Employee engagement is certainly a topic close to my heart and is one which I have typically discussed from a synergy, leadership and/or emotional intelligence (EQ) view.

However in this article, I would like to focus on how technology plays a key part in this entire process and how it plays an essential role in impacting employee retention and success.

Low employee engagement has an impact which is certainly not alien to us; to name a few:

  • Low morale across the company/ team due to a revolving door situation.
  • Negative impact on productivity, which subsequently affects the team’s ability to meet deadlines and the company’s deliverables.
  • The high cost of rehiring and retraining involved.
  • Loss of customer confidence, particularly if key customer-facing employees are no longer around or are frequently changing.


The Need for a Proper Onboarding Process

One of the most important aspects of an employee’s journey is the onboarding or orientation process which take place in their first few weeks at the new workplace.

Many companies miss out on this step and go straight into getting the new employee into “production” mode or straight into reading technical materials needed to get them ready to start “delivering”.

The onboarding session is key to ensuring they are ready and are prepared from “a big picture” perspective about what the organisation does, key people to liaise with within the organisation to get relevant information, key do’s and dont’s, and what to expect in the upcoming weeks.

This is important to ensure they are comfortable not only with the environment but are also empowered to ask rather than to shy away from seeking help. This also promotes healthy conversation between the new employee and their supervisor.

Overall, the entire onboarding goes beyond name introductions but gets them introduced to “This is How we Work in Company X”.


The Evolution of the Onboarding Process

With advancements in technology, there are now tools which simplifies the onboarding experience and provides a unique and welcoming experience for new hires.  

Google’s G Suite for example, provides a host of collaboration tools that eases the onboarding process:

  1. Google Calendar – For Human Resources to schedule and send out separate onboarding sessions e.g. for every newbies to have a coffee session with each head of department.
  2. Google Document and Google Slide – Proposal templates and presentation decks for newbies to Make a Copy of
  3. Google Sheet – Claims form templates which they can use in future
  4. Google Sites
  • To set up as a one stop go-to portal of information e.g. online training links and product videos
  • Access to internal memo and communications e.g. team building videos which would help serve as a guided tour of the company they are joining.

Trello, a project management app, gives an interesting perspective on onboarding by preparing a Before Day 1 list which indicates what the onboarding team needs to do before a newbie joins.

Once a new employee joins, an online Trello board with their name is added and they are tagged to relevant managers, mentors and IT staff who are their “go-to’s”. This is so that they can easily identify the stakeholders who are supposed to help them through those tasks.

These tasks are placed on “To Do” cards which the employee can mark complete as they have gone through and done what is required i.e. filling up the required paperwork.

The board is also customised for different employees – with different backgrounds and different team information.

The above examples provide a way to structure and ensure that key things to learn and know are documented as part of an effective process to onboard a newbie.


Nothing Can Replace the Human Element

However, it is important that the human factor is not lost in this entire journey. An actual tour besides the virtual version, such as handshakes (not just the virtual Hellos), and making them their first cup of coffee (other than merely showing a display of photos/videos of the office), goes a long way in humanising and breaking the ice for newbies.

The impact and initiative taken in the first few days to weeks of an employee’s journey at a new workplace is extremely key in influencing their journey with the company.

Whilst you and your buddies at work have already bought into the company brand and have grown somewhat loyal to the organisation, it is important to realise that different individuals take different periods of time to acclimatize and settle down.

Their first impression – just like in all other situations – is something we build a foundation upon through onboarding, and it isn’t just about the initial handshakes and greetings.

The company really has one shot at making an impression on a newbie.


The Wide Learning Opportunities

Once newbies are in through the door, the learning journey begins and various platforms can provide opportunities to ease and accelerate learning.

Sites such as Udemy allows newbies to pick up new skills/ gain new knowledge at their own pace. Being cloud-based, newbies get to access and learn from anywhere and at anytime e.g. on the train during their work commute or even at the gym while on the treadmill. This certainly breaks down barriers by democratising the learning experience.

Salesforce for example, has done extensive work not just to provide a similar experience but to also gamify the learning experience by introducing badges and seniority levels (Scout, Hiker, Explorer, and Adventurer). This is part of its Trailblazer learning platform which caters not only to new users (customers) but partners as well.

Different generations learn and adopt differently. Yes, technology is key to automating and easing business processes, however, technology does not substitute the need for face-to-face interactions which continues to remain relevant.

The blended learning approach is something certainly key i.e. not taking the extremes of only online learning or only physical mentoring as a means to learn. Expectations with a clear guide would help team members be clear on the plan, timeline, and what is expected of them to be considered “on track” in their progress within the organisation.


Retaining Existing Employees

Innovation in technology typically gets focused in the area of sales or customer engagement where it is understood as where the money lies. However technology focused on employees as a form of “customer” has been growing in recent times.

Typical automation technologies we may be familiar with are workforce management, employee appraisal systems, and off course, payroll. However, further intelligence are being incorporated into these tools e.g. with workforce management solutions now including location intelligence functions, skill set matching, and suggestions of tasks and actions.

A local integrated HR consultancy firm, Accendo, is an example of a company that uses technology to digitise and virtualise the entire talent lifecycle.

They analyse behavioural data and extracts insights about people within a company to enable their clients to make informed decisions e.g. to identify top performers, areas of individual development and track their development. This is a great example of how technology is being used to monitor employee engagement. 


Technology in Employee Engagement 

Technology is great in the way that it has evolved significantly. Today, we have the choice of whether are we ready for this versus is the technology ready for us and our needs. It is no longer an option with regards to whether an organisation should adopt technology.

The question one needs to ask is what are the organisation’s objectives, its roadmap, its budget, and are the current processes working/ optimised. Only then should we think about how can technology augment what we aim to achieve.

The CEO of Accendo Sharma KSK Lachu once said this: “It’s important to remember that technology is an enabler for what you are trying to achieve. If your process is rubbish, technology is just going to enhance that.”

Technology can indeed help us with employee engagement, but we must also be smart about the role it plays.

This article was written by Mithran Balakrishnan, the Commercial Director at Lava Protocols.

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