geo- and demographics in a more complex fashion.

Leaders in the digital age must not rely exclusively on technology, but also must maintain a human relationship with their teams. Technology is no substitute for poor leadership and bad bosses. The digital age has only made employee engagement much more complex. Organizations also are dealing with unprecedented levels of competition and pressure to perform. “In the digital age, managing engagement occurs in an environment of nearly continuous change. New leadership skills are required,” said HR consultant Walter McFarland.

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Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.

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