Digital Transformation to Improve Employee Engagement by Daniel Wright

It's 2020, and given this year, no one could argue that we're firmly in the digital age. While companies in the past would compete with low prices or efficient delivery, today companies are competing with customer experiences. This shift towards a more customer-centric way of working wouldn't have been possible without digital transformation. 

Today, companies cultivate memorable experiences for customers in multiple forward-thinking ways. They create apps that offer heightened convenience. They offer multiple communication channels like live chat, chatbots, phone, email, contact forms, and so on. Companies insert themselves into the spaces their customers already are, like Facebook and Twitter, all to sustain an open line of communication and bolster customer happiness. The underlying technologies that make this new way of engaging with customers possible have created a profound shift in how we work. But does it stop at customer experience? What about employee experiences?

 

In an increasingly digital world, employee experiences are also being changed for the better. We live in a world where remote working is becoming the new norm, where cloud technology empowers employees to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, and a world where previously siloed teams can now collaborate in ways simply not possible in the past. However, when it comes to improving employee engagement, companies must be strategic and deliberate in their approach. 

According to a study by FastTrack360, 71% of executives surveyed said that employee engagement is critical to their company's success[1]. With this in mind, let's look at the ways digital transformation can be used to improve employee engagement. 

 

How Digital Transformation Improves Employee Engagement

The War on Talent and Improving Employee Retention

Whilst it's true that all companies want to attract talented candidates, it's important to remember that this relationship is mutual. People want to work for companies that offer an agile learning environment where they can continually develop their skills. Ambitious and talented people look to workplaces with intense digital disruption to fulfil this desire. 

Gone are the days where the average employee would spend 40 years with a company, collect their Time-In-Service awards, and retire. The reasons for this are far too numerous to get into here, but there are some key points we can consider:

  • The loyalty gap - According to research, 75% of employees feel they are loyal to their employer, but only 54% believe their employer is loyal to them[2]
  • The cost of staying employed - Many companies fail to understand that for an employee, staying employed at their company can cost the employee in terms of increased pay they would get elsewhere, or stagnation of skills. 

 

Addressing the Loyalty Gap Through Digital Transformation

The key to addressing the loyalty gap is understanding why it exists in the first place. Employees find it easy to measure their loyalty to the company they work for. They might think things like "I work late when there's an important project on", "I take part in optional activities to better myself and my team", "I go beyond my core responsibilities to raise concerns or offer solutions that can better the company". Very few conscientious employees would measure loyalty by simply saying "I give 8 hours a day to this company". Why? Because conscientious employees understand that this is expected of them. 

The loyalty gap occurs when employees perceive the company as only fulfilling the company's contractual (expected) obligations. Employees can feel disenfranchised if they feel they are continually giving maximum effort to the company, but this effort isn't matched in return. It can also occur when employees feel their wants and needs aren't considered by the company. 

Here are some ways digital transformation can be used to address this issue:

  • Remote working - With cloud services and offering a broader range of company devices, employees can work effectively from home. Work-life balance has become a top priority for many people looking for employment, or a key consideration of people considering switching companies. 
  • Dynamic and flexible training - With e-learning software and portable company devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones, employees can learn new skills more efficiently. Personal development becomes a continual self-led process. When employees don't need to wait for dedicated training courses that disrupt their workflow, they can actually learn more skills and more often. 
  • Eliminating or limiting menial tasks - Digital platforms complete with automated processes and efficient workflows can significantly reduce the number of menial tasks employees have to perform. Although some menial tasks might be necessary to keep the company going, they aren't fulfilling for employees. When employees have little creative output, they feel their job lacks agency. 

 

Addressing the Cost of Staying Employed Through Digital Transformation 

When it comes to digital transformation, key decision-makers in the company must work to continually offer value to employees. When it comes to employee compensation, salary or pay rises are only one part of the equation. Most employees will weigh up all the compensation they receive at a company, including how their skills are nurtured and the benefits of working at a forward-thinking company. 

Digital transformation and keeping up with technology trends is becoming the norm. This is now expected by many employees across every industry and very business, whether large or small. People are increasingly understanding that there is a cost to staying at a company that isn't embracing digital in a sustained or aggressive way. Simply by staying at a company that isn't focusing on digital, some employees can be putting themselves at risk of stagnating. These employees might be worried that they are missing out on the necessary skills to thrive in a modern workplace, and will leave the company to get these skills elsewhere. 

