We live in an age of instant gratification, fuelled by smart phone technology which has young people hooked on constantly checking their devices for calls, texts, messages and notifications throughout the day. According to the Pew Research Center, 60% of the so-called millennial generation of 18-to-34-year-olds sleep right next to mobile phones in fear of missing out (that’s FOMO, in text speak) on alerts during the night.
In a world of Netflix and on-demand entertainment, patience is no more. Why stand in line to buy a cinema ticket when one swipe of an app lets you book a seat in seconds?
It’s a situation only likely to become more pronounced in the future; more than 70% of under eights have used a mobile device, whether for playing games or watching videos. That figure was 38% five years ago.
But this demand for quick responses is not only changing the way we communicate at home and on social media. It is also shifting the way we engage with colleagues in the workplace.
Traditionally, most employee engagement activity has made use of big annual surveys designed to check the temperature of staff morale and to source opinions from a range of stakeholders. You write the survey, send it out, await responses and collect the data. It can take three months from start to finish. By the time you have collated and analysed the responses, drawn up action plans and communicated the results back across the company, the issues deemed to be most important in the last quarter are no longer the most pressing at all. The moment has passed.
In the age of Facebook, where instant feedback in the shape of likes, shares and comments triggers immediate actions (even if that just happens to be making somebody feel better about themselves), these traditional approaches to staff engagement are dead in the water.
At Sage, we use an internal communication platform called Chatter. It frees up people’s email inboxes and offers us a way to talk to each other using instant messaging. You can segment people to chat in groups and it’s a great way to get instant responses to ideas, concepts, or just spreading company news. We are also currently exploring digital techniques to help capture the mood of our organization in real-time…more to come shortly.
Of course, employee engagement is not all about surveys and data. Fostering strong teams and good performance demands the right environment that encourages people to talk honestly and openly without fear. Break-out areas and open-plan offices have been really useful in creating a culture of positive communication.
And don’t be afraid to use video and teleconferencing technology to make those operating remotely feel part of the team.
My advice does, however, come with a warning. While new technologies and platforms offer great new ways of engaging staff, they also present more opportunities to fall into common traps. Just because the technology exists doesn’t mean that you should always use it; we’ve all heard horror stories of people being fired by text.
Similarly, if your company is going through a major transformation, stick to the good ol’ fashioned annual survey and dive deep into those results. You don’t want to miss a thing.
The plethora of communication tools on offer opens up employee engagement like never before. But in a world of buzzing iPhones, pinging emails and noisy Tweets, sometimes a quiet chat with your team over a cup of coffee works wonders.
By Andy Hill, Executive Vice President Talent and Resourcing, Sage