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February 26, 2024 | 3 Mins Read

An Employee Engagement Focus is Critical; Can AI Help?

February 26, 2024 | 3 Mins Read

An Employee Engagement Focus is Critical; Can AI Help?


By Sarah Nicastro

Countless companies have turned to employee engagement initiatives to help boost morale, reduce burnout and improve retention. And, in my opinion, rightly so. It’s high-time we put proper emphasis on the crucial role our frontline teams play in the customer experience and company objectives. The question is, what’s the right way to track employee engagement?

I was interested in the findings of a recent report on the growing market for employee engagement software. According to the report, revenue is going to reach $4.4 billion by 2033 with a compound annual growth rate of 16%. The software not only gathers employee feedback, but also evaluates performance and provides tools to encourage specific behaviors and improve engagement. These can include things like mobile learning portals, onboarding/training, streamlined communication tools, and recognition/reward solutions.

When it comes to the capabilities of AI-driven tools, though, what’s the proper balance between wanting to assess employee engagement without breaching employee privacy? I came across a write-up recently in The Hustle titled “How Companies are Using AI to Spy on Slack,” which was exploring news of how companies like Walmart, Delta, Chevron and Starbucks are using an AI tool called Aware to monitor employee messages.

While the premise of Aware and similar tools is positioned around gaining knowledge about employee sentiment (as well as monitoring for certain risks), it’s hard to determine how much tracking becomes counterintuitive to the reasons employee engagement is so important today – which is to make employees feel more valued and empowered.

We know that engagement is going to remain a critical topic moving forward in field service. In the most recent IFS State of Service report, the second-highest top concern of service organizations was dealing with a lack of skilled workers and high employee turnover. Efforts to improve engagement can help relieve some of the staffing pressure. Where should those efforts be focused? The Service Councils annual Voice of the Field Service Engineer survey provides some guidance.

That survey found that 45% of service engineers either were not planning to remain in the industry or were not sure; only 28% of those planning on leaving were retiring.

The Service Council report also digs into some areas where technicians are not satisfied with their jobs. Roughly a quarter were dissatisfied with career opportunities, mentoring/guidance, and learning and development opportunities. The survey also found that 43% of engineers did not feel like they were recognized for their results, and 42% felt they were not coached on areas where they could improve.

The Potential for Progress in Employee Engagement is Huge

What I wonder is, would those metrics be far better if not for these two: Just half of respondents agreed that their company prioritized employee engagement, cared about their personal development, or was interested in collecting technician feedback. And only around a third agreed that their employer directly addressed their concerns/feedback or rewarded them on feedback that improved processes or business outcomes.

So regardless of where you stand on the best ways to track employee engagement, the more prominent issue in my mind are the companies failing to recognize the need to do so. As I have pointed out numerous times, and others have emphasized during our podcast interviews, technician engagement is critical for pretty much every program, initiative, or technology deployment. They are not just the face of your company during service interactions, they are also the eyes and ears – they have insights you can't get anywhere else.

Software may be part of your solution, whether that’s in the form of surveys or something like the Aware tool discussed above. But it certainly isn’t the whole answer – employee engagement initiatives need to be more holistic and include not only a mechanism for taking the pulse of your workforce’s feelings and feedback, but also for providing quality training and enablement, strong leadership, career growth opportunities, and more. You also need processes in place to respond to technician feedback and show, through action, that their voice matters. 

The benefits here extend beyond HR-related concerns of high turnover. Engaged, energized technicians provide better service, can help spot new revenue opportunities, and play a critical role in the success of things like digital transformation initiatives.

Have you had an experience or success with employee engagement software? I would love to hear about it; email me here.