How Saving Time Boosts Employee Engagement at SBA

Five years ago, employees at the Small Business Administration (SBA) spent their Friday afternoons doing nobody’s favorite task: clearing emails. The agency used an on-premise system that held 200 megabytes of storage. That is 0.4% of the email capacity it uses today. Limited storage meant employees had to spend hours clearing out their inboxes so they could receive emails Monday morning.

In a cloud environment, employees no longer have to spend their Friday afternoons so joylessly. Instead, they can spend valuable time doing meaningful, mission-focused work. Today, at SBA, that is administering pandemic relief to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Using cloud infrastructure, the agency was able to stand up a call center for small businesses in 6 hours. “That would have been a 90-day procurement cycle in our old world,” said Ryan Hillard, Systems Developer at SBA.

Cloud technology saved the agency months of time. Having more efficient workloads increased engagement by eliminating mundane work.

“There is this strong relationship between cloud adoption and employee engagement from the aspect of speed. By that I mean, the rate at which you can take feedback, iterate on that and improve that application you’re building is so much faster in a cloud environment,” Hillard said.

If employees are able to improve faster, they will likely have more time to do meaningful — not mundane — work. They will also likely see faster outcomes. If the outcomes are positive, that boosts satisfaction and investment in their work. If the outcomes are negative, employees can iterate and improve more agilely than before.

However, adopting cloud does not automatically mean employee engagement will go up. To have highly engaged employees, Hillard said the workforce needs to understand what the mission is and have a high level of devotion to it. Cloud computing can be a valuable tool for encouraging devotion to the mission by freeing time for worthwhile work.

As David York, Senior Vice President at Genesys, said, employees need to be enabled with tools, training and processes to be engaged.

What if they aren’t engaged? That is not a question cloud technology can resolve. Instead, agency and managerial support are key. “People tend to be afraid of change. The challenge here is how you manage that change,” York said.

Hillard’s approach is to find the disengaged employee’s WIFM (pronounced “whiff-um”) — “What’s in it for me?”

“I am someone who believes no one comes to work to do a bad job on purpose. Most people are working in systems that do not support them,” Hillard said. “If you find what’s in it for them and start to approach [engagement] from that angle, that is a way to take disengaged employees and bring them back to the light.”

When it comes to employee engagement, Hillard urged supervisors to invest in their employees. He recommended setting aside one day a week to upskill them, which is what SBA does.

“We have so much potential in the workforce. We should invest in them and get them to the point where they compete with industry, like we used to,” Hillard said.

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