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Posted by TJ Keitt on March 26, 2013
Employee engagement is a hot topic in many C-suites today. There's a growing body of research that says engaged employees are productive employees, contributing positively to the bottom line. Forrester's own workforce research shows those who feel supported by managers, respected for their efforts, and encouraged to be creative are more inclined to recommend the company as a workplace or a vendor. So, we see a debate within the upper echelons of organizations on how best to create engaging workforce experiences which give an employee's contributions meaning, provide the flexibility they require to be successful, and continuously develop the skills they need to serve customers. It's critical that the CIO is at the table during these conversations. Why? Regardless of the talent retention and management strategy, technology will be necessary to help unlock the potential within the workforce.
The CIO at a large software vendor with a reputation for great employee engagement said it best: "Technology is expected, but [business leaders] do not think about how it enables people." Technology is an ambient part of the workspace. Businesses outfit their workforces with a range of gadgets and give them access to numerous systems which facilitate interactions, manage orders, track projects, store data, and more. Of course, deficiencies in these corporate toolkits lead employees to find and embrace things like iPhones, Galaxy Tabs, Dropbox, and Evernote on their own. But has anyone given serious consideration to how these disparate tools come together to help engage employees so they can properly support the customer?
Here is where the CIO can make a difference. Business leaders and employees cannot independently string together these diverse tools into a reliable, holistic, seamless, and secure experience that helps engage the workforce. The problem is the workforce does not believe the IT department can do this either. IT leaders will never be able to expand the conversation about how technology can enable employees or redefine the relationship between IT and employees if the focus is on provisioning and managing technology. The conversations CIOs should be driving is how to design technology experiences which align technology with specific work tasks to drive actions that help employees achieve the outcomes they, and the business, desire. Making this shift means IT leaders must:
We don't pretend that this transition is going to be easy. There is a history of poor interactions between employees and IT which has resulted in workers giving their IT departments low satisfaction scores. However, businesses need technology to support their emerging global, mobile, cosmopolitan workforces. Simon Yates and I are working on a strain of research, which we refer to as Workforce Experience, focused on helping IT leaders tackle the issues raised above. I will be moderating a panel at our CIO Forum in May in which I discuss this transformation with State Street's Ed Flahive, Razorfish's Ray Velez, and CHG Healthcare's Mike Peterson.
As we delve deeper into this research, we're interested in hearing from you. How is your IT department supporting employee engagement? How has it changed the organization? How has it changed your relationship to the business? This is an important conversation and we hope that you're interested in engaging in it.