4 Ways to Use Technology to Engage -- Not Distract -- Employees
Like money and power, technology can be used for good -- or for evil. In the case of your employees, it can be a wonderful tool for engagement or an effective source of distraction. The first thing you should consider before introducing any form of technology into your office, whether it be inter-office websites, PowerPoint presentations, or Twitter accounts, is what purpose it will serve. Ask yourself this question and have employees do the same. "This question keeps awareness levels high and encourages employees to use technology wisely. When we consider what the technology is to accomplish, we keep it in check so that it doesn't rule us," says executive coach Stephanie Somanchi. Once you decide to incorporate a piece of digital media into your team’s operations, here’s how to make it work for -- not against -- you.
Form a unified front
Whether or not you draw up a formal online "code of conduct", employees need to have clear direction as to how to best represent the company online. "Establish clear social media policies based around exercising good judgment not through [a threat of] withdrawal of access. First and foremost, the priority should be to support the company and to follow through and complete projects and assignments on a timely basis. Second, to maintain absolute and undivided discretion regarding company policy and initiatives," notes Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. Time limits are a particularly important topic to address. For instance, how long is too long before responding to an email? How much time should an employee spend on Twitter a day?
Use tech for a purpose
Help focus your employees by not only laying out ground rules for usage, but encouraging them to participate in professional groups on Twitter and its counterparts. "Many professional associations host daily industry discussions on their Facebook pages, and Twitter chats on a number of topics from leadership, career management, and specific business sectors. Technology and social media can be used to engage with new contacts that could benefit the organization, as well as new ideas and trends that might not be apparent internally," says consultant Tracy Brisson, founder of The Opportunities Project. The key is guiding employees in a way that increases engagement in their work, instead of offering them up a nice distraction from their day.
Urge people to keep things short and simple
Whether emailing, instant messaging or Tweeting, digital communications are meant to be succinct. Encourage your employees to keep their online communications to the point, for maximum effectiveness and to prevent them from becoming a time suck. "When you communicate too much, what you say simply loses its meaning. It’s smart policy to be selective when deciding to correspond via email or text, as it gives your words more weight," says Gary Malin, president of the Citi Habitats real estate firm in New York City.
Encourage people to interact face-to-face
Technology shouldn’t replace in-person or over-the-phone interactions. Emailing hides subtleties in tone and message that can only be revealed using your voice and facial expressions. "All of these nuances are lost when using email and many other technologies to communicate. If you read the written word, there is always room for misunderstanding the message. At Citi Habitats, we try to use a mix of old and new when it comes to communicating with our employees and clients," says Malin.
Heed these tips and soon technology will be helping -- not hurting -- employee engagement at your office.