Technology and employee engagement: which tools distract and which help?

A joint study from the University of California & Humboldt University claims that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to a task after an interruption.


Now think of how many times you’re distracted throughout the day. Maybe it’s procrastination, and you simply take a quick break to check your social media. Maybe you’ve been asked a question by a well-meaning colleague. 


Even with the increasing popularity of remote set-ups, interruptions come at us in the form of notifications, phone pings and email alerts. 

Productivity loss: are technology distractions the culprit? 


These constant distractions mean a huge loss of productivity, engagement and even higher stress levels. What’s more, the amount of people tying their distractions to technology, according to a 2016 survey by CareerBuilder, speak for themselves.


Top distraction culprits included smartphones (55%), the internet (41%), gossip (37%) and social media (37%).


On the plus side, though, there are tools out there that are better at enabling engagement than others. But as we’ll see, things aren’t always clear cut.

Case study: the controversy around chat software 


In today’s age, digital tools designed to help communication aren’t exactly in short supply. 


Organisations rely on an average of 3.56 different internal comms tools, not to mention SMS, email, phone calls, social media and the multitude of video conferencing applications available.


But in recent years, none of them have been so celebrated and criticised as the messaging app Slack. For some, it’s the perfect tool to segment conversations via channels, integrate support requests, project management software…the list goes on.


Bloomberg have called it “gossipy email”. While others say it’s too easy to use and addictive, and actually hurts productivity. Some employees even felt that they needed to stay constantly connected to keep up, worried they’d be left out of important discussions and decisions. 


This crippling sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) can be especially problematic for remote companies. With  employees working to different rhythms and in different time zones,You’ve got to wonder: isn’t it better to keep some communication via email? 

The root of the problem: alert and notification overload

One important thing to remember: the companies building third-party digital tools want you to rely on them as much as possible. Usage is a metric for success, and notifications are the best way to keep you engaged with the product. 


And when too many tools compete for your attention, it can lead to what is called notification fatigue. After hearing that string of insistent pings, employees can feel overwhelmed, and become unable to regain their ‘flow’ – that ‘in-the-zone’ state that allows them to do their best work. 


This fatigue is vital to bear in mind when selecting an L&D programme. On the one hand, you want employees to be engaged at work and surrounded by learning opportunities; on the other, you don’t want to bombard them so insistently that they become distracted. 

Which tools actually boost engagement?

So which tools and technologies can you rely on to boost employee engagement in the workplace? 


Of course, a good place to start is with project management tools. They empower employees to own their role, provide them autonomy and can also improve communication.


Internal communication tools are also important, but more than choosing the one with the most features, it’s important to ensure they truly meet the needs of your business and workforce.


When it comes to employee engagement survey software, there is also no shortage of options, from lightweight apps like TinyPulse, which gathers feedback through weekly anonymous surveys, to full, end-to-end platforms like Culture Amp, which analyses responses and provides recommendations on where to focus improvements.


Finally, L&D leaders should look for employee engagement initiatives with the following features:

  • 24/7 access, with support for both on-site and remote learners
  • Sandboxed environment, where there is no temptation to look for distractions
  • Skills on offer that align with business and personal growth plans 
  • Engagement tracking and reporting


Boost employee engagement with the right course


At Busuu for Business, we have designed a digital language training programme to please. We believe language learning should be enjoyable, inclusive and beneficial both for companies and employees alike. 


To learn more about our programmes and how they can help measure, track and boost employee engagement, contact us today.

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