Discover the secrets behind engaging and motivating multi-generational employees at organizations of all sizes by improving your approach to effective communications.
6 min read
Hi there, my name is Debra, and, I’d like to make a confession. I not only love technology but I can’t live without it. I have another confession: I’m also definitely not a millennial.
Why am I saying this, making this confession? Too often I hear people say that technology is only for millennials, that only they want and need it. Well they’re wrong, although different generations may use technology differently, we still all use and depend on it as part of our daily lives.
Don’t believe me? Try leaving your cell phone behind on a four-day business trip. That trip definitely opened my eyes personally on how much tech runs so much of my life.
So if this is true, then why don’t more businesses integrate tech into how they engage with their workforce? If our people need tech to live their lives, and work is a big part of their lives, shouldn’t we all take that next step and truly bring tech into the workplace?
And, by the way, it’s not about making workplaces more in line with what millennials want. It’s about making the relationship between employer and employees better for everyone, everywhere. And that’s where technology makes it huge difference. Here’s how I believe technology can help make the world a better place to work, for all generations:
This morning, I was waiting for my coffee and answering a few messages on my phone, and I thought to myself how I wish I had more time in my day. As I was picking up my cup, I saw another coffee-lover whiz through the line, putting his smartwatch up against the card reader. I found myself jealous of the extra few minutes he saved by not taking his credit card out of his wallet or fumbling around for cash.
But why is technology limited to the consumer world? I don’t think it has to be. When we use technology with our people processes, then our employees can reap the same rewards from technology in making their lives easier, saving time and precious energy in their day to day.
Let me give you an example – signing up for a perk program. A friend of mine told me how it took him four months to sign up for the commuter perk his company was offering. So much time had passed, that by the time he was enrolled he had missed out on valuable savings.
Had the company used technology to support the sign up process, making it simpler and quicker, the employee would not only have had the opportunity to participate sooner, but it would have been an engaging versus disengaging experience. And if you think your older employees won’t be able to follow such online processes, nonsense, we do so in our personal lives every day, so bring it on!
Regardless of our age, we all want and need to feel connected, having a sense of belonging. This is how we create and maintain relationships, and this is what helps us to be engaged in how we live and spend our time both inside and outside of work.
When I started out in the workplace, it was much easier to do. But as businesses have become more global, have more remote and flexible workforces, and are made up of so many generations, it’s become much more challenging.
This is where technology can and should be used to help. An example is through the use of social networks as a way to engage and communicate with our workforce, using it as a way to break down barriers to create these important connections.
According to a study by Dr. Stephanie Tobin, active participation in technology, specifically social media, gives users a greater sense of connectedness and this sense of belonging.
“Social network sites give people immediate reminders of their social relationships and allow them to communicate with others whenever they want,” she said.
At Reward Gateway, we use an employee engagement platform called boom! as a way to communicate and engage with our workforce around the world. Within boom! there are social features built in, with employees being able to instantly read an article and seamlessly engage and interact with their colleagues even at different offices.
Plus, how’s this for “not just for millennials” — you can even add reactions in the form of emojis!
And if you don’t think that different generations use social networks, just ask my mother, my children’s grandmother, who connects daily with them through social. She’d never miss out in this important part of their lives, being able to see what they’re up and add a bit of grandmother encouragement and TLC at the same time. Nothing says love like an emoji from nan!
Another quality of humans is that we all, regardless of generation, want to have a sense of control. Tell us exactly what and when to do something, and it’s a surefire way to disengage us, because quite frankly, who wants to be treated as a child?
The good news is that according to one study, having a sense of control or power over a situation can boost outcomes, so it drives productivity and also employee engagement to ALL employees, regardless of generation.
“When people feel they can control the outcome, they want to roll the die,” explains Nathanael Fast, one of the researchers conducting the study.
Technology can massively help here, using it to manage where we do work, how we do it and when it gets done. Many companies have taken the first step here, putting in place tools such as those supporting open chats, e.g. Slack, so that employees can communicate with each other regardless of where they are physically located.
And with the number of mobile workers in the U.S. making up 72.3% of the total U.S. workforce by 2020, we’re beginning to understand how to create better communication in the workplace. But I believe there is an important second step that also needs to be taken, and that is to create and embed real-time communication into how we interact and engage with our workforce.
Think of it like food – we moved from sit-down restaurants to fast food and on-the-go options to meet the need of changing lifestyles, and we need to do the same to meet the needs of our changing workforce. With more remote, gig and flexible working arrangements we need to put information in the hands of our employees at all times and in all ways, and then leave it to them to get the job done.
When it comes to employee engagement mobile trends, we understand that we need to reach our people where they are. At Reward Gateway, that’s why the team launched the Connect+ app, which puts the ability to engage with colleagues through real-time feeds of company updates and instant moments of recognition right at their very fingertips.
So no matter what era you were born in, my advice to you is to get on the technology bandwagon before it leaves without you. And please, don’t let the fear that certain generations won’t engage with it overwhelm you, because trust me, they will.
If you design it in the right way and give them the right training to understand how to use it, they will not only interact with it but love it and help your business succeed.
Debra is the co-author of "Build It: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement," which she wrote with Reward Gateway Founder, Glenn Elliott. She's a Rewards guru, having over 20 years experience as a rewards leader, speaker, teacher and a frequent contributor to the Reward Gateway blog.
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