TJ Keitt

If there is a simple way to describe today's business landscape, it's that we're observing the inexorable march of change. Demographic changes, and a shift towards mobile and digital, force businesses to reconsider how to deal with their new, multigenerational workforces. Dealing with all of this change requires cultural, managerial, policy, and, yes, technology innovation.

CIOs must have a seat at the table to ensure that the technology supports the business strategy. To guide the technology solutions design process, IT leaders need to understand more than employee satisfaction with IT services. They must understand employees' engagement levels, working styles, motivations, and goals. These factors are essential to helping the business create a workplace that is appealing to today's transient, cosmopolitan workforce.

What does an engaged workforce look like? Forrester has defined employee engagement as employees who will invest time and energy in the success of the business. Forrester's Forrsights Workforce Employee survey of more than 9,000 global information workers allows us to identify and describe engaged workers by examining those investing in their organisation: employees who remain in their jobs, as well as recommend their organisations as an employer and a vendor.

According to this survey, just 30% of employees are truly engaged. It also shows, that engaged employees tend to be more senior, customer-facing, and working from multiple locations. More than a third spend time working at a client site at least a few times per month, while nearly half work from home at a similar rate. Business leaders invest in this public-facing group to make clients — and ultimately the business — more successful. As a result, engaged employees indicate that they feel appreciated — 74% feel recognised for their efforts, and 74% are inspired by management.

As CIOs map out their technology strategies, their plans must bolster business leaders efforts to engage all employees – not just high ranking or client-facing employees. The analysis of Forrester’s workforce data revealed four trends that IT leaders can build on:

1. Engaged workers are bullish on the tools that they have at work.

Some 77% of engaged employees indicate that technology is important to them. This makes sense given their high level of mobility and need to interact with external partners and customers. What's more interesting is that three-quarters of these workers say they have the tools they need to solve problems. This contradicts conventional wisdom that states IT departments do a poor job of provisioning technology for workers.

2. They require a broad device portfolio...

A majority of engaged workers use laptops (71%) and smartphones (57%), which help make them mobile. Additionally, more than a quarter use tablets for business. This device diversity may spring from the fact that most employees using these portable computing devices report that they had a role in selecting them.

3. ... and they feel underserved without it.

Forrester's research into the mobile workforce has consistently shown that these workers need devices and apps in context for the situation they're in. That trend holds true here, as 74% of engaged workers use more than one device for work. Forty-seven percent of this group uses three to four devices. The majority of those using that many devices believe they have access to the tools they need to get work done. By contrast, 80% of employees using just one to two devices don't think that they have the necessary tools.

4. Collaboration tools connect workers to the company's success.

Ensuring that information flows freely through the organisation and out to partners and customers is essential in today's business environment. A majority of the engaged workforce uses at least one social tool (53%) and/or one communication and collaboration tool (83%). We're beginning to see the benefits workers receive from these tools: 85% of social software users say they know how their work contributes to the company's mission. Furthermore, these tools help build community, as the bulk of those using communication and collaboration tools say their colleagues do the same.

Technology and employee engagement

CIOs must view employee technology experiences as they do customer experiences

Forrester’s data shows the great opportunity before IT leaders. There is a reservoir of goodwill among the most engaged employees in the organisation, and IT is seen as a technology thought leader throughout the workforce. The trick now, though, is turning these basic strengths into sound strategies to help build an engaging workplace. As the data shows, the only way to do this is to ensure that technology decisions are guided by not only the business' functional requirements but also positive outcomes for employees.

CIOs must view employee technology experiences the same as they do customer experiences. This means that IT leaders must understand what drives different types of employees and what challenges they face in specific processes. Motivational maps, which illustrate what drives different employee personas, and journey maps, which outline the touchpoints a persona has in a process, are essential.

By TJ Keitt, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester