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The Engagement Equation: Can IT Influence Employee Engagement?

Christina Wang

April 25, 2016

31 minute read

incemployeenegagementwebinar-ftr-new

When you go to work, do you feel a profound connection to your company? Do you work with passion? Or instead, do you find yourself “checked-out”?

An engaged employee is an endangered species in the modern workplace. According to Gallup, 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged, which negatively affects productivity and leads to employee turnover. Now, I know what you’re thinking. What does employee engagement have to do with IT? In a way, everything. IT professionals are still employees after all. But beyond that, what does IT have to do with actually improving engagement?

For many IT departments, the answer at the moment is unclear. We surveyed nearly 300 IT professionals and found that just 25% use technology to track engagement. IT turns to new technology when met with most challenges, but for some reason, employee engagement isn’t one of them. At least not yet.

As an IT professional, you can positively affect employee engagement by taking a holistic approach that includes not just new technology, but a new mindset.

We brought together three leading employee engagement experts to discuss the pragmatic steps you can take to improve engagement and better understand the technology necessary to track it.

Meet the Experts

Stowe Boyd - Employee Engagement
Stowe Boyd
Gigaom Research
Head of Research
Céline Schillinger
Céline Schillinger
Sanofi Pasteur
Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement
Chad Smith
Chad Smith
Principal
Maven Wave Partners

Watch the video below or read the full transcript to find out:

  • What contributes to disengagement
  • What technology can be used to track engagement
  • What engagement-related metrics should you be tracking
  • What can IT do improve their team and their company’s engagement

David Politis, Founder and CEO at BetterCloud
Hey everyone, hi. My name is David Politis, I’m the Founder and CEO here at BetterCloud. I want to thank you very much for joining our webinar today, “The Modern Workplace: Increasing Employee Engagement with Emerging Technologies.” This is actually a topic that I’m personally pretty passionate about. It’s something that, I think that as the workplace is changing, technology is obviously at the centerpiece of engagement. IT and IT professionals, they’re so core to this engagement. It’s so important for the future of the workplace. Anyway, this is a topic I’m personally very excited about, very passionate about, and we have a great panel.

Before we get started, I just wanted to reintroduce everyone, in case you’re not familiar. This is a webinar, it’s part of our Cloud IT Webinar Series. We’ve been doing this webinar series for over a year now. Every month, we have a webinar. Variety of topics from, just industry news, best practices, managing and securing certain SaaS applications. Just interesting topics that you, our viewers, our customers, our partners are asking for.

We’re very open to suggestions, we’re open to ideas. If you have any, please send them along. You can actually send them directly to me, if you’d like. It’s Dave, D-A-V-E@bettercloud.com. There’s something really exciting today, specifically, that happens to fall on the same day as this webinar which is that, we’re now presenting this webinar series from a new media property which we launched today, called the BetterCloud Monitor. This is something we’ve been working on for a very long time, here at BetterCloud. It started really, when we started the company, put up our first company blog. We then released a site called the Gooru. We had a site, 365ninja.com. Today, we merged all of those together into a single site called the BetterCloud Monitor. You can go to bettercloud.com/monitor, and read what that’s all about.

At a high-level, the purpose of this is to really share high-quality, delightful, valuable information to our readers through, we have a newsletter, a daily newsletter. It goes out to about 100,000 IT professionals everyday. Our goal is to really empower the modern IT professional, to celebrate that group. End users, people using technology in interesting ways. Educate, show you how to use certain SaaS applications, how to manage them. This is really exciting. Personally again, this is what we’re all about, here at BetterCloud. We have a whole team of people, writers, IT professionals, outside thought leaders all helping us with this.

Just like today, the panel we have, just helping move this forward and present this information and share this kind of information, where I think there’s a real void. I think there’s a lack of it, and we want to fill that.

We’re excited for the BetterCloud Monitor, we’re excited for today’s webinar. Really, I don’t want to take up too much time from this panel. I want to get straight into the panel. Without further adieu, I’d like to introduce our three panelists today. Stowe is going to be moderating the panel. I actually met Stowe at a really interesting event, about a month ago. We got talking and I realized, we need Stowe to come help us with the work that we’re doing. Stowe, I’m excited for him to be joining us today, and to be in this panel with Celine and with Chad. With that, I’m going to now leave this to you, Stowe. Thank you very much. Please ask questions, and engage. I’ll be in the chat for the rest of the webinar. Thank you.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Thanks David, it’s good to be here. I wouldn’t have expected it to be so fast after our meeting, but I’m glad we’re doing it. Our topic today is Employee Engagement. We’re going to dwell on a number of themes related to that, including how technology plays. I just wanted to start by saying, this morning as I was reading through my Twitter feed, I saw at least five or six tweets that, in some way or another, linked to or discussed the issue of employee engagement. Since that famous Gallup article of, a couple of years ago. Now I guess, a year and a half ago, stated that “Only 27% of US employees were actively engaged at work.” That has become a critical factor in management thinking and the concerns of everyone involved in the workplace.

