Thursday, 7 August 2014

Is technology really that new?

Amid the usual torrent of articles trumpeting some new technology within the workplace, a couple of surveys caught my eye. The first, from PwC and covered by HR Magazine, says more than half of employees believe technology will significantly change the world of work in the next 5-10 years. The second, from Hay, highlights technological convergence as one of the megatrends shaping the future of employee engagement.

Once I had got past the use of the word ‘megatrend’ by Hay (ugh!), I was bowled over by the complete lack of news here. Technology changing the way we work? And offering new opportunities for engagement? Surely not?!
It does not take Sherlock Holmes to see that technology has been re-shaping things for many years. The way we work, the hours we keep, the locations we work from have all become much more varied as a result. The tools we use to engage employees now are, in some cases, very different to those used five or ten years ago. And those tools will evolve again in the next five-ten years. That’s life.

Organisations have coped with this to date, responding to trends (note to Hay: not ‘megatrends’) and harnessing – or at least recognising – how evolving technology can help.  Some cope better than others, and some use technology more effectively than others. All will continue to be courted by new tools purporting to be the answer to their engagement dreams (or nightmares) in the years ahead.
But we must remember the purpose such tools exist to serve. Because however dazzling the range of current options, and the new opportunities that will arise, the principles of engagement remain the same. Every organisation must analyse the role engagement should play within business goals, and then develop a framework to inspire, challenge and support diverse employees to play their part. New technology will have a role. But the framework should harness such tools, rather than being built around them.