Employee engagement might not be a priority for IT departments – but it should be. Natalie Calvert explains why the ‘soft’ issue of how your staff feel about their job is now mission critical.

Employee engagement. It sounds ‘fluffy’ doesn’t it? It suggests chatting about feelings over a coffee – a chummy, vacuous activity far removed from the challenges of running an IT department. 

Yet…lack of employee engagement is crippling businesses. Take this example from Gartner, which shows that less than 30% of workers in the UK have a high intention of staying with their current employer.  In other words, 70% of workers are thinking of jumping ship.

The UK has a talent shortage. Businesses need talented individuals at all levels to compete.  Digital transformation is all about harnessing technology to differentiate. Why do you think some organisations are forging ahead with their digital transformation plans while others are floundering? Yes, you’ve guessed it: good people.

Poor employee engagement hinders the performance and innovation of IT departments.  Therefore, poor employee engagement threatens the future of the IT department.

Training and recruiting staff is expensive. It takes time for new starters to build knowledge and contribute. And when they leave, they take valuable knowledge and relationships with them.
In other words, employee engagement is anything but fluffy. Poor employee engagement hinders the performance and innovation of IT departments.  Therefore, poor employee engagement threatens the future of the IT department.

What does employee engagement really mean?
Yes, employee engagement is about how employee feel. More importantly, it’s how they feel about their colleagues and the business that employees them. Are they taken for granted and ignored? Or is their voice and contribution acknowledged and valued?

Look at the responses from the aforementioned Gartner research. The main things that employees value are what you’d expect: good work location, generous vacation time and work-life balance. But ‘camaraderie’ and ‘service quality’ were given almost equal billing according to the research. This is because an intangible that most businesses overlook: employees want to feel part of something good. Something positive. Something that makes a difference.

Employee engagement isn’t about money. Or motivational days out. It’s about people feeling valued and involved with an exciting and worthwhile venture with people they respect.

During your career, have you been forced to use a broken process or approach even though it’s glaringly obvious that it wastes time and delivers a poor outcome? Did you suggest making a change only to be told that ‘we can’t change it, you’ll just have to put up with it’? Can you remember how frustrating that was?

Can you also recall a time when you were part of a business success story? How did it feel to be a part of a team all pulling in the same direction and achieving your goals together? In simple terms, it feels good when we do good work.

This example is the essence of employee engagement. Yes, employee engagement may feel like a new skill or concept for IT departments to learn. In the midst of the fire-fighting that characterises running a technology department, it may seem like ONE MORE THING TO DEAL WITH. You may be an IT leader who believes that employee engagement is the responsibility of the HR department. It doesn’t work this way. Employee engagement is an unavoidable factor in running an effective IT operation – whether we like it or not. 

If an IT department loses its best people and struggles to recruit equivalent or superior talent, the fire-fighting mode that means employee engagement is being overlooked will get worse. It’s a vicious circle. IT leaders must break it to remain technology leaders.

I have helped organisations including Lego, Audi and Adidas improve their employee engagement. My group training courses and one-to-one mentoring can give you and your teams the knowledge and strategy to transform performance by starting with employee engagement – find out more here.

Guest post by:
Natalie Calvert, CX High Performance

Natalie Calvert

CX trainer and coach
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