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I’ve been seeing the term “connected” workplace showing up a bit more in my reading. It’s piqued my curiosity, so I decided to do some digging to learn more. While I haven’t found a single definition for it, I have come to realize that “connected” might be a more accurate term than engagement. When we think about employee engagement, we often talk about employees being engaged with their work or their position or the company. The employee is engaged with something.
Connected comes across to me as employees are engaged with many things at the same time. They’re connected to their work and the company, but also with other people such as their co-workers. It made me think of “connected” as the internet of things (IoT) for workplaces. As such, I immediately thought of three things that could create a connected workplace. We could call them the 3 Ts of a connected workforce – tasks, tech, and team.
- Tasks: Of course, the employee needs to be connected to the work they do. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be some job responsibilities we favor more than others. That happens everywhere. But the idea is that, overall, employees enjoy their work and feel that when they do their job well, they are connected with and contributing to the organization.
- Technology: Speaking of tasks, today’s technology solutions allow employees to use technology to make their work (i.e. tasks) easier. Technology can reduce steps in a process. It can supply information that would be otherwise unavailable (and do it in real-time!) Technology can also be used as a communication tool to keep the flow of information going and maybe reduce a few meetings.
- Team: Even when you’re an individual contributor, it’s necessary to get the work done with others. Employees need to be connected with their manager and colleagues. Of course, this happens directly through face-to-face meetings and one-on-ones. But employees can also build connection with others by using technology.
3 Ways Organizations Can Create a More Connected Workplace
Here’s the thing: To create a connected workplace means giving human resources and department managers the tools to be successful. We could say that HR and management need to be “connected” in order to pull this off. Ah, see what I did there?! Ha.ha. Sorry, bad pun. But you have to admit that to create engagement, connection, whatever you want to call it, HR and management have to work together. Here are three key activities where HR and management have the opportunity to engage employees and create a connected workplace.
Job design: Developments in technology necessitate looking at job design with a different eye. We’re not talking about robots eliminating our jobs. Or maybe we are just a little bit. Organizations have to start designing jobs that are attractive to candidates and employees. This means HR and hiring managers need to review job descriptions and discuss hiring requirements during the recruiting strategy meeting and check their assumptions throughout the entire hiring process.
Job tools: While there are many different types of job aids and tools, what I’m talking about here is technology. Organizations need to provide employees with the tools to be successful. Candidates and employees do not want to work for companies that offer an outdated technology experience. It sends the message that the organization might not be able to compete in the global economy. It also means that employees will have to craft their own workarounds to get their jobs done.
Job conversations: This is the one that I believe needs the most attention. If you look up the definition of the word conversation, it means a “talk between two or more people in which news and ideas are exchanged.” We conduct conversations all the time, especially during meetings. But conversations are also about listening and all participants being involved. It reminds me of that old book, “Telling Ain’t Training”. Telling also isn’t a conversation.
How Organizations Can Create Better Conversations
In many organizations, recruitment challenges have caused HR and hiring managers to look at job design and even add some new job tools. Unfortunately, when we look at the three ways to create a more connected workplace above, the part that can be lagging is job conversations. I wonder if it’s because conversations can be viewed as “easy”, but the reality is that a quality conversation is hard.
Conversations need to involve people. I know you’re reading this and saying, “Yes, this is obvious.” But then, how many times do we go to a meeting where the right people aren’t present?! I see it happen a lot when the organization has remote employees or a contingent workforce.
Conversations need for people to be present. What I mean by present is that the environment is right for the conversation (i.e. right time, place, atmosphere, etc.) and the right technology for everyone to participate. Logistics are important because the wrong time or place can ruin a conversation in a heartbeat.
Conversations need to have purpose. In the Harvard Business Review article “Collaboration Overload”, we learn that the amount of collaborative work has doubled over the past decade. For collaboration to be successful, everyone must be on the same page in terms of understanding the goal and the information being shared.
Connected workplaces are not likely to happen organically. The organization needs to be committed to having conversations. And committed to training managers and employees on how to have good conversations. And finally, companies need to be committed to creating a workplace where conversations are encouraged.
I know there’s been a lot of conversation about employee engagement in recent years. That’s not a waste of time. However, maybe instead of focusing on employee engagement, organizations would be better served to focus on creating “connections” around the workplace using the tools they have at their disposal – good work design, excellent technology, and informative training and development – to build those connections. Then watch the engagement grow!
P.S. If you want to learn more about creating a connected workplace, join me and the MindManager team for #WorkConnected on Thursday, September 26, 2019. Jean David, the pioneer behind Cirque du Soleil will be speaking about how they use working connected to enhance innovation and creativity in their organization. Already committed? No worries. Sign up anyway and get the recording.21