I’m glad to say, we have one of my dearest friends joining us today, Céline Schillinger from Sanofi Pasteur. One of my newest friends, Chad, who’s joining us as well. I’m going to let them introduce themselves briefly, and talk about what they do at their companies. To start off, Celine, could you start please. I think you have to turn your unmute back on.

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
Exactly, thanks. Hi, thank you very much, BetterCloud and Stowe, and everyone for having me in this panel, in this discussion. Engagement is very dear to my heart. It’s been my job for, now a few years. I work in a vaccine company that belongs to Sanofi. A very big Pharma group. It’s a global company, we have engagement problems like every other big company, I suppose. My work is around, is really about helping the company move from a push to a Pull model, as John Hagel described. Technology is certainly, extremely useful in this respect. It’s not the only lever, far from that. I’m happy to have this discussion with you guys, over this coming hour.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Chad, please.

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, hi everyone. My name is Chad Smith. I’m a Principal at Maven Wave Partners. Maven Wave Partners is a management and IT consulting firm, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. We focus on a variety of different business areas, but the one I’m heavily involved in, is our Google practice. We work with large organizations to deploy Google apps. Gmail, Calendar, Drive et cetera. My role on the Google team is actually working with organizations. Once they’ve gone live, after the deployment, how do we continue to drive adoption? How do we continue to engage employees? Google is the tool we use. Our focus really, again is, also trying to drive up employee engagement, and how are the other ways we can expand, beyond the Google ecosystem.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Excellent. I guess, one place to start is, to get at the big question, what are the causes of employee engagement? Pardon me, the causes of employee disengagement, which is more apt. I want to start, just by making one comment that … There’s a great psychologist, sociologist, Herzberg who made the case that, “People could be actively engaged in their work, personally. They like their job, they like what they do, they get along with the people in their team, but they can still be disengaged, relative to the company as a whole. Their concerns about senior management’s direction for the company and so on.”

We have to actually talk about engagement and disengagement, as two factors that could be, not necessarily, both negative or both positive. They can be positive or negative, independently of each other. What we’re really concerned about is, disengagement. I’ll start with Celine again. Celine, what you think, the root causes of disengagement is? Why has it become such a serious issue?

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
Yeah, so I would say, I am a practitioner, I’m an employee as well. I’ve been working in medium and large organizations for quite a while now. I haven’t thought about employee engagement from an external perspective, but I have lived, what it means to be an, either engaged or a disengaged employee. It happens to me also, sometimes, to be engaged or sometimes disengaged, at other times. Looking at all that, I feel that there’s a disconnect that is growing bigger and bigger between, how empowered we are, outside of work, as consumers, as citizens. In our everyday life, we are now empowered, thanks to the connections, thanks to the radical transparency. We can challenge companies, we can challenge governments, we can do that kind of things.

In the same time, things haven’t changed in the companies. As employees, we are far from experiencing this freedom and latitude of action, and freedom of speech that we do experience in our everyday life. In a way, I think that, that plays a big role in disengagement. People don’t accept less and less, to be treated as children in the workplace.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
You’re making the case that there’s a mismatch between what we’re experiencing as individuals, outside of work, and the sense that we are less, we are more constrained in what we can do in the workplace. How we can speak or act, or demands we can make. That may be causing some part of this, sense of disengagement. As a result, people check out, they’re less, they worry less about the company’s future. They work less hard, perhaps. Yeah, and that’s one of the critical factors.

A lot of analysts, I’m not one of them, but a lot of people start by equating this to, how many hundreds of billions of dollars are lost every year, worldwide because of disengagement. I think that’s a metric that’s interesting. Maybe, a good headline kind of fodder. It doesn’t necessarily get the real impacts which is, I think the real concerns is, as people become disengaged, other people may be influenced by that disengagement too. It can spread, it has this sort of disease-like quality. It’s like a public health issue, in a way. How do we track this level of disengagement, inside of companies? How should companies go about that? Chad, do you have some thoughts on that?

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, certainly. I think, to track disengagement, there’s your traditional ways. There’s, looking at attrition rates, for example. Understanding, relative to the market, what is my attrition? What is my turnover of my employees? That’s a basic one, right? I think beyond that, it’s really getting into the heart of the problem of, you’ve got to get out to your employees and you’ve got to talk to them. There are certain data analytics, and data analytics is coming along in this area.

