Employee engagement is a growing concern for many businesses. This is especially true for companies that have fully implemented digital workplaces and those that are looking to upgrade outdated systems. Technological improvements aren’t cheap, and there’s nothing worse than pouring resources into a new tool and then realizing that employees aren’t using it effectively.

What most organizations fail to recognize is that employee engagement has little to do with the tools and systems themselves, and everything to do with corporate culture and the way work gets done.

What Successful Employee Engagement Is

Typically, when organizations reach out to the advisory firm I work for with questions about how to cultivate employee engagement, the conversation revolves around concerns regarding adoption of new technologies, or the lack thereof. The emphasis is on the people who use the tools, and not on adopting innovative work processes or changing mindsets and behaviors.

We often hear top-level executives say, “Technology X would be great; we need to start sharing content more.” But if their employees aren’t already collaborating and sharing professional information, then the executives shouldn’t expect that they will begin to do that just because the organization deploys a new or updated digital environment.

What exactly does successful employee engagement look like, and how do we get there?

In order to achieve successful engagement, or the everyday adoption of internal collaborative technologies, organizations have to instill the principles of information sharing and transparent communication throughout their corporate cultures.

Related Article: Building the Powerful Pyramid of Employee Engagement

How Technology Can Influence a Collaborative Corporate Culture

It’s important to understand that technology cannot be the catalyst that shapes corporate culture — the “if you build it, they will come” approach isn’t effective at driving long-term change. The key is finding opportunities, or points of tension, where technology can make viable improvements to inefficient processes; when employees see that a new tool will make their lives easier, they will be more likely to incorporate it into their day-to-day activities.

A great example of this is how Nationwide’s implementation of Microsoft Yammer drove change across the entire organization by streamlining communication.

Yammer is an enterprise social networking tool that is part of the Office 365 suite. It can give employees in various locations an effective way to communicate with one another.

Nationwide rolled out Yammer to customer service agents across the United States and offered training programs to teach people how to use it to effectively communicate internally. With Yammer, the customer service reps were able to share all types of internal information that enabled them to be drastically more responsive and provide more useful and actionable advice to customers.

Nationwide found and isolated a core business problem, invested in a technology to address that problem directly, and saw extensive employee engagement because of it.

Learning Opportunities

How was the company able to execute the implementation so effectively? By prioritizing the improvement of processes directly related to its core objective of “member satisfaction,” and by looking beyond IT to analyze how best to approach the improvement.

Related Article: Employee Engagement: From Buzzword to Business Value

Employee Engagement Is a Cross-Departmental Initiative

When putting together an employee engagement initiative for a digital workplace, first look outside your IT department. Talk with various department heads about the challenges they face and hold focus groups for employees working in the trenches to talk about the roadblocks they run into most often.

Insider tip: Many users don’t think their work processes have any problems or points of tension. You may not get any responses if you simply ask them what their pain points are. Most of us don’t know what we don’t know — meaning we’re not sure what (if any) technology can help us reduce barriers.

If your organization already has a digital workplace and employees aren’t using the technologies available to them, step back and get direct feedback from users. In our experience, employees are often very open and honest about why they aren’t engaging with a tool. By talking to the users directly, you can determine what the barriers to adoption are. Focus on smaller groups, and gradually move from business unit to business unit. Overarching initiatives can work, but the messaging and transformation need to be simple and straightforward.

Related Article: Are People Analytics the Answer to Your Employee Engagement Woes?

Focus on Core Values

A good starting point in addressing corporate culture and employee engagement is to revisit your organization’s core values. Do employees know the core values by heart? Can they identify examples of the values in action through business operations?

A digital workplace or similar technology implementation can be a powerful tool that aligns operations to core values. Like Nationwide, organizations will see technical deployments succeed if they look for ways to use new technologies to reinforce or improve their values. By looking there first, Nationwide was able to leverage its digital workplace as a point of innovation in a central process, which in turn maximized employee engagement. The company was able to take the successful adoption of a new technology and incorporate it into a more productive and efficient business process.

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