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Columbia Business Monthly

How is Technology Changing Your Workplace Culture?

May 06, 2019 09:43AM
By Doug Claffey, Energage CEO and Founder

Technology is influencing the culture of your workplace. The question is, will it create intended positive results or sidetrack the organization’s mission?
 
Powerful tools are giving leaders deeper understanding of their organization’s culture and work dynamics. They also provide a way to get ahead of issues that could handicap success.

We see this as an emerging field of “culture technology,” a multidisciplinary, science-based approach to improve workplace culture. It seeks to help everyone—from senior leaders to rookie employees—collaborate to build an intentional and purposeful culture.

We have seen Top Workplaces solicit feedback and drive meaningful dialogue with employees in a way that builds trust and makes employees feel heard. For example, companies are using short pulse questions in between annual surveys to track progress throughout the year.

Others have set up anonymous channels where employees can provide feedback in a safe way. One medical records digitization company used anonymous employee feedback to address barriers to growth. Over the last four years, it expanded from 400 to more than 1,000 employees without losing sight of its culture.

Leaders of Top Workplaces know culture is the foundation of success, and they know how to use technology to create a better work environment. The challenge is looking past the obvious role of technology—efficiency and speed—and understanding how to engage the human spirit.

The new confluence of disciplines has the potential to substantially improve the key relationships that make up our work experience, from a person’s relationship with their work, their manager, colleagues, and the organization itself. 

This requires going beyond traditional internal communications efforts such as town halls, executive videocasts, or IM-jams. Rather, it involves setting up communication channels employees can use to collaborate, build community, recognize one another, and provide candid feedback without fear of repercussion or exposure.

In the big picture, we know technology is a huge point of discussion and debate, from privacy issues to security issues. Still, we’re all slaves to our email and instant messaging channels.

We’re getting a higher quality of life in the micro-instant, but in the broader sense, it’s not clear what we’re getting accomplished, certainly in terms of work. The amount of time we spend communicating and the amount of time we spend working both influence productivity, which is not demonstrably going up.

Developing quality channels of communication in the workplace focuses on aligning and connecting. Culture technology can provide a level of insight into your culture and shape how to make it better.

When done right, technology brings people together. And that’s important, because alignment is a key pillar for any high-performing organization. But when done wrong, technology polarizes people.

So, how do you use technology for good in the workplace? Start with an approach that celebrates the positive aspects of your culture, and build real connections based on trust and appreciation. Constructively channel the negative emotions that inevitably arise and educate senior leaders to accept and act on the feedback.

If we are intentional about how technology impacts our culture, we can create more productive workplaces, truly aligned teams, stronger connections, a better coaching environment, and better effectiveness. Think about how technology is going to impact your culture. Focus on a Top Workplace culture as an outcome. That’s the best use of technology, and it drives better business results.

Doug Claffey is CEO and co-founder of Energage, a culture technology firm that specializes in employee engagement and workplace improvement research.