I think disengagement is still such a complex concept. There’s lots of things that go into it that, from what I’ve seen in my experience is, it’s surveys, it’s self-reported disengagement from employees. I think, going beyond the annual survey to employees is important. More ad hoc surveys, maybe fewer questions, just a question or two, at random times, out through the organization, just to get a pulse of where people stand.

Then I think, it’s interviewing. Going out and interviewing those employees to understand, how are things going? What’s going well for them? What could be improved on a variety of different topics? Certainly, it’s also tools that are coming along, recognition platforms and things like that. For me, I think it’s still, a lot of it does still reside in the surveys and in the interviews. There are certainly also tools in the marketplace, that are starting to come along. Gain some momentum in terms of tracking engagement and disengagement.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Right, so like in social psychology, it’s been long understood that people will react differently to the questions, when they’re being asked face-to-face by someone from HR or their boss let’s say, as opposed to how they respond anonymously, with a form on the screen for example. One of the concerns, and I think that one of the things that’s driving the adoption of various technical solutions, of the sort. You’re talking about the quick pulse surveys that people send out. Companies now are starting to send out on a weekly or monthly basis, as a way to keep your finger on the pulse. In fact, a lot of the companies call these pulse surveys, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the company.

It’s also the fact that, we do know that there are some metrics that are really strongly correlated with disengagement. The amount of time for example, that a direct manager spends with a given employee, is a proxy for disengagement. In other words, if the amount of time starts to decrease in that metric. That, instead of the several hours a week or hour a week that may have been going on with Joe Smith last year, it’s now dropped. It’s only, a hour a month. That starts to suggest, that’s an indicator of possible disengagement, or a very likely predictor of actual disengagement.

Some companies are actually using that kind of measurement. They track things like meeting times that are stored in the data of the company’s calendaring system, for example. These things can be tapped and tracked, and used to head off potential issues. What else could business leaders do, aside from the use of tools? Interviewing and direct interaction with specific individuals? Are there actions that they could take? Are there initiatives that companies can take, that can be effective at a high-level? As a result, have an impact across the company. What you think about that, Celine?

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
Just to complement your previous answer on metrics, I think there are very obvious metrics we haven’t talked about, that are great metrics to track engagement, that are business performance. Don’t go further than that. How many customer complaints do you have? How timely is your response to those customer complaints? How much is your defect rate? How high is it? What is your quality?

The fact that I have been hired to work on engagement by the quality department at Sanofi Pasteur is, make no mistake, that’s one of the most obvious areas to look for indicators of employee engagement. It’s actually a great place to start, also. Start working on … Another cause of employee disengagement that we didn’t really mention was, is probably related to the fact that leadership culture. Actually, management culture and the focus on replicability and predictability of organizations, have led to those heavy bureaucracies that we know in big companies, where people at the top or experts, plan. Make sure that the future is predictable. Make sure that everything is organized, so that we need the, what we believe, will happen or the customer’s expectations or et cetera.

Then, the whole pool of employees are just here to implement, what the leaders or the thought experts have decided, they should implement. That leads to a very high proportion of disengagement, where we ask people to basically, take away their brain and put it aside when they go to the office in the morning. Take it back in the evening, when they go back home.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Right, it’s very …

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
During the day, apply the procedures and do, what they’re being told to do, et cetera. I think, to answer your last question, what can we do? There’s obviously work. Tools can help, of course. There’s absolutely a great tool on the market, to foster connection and more empowerment, visibility of people who do great things, et cetera. It starts with a profound shift in mindset and in leadership. The way leadership is done right now, they talk down, prescriptive, linear things, where we consider organizations as machines. People are interchangeable operators, is broken.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Right, the machine model. I think there’s a deep dark secret lurking behind all this. It’s strange that, as much as people write about and talk about disengagement, it’s not generally the case that people go back to the actual social science research on the topic. The deep dark secret is, the primary cause of employee disengagement is, bad managers. That is, they are disengaged specifically because they don’t feel well-regarded by their boss. They don’t believe their boss is trustworthy. They don’t believe their boss has their best interests at heart and so on. There’s a long list of specific threads in this. There is an astonishing amount of research.

The deep dark secret is, it’s not solely the fact that senior management, the elite of the company are approaching everything in a machinery-based model. Even if they don’t do that, if you don’t have competent managers who are taking the interest of their reports to heart. Actually are trying to help them be effective, be successful, remain connected to what the company’s all about. Even if those people like what they’re doing, they will still be disengaged with the company. They may be engaged in their own work, the advancement of their own career. That doesn’t mean that they believe that the company has their best interests at heart. That’s a major problem.

