​A survey by Ricoh revealed that employees were drawn to organisations that invested in new technology (62 percent) and nearly 60 percent believed that better technology would have a positive impact on their working day.​Photo: EPA
CAPE TOWN - Terms like "innovation" and "productivity" are bantered so readily that it's easy for the organisation to forget that they have value. There are numerous case studies, research reports and statistical analyses that point looming fingers at the risks of not engaging with employees and the impact it has on the business.

Unfortunately, they all have a point. Organisations with disengaged employees have higher staff turnover, experience talent shortages and battle with productivity.

These combine to impact even further on the bottom line as the weight of employee departure and lack of motivation drag costs along behind them.

Several factors impact on employee engagement. A survey by TINYpulse found that the following issues generally led to employees looking for a new job: overwork and burnout, micromanagement and poor culture.

A survey by Ricoh - Empowering Digital Workplaces - found that employees were more likely to look for a new job if their company didn't prioritise technology. That same survey revealed that employees were drawn to organisations that invested in new technology (62%) and nearly 60% believed that better technology would have a positive impact on their working day.

The survey interviewed 3600 employees from 23 countries, including South Africa, and found that the majority of people wanted digital because it empowered them to work smarter.

Digital investment is often linked to innovation - companies such as Google, Amazon and Disney are the beams lighting up the digital transformation landscape as they relentlessly introduce new and inventive ideas to the world.

These Fortune 500 companies are cutting the edge of innovation with their commitment to creating digital workplaces and solutions that inspire employees.

Why? In the case of Google and Amazon, along with other leading technology companies, it's the digital talent war alongside a commitment to building an immersive culture.

For others, such as Disney and FedEx, employee engagement is part of their strategy and corporate DNA. In all cases, digital plays a significant role.

So, what about those organisations that don't do digital? The Kodak story has been shared so often that it's almost cruel, but it remains a case study on how not to move with the times. And nobody is immune.

Take a look at the Fortune 500 companies which held the top positions in 2000 - General Motors Corporate, Wal-Mart Stores, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Ford Motor Company and DaimlerChrysler. That same list in 2017 has only Wal-Mart and Exxon in the top five. Those that remained in the lead are the ones that have paid attention to the shifting market sands and the need to innovate.

To add fuel to the digital fire, the Ricoh survey found that organisations using outdated technology lost around 42 days in productivity every year. It's an incredibly high number - it's the equivalent of the entire company going on leave on November 5 until December 31. It's six weeks of downtime and six weeks of losing money to employees waiting around for technology to boot up, do its job or get repaired. Time that could easily be averted with investment into the right technology. This also ties in very closely with levels of employee engagement.

Many felt that a company without a commitment towards a digital future was stopping it from moving forward (31%) and a rather high 72% were suspicious of a company's intentions when it did introduce new technology. They believed it was to cut costs and not to make their working lives easier.

A response like that makes it easy to see why the Gallup poll on engagement has found that global employee engagement sits at only 13%. Only a fraction of an organisation's employees care about its ethos, vision and values. It's a knock-on effect that trickles down into a lethargic culture and apathetic customer service.

While investment in digital transformation and building a culture of innovation won't cure all the ills that impact on employee engagement, they will make a difference.

Swopping the outdated for the efficient, providing employees with training and resources to make the most of the digital investment and focusing on improving the quality of working lives will go a long way towards inspiring innovative thinking and redefining a corporate culture.

Jacques van Wyk is the chief executive of Ricoh South Africa (www.ricoh.co.za / www.imaginechange.co.za)

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.