Technology is critical, as it supports employees and the processes that drive the customer experience. It can both enhance experiences and save hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on labor costs. Technology is there to support the entire business. Early in 2020, companies gravitated immediately to technology solutions, believing that would be the silver bullet and solve all their challenges when employees were sent home to work.
Besides using meeting platforms like Zoom, MS Teams, and Google Hangout to drive employee engagement, communication, and collaboration, many companies believed that once new technology was integrated into their organizations, they would have conquered the work-at-home environment. Yet at the end of 2020, companies are still struggling with employee engagement and accountability, the ripples of which can be felt throughout the organization. It turns out that companies have, in essence, put the cart before the horse.
Companies and their employees are yearning for the brick-and-mortar feeling, and yet after almost a year and thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars spent on technology, organizations find themselves in a huge hole trying to figure out why they still feel in the dark. Companies’ current processes and procedures and how they conduct their business haven’t truly been integrated into the technology in which they invested.
So why do we gravitate toward technology to solve our problems? First, we have been programmed to think that way by the very industry we serve. Second, it’s far less painful for leadership to fixate on technology than to analyze their leadership skill sets and how leaders at all levels lead, engage employees, and make decisions. After all, technology has no feelings. Bringing in new technologies provides leadership with the opportunity to be recognized for that contribution, and they can obtain a higher level of visibility and be positioned for possible future promotions.
Leaders can find themselves trying to integrate their current process, procedures, and how they lead into how the new technology works. In essence, leaders could be trying to put a square peg in a round hole, all the while trying to justify the purchase of that technology, first to themselves and then to the employees that work in their organization.
The travesty, besides a massive amount of money being spent on new technologies, is the frustration of the employees—who make or break the customer interaction. How an employee feels about their company, the people they work for and with, and the decisions that leadership makes has a direct relationship to how employees feel and serve customers. This can translate to lost revenue, lower employee productivity, higher attrition and absenteeism, and unhappy customers—all of which can tarnish the brand of the company.
However, putting the cart before the horse can be a springboard to drive organizations to reengineer how they navigate the work-at-home environment. Self-reflection can be the catalyst for leaders to make new choices that will not only enhance their work-at-home culture but can represent to the employee base how to change directions in a way that grows the business. This may be hard for some leaders, but successful [DP1] can be a refreshing start for companies. For others, putting the horse before the cart can move the organization to a whole new level.
By tapping into the employee base of every department that touches the new technology, leaders can set the stage for true and rewarding employee engagement. This way of leading not only puts the horse before the cart, but is in fact a team of horses that pull the cart. Companies can move further and faster toward reengineering their work-at-home environment to thrive.
Having employee focus groups to get feedback is critical, along with communicating that garnered information back to the employee base. This can be a very good first step in reengineering work-at-home environments. Discussion boards to gather information from employees not in those focus groups will drive higher employee engagement across the enterprise. Total transparency of where the organization is will give employees an opportunity to build more trust and belief in management. Self-accountability can be cultivated within the organization, minimizing current management challenges.
Technology is there to enhance organizations to make them more efficient, to enhance the employee and customer experience, and to drive revenue and bottom-line contribution. Technology serves people and processes, not the other way around. The way we lead in the work-at-home environment has to change from traditional brick-and-mortar leadership to a new style that is distinctly more engaging and progressive. Understanding this can truly be a springboard for rallying the entire organization to reengineer the processes and procedures that drive technology decisions. Putting the cart before the horse should be a thing of the past. The new work-at-home frontier can be conquered with a team of horses pulling the cart toward company objectives and success.
Recognized as a subject-matter expert on virtual/work-at-home environments and leadership development, Vicki Brackett has written for and been interviewed by Forbes, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, CFO Magazine, CEOWorld, HR News, Training Magazine, and a host of other publications, news outlets and podcasts on creative work-at-home and employee engagement strategies.