What you think about that, Chad? Do you have something to add? I think one of the things I wanted to touch on, and maybe Chad can touch on too is that, Celine has started to talk about different parts of the organization that might have a well-defined role in disengagement, or countering it. In her case, she was talking about quality organizations. There’s also HR. Then, to some extent, when you start talking about technological approaches to moderating this problem, obviously IT comes into play.

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, certainly. I agree with that. I think for me, disengagement is, I think everyone’s problem right in the sense. It is HR, it is the CEO. I do think IT plays a role in that, just from the tools that can be rolled-out, to help facilitate some of that stuff. If I’m trying to actually combat disengagement, whether it’s some sort of recognition platform. Ways to let the company know, when an employee or a department does something, well. When the company get great accolades in the news, how do we push that out to all the employees, in a manner that they’re going to see it? Maybe an email isn’t the best way. Maybe it’s some other application like a Twitter-like application, where I can give just a quick snippet. “Hey, that was really cool, to see that one of my colleagues was recognized, either internally or externally within the organization.”

I also think IT, when IT is looking at this, certainly they’re almost their own business unit within themselves. They’re their own business. Certainly, they can start with, how do I make sure the IT department, all the employees are engaged? Run that, like it’s their own business? Make sure IT is fully engaged, whether through tools, a recognition or some of the other things we’ve talked about.

Then, once we can show a model for that, if IT is looking for ways. “I can’t influence HR or the CEO.” I think you can show, how you do it within IT, and then show that as a model to them, to be rolled-out in other areas of the organization. I’ve certainly seen that work well. I think that’s where you can continue to empower, even people from IT that think, “Hey, how do I make an impact?” Make an impact within your team, first. That goes for anyone. Make an impact on your team, first. Show that this can work, show how you can improve engagement or reduce disengagement. Then, take that to senior leadership, and then roll that out to other organizations within the company.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Yeah, I think IT has a special role, in a sense. All of the functional areas have a special role in some way or another. In particular, one of the potential causes of frustration and friction for the modern workforce is, an imbalance, a mismatch between, what they desire to have as tools, to get their job done, not just tools to be testing and measuring their engagement. Polls to find out, what’s going on. Just the general tools that people want to use everyday, to get their work done.

We know that in some companies, there’s a really big gap between, what people would like to use and what they’re being asked to use. People express real dissatisfaction using old technology in a modern world. In fact, I think it was McLoone who said, “The cause of a lot of modern anxiety is, using tools from the past, to try to do today’s jobs.” I think that’s a real big question.

In fact, because of that, I think this is a good time for us to try one of the two polls that we are queuing up to ask the listeners, the attendees of this webinar are, “Do you consider yourself an actively engaged employee?” The fundamental, existential question of the people in this group are probably, relatively representative. Although it may be that, people who opt for this, are slightly different. We’ll get them to select yes, no or maybe. My bet is that we’re going to find that, yeah, this group is more actively engaged than the norm.

It could be however that, that’s just the case with the kind of people who sign up for a webinar of this sort. This is not at all, what you would have predicted, if you looked at things like we’re seeing from Gallup, for example. Celine, what you think about the notion that, there’s a hidden problem, a dark, dark secret out there about bad management at the direct manager level?

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
Yeah I think that, that’s totally true. I would like to make the link between this and the role of IT, in engagement.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Please.

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
I would say, the first role of IT in engagement, before even supplying, providing tools is, to role model. That’s not more complicating than that. As I see, many IT departments run as armies, like the very, very old-fashioned way. Your typical pyramid where people in the bottom have no say and they are asked to implement things, decided by the top, by experts. IT cannot pretend, they are contributing to transformation, if they don’t transform themselves first. If they don’t role model this kind of new behaviors involving users, listening to … Making work more collaborative in their own sphere. I would say, it starts with this. Change starts with me.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
You’re making the statement based on the reasonable assumption, and I think it’s supported by other evidence that, if you make those changes and people become more collaborative. They’re more engaged in their work. They have a greater autonomy and decision-making and so on, they likely become more engaged?

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
Yeah. The second point you mentioned in providing modern tools, I would say, it’s almost a joke, but not really. It starts with providing new employees with an email, a computer, a phone from day one, when they join the company. Sometimes, and more often than not, it’s not happening this way. I’ve seen many times, not just in my organization, newcomers having to work on paper for two weeks, three weeks, before they have any kind of tools.

