[Employee Engagement MEANS Engaging WITH Employees – from Paul Hebert-Vice President Solution Design. Read more about him on our Leadership page.]
We all want (need?) to do more with less. That’s the promise of technology. And employee engagement isn’t immune to that thinking. Whether SaaS based or old-school dedicated, custom programs – the selling point for technology-based solutions is more, better, faster, cheaper. The technology becomes the end – not the means – and that is a problem.
At the heart of employee engagement is the employee – and the people within the organization that interact with that employee.
Never has an employee said –
“I’d be more engaged if I had more ways to NOT spend time with people. What I really need to be more engaged at my company is technology that allows me to not talk to people and let’s me do all my connecting through my computer screen, smart phone and tablet. I wish I could use technology to further isolate me as an employee.”
Well – maybe Sheldon has said that but the rest of us – we need more “human” interactions – not fewer.
Don’t get me wrong – technology has a place – an important one – when used to enable the face-2-face and personal side of the employee engagement equation. But we often end up using technology as a substitute for, not an enabler of, employee engagement. I like tech. I think it is a great way to free up humans to do human things like talk to each other, have coffee and learn about what others are working on, get to know each other on a more personal level.
But technology isn’t employee engagement. (Click here to tweet that.)
I’ve done a couple of presentations lately on how to humanize employee engagement and one of the concepts I discuss is the negatives associated with being connected via technology – but not connected in real life. Technology is great at making us “feel” connected without really being connected. A great quote on that point of view I use in my presentation is from Dr. Anna Akbari, a “Digital Happiness Professor” at New York University, when she said:
“Twitter has allowed us to be part of a movement without actually moving.” (Click this to tweet that.)
And I think that applies in our corporate world as well. Many employees can now can hide behind email, yammer, wikis, sharepoint, etc. They don’t have to look each other in the eye and make a promise – they can just check a box on a shared group to-do list in Basecamp. They’re “involved” – but at a distance. But are they engaged?
Recently a new study from Michigan showed that Facebook may undermine your satisfaction with life. The study asserts that Facebook may help people feel connected, but it won’t necessarily make them happier.
To quote from the reference article:
“On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection,” says University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the article and a faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research.
“But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result—it undermines it.”
“This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people’s lives,” says cognitive neuroscientist John Jonides, another author of the paper.
Granted – many of the technology solutions within an organization aren’t “social networks” per se – but they often serve similar functions – updating, connecting, alerting, storing and sharing information in a technologically connected way. All that connecting has the unintended consequence of eliminating the need for face-2-face (heck – even voice-2-voice would be better – it’s call the phone!) connections.
My net-net when I talk about humanizing employee engagement is this…
Use the tech to enable your engagement activities but work hard to find ways to meet, talk and connect in human ways.
In other words – as Captain Picard would say – Engage!