Harnessing technology to boost employee interaction and engagement
The term ‘social technology' was coined at the end of the 19th century, well before Tim Berners-Lee created the internet as we know it, as a way to apply the use of social science theories through technology for specific societal purposes.
However, at the beginning of the 21st century it took a new definition: technology that facilitates social interaction enabled by a communications capability.
But in everyday terms, social technology is now used to group together the likes of social media, content sharing sites, mobile devices and the internet.
In the UK, our online time equates to two whole days per month spent logging into e-mails, checking friends' comings and goings or reading the latest celebrity gossip.
For businesses, embracing technology has its obvious benefits, including easier and cheaper marketing channels, streamlined operating procedures and access to a wealth of data that previously was never measured.
But it has also empowered the guest. They can book online and be guided to a hotel or restaurant by their phone and pre-order and pay using an app.
This same growth in the use of technology also applies to employee interaction and engagement. In its latest research, HR consultant Silkroad found that just 57% of businesses were looking to implement social technology within their people strategy this year.
Companies have not yet embraced this technology as part of their practice. Generation Y and Z expect to use digital sources for daily interactions, so it is vital that companies understand how to use this technology for their people, as well as their clientele.
Jo Harley is a director at Purple Cubed, which specialises in improving people engagement, company performance and profit. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Start at the beginning Careers pages speak volumes about you as an employer and an organisation. They demonstrate your culture, your values and the ‘what's in it for me?' element, ensuring that the right people apply first time.
This is why some businesses create their own career communities. For instance, PizzaExpress's job site incorporates video, Twitter feeds and lots of interactive images.
Corporate caterer ISS Food and Hospitality employees can access an app which includes the company story, what's going on in different departments and the Tweets of the senior team - all before they begin the job. This means that by the time they walk through the door, they already have a head start on the culture, the values and business in general and can get to work faster.
2. Inspire creativity Social technology is about driving communication and collaboration. This used to be carried out in lengthy meetings with note-taking on a whiteboard, but now online tools allow discussion to be carried out online by employees in different locations all around the world. All it takes is a quick document upload and a notification sent to the relevant people for the inspiration to start flowing. Even better, everything is saved online for easy reference.
3. Get people talking Engaged employeesdon't only want to be listened to - they want to offer their opinion, too. Companies can give them a voice by creating an online forum or issuing an electronic survey. However, make sure you monitor anything you set up, respond in a timely manner and explain why change can or cannot be actioned.
To support this, daily conversation can be encouraged through an intranet or 'people hub', such as Purple Cubed's new Talent Toolbox. Through these, employees can share their knowledge, successes and 'like' other updates in an informal way. As a business you can post updates and stories from across the organisation, demonstrating excellence and perhaps even inspiring a little competition among employees.
4. Drive performance online Regular performance discussions should be the norm in all businesses, encouraging the manager and employee to have an open discussion about performance and aspirations.
However, business pressures can take over and this conversation isn't given the attention it deserves. And, if the review happens, it's usually rushed and writing up the notes can be forgotten, meaning no clear actions are recorded.
The solution is to automate the process, saving time, money and effort. Since joining restaurant operator Tragus, HR director Sara Edwards has put performance discussions online for managers and has seen a real uplift in performance. Across the business this includes a 25% reduction in labour turnover, a 9% increase in employee engagement and a saving of £100,000 in recruitment fees through a better internal pipeline.
There are several online options available, which are simple, easy to complete and provide detailed reporting.
5. Create learning groups In its Social Technology, Social Business? report, the CIPD found that a third of all employees use social platforms for personal development. This is a fantastic opportunity for employers to create learning groups online using the wealth of content available.
Organisations such as content provider BluebottleBiz collates all of the business titles, magazines and papers an employee might need. From sites such as this, you can build
learning groups on specific subjects and use the content to create a learning pathway to be shared with your team. Sites such as Tedx, YouTube and Pinterest can support this by compiling playlists or pinboards of images.