What image does it give, of the company and of work, especially when you have all the colleagues telling the newcomer, “Oh yeah, it always happens this way. You’ll see it broken everywhere.” The very basic service of offering newcomers with the basic tools that they need, to start working and being productive from day one. Not making it too complicated to access critical systems, et cetera. There’s bureaucracies everywhere, and bureaucracy is killing engagement from day one, when you join a company. IT has a very strong role in removing unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Yeah, I think I have to really … Also it chimes in with some of the questions we’re getting from the audience. I’ll repeat one here, and direct it to you, Chad. Someone says, “I am too busy doing my job, to learn a new system.” How can you push, past that objection that, are people given enough time to learn a new way of doing things? Use a new tool, using new piece of software? As a result, does that rollout, where people don’t have enough time to actually spend time to learn it. Is that a possible cause of even another kind of frustration that leads to disengagement?

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, great question. Certainly, yes. I think if new tools are rolled out and not the correct and ample amount of change in management goes along with that, yeah, I think you could have a counter effect of driving up disengagement. “Now I have a new tool. I don’t know what the benefits of it, are. I don’t know how to use it. Now I’m actually less efficient in my job, and I just want to go back to doing it the old way. The way have always done it.”

I’ve always seen, the way to be successful, rolling out new tools is that, a very strong focus on change management and training. The benefits to the users of, why this in the long run, is going to benefit you. Yes, it may take five hours of training sessions to learn this new tool. Then, a few weeks on your own, of getting used to it. Guess what? When you come out of that end of two or three weeks, you’re going to be 10% or 20 more percent, efficient] in that job, where you spend 10 hours a week, doing on that task.

In the long run, you’re going to have so much efficiency gains that, it’s worth the investment upfront. You’ve got to articulate that to the employee, so they understand why are they making this investment. I think, once you have them on board, of what the benefits are, then it’s a lot easier for them to invest that time. I think, the company, the organization needs to give them that time as well though, to learn that new tool.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Right, that’s a well-known criticism, right? That companies will say, “We want you to go and get this training.” When you come back, your desk is filled with all this stuff that didn’t get done when you were away, because there’s no halt. They keep running the assembly line. You’re not really getting the time to do it. It’s just, you’re in debt, you have this work debt. When you come back, you have to catch up.

In a sense, the company is saying, “You’re basically going to have to learn this on your own time because ultimately, you’re going to have to work 20 hours extra next week, to catch up, when you get back.” That’s just another reflection on this source of friction where technology, even technology that’s supposed to make people more productive, just can lead to them becoming more disengaged because the company doesn’t really effectively, is not really organized around on-the-job training anymore. You’re going to have to have your own training. You’re going to train yourself.

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
I agree with everything you said, Stowe. Just one thing to add to that. One thing we’ve also, we try to do, specifically to the Google engagements that we do. The area where I’m most familiar with is, there is a lot of new capabilities, when an organization goes to Google. What we try to do is, we try to phase that learning tool. The initial training for deployment for day one is, I want to make sure you can continue to do the job that you did yesterday, with minimal impact. That’s training them on the mail platform and the calendar platform, potentially. That’s where the core of it, is. Let’s make sure, you know those products.

There’s a bunch of other products in the Google app suite, but we’re not going to train you on that today. We don’t want to inundate you. Let’s slowly roll this in. Then, a month from now or three months from now, now let’s look at some of the other products. Slowly phase those in overtime, versus trying to train someone on a huge, brand new platform that has a ton of functionality that one company can’t afford that much time, to your point, Stowe. I can’t really put all of that, back on the employee. At the same time, I do want to eventually get the full capabilities of that platform, so I’m going to phase that in, overtime. I think that’s another approach too, that we’ve seen be very successful in trying to limit the amount of time I’m taking the employee away from their day-to-day jobs. Also giving them the information they need, to be effective from day one that, that new tool is in place.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Yeah, Chad, I’d like to continue that discussion. One of the questions we have, that I think is really pertinent is, when you think about that set of ideas that you were developing. Also, put into the mix, the notion of your, bring your own device policies in the organization. It’s one thing to say, “Yes, we have a bring your own device policy. Then, we have to do something to your phone or your tablet or whatever it is.” Then, the people still need to be trained on how to do things with the new technology you’ve put on their iPhone, let’s say.

How do you do that? How do you actually … You can’t just have a policy that says, “You can have a phone of your own. We’ll put some software on it. You’re on your own now.” It causes potential issues. There’s also the issue which is, if you have that, you’re actually saying, people with more, with a better paying job, people who are better off financially, can afford to buy an expensive iPhone or an expensive tablet. What about the more junior or less well-paid people in your organization? Are you creating a two-tiered system where some people are at a disadvantage because critical information is being passed around on tools that run well on smartphones, and they haven’t got one? What about that?

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, no, those are great questions, Stowe. BYOD policies, it’s interesting because I’ve actually worked with quite a few organizations. They vary, vastly in what their BYOD policies are. I do think that tools that are out there today, to do MDM, mobile device management of tools, have gotten a lot better. There is a little bit of that, behind the scenes. I can push policies to your phone. As an organization, if I take a step back, yes, I’m going to allow my employees a BYOD policy.

