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Can Technology Make You More Engaged At Work?

While we're used to thinking of the Internet as the portal to a procrastination shame spiral, new research suggests a positive relationship between technology and employee engagement.

Are you wasting time at the office right now? Trick question—Fast Company is actually a huge source of valuable information directly relevant to your job (right?). Especially this article, because I'm going to give you a few data points that show increased access to technology can actually be correlated with greater employee engagement.

Employee engagement is an x-factor that's difficult to measure, yet it contributes strongly to the productivity and success of a company. A widely accepted model breaks engagement down into "vigor" (the energy you apply to the job), "dedication" (the seriousness and importance of the job and the way you identify with it), and "absorption" (time on task, flow, and attention paid).

Now, a paper published by researchers in the University of Tehran, Iran, surveyed employees of the local agriculture ministry on their use of technology and general attitudes to the job. They found a significant correlation between technology use and all three dimensions of engagement.

The authors suggest having more access to technology helps people do their work better and faster, which leads to greater pride, feelings of efficacy, and a stronger attachment to work. Learning to use new technology can improve employees' sense of competence. And IT often allows for more independent, self-paced work, which can increase time on task.

Now get back to those spreadsheets!

[Image: Flickr user Mike Lietz]

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  • Harold Hambrose

    There is a fatal flaw, well a number of them, in the Iranian study you reference - but the main one is that it's not just technology that makes you more engaged at work; it's the RIGHT technology... The "x factor" of employee engagement is understanding people and what they need to get their work done - because most of the time people really do want to do their jobs well.There are so many other variables that the study didn't address or think about, but here are two that stuck out to me:1) What’s the baseline - are these workers going from zero IT
    to some IT? Think about the difference between trying to be a chef and prepare
    a meal over a campfire and having a Viking stove – you would be MUCH more
    satisfied with the Viking stove. If they didn’t have any technology to use
    before the ability to email, write papers, track things in excel would greatly
    improve their situation. But for the average worker who already has a lot of
    technology to support them, but not necessarily the right technology for their
    situation – it can be detrimental to their situation.

    2) What type of tasks are they doing with the technology? Are
    they simple tasks like communication, writing composition, tracking inventory?
    Then, yes, adding technology would be an incredible leap forward. But what if
    they are incredibly complex tasks like global options trading or regulatory
    compliance. If you’re using things like excel to do something like track regulatory
    compliance then it’s going to be incredibly frustrating.

    Having the wrong technology is frustrating and wastes time and
    can be more detrimental to the qualities of vigor, dedication, and absorption
    than not having technology at all. Just look at the implementation of EMRs in
    this country. Many physicians were doing fine managing their offices with paper
    files and dictation. Then along came the EMR and it didn’t suit the clinical
    setting well or the doctors’ manner of working and interacting with patients. Many
    of the doctors in the prime of their career have quit medicine because of technology!
    We’re losing physicians in this country because they have the means to retire
    and they are too frustrated by technology to continue practicing medicine.

    Technology can certainly be a help, but it’s not a
    guaranteed solution or “engager”. You have to start from a place where you
    think about the questions:  “What needs
    to get done”, “How is technology likely to support people in what they need to
    accomplish”. When you have technology that truly serves people, then, yes, I
    would agree that it can help them do their jobs with greater satisfaction, but
    more technology certainly does not equal more engagement.


  • Tigran

    Well said Harold, all about the
    right technology and the other right resources provided to support performance.
    If not, it is frustration and disengagement.