How Employee Technology Leads to Business Success
As a company leader, there's an important question you should be asking yourself regularly: Is your employees' technology everything it should be?
Technology influences the lives of most Americans in 2022. We communicate with each other on social media using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok and send text messages to friends, families or acquaintances around the globe. Video and streaming technologies like Discord and Skype allow us to talk with distant family members face-to-face for free. Amazon trucks deliver items on the same day we ordered them on our home computer or smartphone.
Do your employees have the same experience in the workplace? How will they respond if they can do so much with technology at home, but feel frustrated and hindered by the lack of technology in the workplace? If they're not happy, there's a good chance they're ready to look for a new job. A Boston Consulting Group 2021 survey of 10,000 workers found that up to 75% are looking to change jobs within two to three years.
Improving the Employee Technology Experience
Only a few years ago, employees used technology to help with specific tasks, such as completing spreadsheets or sending an email. In the second decade of the 21st century, technology is the workplace.
Many tasks undertaken by employees in 2022 are possible because of technology. Whether collaborating with a colleague in another country, helping a customer navigate a complicated product installation online, or applying for vacation time, employees use technology at work to do their jobs. As a leader, it's important to understand the way technology works or doesn't work for your employees. It directly impacts their experience, how long they'll remain with the company and ultimately, the success of the business.
Related Article: A Framework for Digital Employee Experience
COVID-19 Changed Priorities
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work and led to the Great Resignation, or the Great Reshuffle, depending on your preference. In early 2021, millions of workers decided they wanted more fulfilling jobs. What's more, they decided they were willing to wait until they found the right position. This was especially true for Millennials and Gen Xers.
Some of that desire for a more fulfilling job had to do with how the company used employee technology. A company's reputation as a digital leader significantly improved its chance of attracting top talent and retaining them. The opposite was also true. Companies with poor reputations for employee technology could lose as many as six out of 10 employees, according to a Randstad US survey conducted in 2018.
The study, which surveyed 800 C-suite executives and 3,000 workers across the United States, found that companies with superior employee technology were more than 165% likely to achieve their business objectives while saving costs, increasing revenue and improving ROI for their shareholders.
The survey also found that employees said a company's reputation as a digital leader would influence their decision to apply to work at a company. Some relevant findings:
- Using the latest digital tools would attract 80% of the respondents.
- An innovative digital culture would attract 72% of the respondents.
- A company that had a reputation for being a digital leader would attract 62%.
Related Article: The State of the Digital Workplace 2 Years Into the Pandemic
How to Use Employee Technology to Improve Employee Experience
Leaders need to be thoughtful about how they use employee technology to improve employee experience in the workplace. The task of retaining good employees remains difficult. You want to give them the technology that will best enable them to do their job.
Provide Them with Technology That Creates Meaningful Moments
Science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke's third law was, "Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic." Provide your employees with technological tools that leave them feeling like they've used something almost magical. Instantly approved vacation time requests, finding important client information with one click, holding a videoconference with 10 coworkers located across the country. It's all a little magical.
Streamline Complicated Process
No one wants to redo rote processes or navigate their way through multiple complicated systems. For instance, an HR employee might like to schedule training for several employees in different departments. They shouldn't have to look up information on each employee separately, determine the need for training and notify them. Your technology should allow them to perform all these tasks from one window.
Share Positive Outcomes
Better employee technology increases participation in any task, making it easier for them to help customers. It increases revenue. Better trained and more satisfied employees increase profitability. Let everyone in your company know about positive outcomes resulting from improved technology. When employees, who might be reluctant to use the new technology, see how well it's working for others and how easy it is to use, they'll become advocates.
Find the Right Tools
When employees use technology at work, they want to use technology that helps them get their job done. Yet only 30% of employees in a 2021 Qualtrics survey said that their company's employee technology exceeded their expectations. Providing new technology for its own sake only makes matters worse. You don't want your employees taking time to learn how to use some new app or software when it's not going to help them do their jobs better.
"How employees communicate, collaborate, and connect are fundamental qualities of the employee experience, and it's critical that employers get it right when it comes to how they facilitate these interactions with technology," Brad Anderson of Qualtrics and Seth Patton of Microsoft wrote in the Harvard Business Review in 2022.
"Employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years in their jobs if they feel they have the technology that supports them at work, according to Qualtrics. There is a range of downstream benefits that come from implementing the right technology in the workplace, including fostering a culture of inclusion, enabling organizations to adapt, and retaining top talent."
Listen to What Employees Are Saying About Technology at Work
The Randstad study found a severe disconnect between what employers thought about technology and what employees thought. The survey found that 90% of executives believe their companies pay adequate attention to employee technology, but only about 50% of employees agreed.
