receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure


The Digital Shift: Embracing New Technology and Engaging Your Employees

Ted Novak
Ted Novak

New technology can help you foster a culture that can retain and grow a talented team.

Hot topics like big data, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and machine learning aren’t merely buzzwords. They’re factors contributing to a profound change in the business landscape and, consequently, the way small- to medium-sized businesses operate within that landscape.

While many businesses have focused on these changes externally to position their brands, focusing on how these trends can be leveraged internally can help businesses tackle a different opportunity when it comes to employee engagement. Sites that publish salaries and reviews have flattened the compensation market. Sites like LinkedIn put your team members up for sale — they’re presented with new opportunities on a daily basis whether they’re looking or not. Some companies are addressing this by offering innovative benefits and cool perks; however, even that has become more of a norm, and you’ll always risk being outpaced by the Googles of the world.

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re an SMB looking to scale up, you need to make sure you’re fostering the right culture to retain and grow the talent that will get you there. Leveraging some of the same advantages technology has enabled with your external sales and marketing can translate nicely into building engagement with your employees by introducing a “digital culture.”

Introducing a Digital Culture Is Not a Light Switch

There are three main reasons why some companies find it difficult to leverage more digital technology within their organizations. First, “new and improved” to some people can feel like “change and work” to others. When digital aspects are introduced into a job function that has existed for years without them, the benefits to users aren’t always obvious. For instance, rolling out instant messaging, which is supposed to make collaboration easier, may feel like just another thing to monitor and respond to that didn’t exist before.

Some employees are simply set in their ways. Putting tools like document management systems or portals in place to automate or simplify common tasks takes time. Tagging and uploading a document to SharePoint or Dropbox — so everyone in your company has access to it anywhere — sounds like a major improvement over saving multiple versions and recreating content that already exists somewhere else. However, it necessitates a behavioral change. Your team has instinctively been doing things a certain way, and it needs to be retrained to adopt a new process.

Lastly, technology creates exposure. Digital innovations create more transparency, and that poses challenges within an organization. The activity of individuals contributing content, posting to message boards or updating content suddenly exposes more interactions and conversations. This can create feelings of competition in some, as there will be early adopters heavily participating compared to others who are great performers but aren’t as comfortable with the transparency. Key players in your organization who are contributing outside of the digital tools but not participating as much digitally may feel like they aren’t getting recognition.

All three challenges mean one thing: To successfully integrate new technologies into your workplace, employee engagement must become a priority.

Grabbing Engagement With Digital

Here are a few considerations for successfully integrating digital into your culture:

1. Look at what works outside of your business, and apply that inward. Currently, Americans spend nearly 20 percent of their time online on social media channels. We’re being mechanically trained to process information in the form of images, feeds and channels — and in many cases, the content we consume is targeted specifically to us.

SharePoint is not Facebook (though Facebook’s new enterprise platform, Workplace, is giving SharePoint users another option), but consider what social media elements can be incorporated into your enterprise technology and workflows. For example, you can imitate live feeds by integrating a document management system with your internal messaging tools. You can create channels of relevant content, show what documents are trending, and provide opportunities for teams to engage with organization-wide content.

Likewise, pay attention to the techniques advertisers use to insert their messaging into social media. You can mimic those by placing the information you want to communicate to your team alongside areas where team members spend the most time.

2. Involve your organization in the process. Process innovation depends on your employees. Ask different teams at all levels about their jobs, what could be better, and what interests them. Your deployment should feel like an answer to their needs, not an initiative being forced on them.

When digital technology doesn’t contain employee-centric components, it can feel like just one more thing the company is doing to get more work out of employees. Balancing the corporate benefits captured by productivity tools with fun, useful employee features takes the focus away from the corporate agenda and makes your digital initiatives feel more like a benefit than a new tool to use.

3. Clearly communicate your “why.” It’s not enough to tell your employees they have to start using a new tool simply because everyone else is. Communicate the business objectives that come along with that adoption. These can include:

  • Consistency. Increased internal digital communication is helpful in maintaining consistency of voice across your organization’s collateral and sales materials.
  • Collaboration. More digital interaction naturally leads to more collaboration. Sharing becomes a part of the job, so seeking and getting feedback no longer requires scheduled meetings. It can be done ad hoc through instant messaging tools.
  • Quality. A byproduct of increased collaboration is higher-quality work. This isn’t just a boon for your external brand; it can also have a major positive impact on employees’ job satisfaction.
  • Talent. Increased brand loyalty and overall engagement within the company will help you not only keep your best talent, but also attract more.

If you believe that a key to growing your business is your ability to retain and attract the best talent, you need to be building your brand and loyalty inward. Employee engagement isn’t a new concept; however, introducing a digital culture to achieve it might be. It also works.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Ted Novak
Ted Novak Member
Ted Novak is a partner and managing director at Clique Studios, where he helps build and introduce innovative solutions for the digital market. Based in Chicago, Clique Studios is an award-winning design and engineering company building digital experiences for high-growth organizations.