“Small Talk” Is Big Business: Your Reason to Invest in Employee Engagement Technology

By Manoj Agarwal, Co-founder at Xoxoday

We all miss the #OldNormal workplace. And we miss the “small talk” most of all. This article talks about how these workplace conversations are central to your employee engagement and team engagement — and investing in employee engagement technology helps you cope.

There’s nothing inherently amiss with #WFH, of course. Except that there’s something about physical, in-the-moment proximity that is hard to replicate. The casual banter around the latest Netflix sensation, the cool new bakery you discovered or the absconding domestic [LP1] help may not, at first glance, seem to have anything to do with work. And that’s where you would go terribly wrong. 

Spontaneous, informal interactions are often the “real workflow” of an organization. If hierarchies and matrices help maintain necessary distance, it is the greetings, high-fives, pats-on-the-backs, nods and nudges that bridge it, so to speak. You can call it “small talk” if you want, but it works at many levels — some pretty big. It breaks ice and builds bonds.

It adds clarity to complex official rules and terms. It builds efficiency and cranks up productivity via knowledge transfer and collaborative teamwork. It often acts as a brainstorming session and sounding board, with random discussions sparking great ideas and solutions to stubborn business problems. It helps maintain sanity whenever hell breaks loose (be it a revised deadline or a crazy client!) by providing a Happy Buffer Zone.

And perhaps most importantly, it gives workers a sense of belonging (a sense of oneness with the company goal and journey), leading to happier souls at work and better states of mental and physical health, too. We are social animals, at the end of the day. And interpersonal connections help us stay that way. If you are trying to build a Great Place to Work, there’s no better way than to build a free-flowing culture of cross-silo communication that keeps employees closely engaged and motivated.

Observations on What WFH Misses: Reasons to Seek Out an Employee Engagement Technology

Can I have my water cooler back? Why it’s critical to bring back workplace conversation

If you could decode unsaid prayers, that would perhaps be number one on the wish list of most peers, partners and networks. After all, you can’t schedule a “running-into-Minal-(or Neha)-at-the-café-en route-to-the-meeting-and-whisking-the-donut-away-like-a-hungry-hawk” in quite the same way you schedule a webinar or Google Meet Session, can you?

Settling with Zoom and Skype seems incomplete

Settling with Zoom and Skype seems incomplete | Source: pexels.com

And as we settle into the rhythms of Zoom and Skype, those moments where we used to refresh and unwind over the latest updates and gossip (the rejuvenative powers of “good gossip” are well documented, by the way!) seem to be receding farther and farther into memory. 


The world of work is being re-set as never before. The shift runs deep, beyond setting up personal workstations at home, all the way to our psyche and nerves. The absence of “company” to engage with is turning work cold and clinical, sucking the joy out of a vibrant and dynamic daily ritual we have grown used to. And make no mistakes, it’s taking its toll. After the initial honeymoon period, #WorkingFromHome is starting to throw up nasty surprises like stress and depression (and even physical discomfort and ailments). A sense of “separation and alone-ness” is the most commonly cited culprit. 

Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) pointed to the elephant in the room out recently when he spoke about the “lack of touch” (a feeling of being disconnected from the office vibe) that we experience when we work remotely. He said he himself missed the “‘two-minute’ chance to connect with the person sitting next to him in a physical meeting — something a virtual meet can never hope to achieve really…” Closer to home, things aren’t too different. 

Delhi based techie Suresh Sharma says, “I was initially enjoying working from home. However, with the passage of time, I realised it had taken a toll on my health. While working in my office space, I would be attending meetings and interacting with people. But, now, absolutely everything is online."


The cost of a workplace that is disengaged can be high. 

Per a survey published in HR Technologist, 96 percent of employees will quit an organization for a salary hike of as little as 10 percent, an attitude that can be attributed to a company culture that get workers “kicked” about work. We all know about the costs of high attrition, of course, which involves—among other things—time and resources spent re-initiating and re-grooming new hires into the system. 

Benefits of engagement

Benefits of engagement

There’s more evidence. A Gallup report found 78 percent of executives confided that employee engagement is key to business success. Another Gallup study tells us that an engaged workforce can amplify profitability by as much as 21 percent. In another poll, HR leaders surveyed agree that continuous check-ins and feedback are critical for successful outcomes. 