Need to Involve Employees
Other studies have shown similar results. Employers must involve workers more in the choice of employee technology than they have in the past. This is particularly true during the Great Resignation. Executives and leaders need to create feedback mechanisms to communicate with their employees about technology. As mentioned above, leaders should ask their employees every quarter about technology and if it's providing what they need to do their jobs.
Leaders need to engage in active listening. While surveys and feedback loops help, leaders who actively listen to what their employees tell them about employee technology will learn why this technology is important and why employees want to use it. This will help these leaders make better decisions.
Related Article: 5 Small Ways to Improve the Employee Experience
Follow-Through on Lessons Learned
While listening to what workers tell you about their experience with technology is critical, it's even more important to follow through on any promised changes. Employees want to know that they're being heard. If you tell them that you appreciate their contributions and suggestions and do nothing, you'll only drive them away.
Keeping employees updated about technological changes, how they'll help them, how long they'll take to implement and other important details will help retain them and improve their satisfaction with the job.
Employee Technology in a Hybrid World
It's fair to say that the digital experience of an employee is as important in 2022 as the physical one. Microsoft's influential Work Trend Index 2022 reports a great deal about the hybrid work world.
The pandemic has changed the way we work. Technology now defines the work experience for most employees. Just three short years ago, most employees worked in an office every day. Today, remote work has become the standard in many companies. It's affected the way we live our lives. Microsoft found that 46% of the country's workforce wants to relocate because they believe they can do their jobs from anywhere.
Microsoft found that the pandemic reshaped the priorities of many employees over the past two years. Many employees now consider health, family and why they're doing what they do more important than they did in the past. Remote/hybrid work has increased in importance.
By reducing commuting time, employees have more opportunities to spend with their family, eat regular meals, work out or go for a walk. Approximately 50% of employees doing hybrid work in the past two years told Microsoft they would consider switching to a full-time remote job. About 57% of employees who worked remotely said they would consider switching to a hybrid position.
Paying Attention to Burnout
While good leaders ensure that workers have the employee technology they need, they also need to pay attention to how remote or hybrid work creates challenges.
"In addition to making sure employees have the right tools and tech, it's also important that companies understand if employees are at risk of virtual meeting fatigue or burnout," Anderson and Patton wrote in their HBR article. "An employee experience platform can be used in this scenario to surface and analyze aggregate operational and experience data to help leaders encourage healthy work habits, and nudge employees to take action like incorporating more focus time throughout the workweek."
The New Normal
We now live in the new normal, and companies must learn how to deal with it. The best leaders will be the ones who create a flexible work culture and provide employee technology that allows workers to develop a hybrid or remote working environment.
Unfortunately, according to the Microsoft survey, many business leaders don't seem to be paying attention to what has happened. Around 50% of employers want employees to return to the office because they fear lost productivity. However, several studies conducted in 2021 and 2022 show that remote/hybrid workers are up to 47% more productive than they were in an office setting.
Change Happens Constantly
Technology changes in a heartbeat. Consider what technology has enabled us to do in our personal and professional lives today that was undreamed of ten years ago. In some cases, five years ago.
In the remote/hybrid world that now exists in the workplace, leaders must recognize that change is inevitable and that nothing is permanent. Communication with employees about technology, especially about what's working and what's not working, is essential if leaders and their companies want to make the changes that improve productivity, increase revenue and reduce costs.
Related Article: How the Hybrid Workplace Is Changing the Culture of Work
How Employee Technology Has Changed the Workplace
Whether the employee works in a remote, hybrid or office setting, employee technology has changed the modern office and how companies do business. If you have any doubts about how technology affects the workplace, consider the following factors:
Addressing Employee Needs and Wants with a Digital Workplace
The workplace is getting more and more digital – both in how we work and where we work
Maintaining a Human-Centered Approach During Digital Transformation
When it comes to digital transformation - people drive change, not technology
The Evolution of Employee Recognition
Leveraging the power of appreciation to improve the employee experience
How to Build a More Innovative and Resilient Workplace Culture
What would happen if every member of your team came to work focused on finding solutions and creating better results?
Production among remote or hybrid employees is increased by improved technology. Another way employee technology increases productivity is through time management. Numerous tools help with project management, allowing employees to prioritize their tasks and allocate their time appropriately and intelligently.
Technology enables workers to spend less time dealing with redundant tasks and provides them with more time to focus on important ones. Questions frequently asked by customers are a good example. By using information available in the company's database, most of these frequent questions can be answered digitally, allowing customer service agents to spend more time with clients dealing with more complicated issues.
