Can tech drive engagement?


Employers are searching for the magic formula that will increase employee engagement. Among the tools companies are considering are software platforms and applications designed to increase communication, collaboration and, ultimately, engagement. But can technology actually increase engagement or is it just the latest shiny new object? And, if it is effective, how does a company weed through the plethora of technological tools to find the one that will work best?

It’s not the tech tools themselves that drive engagement, but the productivity enabled by the tech tools, said Madhura Chakrabarti, employee engagement and people analytics research leader at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “A study published by Harvard Business Review, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, says that the extent we as employees make progress in day to day work is the biggest predictor of ongoing engagement.” Employees feel good about their work when they can be productive on a regular basis, she added.

When looking at technology to decrease disengagement, Chakrabarti said, it’s not just how much progress can be made with it, but how technology can remove derailers of engagement.

Engagement through improved communication
For Weight Watchers International, the derailer it faced was the inability of its 18,000 employees across the globe to have an easy, reliable way to communicate with others in their work locations and across the organization.

“We knew from employee surveys that there were silos. ‘Silos’ isn’t even an accurate term. There were divisions among certain groups in the organization,” said Stacie Sherer, senior vice president of corporate communications at Weight Watchers. With the separation of corporate and field employees, and a geographic gulf, the company had no way to come together physically and had no technology to bridge that gap, she said.

That disconnection didn’t match the organization’s culture; its roots as a weight management service were based on creating a sense of community. “We needed and wanted to work in a global mindset,” she said. Although Weight Watchers had some technology platforms, the experience was not seamless. The company also wanted to encourage more interaction within employee communications — emojis, comments, sharing — something that was more unwieldy to accomplish with the existing email system.

Sherer said the company used several criteria to select a technology tool. The software needed to have a simple process for employees to interact with each other and it had to be intuitive. The company sought something phone-friendly — an app that would enable the majority of Weight Watchers employees to connect from their mobile devices from work locations outside the corporate offices, like branded retail stores, places of worship and community centers.

Weight Watchers implemented Workplace by Facebook, a collaborative platform similar to the familiar Facebook, but designed for business. Where Facebook is friends-based, Workplace is based on groups, so employees in the same office location receive content, information and updates related to that group, Sherer said. “It’s an opportunity to make the employee experience much more personalized,” she said. Though 74% of the groups that use Workplace at Weight Watchers are team or project related, other groups have formed based on common interest, including a group for runners, parents, and health and wellness.


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