What I need as an employer is, just to ensure that the company data that they have on their phone, is secure. Usually, that’s the most critical piece. There are tools out there. Google has MDM built into it, natively. There’s other apps, AirWatch and others that do MDM capabilities, where you can push device policies, blocking of screen, ensuring they’re password protected, encrypting the device, with little knowledge by the user.

Now, they do have to accept, they have to acknowledge because they have to be aware that their employers is manipulating their phone. I think the mobile apps too, themselves are getting closer and closer to the web version that we’re seeing. When we train on the web version, a new tool, lots of times the mobile apps are usually, fairly intuitive, relative to the web version. I do think that is a factor in change management that should be looked at. What is the mobile experience? Is that something I need to also train users on because I can’t just expect them to know this completely different experience, if it does vary from what the web application looks like.

What we’ve seen is, it’s definitely a push to that BYOD, allowing users to use their mobile devices, to do work from anywhere. I think the line of, when am I at work? When I’m not, is definitely becoming less and less eroded. Lots of people are now working 8 AM to 5 PM. They’re working whenever they need to work, from wherever they happen to be at that time. I think we need to empower employees, we need to make the technology as frictionless as possible, for them to just do their job. If we put barriers up, that’s just going to give them more reasons, not to want to quickly respond to any email or do something, if they’re not in the office. That’s what we’ve seen. I think it’s getting easier and easier for organizations to roll-out MDM solutions that are fairly seamless to the end user.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
A couple of folks have asked about demographics differences. Do you guys have an opinion? Celine, what you think, are millennials different in this regard than, say, the boomers that are still in the workforce? I’ve done some research in Adobe and we found out, relative to the things we were talking about, millennials seem to be more willing to adopt all sorts of things and try them and use them. They’re just not ambivalent about anything. They’re willing to try everything, whereas older members of the workforce seem to be a little more ambivalent. They’ve tried things in the past and it was a headache. They remember when the company switched over to Lotus Notes, and what a headache that was. As a result, they’re little skittish nowadays, to try something new. Do you see that to be the case, or is that just a popular …

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
It’s the general idea we have, but in practice, I see people who’ve been there for a long time and who are definitely willing to try new things. At the same time, I see young employees in their early 30s, who are not willing to try anything. Who are happy, not being on any social network. I would say, it’s really hard to generalize on those trends.

One point I’d like to make is that, we shouldn’t mix engagement and adoption. These are two very different notions, I think. This is not the same. Measuring engagements through adoption is a way to narrowing the focus and seeing engagement through the lens of tools. I think it’s very reductive. Giving time to employees, to learn new tools. Yes, definitely it’s important. If those new tools haven’t been chosen by them. In the BYOD policies, the good thing is that, you have de facto, given the choice which is made their choice before. By themselves, and brought their tools to the company. What I mean is that, if you don’t involve employees into brainstorming about the tools. What are the best tools for them to do the work.

What comes before the tools is, the purpose. I saw a very good comment from the audience about this. The purpose, what is the meaning of work? What are we trying to achieve? Tools will come, almost surely behind this. If our purpose is to do X or Y, and for this, we need to get organized this way or that way, then the tools will come naturally. IT could present an array of tools and say, “Hey, here are the advantages of that one. Here are the pros and cons of the other ones. Why don’t we spend the time and brainstorm all together.” Instead of picking up the perfect tool for IT, SharePoint, and trying to push that to every employee. Of course, you will never listen. Even you can take them out of their work for 30 days, and you train them for 30 days, they will still not like it. You will have an adoption rate, which will be still very low.

You may complain or you may try to find incentives for people to go more, to be present on the tool. The impact on your business performance will be really low because you didn’t tackle the right problem. You didn’t do it the right way.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
I want to return to the question of meaning and purpose in a larger sense. Before we do that, I want to do our second poll because I think it’s closely tied to the thing we were talking about, just a minute ago. Exactly, while people are filling this out, I will mention because one of the questions was, could I name some of the technologies? There’s a lot of tools like 15Five and TINYpulse which are very lightweight, easy-to-use. Very time effective techniques to quickly, regularly poll people to find out what they’re feeling, thinking about. Do they grasp some of the ideas that the company might be trying to push forward, as part of the corporate culture for example.

There’s a long list of these. It’s a very interesting, exploding area which I call, Culture Management. Here’s the poll results. 25% are in companies where they’re using some technology to track employee engagement. That’s an interesting number actually. No, 66% and 9%, I don’t know. That’s interesting too. That still says that it’s roughly 75% are no or I don’t know. That’s in a sense, sign of how far we have to, go before the concerns about engagement windup, leading to companies taking an active, very obvious and open approach to trying to find out what’s going on. It seems that we have a long way to go. What you think about that, Chad? What you think about those numbers?

