Monday, 3 February 2020

Talking tech: information is not engagement


At an event last week, I heard some worrying words about the role of tech in employee engagement.

Ostensibly, the event was celebrating the difference that tech can make to engaging a dispersed workforce. A premise that I absolutely agree with: within a planned and co-ordinated channel mix, and with a clear role in a wider plan, digital tools and tactics are incredibly helpful.  

However, there were a few statements during this event to the effect that using tech helps you reach more employees, and once they have more information as a result, they will be engaged. That’s it, nothing more needed.

Not the exact words used, but that was the gist of the point being expressed.

This worried and surprised me: it was a throwback to the non-digital days in which a senior external comms colleague once suggested my job essentially involved the use of kitchen posters and mouse mats to share “stuff”. In other words, just put info out there and the job is done.

We’ve moved a long way since then, as a communication profession and a business world. Wave after wave of studies, surveys and case studies have demonstrated the difference that building strong connections, based on two-way communication, makes to employers and employees alike. The explosion of new technology offers many opportunities to take that further.

However, digital tools can only help us achieve that if they are used in the right way. To share information, yes, but also to build dialogue that helps individuals and teams discuss, interpret and respond to the company’s ‘direction of travel’. To nurture the commitment and common purpose that every organisation needs to thrive. As part of wider efforts to align the way the organisation works with the drivers of engagement.

That requires more than posting “stuff”, no matter what the channel. Suggesting anything otherwise risks going back to those dark days and the modern-day equivalent of a mouse mat.

Let’s not risk reviving misconceptions about what employee engagement is and involves. Let’s talk about the role tech plays in a wider context. It will be much more beneficial for everyone involved.

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