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The Arrival Of “Enterprise Social”
This is the right time to invest in technology for better employee engagement – the need exists, there is proven technology available and the upside of happy employees and healthy bottom lines makes an unbeatable argument.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly ensured that organizations are treating their employees better than ever before. They are concerned about the health of their employees, their financial security, the infrastructure available to them to work from home, and in several instances, many are assisting furloughed employees find short-term jobs. But most of all, organizations are investing heavily in keeping their employees engaged. The unusual mix of social isolation, workplace uncertainty and new processes is leaving employees disconnected from their organizations. One recent US-based study showed that 73 percent of organizations had increased their employee engagement. Their investments showed immediate returns: From a low of 70 percent being highly engaged in February 2020, the number shot up to 83 percent being highly engaged by late March 2020. Intuition tells us that the metrics for other parts of the world will be similar. So, three cheers for employees getting a good deal!
But you can imagine the herculean effort put in by HR teams and leaders to achieve these results. Creating new employee programs, monitoring employees, acquiring feedback, tracking efficacy and improving processes for a large number of remote workers is difficult. But in times like these employee engagement needs to be kept in sharp focus and must increase. It can be done, but the stress on HR teams, as they become accountable for improved communication, wellbeing programs, remote skills improvement guidance, etc., can be debilitating. Is there a way to use technology to improve employee engagement without exhausting HR teams and leadership team members? There is—and the business opportunity in employee engagement applications is significant.
The opportunity is so big that Microsoft’s Chief Executive Satya Nadella went public, saying that the COVID-19 crisis would result in employee management applications that would outlast the pandemic.iv His company has quickly unveiled a new category of technology solutions called employee experience platforms (EXP) with Viva that “provides a single-entry point for employee engagement and internal communications.” Microsoft calls Viva a gateway to the digital workplace.v It includes human resource functions like payroll, tools to track employee performance, career development initiatives, etc.
We know these employee engagement applications are not just good-to-have. They are critical. They allow organizations to keep employees connected, binding them to company goals and culture, improving productivity and loyalty. In the pre-pandemic era, this was achieved through on-site and off-site company events and celebrations. These helped employees share their achievements, appreciate others, understand company goals and discuss common concerns, bringing them closer together.
In our own company, Microland, we have first-hand knowledge and experience of using an EXP. We’ve built a mobile based EXP, called MicrolandOne, from scratch. It was launched in 2017 and has matured considerably over the last 3.5 years.
Over 4,500 of our employees spread across the globe use it on an everyday basis. It is the first screen that employees look at when they wake up each morning, much like the rest of the world looks at Facebook, Twitter, Signal or their email when they get out of bed. MicrolandOne provides quick updates about developments in the organization, shows upcoming events, learning opportunities, functions, discussions within a variety of interest groups (ranging from biking to hiking), provides quick onboarding for new employees, access to company policies, facilities, details of customers, polls, surveys, and complete access to attendance records, expenses, leave applications, loans, salary details, performance management and a help line for practically every work-place related query. Large parts of the platform are community driven and we like to think of it as “social media for the enterprise”. And secretly, I like to believe that millennials see it as a reflection of the progressive approach we embrace.
Several such HR tools are filling the demand created by the “new normal”. Organizations will do well to examine these for use during – and much after – the pandemic. There is Darwinbox, ADP Workforce Now,vii ZohoPeople,viii PeopleStrongix and dozens of others to pick from, depending on business needs and organization size.
There is urgency to invest in these platforms and applications. If businesses want to tap into the positive changes being forced by the pandemic, they need to explore and experiment so they can beat employee disengagement before it impacts operations and bottom lines. One study by the Harvard Business Review has shown just how important employee engagement is to growth and survival: The study found that 71 percent believed that business success was a factor of employee engagement. The two factors ahead of employee engagement were customer service (80 percent) and effective communication (73 percent).
The pandemic has introduced widespread and irrevocable change into society and business. Travel has been reduced to a trickle, face to face meetings have become few and far between, office rentals are falling, organizations are breaking away from 8-hour work days, and the hunt is on for safer and less expensive ways to operate at scale. Salesforce summed it up well when it recently declared that “the 9-5 workday is dead; work is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks”.xi The company is providing its employees with greater flexibility in deciding how to structure their work and their schedules in a remote work environment.
For decades we have known that engaged employees make for better business. Studies have also supported this: Organizations that score the highest on employee engagement show 21 percent higher profitability. This is the right time to invest in technology for better employee engagement – the need exists, there is proven technology available and the upside of happy employees and healthy bottom lines makes an unbeatable argument.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.