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, I’m not surprised by those numbers. A quarter’s saying yes. That’s probably what I would have imagined it to be. I think, when we talk about tools and technology to track engagement, I think you can always start simple too. If you’re an organization that doesn’t have anything. Certainly, going back to the surveys is a great place to start. You don’t have to get complex, right out of the gate. I think even little things right out, can make tremendous improvements with pretty small investments. Surveying tools, there’s quite a few out there. If they’re not free, they’re pretty reasonably priced. There’s free versions of everything. It just depends on what you’re looking for.

I would encourage anyone who doesn’t have technology or tools today, that doesn’t mean, going out and doing a long, complex, RFP process to find the right technology. Just start simple, start with some surveys. Those quick surveys, one or two questions. Start tracking there. Then from there, once you outgrow that, then you can start looking at maybe, some more of the advanced tools that track some of the more advanced metrics that Stowe and Celine mentioned earlier in the call.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
It turns out that, this is a minefield however because one of the sources of friction that a lot of HR research has led to, was the idea that if companies create a survey and spend some amount of time. People are all aware that, here is the annual survey or whatever. If the company doesn’t relatively, quickly take action based on the kinds of complaints that may be surfaced in those sorts of things, then it has exactly the opposite effect that was the intent. It leads to an actual, entire degree of disengagement because it’s once again, it can become another piece of evidence that senior management or the HR staff or whoever, doesn’t really want to listen to our complaints. They’re just going through the motions.

This has been a problem. In fact, you mentioned earlier Chad, the notion of creating employee recognition systems. Those have had that same kind of backlashes as well, where people think of it as just something that’s papering over real problems. It’s not sufficient to reach out and say, “This guy did a great job this month.” Whereas the other three people in the group who might have been complaining about safety issues or a poor way of managing meetings or whatever it is, that leads to negative results. They don’t get listened to and somebody else’s getting recognition. It can accelerate the decline of morale and so on.

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, I certainly agree with that, Stowe. To me, everything is about how you implement it and the purpose behind it. Even the best tools, if they have the wrong intent, aren’t going to accomplish what you want to do. I think there’s some … I think, what my point, what I was trying to make was, even there’s some simple tools. As long as you have the right intent and it’s genuine and you’re really trying to decrease disengagement. Yes, I’m sure you may always run into a situation where, maybe it was counterproductive to what you’re trying to do. Again, if you are truly trying to drive down disengagement. Maybe you have a hiccup, something didn’t … The results weren’t, what you had planned them to be. That’s still your ultimate goal.

You’re going to overcome that and you’re going to continue to drive that disengagement gap, down. Agree with you. It’s just, “Oh, let’s just put this tool in place and give away a Amazon gift card to our top 10%. Check the box on engagement.” That’s not going to get it done. It doesn’t matter how many functionality that tool has, how much you spent on it. It really comes down to, back to grassroots. We’re going to continue to improve. We’re going to look at our own organization and how we continue to drive that disengagement down. I agree with what you’re saying.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
No no, no, you’re right. It’s a matter of how effective you are, at actually achieving what you’re trying to do. The problem is, if nobody’s paying attention … If they are in fact, going along, just paint by numbers, then it’s going to have a negative impact. It won’t help. I just want to quickly, last general question before I’m going to ask you guys for your one liner to close this off.

I wanted to return to the topic of meaning and purpose. A great number of theorists, of practitioners, authors and thinkers have talked quite a lot recently, in recent years about the whole notion of individuals finding meaning and purpose. That a core part of what businesses, what companies are about, is to be a vehicle for people to do that. That doesn’t mean that they become … Companies are not in the business of becoming families. You’re not worrying about every facet of an individual’s inner being. On the other hand, since they are coming to work, for them to try to find meaning and purpose in that, is an essential thing for the company to be able to support.

To the degree that they don’t, or the degree that they stifle that. This is potentially one of the major factors in people’s dissatisfaction with their jobs or their businesses, the companies that they work for. What can we do about that, Celine? What is it that, we as individuals or companies, as agents of potential fulfillment or agents of helping people find fulfillment through work. What is it that we should do, individuals and business?

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
I think, the more you broaden the scope of identity of people at work, the more you can connect them with their peers, with their external environments. The more you can make those connections and bring in the diversity, a bigger diversity of people together, around a shared purpose, the more people feel safe to create, to grow and to feel engaged. Instead, if you leave them as cards in the machine, in their little box, their little department, you will continue to see this. You can add whatever benefits or gift cards, whatever you want. You will not change anything.

