working in the park
A number of trends are forcing businesses to rethink their approach to employee engagement PHOTO: FaceMePLS

Digital technology is shaping our culture — and ultimately changing the way we work. 

Remote software and mobile technologies allow an increasing number of professionals to work remotely and with more flexibility. But the ability to work remotely is now forcing employers to evolve their employee engagement strategies. 

The more quickly technology evolves, the more change we see across the workplace. Challenges emerge: employees need to adjust to these new technologies, work tenures decrease and leading organizations do their best to keep a pulse on company culture and employee happiness.

But when businesses fail to support all of their workers — both remote and in a home office — the digital revolution becomes a disadvantage. 

So what can companies do when adopting new digital technologies to keep a pulse on the state of their culture and make sure employees remain engaged?

Digital Workplace Trends Are Here to Stay

2017 marks a turning point in workplace history. As Forbes reported, it’s the first year Gen Z will join millennials in the workplace. Add to that the more than 93 percent of companies that identify as a blended workforce, balancing work between freelancers and full time employees. 

Any given workplace will have several generations of employees — from baby boomers to Gen Z — showing up to work each day, with varying preferences for how work gets done.

Employers are finding themselves in a predicament: new work preferences prompted by the rise in digital technology are clashing with old outdated processes. 

No matter the current makeup of your workforce, these four workplace trends are here to stay:

  • Gig Economy: In late 2016, McKinsey Global Institute published the results of a study on the gig economy. The study estimated in the US alone, there are more than 54 million independent workers, which McKinsey defines as “someone who chooses how much to work and when to work, who can move between jobs fluidly and who has multiple employers or clients over the course of the year. Digital platforms and access to work on mobile devices makes it feasible for workers to make a living from part-time work and gigs."
  • Remote Workforce: Just over 96 million workers now use mobile devices to do their jobs. With that number on the rise, remote work outside the traditional office setting is slated to increase.
  • Multiple Generations: For the first time in history, five generations are rubbing elbows in the workplace. Nearly 60 percent of human resources managers at large companies say they’ve seen office conflicts arise from generational friction. Blended workplaces will run into challenges if older workers resist change or if younger workers assume everyone shares a common preference for communication.
  • Short Tenure: Workers are no longer spending their entire career at the same job. In fact, Deloitte found 44 percent of millennials, given the choice, would leave their current employers in the next two years. It’s now becoming more difficult for businesses to retain employees.

Given these dynamics shaping the workplace, what's a business to do?

Embrace Change With an Agile Culture Strategy

For companies to win, they must adapt to — not ignore — evolving workplace trends. Digital technology will continue to propel these workplace trends forward, and it’s the organization’s role to ensure employees stay engaged and motivated along the way. 

When business leaders and human resources professionals lean in on a new approach to employee engagement and strive to maintain a real-time pulse on their organization’s cultural health, company culture will improve organically.

Measure

Start by getting an accurate assessment of your current employee engagement. To improve employee engagement, you must first measure it. You are likely already analyzing and keeping metrics on marketing and sales performance, customer service, product development and more — why wouldn’t you track company culture metrics and people data?

Measure baseline engagement levels with a brief survey, and keep the lines of communication between managers and employees open. Explain the “why” behind any employee engagement measurement. In my experience, employees are much more likely to participate if they understand your end-goal to improve company culture. Try making your survey accessible in multiple methods, from email to a mobile app, to ensure all generations of workers will participate.

Create an Engagement Strategy

Leverage these insights to construct an engagement strategy with a three-part goal: to uncover challenges, open lines of communication and promote a workplace where constant improvement is the norm. Your goal should revolve around uncovering problematic areas and surfacing concerns employees pose that could make or break your company culture.

If you’re truly striving to solve problems, be prepared to ask deeper follow up questions to really understand the issue. 

Be Proactive

An effective employee engagement strategy not only focuses on fixing problems, but proactively accounts for the propensities of future workers. It’s agile and proactive, not annual or reactive. To adapt to a quicker, technology-driven workforce, businesses need to be measuring employees at least once a quarter and making proper changes to keep their strategy relevant.

No one can predict the future, but we can certainly prepare for the patterns and emerging trends impacting the structure and success of businesses today. As digital technologies continue to play a starring role at work, it will become increasingly important to leverage new platforms and technologies to engage employees and build company culture. 

New trends in technology have the power to shape our company culture, but so do business leaders. Embrace and adapt to the digital revolution to maximize the success and happiness of employees.