How to use interactive technology to boost employee engagement
Do your teams struggle to hit targets, even though everyone seems flat-out? Perhaps you're under pressure to execute deliverables, but find it hard to whip up the morale of your staff? Have you asked yourself: is everyone actually engaged in the task at hand, or are they just “looking busy”?
According to research, just one-third of all UK employees feel engaged in the workplace; ranking the UK in ninth place for engagement levels amongst the G12 collective.
Productivity is suffering, so do we demand more of a time commitment from our teams to bolster dwindling productivity? Or is there another way?
Luckily, new approaches to remote working are helping to increase innovation and productivity. This blog explores how interactive technologies are coming to the rescue; helping boost employee engagement and improving productivity without demanding more time commitment from disengaged staff.
The internet has changed everything – how we consume media, how we socialise, how we network and meet new people, and how we make purchase decisions. But never before has remote working been more accessible.
Virtual teams are becoming commonplace in many industries, allowing greater flexibility for workers and bringing down the costs of running businesses by negating the need for costly office space.
Virtual teams help companies:
- find the best talent for the right budget;
- eliminate the need for work visas if engaging with foreign workers; and
- reduce infrastructure costs because remote workers use their own equipment.
The flexibility that remote working brings is the real boon in employee engagement – offering the potential for people to work from home but still access work-essential networks securely and privately.
Remote working is made possible with virtual messaging services such as Slack, Yammer, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business. They offer way more than just chat rooms, with file sharing capabilities, teamwork streaming channels, native integration into Google Docs and Dropbox; all facilitating collaborative working that's not bound by geographic location.
Additionally, remote working is made possible with sophisticated video conference applications such as Zoom.us and Appear.In, providing:
- interactive meetings in HD video;
- huddle rooms for group collaboration; and
- screen sharing and remote access of each other's computers.
These all contribute as tools that negate the impact of distance and encourage engagement.
When you have global teams of freelancers and contractors, you can gather together, integrating on-site workers with remote workers via interactive touch-screen displays; creating a central hub for everyone to collaborate, contribute, and develop.
The flexibility afforded by remote teams can be a real asset – improving productivity and engagement without diluting the focus of your workforce.
The days of working in silos are, thankfully, becoming a thing of the past. Indeed, one of the most prolific festering environments for disaffection and disengagement in the workplace is interdepartmental insularity – the idea that each department works alone with their own way of doing things, creating islands hostile to change.
Interactive technologies can change all of this with a range of tools dedicated to the unification of disparate teams.
Project management tools
Whether you're working with remote teams or actual people sharing the same room, there are a range of interactive solutions to help the workforce stay motivated, on-track, and engaged.
Project management tools such as Basecamp, Wrike and Apollo provide a rich canvas of cloud management solutions that provide:
- real-time visibility of milestone progression;
- a central hub for communication;
- integrated calendars;
- universally accessible to-do lists; and
- cloud file sharing.
These platforms bring the entire workforce together – even if they're not physically together.
But it's not just the workforce that finds a synchronised rhythm with project management tools; it's also the workstream, making for faster target progression and more effective communications. Everyone gains visibility of progress – with recognition of how their contribution impacts towards the whole.
Without even realising it, employers find themselves engaged in a single focus – they’re no longer chasing emails and trying to plan meetings around diaries they have no access to.
Collaboration tools are relatively inexpensive to use, but the return on investment is likely to outweigh the costs considerably.
Perhaps ‘gamification’ is a portmanteau too far. But it introduces a novel (and effective) way of engaging disaffected employees. There’s nothing massively new about the concept of incentivisation – incentives have been used for years to encourage workers to hit targets.
But interactive technologies are progressing the concept by employing principles of gaming; making it particularly attractive to millennial workers by tapping into the desire for instant reward and feedback.
A good example of engagement through gamification is Pokémon Go. Although this isn't a business tool, the principles of engagement are similar.
Pokémon Go (for the uninitiated) is a location-based augmented reality game that has millions of active players. The game takes you out of the house (the usual domain of video gameplay) and seeking out Pokémon characters that could be wandering the streets or climbing a tree in the park. Pokémon Go's major success is its ability to get its players exercising and exploring new locations, rather than pinned to sofas, avoiding the real world. People are engaging in gameplay in a whole new way.
And this is applicable to the workplace.
Gamification works by setting goals that are monitored and acknowledged through machine learning apps, such as Bunchball. Bunchball offers a user-friendly interface that displays team leaderboards, featured challenges, and a progress bar. By encouraging friendly competition, teams work together to meet collective targets, progressing towards rewards and incentives.
There are a variety of dedicated gamification platforms that are worth exploring, including:
- Salesforce Motivation;
- SAP Community Network;
- Microsoft Communication Hope; and
- Props To You.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
BYOD is a fast-growing trend in many industries, offering employees the ability to use their own computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices in the work environment.
Most newcomers to the Bring Your Own Device trend are sceptical of the security implications but, in combination with the interactive technologies we've discussed so far, security is covered by the applications themselves.
There are clear cost-cutting benefits for companies who allow their employees to BYOD, but that's not the principal driver; BYOD has been proven to promote productivity while increasing employee engagement.
Allowing employees to work on their own devices means that they can work from anywhere, anytime. Research suggests that:
- BYOD employees work an extra two hours a week and send 20 more emails every day; and
- A third of BYOD employees check their work email before the start of their working day.
If you’re considering monopolising on the possibilities of BYOD, it’s important to carry out a thorough risk assessment against potential security threats, tightening your network security accordingly.
The world of work is certainly not slowing down. Interactive technologies are transforming the way we work and the way we enthuse the workforce. The future of employee engagement is trending towards the flexible, so there's no time like the present to get collaborating.
Natalie Harris-Briggs is the VP of Marketing at Avocor. She is an expert in the technology and audio industry with over 20 years’ experience working in sales and marketing for some of the world’s biggest brands. She has a passion for helping companies grow and introducing new technologies on a global scale. You can follow her at https://twitter.com/natalieharris77