Working on engagement is about opening up the horizons of people. It’s not like letting go. It’s about bringing people around something that they build together. The role of IT in this respect is, extremely important as a role model, as I mentioned before. Also to enable flawless connections in an, as easy way as possible. That’s why customer-centricity is important because it’s not about adopting what IT think is good. It’s about listening to what people think is good. Trying to enhance and enable that, and bring in the people who are little bit late, the options. That they too can be connected to the rest.

It’s about building those purpose-based connections, where I think IT is playing a crucial role.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
That’s helpful. Thank you very much, Celine. The last thing I’d like us to do in the remaining few minutes. I’m trying to be aware of people’s time constraints. That they want to get off at the top of the hour. Chad, I’d like you to be the first to offer your walk-a-away, your final recommendations. Something that people can take away from this. If you have a one- sentence or one-minute answer to that. What do you think is the most critical thing for people to think about, with regard to this large issue?

Chad Smith, Principal, Maven Wave Partners
Yeah, sure. I’ll just close with this. Celine, I agree with everything you were saying. I think it’s about shared objectives, shared goals as a team. I think it’s about organizations becoming more open, more collaborative, especially within the four walls of the organization. Even more so, externally. I know that brings even some additional concerns. I think, within an organization, the ones I’ve seen being successful, the ones I see that have engaged employees, are the ones that share information openly, internally with everyone. We see that especially in the area that I work in, specifically with the collaboration and in Google. Once you open and break down those interior walls and let people collaborate across teams. You share information with everyone, trusting them with that information. That just engages people and empowers them.

One, they know what’s going on in the company. Two, they feel like, “You trust me with this information. Maybe if I worked at another organization, they wouldn’t share with me. I feel like, that makes me more part of the team and part of the company, and know where we’re going.”

That would probably be my closing thoughts is really just, I think one of the biggest ways you can drive up engagement or drive down disengagement is, openness within a company. Collaboration, team goals, sharing of ideas across teams. Really, everyone driving towards the same objective, regardless of whether you sit in IT or HR or in manufacturing or wherever. We’re all here to accomplish the same thing. Let’s go and accomplish it together.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Céline, I’ll give you the same opportunity to have some closing statements.

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
I totally agree with what Chad just said. To add to this, I would say, it’s about bringing people together, not just with their head, but also with their heart. How to bring people head and heart is by showing authenticity, is by showing your true self. As leaders, it can be sometimes challenging because leaders have grown up, have moved up in the hierarchy, by being in total control, by being the people who manage, who predicted well and who had their teams run well as an army. Things have changed. It’s a challenge to work differently, to change your behavior, to invite the diversity of may, in the co-creation of strategies, not just in the implementation of those. It’s a challenge, but it’s a beautiful challenge. I would say, we also have no choice.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Yes, well I think I’ll start from 1000-foot view and say, we’re in a time of incredible change. It goes without saying, but it’s worth saying it again. Some of those changes are having a very large impact on how it is that, businesses have to operate. There’s a lot of things I could point out. Relative to the discussion, I think that things are more salient, as businesses are being forced to become more agile, to become more fast and loose, as I say. Be able to change what they’re doing and innovate, invent new business models and so on. That requires agility, not just at a business strategy-level, but at the level of people doing their jobs. That requires some very significant rethinking of how people … How you call, how you define running a business and people doing their jobs.

I think the most important thing, the most salient thing is, we’re seeing a natural progression that is happening at a very fast rate of speed. That makes it feel like a revolution. That is, increasing degrees of autonomy are required by people to be highly productive in the world that we’re in. The natural conservatism of business is, running a ground with the need for people to declare the need for personal autonomy in the business. We see the trend, the highest performing people are ones that have the greatest, demand the highest degrees of autonomy. This is, as a result, a trend that is going to trickle out to everybody in the organization, ultimately. There is a tension between the business as it is, and how it’s being practiced, and the rule books and so on. What is necessary to be effective in the modern time. That tension is being reflected into dissatisfaction and disengagement.

I think that’s the thing to take away that, we’re going through a revolution and it hasn’t trickled all the way through. It’s going to be difficult for a lot of people. One of the important roles for management is to figure out how to be effective midwives of that birth of the new business.

I’m being reminded to mention, BetterCloud Monitor is up and running. People should take a look at that. Hopefully, we’ll be able to gain even more insight from participating there. Thank you for attending. Thank you very much.

Céline Schillinger, Head of Quality Innovation and Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
Thanks everyone. Thanks Stowe, thanks Chad. Ciao.

Stowe Boyd, Head of Research, Gigaom
Thank you. Bye.

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