The current disruption has robbed us all of a lot of things we once took for granted (some leading to broken hearts) and that once defined our personality and lifestyle. Don’t let your organization culture be next on that victim list. Sure, social distancing could well be the norm going forward—just like the work from home model—but that doesn’t mean we have to live out of our private little islands.

 It is possible to reboot the little moments of community magic at the workplace with digital innovation. 

Empuls for conversations

Social conversations on Empuls

Software like Xoxoday Empuls can help you bring all your engagement initiatives together on one intuitive platform. In fact, Empuls was used by companies around the world to keep their workforce meaningfully connected even pre-2020. Today, in the new terrain and climate, its power to engage is particularly significant for teams scattered across geographies and time zones.


Probably not, if you can get tech to do the trick. The right product can help you recreate the lost chemistry of the workplace by reviving every little and big interaction that made the workplace cool. Some of the things you will be able to do with an ultra-modern workforce engagement tool are:

Features of Empuls

Features of Empuls

  • Build efficiencies with laser-sharp precision: Open, honest and frequent feedback loops help you “listen” and integrate actionable insights into the workflow as they happen, improving efficiencies in real time. Feedback campaigns at every stage of the employee lifecycle help analyse and improve KPIs that matter. You can also plug in one-on-one coaches and mentors for specific workers to raise efficiencies selectively and optimize training efforts. Easy and instant distribution of internal HR communication, protocol revisions and policy updates smooth day-to-day activities. 
  • Keep teams supercharged with no-delay appreciation and on-the-spot rewards: Micro and macro moments of success can be shared by both peers and supervisors, and celebrated with incentives which range from warmly hand-written notes to lavish achievement awards (and everything in between).  Not just that. Attractive perks and discount programs for employees, as well as thoughtful benefits like health insurance and loans (for home, car and kids’ education) can make workers feel appreciated and special.  
  • Turn work into joy: Intuitively designed employee engagement software and tools make discussion (both one-on-one and in groups) natural and easy. Friendly and timely “pokes and nudges” help planning and alignment, making sure every item on the to-do list is ticked at the end of the day. Team building activities tighten connection and culture. Sharing hierarchy charts encourages folks to recognize and say “Hello” to colleagues in other departments and functions, multiplying rapport and strengthening communities. 
  • Take better leadership decisions: Big Data Analytics lets you monitor, measure and interpret performance intuitively and granularly. Feedback campaigns let you stay on top of employee sentiment and track culture pulse every second. Together, they provide the crucial visibility you’ve been missing to take smarter talent and business decision.


Invest in Employee engagement

Going on the defensive may be humankind’s natural reflex to crisis, but it may not be the wisest route to take. This applies to every function in the business, including Accounting and Costs. Many organizations have chosen to take the “easy way out” by shrinking teams, reviewing capital expenditures and operating expenditinos, and cutting corners (the third is often a function of the first two). 

Precedence, however, points to a different direction. Its message is powerfully clear: 

Downtimes are, more than anything, valuable opportunities to introspect and appraise the business model, reimagine the SWOT and revamp capabilities across the chain.  

History, after all, favors the prepared. When they can’t go to sea, fishermen—the adage says—mend their nets for the next season. The “extra time and space” we have on our hands at this moment is therefore a wake-up call to strategically invest in technologies, processes and mindsets that can help the organization adapt to change in the best possible way, and get ready for the “new reality” with a revamped competitive edge.


Physical separation hasn’t been “peaches and cream” for team morale and culture so far. The good news is, wholesale restriction on movement has also brought substantial savings from corporate travel, real estate rent, office and infrastructure overheads and workday meals & snacks—to name some. Put two and two together, and you’ll probably agree that this creates the perfect opportunity to upgrade the workplace by investing in workforce engagement technology that not only drives business forward in the present, but also in the future. Most team engagement products are customizable to organizations of all sizes (startups to Fortune 500 brands), easily integrated in existing systems and technologies, simple to use, scalable at will, and won’t burn a hole in your pocket. Mapped against the transformation they usher in from Day One, they make a strong business case—both from an accounting and strategy perspective. 

Levelling up employee engagement is easily one of the wisest moves you can make. After all, a part of your savings is ideally meant to support ongoing expansion and future growth, isn’t it? And there’s no more powerful growth driver than your own people. You may skip the watercooler, but they deserve to get their “workplace” back! Learn how from us.


7/15/2024 - 7/17/2024
IMA Summit 2024