When cloud-based technology became widely available in the first decade of the 21st century, it opened a whole new world of collaborative possibilities. Employees could work with each other efficiently in the same office or anywhere in the world in real-time. An employee working on a project in New York could easily collaborate with an employee based in San Francisco. They could then hand off that same project to another employee based in Japan to continue the work.
It seems to be a truism in the computer world that malicious hackers are always one step ahead of the good guys. While not necessarily true, it points to how important it is to protect your company's information from those black hats.
Many companies made it easy for hackers in past years because they used outdated systems and networks. In 2022, companies are updating their old systems. They use innovative strategies, such as enhanced security software and algorithms to protect their data.
Part of this increased security involves training employees, including those who work remotely, to use security software that will protect information.
While some technology will inevitably allow companies to use fewer employees to get the job done, it also means that employees using the technology will benefit. As employee technology improves, workers will be able to do their jobs more efficiently and quicker. This doesn't just increase productivity, it also allows them to reduce costs.
When companies reduce the time employees spend on unnecessary tasks, decrease the chance of human error or allow clients to provide more feedback on ideas for new projects, they reduce costs while improving their relationship with customers.
Encourage Better Communication Among Employees
In the last few years, technological innovations have revolutionized the way employees communicate with each other in the workplace. Whether in person at the office or in a remote/hybrid situation, the tools now exist for employees to communicate with each other instantaneously about important issues and projects.
Internal newsletters, instant messaging like Microsoft Teams or Google Chat, intranets and team collaboration tools like Slack or Basecamp have changed how employees communicate. Meanwhile, videoconferencing on Zoom or similar tools enables face-to-face communication from anywhere in the world.
While these tools improve communication between employees and customers, they frequently involve learning new skills or adopting new behaviors.
"Any time your employees are virtually meeting with someone, they need to watch for and be able to correctly interpret important social cues such as facial expressions, body language and tone of voice," Neil Stanton, co-CEO of Ramp, wrote in Forbes in 2021. "If social intelligence hasn't been considered as part of your employee engagement plan, you need to get serious about it now. Provide mentoring, guidance or support as needed. Your employees — and ultimately your customers — will thank you.
Technology has enabled employers to look for the best fit for the job with a single click. Previously, job seekers may have only come from the immediate area where an opening was advertised. Technology allows anyone in the world to apply.
It may seem daunting, as you can imagine every Tom, Dick and Harry applying for a job for which only Tom should apply. Whether using an online third-party recruitment tool or in-house technology, you can create algorithms that will eliminate Dick and Harry and only show you the best Toms available. It simplifies your search, making available a much wider pool of talent from which to hire a new employee.
After you've recruited Tom, you'll need to onboard him. Technology will make the process easier. It enables companies to create a paperless onboarding process. It increases satisfaction and employee retention. Rather than having Tom meet everyone in the office, make short video introductions where people can explain who they are, their jobs and their interests. It also enables digital training, which helps new employees get up to speed without having them follow someone around the office to learn the ropes.
It can also make it easier for the HR person responsible for onboarding Tom. Use technology to create a single window where vital information about Tom can be inputted into the system.
Managing the Performance of Employees
Technology has enabled companies to get a much clearer idea of their employees' workplace performance and productivity than ever before. Performance management tools provide employers with accurate data about employees' activities.
While some employees may regard this as intrusive, the reality is that it allows companies to develop talent in a way not possible when they're only receiving performance reviews once a year
"Knowing what your employees can and cannot do is an essential part of running an efficient workplace," Andrew Martins wrote in the Business World Daily in 2021. "While watching them perform on a daily basis gives you some insight, it doesn't always tell the whole picture. With performance management software, you can pinpoint key data points to get a better idea of your employees' strengths and weaknesses."
While many American workers will continue to explore remote or hybrid opportunities, the reality is that many Americans will be returning to the office throughout the remainder of 2022 and beyond.
Technology helps to ensure they can do this safely. Digital tools can help track elements such as the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and the community. Companies can share the steps that employees need to take to ensure safety in the workplace and update them on what measures they need to take when they turn to the office. Employees experience a smoother and safer return to the office.
Almost everything an employee does involves technology of some kind. Employees once viewed technology at work as something that would provide them with an assist in a specific situation. Employee technology is now the main engine of work in 2022.
Leaders and employees both need to be aware that the technology they're using now will change. Leaders need to implement feedback loops that allow them to constantly interact with their employees to provide them with the tools that will work the best for their job, thus increasing revenue and productivity for the company.
When you provide employee technology that helps workers do their jobs, you have a greater chance of retaining them beyond three years, improving your relationship with customers and thereby increasing your chances of success.
About the Author
Tom Regan has worked for several media outlets in Canada in the United States including the CBC, NPR, the Boston Globe and the Christian Science Monitor. He also served several years as the Executive Director of the Online News Association.