With technology comes an air of mystery. Because the overall landscape continues to evolve at breakneck speed, companies across industries see technology as an alluring force that must be embraced in order to remain competitive. Yet, while senior executives work to integrate the latest and greatest tools, this focus often leads many to forget and forego the communication strategies necessary to keep employees engaged.According to Jonathan Erwin, CEO of Red e App, before companies can successfully implement new technologies to further their goals, leaders must pay special attention to bringing employee feedback and involvement into the loop. Here, 1to1 Media speaks with Erwin to explore the benefits of improved communication and how such strategies are necessary when laying the groundwork for technological enhancements:
1to1 Media: When making internal improvements, why should companies focus on communication over technology?
Jonathan Erwin: It may sounds clichÃ©, but technology is not human, while communication is. And communication is accessible and an inherent behavior. A company needs to communicate with employees to understand the problem they are solving for. By involving employees in the discovery phase, the company's technology requirements are more refined and will more appropriately address the issues. Technology is often a primitive solution. Technology can provide solutions to specific problems, but often overlook broad problems that solve for human behavior. I would argue that communication is always the first step to thoughtful problem solving with technology.
1to1: What benefits does this focus on communication bring to the organization, its employees, and ultimately, the consumer? How can communication boost engagement?
JE: Communication is the cornerstone to trust and understanding. When employees at all levels are included in company discussions and provided the reasoning behind company decision, they are much more engaged. A more engaged employee has a direct impact on turnover, customer service, quality, productivity, and ultimately, profitability.
1to1: Why do most companies tend to focus on technological improvements? What impact does this focus have on the company's operations?
JE: Problem solvers, automation, and efficiency experts have long been revered in the C-suites. Solutions are usually associated with cost savings, or productivity and profit, and technology is a great hammer. When wielded appropriately, technology can have a tremendous impact on operational efficiencies. However, there are caveats: change management processes, the speed at which technology changes, and human behavior. Together, these create a potentially dangerous cocktail for the "get 'er done" solution architects. Technology can paint companies into corners costing them dearly to get them out.
An example I love is the restaurant industry's identification of electronic scheduling as a must have for their field operations. It solves a problem of access for the employee and visibility for a manager. But today it is often not integrated to enterprise systems, has little ability to scale in hierarchical businesses, and is a huge shift in behavior for these traditional businesses. Yet, CIOs see a shiny object they must have. So, technology decisions are much easier and quicker to make based on the status quo than taking a deep look at the overall operations. Evaluating job functions, roles, and processes to determine technology requirements takes time to research and map. In the long term, though, implementing a technology solution that is not comprehensive and is not based on the company's objectives will cost the company more in time and expenses.
1to1: How can companies use technology to support their goals and enhance their communication efforts instead?
JE: Select a technology that works with your employees rather than employees having to work with the technology. By that, I mean, be sure that technology is supporting the company objectives and the employee's corresponding function. I've experienced a lot of cases where employees are using workarounds to make a technology solution meet their needs.
Mobile is also dramatically shifting behaviors, creating an opportunity for communication and engagement, and because of this, employees are increasingly expecting accessibility to company communication and productivity applications on their mobile device. The ability for an employer to communicate with an employee in real-time needs to be included in the company objective assessment, requiring them to determine which corporate processes and systems need to be accessible on a mobile device.