By Octavio Ballesta
The latest generation of social technologies allows for enhancing and enriching cooperation and communication dynamics among people as diverse as society itself and as scattered geographically as where the global company competes, adds market value, and innovates in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous scenarios of the knowledge economy.
We know with certainty that the best companies to work for are those where their employees are satisfied with what they do. These employees learn from the example of enlightened leaders who are transformers of strategic thinking. Similarly they are motivated by the benefits of excellent work-life balance programmes. They are also engaged emotionally through the meaning of the role they take on and their invaluable contribution to communities and markets served by their companies.
When these conditions converge, we will tap into the golden opportunity for developing agile, dynamic and flexible organizations that harness the talent of people who are committed to their company and closely tied to their leaders. These organizations will develop the enviable ability to transform markets at a greater speed than their competitors, thanks to their superior ability to innovate.
It is true that social and collaborative technologies are essential to building communities of practice, personalized learning environments and discussion groups that promote the management of corporate innovation as a genuine competitive differentiator.
But it is also true that by investing in state-of-the-art technologies, it is now possible to develop a new organizational architecture. One whose agility, flexibility and dynamism can be enhanced with the implementation of work-life balance programmes focused more on motivation, engaging talent that the company needs to attract, develop and retain today in order to stay competitive, viable and profitable under increasingly complex and challenging business circumstances.
Let’s analyze 10 key factors to ensure investment in social and collaborative technologies effectively strengthen well-being and engagement among our employees and leaders. These are:
Technology, a key factor but not enough
Even if it isn’t enough to enrich a work environment with enablers, technology is a key factor for increasing talent engagement, wellbeing and commitment as they bring life to an organization.
It is essential to have strong support from managers and leaders who understand that the goal to achieve is not to adopt the fad of the moment without much critical analysis. It does not make sense either to embrace the "revolutionary trend" put forward by the consultant of the time. It is foolish to race to be the first to implement the latest trends in technology.
Usually it is very common to underestimate the impact that the implementation of new technologies will have on employees, who are fearful of the prospect of losing their jobs, of being unable to adapt properly to the new skills and competencies required by the implementation of new systems and operational models.
Managers resisting the transformation process show their fear of giving up a cut of their power, when they refuse to share their untouchable spheres of influence. They then underestimate the role that technology plays as a transformational factor for the HR function.
The implementation of any technological application in the workplace potentially involves the transformation of practices, processes and systems; wherever people are involved whose morale, motivation and eagerness run the risk of dipping fast. This will occur if expectations, emotions and feelings are underestimated among people who may express their doubts and qualms, as to why the market and business assumptions justifying such changes have not been communicated systematically in a timely manner.
Implementing technology enablers for business transformation processes can be used to enhance the wellbeing and engagement of the most valuable asset of any company, their people.
The error of applying case study experiences to the letter
Analyzing successful case studies in other companies is irreplaceable as a point of departure for understanding what must be done to build warmer, more collaborative and human workplaces. The leverage technology offers for improving the standard of the work environment must be applied systematically to contribute to enhancing wellbeing and engagement among people who put their talent and the best part of their time to the service of the company.
The experiences and lessons learnt from these cases must not necessarily be extrapolated to apply then without major changes to the reality of a third-party company whose culture, processes and management style may be so different as to be irreconcilable.
We are talking about people who have dreams and certain expectations of a future full of opportunities for development within the company. We are handling the emotions of individuals willing to share their talent and devote their best efforts, when they perceive the company they work for really takes care of their satisfaction, progress and wellbeing.
Technologies to manage corporate branding
Corporate brand management with cutting-edge technologies bolsters the positive perception held by the company’s target audience. It can also strengthen further wellbeing and engagement among people who feel emotionally committed to their company and treat it as if it were their own.
To reach the goal of managing the corporate brand with strong technological leverage, it is essential for HR to work in coordination with professionals in the marketing and technology areas.
Implementing these technologies without concerted efforts between these functional areas and without explicit and committed managerial support will be of little help to safeguard the success of an initiative that requires transcending the good intentions of HR function concerned about the wellbeing and engagement of its people.
We now have mobile technologies to access the company’s computing resources at anytime from anywhere. We have applications and data in the cloud to facilitate collaborative work in teams made up of professionals scattered across different geographies. We apply big data analytics to infer the labour force’s prevailing outlook on a topic of relevance for the company. We promote free access to social networks to enhance inclusive, open and transparent cross-communication between employees, leaders and managers.
