Digital Engagement of Employees in the Post-Pandemic Era and New Data/ Analytics Data Opportunities
The first quarter of 2020 has brought an upheaval in the way people work, and how most companies manage them. The sweeping COVID-19 pandemic has led to offices, factories, showrooms, and stores shutting down as Public Health authorities enforce social distancing, as a measure to contain the spread of the virus. Companies have had no choice but to switch to a remote work mode, wherever possible, or manage with skeletal staff to handle operations.
Faced with the twin imperatives of keeping employees safe and businesses afloat— remote collaboration is looked upon as a saviour. Businesses are using it to shift from the physical to the virtual/digital, as office premises stay shut, to stay afloat or to maintain momentum, when the return of normalcy is uncertain.
The shift of course, has not been without hitches, and businesses, with perhaps, the exception of those operating in the Knowledge Economy, have struggled to ramp up infrastructure and keep up with data security requirements, while switching into remote collaboration mode. As many as 42% of US workers who were previously not working remotely are doing so now, notes a CNBC-All America Survey.
To read more on ‘When Remote Collaboration became an Imperative,’
In Remote Work Mode Companies have relied on Digital Employee Engagement
While Covid-19 persists (and after), companies have moved beyond traditional channels of collecting feedback and have started to engage employees in the digital world. According to an April Gartner survey, 16% of organizations are passively tracking employees via methods like virtual clocking in and out, tracking work computer usage and monitoring employee emails or internal communications/chats. While they cite employee wellness and mental health as the prime motivation to do so, personalization and productivity can’t be far behind.
Major themes in Digital Employee Engagement and opportunities created by new data/analytics
The following are six major themes emerging due to the increasing adoption of Digital Engagement among employees and the opportunities for companies arising out of the new data being generated. There are options for employers to strategically intervene and course-correct.
Workplace Distancing: Increase in the adoption of Technology / Collaboration tools that are capturing massive amounts of data
Employers could use various data sources like voice/chat and use analytics to understand key themes. This may reduce feedback lag, thereby resulting in improved employee experience. Specific employees could be identified as influencers or change agents. It also gives a chance for employers to identify managers/ employees who are facing stress/collaboration overload or risk of burnout and offer mental health support.
Sentiment Check-ins: Frequent Pulse check-ins with Instant Feedback sharing, rather than Periodic Survey cycles
Companies are using digital engagement to gauge employee sentiment using various tools in real-time. This could be in the form of a “Mood monitor” with digital tools/widgets. A team/org-wide collaboration app can be used to offer “Pat on the back,” to celebrate a milestone or to glorify role model behaviour.
Impact of Digital Commerce: Need for “Consumer Grade” Employee experiences (EX)
Companies could use data to understand employee behaviour and build contextualized responses. Mobile apps could become more mainstream, in deploying program designs (Gen 1.0 was the company’s intranet & ESS/ MSS), and chatbots could be the preferred interface.
This could allow employees to consume HR programs/ services using multiple channels (Social/ Mobile/ Chats/ Games) and improve EX.
Need for Personalization of programs & their delivery will increase
Employers could leverage multiple data streams to personalize employee touchpoints for sharper targeting of programs & their delivery. Pulse checking/Sentiment type feedback could be gathered from team members, upon rollout of programs. It is also helpful for better optimization of program spends (& their ROIs) by employee category.
People Managers: Role of People Managers will become even more significant (“First line of defence for the organization”)
Digital Engagement could help to capture alignment between managers and employee outcomes. Several types of information such as data on the effectiveness of work allocation, workload balancing, ongoing individual and team check-ins, and balancing productivity and employee development could be captured.
Continuous Coaching /Mentoring: In the new workplace, Coaching/ Mentoring will need to go beyond what People Managers can provide
Digital Engagement could point to data on the coaching needs of employees and managers, on a continuous basis, and in the matching of demand with the supply of inhouse and outside coaches (Human / Bots).
Tracking indicators for work-life balance. health and mental wellness risk, stress, financial adequacy, and their impact on absenteeism/ lost productivity/ individual/ team performance etc. could also become possible.
These are the broad ways in which Digital Engagement and the corresponding data & analytics opportunities have empowered workplaces. Even as lockdowns relax and companies restart office operations, with social distancing and post-pandemic precautions in place, the embedded tools/practices are likely to be here to stay. They will enable companies to monitor employee engagement.
“We believe that some of the practices of Digital Engagement will outlive the pandemic and be embedded in company culture in the long run. Future workplaces will find these tools immensely useful going forward, to provide a feedback loop on employee wellness, collaboration, and productivity,” says Dhritiman Chakrabarti, Advisor – People Analytics, BRIDGEi2i.