New technology has been changing old working practices since business began. But although tech is more commonly applied to improve the customer experience or make services more efficient and workers more productive, could it also help when it comes to improving another common business drag-factor – that of limited employee engagement?
Disengaged workers cost a lot to companies. A study from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace in 2018 found loss of productivity is a growing issue in the workforce in the UK – on average, employees lost 35.6 days of productive time per year, compared with 23 days in 2014.
Over the years, technologies have been developed to help improve engagement for employees in different ways – enabling them, for example, to collaborate on projects and share files, run polls, chat and make video calls in real time. Unsurprisingly, online collaboration tools have become pretty popular among organisations over the years. Most companies today use an engagement platform, such as Slack, Flock or Workplace by Facebook, to some degree to help their employees communicate more efficiently and improve productivity.
Online collaboration tools have yielded some impressive results. Consumer credit firm TotallyMoney’s employee turnover fell from 64 to 23 per cent since it started using Peakon, another engagement platform, three years ago. Meanwhile, US property manager Colliers-Wisconsin cut meetings from 90 minutes to 30 by using automatic workflow processes.
Companies are also turning towards gamification software to train and reward staff, and keep them motivated while they are learning. Research last year by online learning platform TalentLMS found that 87 per cent of those surveyed said they were more productive, with 84 per cent saying they were more engaged and 82 per cent happier at work.
As technologies get more sophisticated, augmented and virtual reality devices are also starting to be used to help employees work together. NASA has been using Microsoft’s augmented reality system HoloLens – which overlays the real world with digital content and displays using a VR headset – for a few years now, helping ground-based project managers collaborate with astronauts on the International Space Station, as well as planning for the next Mars Rover mission scheduled for 2020.
The construction industry has also picked up on the potential for AR, and has been using it to share design plans and architectural models of buildings and resolve issues in real time.
The good news for companies looking at ways to increase employee engagement is that it’s an obvious, and potentially inexpensive, way to improve the bottom line. The Engaged Company Stock Index, which tracks the long-term results of organisations with high levels of customer, employee and community engagement, has found companies in this portfolio outperformed the S&P 500 by 37.1 percentage points since October 1, 2012.
So when organisations look at digital transformation as a whole, it might be a good idea to pay particular attention to technologies that can empower their own employees.