The Future of Employee Engagement Research: Digital, Devices, & Data
When it comes to measuring employee engagement everyone uses the same tool: surveys. Now before I get lots of comments from various survey vendors stating how unique their tools are, let me say this: surveys can have various modifications and have seen promising developments in recent years, however throughout the last two decades they have remained the predominant method to measure engagement. Surely it makes sense to use other sources of data alongside surveys in order to achieve the most insight, right? Silverman Research has launched an open-access study to investigate how the future of employee research may look and the role of emerging technologies. Over 40 thought leaders from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Unilever, & Barclays have collaborated to seed the research with comments and get the conversation started.
As a psychologist (and for the record) I completely advocate the use of psychometric questionnaires, but as practitioners we cannot ignore society’s growing preference for The Three Ds: “Digital, Devices & Data”. If we want to measure and increase engagement for the good of the employee, the organisation and society, we need to move with the times. Incorporating new technologies into HR and the workplace on a whole, I believe, will produce deeper and more actionable insights that will empower leaders to reach new levels of effectiveness.
People are more connected to the things they care about more than ever before due to the power of the Internet. It has enabled the instant sharing of ideas, information and opinions across the globe. Given the relatively static nature of surveys, employees’ demands and needs for a real-time alternative are not being met.
Social technologies allow the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ to be harnessed as it encourages multidirectional conversation between people and crowdsourcing of solutions. Humans evolved in small egalitarian groups due to hostile environmental pressures, therefore social communication is both at the heart of human nature and our greatest strength. Could those leaders who adopt social technologies to crowdsource solutions lead a more creative and competitive organisation?
No one could have predicted the mass-adoption of mobile computing. Smartphones, tablets and now wearable technologies such as Google Glass are ensuring we are always connected to our favourite online services. Given that the majority of people are never without a small computer in their pocket feeding them news and information, could engagement specialists develop applications for employees’ mobile devices that would allow them to express their opinion wherever they are? The ability to design applications to measure engagement ‘on the go’ could be a game-changer for those industries whose people do not work in an office or near computers (e.g. construction, medical professionals, infrastructure, etc.).
You may be sick of hearing the term ‘Big-Data’, but we practitioners cannot ignore it if we want to truly measure employee engagement. Data is being collected from all kinds of sources and if appropriately managed can reveal deep insights into what employees think, feel and do. For example, sentiment analysis of language (both spoken and written) can quantitatively reveal how an individual and group are feeling, social behaviours (e.g. who is friends with who, the types of conversations they hold with others, who shares information, etc.) revealed through social network analysis can map out the informal hierarchies within an organisation, and psychometric data that is derived from online behaviours can reveal an employee’s temperament and personality.
How will the Three Ds Replace Surveys?
These are bold propositions, but they are not fiction. Technology is allowing us to do this now! The key is to work out how The Three Ds can be implemented alongside, or replace (which is what I believe will happen in the near future), surveys. To do this it is important to ask the public how they want to communicate with their organisation. The aforementioned arguments are simply my opinions formed by the observations around me. Given the diversity of the workplace and the flexibility of technology, could organisations even go one step further and let employees choose the feedback method that they prefer? There are obvious privacy concerns, especially given the recent furore around the US and its shady PRISM surveillance system, but nonetheless the near future poses some difficult challenges for HR and the workplace on a whole.
In light of this, at Silverman Research we are currently researching how the public view the changing face of employee opinion research—in particular how technology will change and shape the process of collecting employee opinion. The research will use our social media platform to foster a debate so that leaders in HR, business and technology can not only understand how people want to interact with their organisations, but also begin to make steps towards meeting their employees’ demands.
Take Part in our Survey
Given that the majority of the readers for this blog will be HR professionals I encourage you to take part in the study and voice your opinion (even if you disagree with me). The current system is by no means perfect so let’s start making steps towards revolutionising HR.
The study will be open until the end of August, with the results being publicly available this September. In the meantime, please take part and share it with your colleagues, so that you can shape the future of HR.
Written by Reece Akhtar, Research Assistant at Silverman Research