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technologyTechnology is both a strategic enabler and is critical for engaging your team, too. Our theme for 2013 at ConvergenceCoaching is "It's all about your people - again!" One way to focus on your people as you develop and implement your IT plan this year is to evaluate how (or whether) your IT strategies are empowering and engaging your team.

If they're not, and your IT strategies are impeding on your team members' productivity, efficiency, access to information or ease of use, consider the potential impacts you're poised to encounter in decreased employee morale, increased turnover and ultimately a smaller bottom line.

Instead, use technology in your firm to realize these three benefits:

Increased Productivity. According to the 2012 Gallup's Q12 Meta-Analysis of 1.4 Million Employees, organizations with engaged employees experience 21-percent higher productivity. There are many people programs that we could explore to engage your people, but one of them isn't often considered because it doesn't fall strictly in the realm of HR: your IT strategy. When your culture is comprised of progressive IT strategies that enable - rather than restrict - employees, they get more done individually and within their teams.

Whether it's a cloud portal, use of tablets while auditing or remote access to client information (that really works!), these tools make your team more efficient and allow for creativity on how they get their job done.

Consider forming an IT task force to generate solutions that will be most impactful for your firm and help you prioritize them, too, within your budget and resource constraints. Be sure to include young team members on your task force as they are typically more technology savvy and will provide honest feedback about the solutions that are motivating and enabling and those that aren't worth investing in. Be careful, too, that your IT department isn't too constrictive in what can be done; there is often a middle ground that can be achieved that balances the need to manage risk and provide productive technology access.

Flexible Work Arrangements. Your team will also be more productive and efficient when they have the flexibility they need to work wherever and whenever they can. Again, be sure that the technologies you deploy truly work and get to the root cause of any complaints without simply dismissing them. We have seen firms achieve all their financial metrics and client-service goals when they empower employees to work remotely, log in from home in the evenings and not be required to be in the office during traditional mandatory Saturdays or evenings. To be successful, set better expectations on assignments and goals up front. Increased communication is a must, too, with status updates and access to each other for questions via instant messaging, text or cell phones.

The results will amaze you!

"Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity, and meaning in their job."
- Ken Blanchard and Scott Blanchard, Do People Really Know What You Expect from Them?

Another benefit of technology-enabled flexible work arrangements is that you have fewer geographic constraints in recruiting for certain positions. Instead of being limited by your local market talent, technology can allow you to hire the specialty skills or experience you need without the requirement of relocating in many situations.

Enhanced Communication. Communication is almost always a top area for improvement in firms when we conduct employee engagement surveys. And, while you likely won't ever get communication down perfectly, using technology effectively can help. For example, implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, such as Salesforce or Dynamics CRM, allows each of your partners, client relationship managers and staff to know what is happening with a given client engagement or prospect sales process, including recent conversations or meetings and any potential issues that are being addressed. Another example is to keep your team in the loop on how your firm is progressing against your shared vision and strategy, your managing partner or CEO could write a weekly blog (internal only!) and share happenings, successes, major events, client wins, etc.

There are many other examples we could explore, too, and you and your IT task force need to determine which ones are priority for your firm. The point is that technology can enhance your team communication to give your team members a greater sense of ownership and help them better understand how their role impacts your firm's goals. Using technology to improve communication will help your team exceed client expectations, which makes them feel proud of the services and solutions they are delivering and knowing they are making a difference.

Increased productivity, flexible work arrangements and enhanced communication all lead to increased employee engagement, especially of your top performers who are solutions-focused and always looking for the best way to get their jobs done. Using technology as an enabler and engager will set you apart from your competition. What changes do you need to make to achieve this? Identify one action you can you take today to engage your team through the use of technology and share it with someone else in your firm to get the ball rolling. You and your team will be glad you did!

"Turned on" people figure out how to beat the competition, "Turned off" people only complain about being beaten by the competition.
- Ben Simonton, author of Leading People To Be Highly Motivated And Committed

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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