 

The Cost to the Company 

One study found that the average employee exit costs the company 33% of that employee's annual salary[3]. When an employee leaves a business, the company doesn't just lose talent. They lose the time invested in that employee, the cost of training, their impact on company culture, and more. Talented employees attract more talent, and you can keep talented employees happy through digital transformation. 

For CIOs and other key decision-makers, digital transformation can also offer other unique improvements to employee acquisition and retention. When digital transformation is utilized effectively, more people stay in their roles for longer, thereby improving retention seemingly without focusing on retention. This can have a stabilizing effect for decision-makers who are often held accountable for employee attrition rates. When CIOs are seen to be supporting the wider goals of the company like improving talent acquisition or improving retention, they can prove their worth and secure a seat at the executive table where they have even greater influence. 

 

How Digital Transformation Creates Happier Employees

I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised. - Richard Branson 

 

More choices

Employees are people, and people are a varied bunch. We all have our own preferences when it comes to how we work most effectively and efficiently. With digital transformation, employers can offer more choice to employees over the devices and software they use. Some employees prefer to work on a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) basis. Other staff prefer to use tablets like iPads. Some prefer to work on a desktop, while others prefer the portability of a laptop. Some people prefer to work with the Windows operating system, while others prefer to work with macOS. Providing more choice is one way of showing your employees that you appreciate them, and a study by HubSpot found that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt better appreciated[4]

 

Increasing the Accessibility of Information

Accessibility and transparency of information can have a profound effect on the way we work. In a world where offices are increasingly dotted around the world in different locations, it's becoming unfeasible to have dedicated core teams like HR in every location. With digital transformation, this isn't needed. With SaaS and cloud solutions, employees can access core functions from anywhere. They can also find important information or use dedicated apps from anywhere.

 

Remote Working

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on the way we work. Many companies have been forced to move to a remote way of working, seemingly overnight. Many companies were already making the shift towards a more flexible and remote way of working, and it's fair to say the transition was easier for these companies. They already had the tools and technology ready to go. 

The pandemic hasn't just changed the way we work in the short term, but for many companies, this shift towards remote working will now be permanent. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, has recently said that Twitter employees will now be able to work from home 'forever'. German-based industrial manufacturing company, Siemens, also reached the headlines for saying that 140,000 of their employees can work from anywhere forever[5]

 

What Does Improved Employee Experience Mean for Companies?

  • Improved Glass Door Reviews - Prospective employees are putting your company under a microscope just as much as you are doing to them. They are utilizing review sites like GlassDoor to get a comprehensive and unbiased view of what it's like to be an employee at your company. The only way to improve Glass Door reviews is to improve your employee experiences. 
  • Improved Staff Retention - It's estimated that in the UK, the average cost of replacing an employee is £12,000[6]. This can be crippling for many businesses if the employee turnover rate is high. 
  • Improved Employee Survey Scores - Surveys are a great way to find the baseline level of employee satisfaction and help the company make actionable goals. Great employee survey scores can be an excellent marketing tactic, attracting highly skilled talent to the business. 
  • Removing Stress and Friction for Employees - Friction can be the time lost in using clunky and unresponsive tech, or how the employee's job is made harder through limited options. The situations cause stress and reduce happiness and efficiency in the workplace. 

 


 [1] https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know

[2] http://press.careerbuilder.com/2017-12-07-Nearly-Three-in-Four-Employers-Affected-by-a-Bad-Hire-According-to-a-Recent-CareerBuilder-Survey

[3] https://www.benefitnews.com/news/avoidable-turnover-costing-employers-big?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000&utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=ebnmagazine&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

[4] https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2020/07/27/siemens-says-that-140000-of-its-employees-can-work-from-anywhere/#687234a66a44

[6] https://www.accountsandlegal.co.uk/small-business-advice/average-employee-cost-smes-12-000-to-replace

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Daniel Wright founded Monochrome Consultancy, specialising in Digital Transformation, IT Transformation and Project & Programme Delivery.

With his background in IT and InfoSec Dan is a techie at heart.

For more on Dan and/or Monochrome visit: www.monochromeconsultancy.co.uk