All these initiatives are of great interest to the people in charge of the HR function because they facilitate the alignment of the investment in technology with efficient and effective management of wellbeing and engagement.
The indispensable strategic alignment
Investment in social technologies will enjoy greater acceptance and secure successful implementation, if a communication plan is designed and implemented. This plan should explain the advantages for the company, describe the benefits for people, and determine the strategic vectors to align to in order to promote company profitability, growth and expansion in an increasingly competitive market.
A clear, precise and strategic direction boosts a strong sense of belonging in employees who feel that the transformation project is as important for the company’s future as it is interesting for professional development.
We are talking about managing technology in terms of the emotions, expectations and sensitivities people possess, without ignoring the elements for strategic alignment that will justify successful business management in the long term.
Flexibility in the workplace
Excessive flexibility promoted by technologies accessible from anywhere, anytime, with any device, can cause stress in the workplace and high-performance teams which are now permanently connected and available.
This is how the delicate boundaries between the personal life and professional work erode away. This is when HR must develop and implement corporate-wide policies and procedures to promote the correct, safe and healthy use of these technologies for the purposes of protecting both the physical and emotional integrity of people.
Not doing so would mean favouring the pragmatic implementation of a new technological approach, over the needs, expectations, and emotions of those who beyond any doubt or fear should be the main advocates and beneficiaries—the people.
Promoting generational diversity
When several generations of employees converge in an increasingly technological work environment, it is vital to encourage the development of dynamics that ensure systematic and productive use of new technologies among people who have lived different experiences and possess different motivations and interests due to this generational diversity.
Against the backdrop of evident generational diversity, prestigious and trusted leaders could delegate some power and influence to let younger employees learn and make decisions in areas of greater responsibility, challenges and influence that can be enhanced by social and collaboration technologies. These take on the role of coaches to accelerate the development of emerging leaders and young talent.
Meanwhile, the younger talent participate in reverse mentoring dynamics upon deploying their skills as good digital natives to support their leaders in the efficient and productive use of these technologies.
Managing organizational change
Dismissing the impact of certain technological implementations on the company culture, processes and systems, can affect the motivation, engagement and commitment of people who are hesitant and fearful about the negative repercussions of a mismanaged transformation project.
Managing change through initiatives backed by management; defining a communication plan before, during and after the transformation project life cycle; and developing the corresponding training programme, can anticipate and mitigate risks of unwanted changes among those people who oppose these changes because they do not understand them, because they fear being supplanted, or because they regard these as unnecessary and irrelevant.
The implementation of new technologies in business transformation projects runs a high risk of failure, when the potential impact on collaborators—plagued by doubt, hesitation and fear—of uncertainty, an absence of quality information and a lack of managerial support are overruled in favour of cost reduction and maintaining certain levels of power.
The importance of a system of metrics
All technology-centred transformation initiatives must be developed under a solid system of metrics to ensure that the objectives set during design are being met in the implementation phase. Also so that new and more ambitious targets can be set, as for any continuous improvement process.
Only in this way can we ensure that the investment in new technology will meet the objectives set out in the business transformation plan, as well as achieve full and satisfactory alignment with the business strategy.
The influence of corporate culture
In order to determine the culture elements to be considered, analyzed, and adjusted as appropriate, it is necessary to make sure of the company’s successful transition to new people management practices that are specific to a new operating model, relevant for market development, and aligned with the execution of the business strategy.
Support from the company’s top executive management is essential and unavoidable for analyzing, questioning, and adjusting if required, the mission, vision and values of a company.
Ignoring this strategic necessity could impair the competitive profile of a company that may take on challenges emerging from the new and more disturbing realities of the market and the business with irrelevant, ineffective and outdated assumptions.
Towards building a digital competencies profile
An organization whose investment in technology projects favours building new social and analytical skills will need to adapt their competencies model upon including behaviours typical of a collaborator involved in dynamics of collaborative work and in projects with data analysis responsibilities to support decision making.
These adjustments, besides facilitating the effective implementation of these new technological approaches will generate new career paths and will contribute to enriching existing positions upon adding new roles, responsibilities and opportunities for development.
The internal mobility of talent in roles appropriate to their competencies profile and interests contributes to create emotional ties with the organization, such that they feel involved as well as committed to offer their best efforts, even in times of crisis.