The tech-driven renaissance of employee engagement

Renaissance painting
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Jeremy Boudinet
Director of Marketing
Ambition
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We are on the brink of a full-blown, technology-driven renaissance for employee engagement. Major developments in enterprise software, data analytics and workforce composition forecast an impending engagement revival in the sales, marketing and customer service teams.

Sounds audacious, right?  It should, given the dismal percentage of the global workforce that’s engaged currently, a mere 13 percent, So why the certainty that an engagement renaissance is around the corner?

This article sets forth the rationale, while covering three core sections:

  1. The Foundations of Employee Engagement.
  2. The Causus Belli of the Engagement Renaissance.
  3. The Future of Tech-Driven Engagement.

It won't happen overnight, but technology will not only stop being a hindrance of employee engagement, it will become the key enabler. And sooner than almost anyone will predict.

The Foundations of Employee Engagement

Across every industry, high-performing sales, marketing and service teams tend to achieve success via 1) well-defined culture and processes, leading to 2) engaged employees who make autonomous decisions and execute consistently.

At the employee level, focus, motivation and direction are established characteristics of high performance. Consistency, also the essence of greatness, provides another degree of separation between elite and middle-tier performers.

Business leaders are increasingly recognizing engagement as the X-Factor in performance. In sales, marketing and customer service, specifically, an emerging focus is on engaging core performers middle performers. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as innovative new technologies in the areas of data analytics and communication are now set to activate engagement like never before.

The Causus Belli of an Engagement Renaissance

The secret weapon to employee engagement takes a form most enterprises are notoriously loathe to adopt -- new technology.

In fact, the most hyper-productive organizations are all members of the same industry -- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) -- whose aggressive adoption of new technology adoption makes it an exception to the rule.  Fast-growing SaaS startups are using cutting-edge data analytics and communication softwares in tandem to achieve hyper-productivity. What’s more, the top performers operate more efficiently, achieve faster growth, and possess flatter organizational hierarchies than any business in history.

As Chris Mims outlined in the Wall St. Journal, high-growth startups like Slack, Zendesk and Looker are suddenly becoming the model for lean, mean operations. Their swift ascents are byproducts of operational hyper-productivity, achieved via seamless internal communication, genuine employee enthusiasm and savvy, data-driven decision-making.

Seemingly overnight, plucky SaaS startups are transforming into legitimate industry contenders who catch bloated, inefficient and uninspired incumbents on their heels and then snatch market share by out-innovating, outmaneuvering & out-recruiting them.

Case in point: ADP's lawsuit against Zendesk, a favorite tactic of incumbents looking to slow challenger momentum. (Just ask my Lamp Post Group colleagues at Bellhops). These and other SaaS success stories offer prime indicators as to how technology can drive engagement in mid-market and mature enterprise companies.

The Future of Tech-Driven Engagement

Looking back to SaaS, a noteworthy characteristic of hyper-productive SaaS startups is that they’re not only early adopters of advanced technology, but vendors themselves. And what started out as a SaaS industry arms race around innovation is now spreading into mainstream enterprise.

Fueled by competition, favorable pricing and legitimate impact, cutting-edge data analytics and communication technology will enter a vast swath of the mainstream workforce, setting the wheels of the employee engagement Renaissance in motion.

If that sounds bold,  look at the global emergence of the functional sales operations department. As of 2014, Miller Heiman found that "71% of the highest performing sales organizations leveraged knowledge management systems as a single source of collateral and information [and] 69% used sales analytics to measure and predict sales performance." In the meantime, marketing automation is changing sales structures and customer support software is more deeply aligning customer success with sales and marketing.

For Human Resource leadership, an initiative to promote tech-driven engagement should begin with an audit of overall sales, marketing and customer success department engagement. Meetings with sales, marketing, customer success and IT leadership should follow to discern the impact of existing software on  engagement.

Ultimately, decisions over future software implementations will boil down to a cost-benefit analysis -- Where can you you get the most value out of existing data, technology and talent? Are there solutions you can integrate with your current platform to drive engagement, and if so, which is the best fit?

To assist you, here are 10 tools that can likely integrate with your existing software to drive engagement. 5 tools via data analytics:  1) Mixpanel​. 2) KISSmetrics​. 3) Domo. 4) Mailchimp. 5) ​GoodData. 5 tools via team communication: 1) Slack. 2) FrontApp 3) Datanyze 4) RelateIQ 5) ​Intercom

​Engineering Better Engagement

Employee engagement, powered by data analytics, will be on the upswing for the foreseeable future.

Just look at the 10 products listed above, all of which use some combo of data science, multi-integration technology and transparent team communication to streamline commercial operations.

Here at Ambition, we are working to add another layer to employee engagement, through real-time performance scoring, team competition and advanced reporting and analytics.

In terms of employee engagement, the future of work is brighter than you might think. Propelled by technology, the workforce of the future will be more enlightened, engaged and efficient than ever before.

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By PCPaul
30th Jul 2015 19:35

"I got signals. I got readings, in front and behind...Look, I'm telling ya, there's somethin' movin' and it ain't us...They're all around us, man." People who don't wake up to the importance of big data may feel the floor open up beneath them, just like PFC Hudson. A very good article, well done.

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to PCPaul
31st Jul 2015 17:20

Thanks Paul! I see you saw my "How to Prepare Your Sales Team for Adversity" article as well. :) #BeEllenRipley

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8th Aug 2015 10:23

A big fan of technological improvements and continuously moving forward. Still waiting to see technology that removes the communication barriers between people.

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18th Sep 2015 12:26

Bingo! I think that's every current management buzz-word in one single article! Well done. And yet you managed to make it entirely content-free as well. 1000 words with no actual information. Remarkable.

Yes, technology is going to transform things. That's what it always does. Disruptive technologies even more so because no-one ever sees them coming, and then when they do turn up, everyone goes "Wow, that's so simple, why didn't *I* think of that!?"

Big companies often don't buy new technologies because they don't see the problem in their organisation for which the whizzy new tech purports to be the solution. Sometimes the problem(s) is/are hard to define. Often the problems are people, and if people aren't disposed to communicate accurately and clearly, it doesn't matter how many tools you give them to do it with, they won't use them.

I don't know the tools you've listed, and I don't have time to go research them - I would have thought that would have been the point of the article, but you were apparently too concerned with using "some combo of data science, multi-integration technology and transparent team communication to streamline commercial operations.". Spoken like a true PHB.

For most businesses, the simple, cheap tools they already have will do just fine, if they use them right. IM for quick chats, emails for more detail, documents for full specs/plans, phone calls and face-to-face (including video calls/conferencing) for maintaining contact networks. Couple these basic tools with good leaders who encourage their staff to communicate, and you've got everything most people need to run their day.

At the end of the day, you simply can't buy engagement. No amount of technology will empower or enable it if the basic desire to do/be it isn't present already.

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