Striking a digital balance to enhance employee engagement

Apr 23, 2020
Digital evolution Digital transformation Management consulting

In a tight labor market, organizations are increasingly concerned with creating an environment that engages employees and attracts and retains key resources. Implementing digital technology initiatives has emerged as a key factor in employee retention, but technology itself is not a magic bullet. Companies must develop and implement a technology strategy that balances several specific requirements, including communication needs, culture and organizational goals.

According to RSM’s recent Digital Transformation Survey, employee engagement is a key area of potential improvement for many companies. Only 28 percent of surveyed chief financial officers (CFOs) feel they are leading competition in the area of customer experience, while 63 percent consider themselves at parity with competitors. 

A wide range of potential solutions

Many organizations are leveraging digital technology in different ways to increase communication and gather feedback from employees. Some common strategies include installing video boards to share news and current events around offices, creating surveys to gauge employee satisfaction, and implementing internal social media platforms to create new networking channels. Each of these presents opportunities to enhance employee communication and, ultimately, engagement.

In RSM’s survey, 86 percent of CFOs state that they expect the amount of investment in employee and talent experience technology to increase over the next three years. As employee expectations evolve, technology has become a competitive differentiator in developing an effective workforce. Staying ahead of the curve is important to create an appealing and rewarding environment for employees.  

Mobility is another key technology strategy that can make a significant impact from a talent perspective. Mobility strategies have altered the traditional work environment, removing the need for the daily commute, the desktop PC and the conventional work week, and transforming how employees work, when they work and where they work. It is arguably the biggest digital enabler of a digital revolution, as life would be very different for employees without today’s mobility options.

Mobility is cited by 89 percent of CFOs in RSM’s survey as an extremely or very important element of digital strategy. This data underscores that mobility is no longer a “nice to have” business strategy; instead, it has become a critical element for success.

Each new generation wants information quicker and easier to consume, and effective mobility strategies can enhance engagement and the overall digital experience for employees. Mobility can cultivate a 365-days-a-year experience, with feedback, involvement and engagement throughout the course of the year, creating constant touchpoints even when employees are not in the office.

With talent pools becoming more flexible, unified communication systems can extend and streamline communication capabilities, no matter where employees work. Comprehensive systems such as Microsoft Lync and Cisco Jabber can provide screen sharing, voice calling and instant messaging in one platform.

Digital technology can also ease the burden of many administrative tasks that are required for compliance. For example, many companies require security training or various educational programs, and technology can create a more convenient environment for employees to meet these obligations. In addition, massive online open course (MOOC) platforms such as have become popular as a modern, innovative way to offer education and regulatory programs digitally.

From a human resources (HR) perspective, technology has increased the amount of insight and control employees have into their HR files as well as their performance metrics. Automated human resource information systems (HRIS) can provide extensive employee self-service capabilities that allow employees to manage several areas including tax and insurance information, as well as scheduling and expense reporting. Furthermore, performance management systems provide employees with more transparency into work objectives and goals, and advancement opportunities within the organization.

Leveraging the right platforms

However, creating an effective employee experience is more complex than simply purchasing and implementing technology solutions. For example, communications must be concise and personalized because employees want opportunities for touchpoints and information that directly applies to them. In addition, companies should consider using technology to cultivate different talent pools. Full-time employees, part-time employees and contractors all have a story to tell and experiences that can be gathered both in and out of the office.

Employees entering the workforce expect a much higher level of technology than previous generations.

Technology has been an element of successful businesses for quite some time, but in the past, solutions were mainly in place to meet specific business goals, and they may not have been current state. Early career employees expect innovation that can help them collaborate and become more productive. Without that, employees may not see themselves succeeding in their new work environment.

To help ensure ongoing success, technology systems must be flexible to change with an evolving workforce. Many employees now value an agile work environment, and modern platforms can enable companies to provide more extensive access and retain important resources. Mobility enhances that agility, and systems should align with those expectations, leveraging platforms such as HRIS systems that can be accessed on personal phones and tablets through a bring your own device (BYOD) policy.

Unfortunately, many systems currently don’t talk to each other, and platforms should be integrated to create a streamlined, efficient and consistent employee experience. To take that experience one step further, many companies are developing internal mobile apps to showcase company news and sync with other key systems and portals.

Developing your digital strategy

Establishing a true culture of innovation can help companies effectively leverage technology to create an engaging environment for employees. This effort can begin by developing an innovation team representing a cross section of the employee population to consider emerging techniques and employee needs. This approach helps enhance buy-in as more employees are part of the idea process.

Companies must be purposeful in retaining a personal connection with employees while integrating technology solutions. Businesses have quickly transitioned from a lack of data to a flood of data from every facet of the business. This flood of data can create overload and the unintentional consequence of impeding employee interaction.

Organizations can implement a variety of strategies to understand how digital technology can strengthen the employee experience. First, take inventory of your technology solutions and what these solutions are expected to accomplish, and review core employee processes such as onboarding and rate how automated or digital they are. Subsequently, employee assessments or surveys can help provide a baseline for expectations and requirements. Assessments or surveys can take place at different

stages, including onboarding; they can also potentially take the pulse of a specific department at the beginning of a fiscal year.

Benchmarking opportunities may also be available to determine where your investments and strategies stack up against competitors. Measuring your organization against benchmark data can help you better understand your current state and potential trends, and provide a landscape to develop a road map to enhance your digital platform and subsequently optimize engagement. Frequently, an external advisor can provide assistance with these processes, contributing additional industry experience and helping to understand solutions that can add value to the organization.

Often, finding tools that are optimal solutions for every level of employee within your organization can be challenging. Consider solutions throughout the entire employee life cycle and whether they will be effective from both a technical and tactical perspective, from onboarding and integration to training and development. This perspective will help you engage employees and encourage a culture of promoters.

Additionally, developing a simple, easy to understand three-year digital road map for your employee and talent function that articulates the organization, processes and systems is a critical step to staying competitive in the digital age.

Leveraging technology to enhance employee engagement requires a commitment from your leadership and an appropriate commitment to the required resources. Organizations that can successfully balance technology with corporate culture and personal interaction will become more attractive in the eyes of both internal and external talent in a competitive employment landscape.