Employee engagement is accepted as an important contributor to the success of both a company and its employees. However, one subset of employees deserves closer attention when it comes to improving their engagement: engineers who are disengaged at work do not solve problems. At best, disengaged engineers can cause your solution roadmap to stagnate. At worst, disengaged engineers can lead to an immediate loss of revenue as product issues in the field go unsolved and customers turn to your competitors for more reliable solutions.
What causes engineers to be disengaged at work? A similar question was asked about employees in general in a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) LinkedIn discussion (please note: you must be a member to review the thread). More than 100 group members and counting have responded so far, and many of their answers speak to engineers within large enterprises and fall into three categories – lacking the tools needed to do their jobs, not having a clear understanding of what is expected of them, and not feeling empowered to balance work and personal lives.
When looking at the tools engineers need to effectively do their job, it’s important to note that large enterprises typically operate with engineers spread across the globe. With so much innovation being software-based, the need to have access to a physical lab is no longer a necessity – the software “lab” can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. Even organizations that build Centers of Excellence where they bring engineering teams under one roof often have more than one center.
Imagine the frustration engineers experience when they need to review, analyze and discuss lines of code or even design documents in real-time with geographically dispersed team members through an audio-only conferencing solution. Alternatively, imagine the irritation engineers can experience when they attempt to collaborate with team members via a poor quality video stream with constant delays and dropped calls.
In this environment, development starts to happen linearly, with each engineer delivering his or her piece of the project and then passing it to the next person. This not only creates delays in the product roadmap, but also diminishes the opportunity to recognize dependencies that may cause failure once the product is put into the market.
Alternatively, reliably, simple-to-use, enterprise-grade video collaboration reduces the impact of geographic distance between engineers. And high-quality solutions are no longer synonymous with complicated as video conferencing technology has simplified dramatically in recent years.
The second driver of disengagement – engineers not having a clear understanding of what is expected of them – is also an issue that is exacerbated by geographic distance. This communication gap can mean that engineers do not have a shared sense of purpose or vested interest with their employer in working toward the same goal. When engineers come to work with purpose and feel as though their voice is being heard, engagement soars, which directly translates to greater productivity and work output.
Again, this is where leveraging the most effective collaboration platforms can come into play. The right collaboration platform can address communication gaps, particularly if engineers and management are located at different sites. By being able to partake in face-to-face communication, engineers and their managers can communicate through non-verbal cues as well as voice. This deeper communication – hand gestures, facial expressions and general body language – helps parties engage on a more personal level and establish mutual trust.
Passionate engineers who come to work with purpose see value in what they do. They work hard because they believe their efforts to drive innovation forward will help make the world a better place. Using video to collaborate plays an integral role in establishing a shared vision for their efforts.
The third driver of disengagement – poor work-life balance – is tough for any employee to attain and sustain. Efforts by enterprises to provide flexible work schedules can certainly help, but employees will always struggle to balance work and life as two dynamic ends of a lever, which they are passionate about.
To offset being put in this precarious position, engineers ought to have access to communication tools to better integrate their whole lives, not just the professional side of it. By extending collaboration technology beyond the conference room and all the way out to desktops (and even tablets and mobile devices), engineers can experience quality face-to-face interaction to review and analyze in-progress and collaborate with team members without the need to be in a company office. To put it another way, work-life balance and a stronger engagement of your engineering team starts with work-life integration.
Engineers who are engaged in their work are better equipped to solve problems faster, whether that is immediate product issues or creating innovative solutions to address customer pain points. Providing engineers with the right video collaboration solutions diminishes the friction that is created by physical distance to build highly engaged and productive teams, regardless of where they choose work.