How we work has changed dramatically in many firms over the last few years. While some professionals continue to work in a traditional office setting, many work remotely and some take a hybrid approach. But one constant among nearly every firm leader is a concern for employee engagement.
That concern is well-founded. After all, every firm is feeling the pain of the war for talent, and engagement is part of an effective overall strategy for employee retention.
The good news is engagement and culture can and do happen virtually. So let's discuss how technology can help build them in a virtual or hybrid firm.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is employees' emotional commitment to the firm and its goals. Engaged employees care about their work and the company. They don't work solely to collect a paycheck or advance their career. They’re also invested in helping the firm meet its strategic goals.
Improving employee engagement should be a priority for every firm because it impacts retention, productivity, loyalty, the client experience and the firm's reputation.
Using technology to improve employee engagement
Your technology must include the following core features to support remote and hybrid employees.
Screen sharing is the ability share your computer desktop or an application with one or more people. It usually serves one of three purposes:
Quick collaboration during meetings between coworkers
Sharing presentations or demonstrations for client communications
Allowing IT team members to provide technical support to remote worker
Some popular options include Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Chat, Team Viewer and AnyDesk.
Water cooler conversations
Employees working in the same physical location tend to gather around the company's water cooler, coffee maker or break room between projects to talk about work, books, movies, their families and weekend plans.
Some firm leaders might see these informal chats as time wasters, but they're a great way to bring people together and help them connect.
These "water cooler" conversations don't happen organically when people work remotely. You need to make them happen to keep employees engaged and connected to each other on a human level.
Some popular options include Workplace by Facebook, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.
Video conferencing provides several benefits, including:
Reduced travel expenses
Promotes better client relationships
Greater meeting efficiency
Enhanced employee satisfaction
Popular options include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans and Google Chat.
Presence refers to the ability to ascertain the status of your team members at any given time. When you share an office space with someone, you can tell immediately whether they're available to speak to you.
In a remote environment, it can be difficult to tell whether someone is available or when they might return. But presence is essential with remote workers. It’s helpful to know whether they’ve stepped away for a moment or are gone for the day.
Popular options include Skype, Microsoft Teams, AnyConnect and Jabber.
Knowledge-sharing platform contain a knowledge base and features that allow users to exchange information in real time. Knowledge-sharing platforms can be internal or external-facing.
Some popular options include Sharepoint, Microsoft Teams and Intranets.
Project management tools provide transparency and communication in a remote or hybrid team. Your firm likely has a workflow solution for tracking client engagements. However, it’s also helpful to have a system for monitoring internal projects.
If your existing workflow solution can’t accommodate internal projects, popular solutions include Trello, Asana, Monday, MS Planner and SmartSheets.
The need to keep employees engaged transcends location. If you value your people and want to hold on to them, now is the time to start thinking about how your technology supports employee engagement, whether in the cubicle next door, a home office or working from a beach on the other side of the world.
Marc Staut, Shareholder and Chief Innovation & Information Officer at Boomer Consulting, Inc., helps meet the growing needs of CPA firms by leveraging his experience to provide strategic technology assessments, planning, visioning and coaching. He feels that “technology should be an enabler – something that’s approachable, aligned with and integral to the success of each firm.” Marc is a regular speaker, author and panelist on technology in the accounting profession, cloud computing, mobile technology, leadership and vision.