Monday Dec 03, 2012

Engagement: Don’t Forget Your Employees!

Mark Brown

By Mark Brown, Sr. Director, Oracle WebCenter

 This week we want to focus on Employee Engagement, and how it is critical to your business. Today we hear and read a great deal about “Customer Engagement” – and rightly so, it is those customers, whether they be traditional paying customers, citizens, students, club members, or whomever it is that are “paying the bills”.  A more engaged customer is more likely to make it easier to pay those bills by buying more, giving good reviews, or spreading the word of how wonderful their experience was. But what about those who are providing those services, those who design and make those goods; why is it that all too often they are left out of conversations concerning engagement? In fact, it is critical that we consider our employees as customers since they are using internal systems that run your organization the same way customers use external systems.

Studies have shown that an organization in which the employees feel “engaged” or better able to make decisions, do their jobs, and are connected to their peers have better return to their stakeholders. (shareholders).  On the surface this seems obvious, happy employees are more productive employees. But it leads to the question – how many of our existing policies, systems and processes are actually reducing that level of engagement?

Let’s look at a couple examples. If posting new information that may be of great value to everyone in the larger organization is hard to do because we use an antiquated system, then we’re making it hard to share and increasing the potential for duplicate work. If it is not trivially obvious how to create and publish this post, then chances are very high that I’ll put it on the bottom of my queue. And finally, when critical information is spread across various systems, intranet sites, workgroups and peoples inboxes, then it is very hard to learn and grow from that information.  These may sound trivial, but how often do we push things off not because it is intellectually challenging, we may have the answer at our fingertips, but because it is hard to make that information readily available. 

If an engaged employee is a productive employee, then what can we do to increase their level of engagement? We can start by looking for opportunities to provide self-documenting self-service solutions. Our newer employees grew up using simplified web interfaces everyday and they loathe calling a help-desk unless it is the last resort. Sadly, many of our enterprise applications have not kept pace and we all still have processes that are based on sending an email -- like discount approvals, vacation requests, or even offer-letter approvals.  

My suggestion is to pick one highly visible, high-impact process where employees are either reticent to execute on the process or openly complain about how cumbersome it is and look at the mechanism for that process. If there are better ways, streamlined steps, better UIs that could be done, then you have a candidate to reconfigure that process and make it more engaging. Looking to better engage your employees? Start here!

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