Steve Roberts of Dell EMC describes the many ways that technology can help transform workplace productivity
For some time, the UK has been grappling with a productivity problem. Recent figures put it at just 0.2 per cent, a marked decline in output (see note 1). But the decline is multifaceted, and in part can be tied to a fall in employee engagement levels at work (2). If UK organisations are to remain competitive on a global stage, industry leaders must ensure that employees are motivated, productive and even passionate about their company and its mission.
While there’s no overnight fix, forward-thinking organisations are turning to technology in a quest for answers. In turn, technology is helping to transform the workplace from somewhere that work is done to a place where employees collaborate, inspire one another and achieve higher-quality work outcomes in less time and with less effort.
Research suggests that employees value this contribution; a study of over 2,000 adults showed that the modern worker now places higher value on technology than any other work perk (3), including flexible working, discounts and workplace décor. If businesses truly want to buck the productivity trend, they must listen to employees and provide exactly what they need to do their job well.
The digital age has changed the way we socialise, organise ourselves and keep on top of tasks. This is reflected in the relationship we have built with technology, with 85 per cent of the UK’s online population now owning at least one smart product (4). Organisations that cannot mirror that relationship in a work context will struggle to attract and retain the talent they need to grow the business.
There is no stronger advocate for the deployment of technology in the workplace than Generation Z. This new cohort of employees ranks technology in an organisation as important as career prospects (5). Classified as those born after 1995, Gen-Z has grown up using touch-technology in classrooms and is accustomed to using collaborative tools to work and deliver projects.
This approach to work is fundamentally changing the employer-employee dynamic. Organisations must be prepared to adjust their environment to accommodate this shift towards technology-fuelled huddle and collaboration spaces. Those who don’t risk being seen as trapped in the past and unappealing to anyone who has built human-machine partnerships.
But this is just one generation among many that make up the UK workforce. While listening to the needs of Gen-Z is important, organisations cannot afford to alienate those that have been working with legacy technology. Striking a balance is key if they are to retain talent that has an appetite to adopt new technology – if not at the same pace as the new cohort coming into the workforce.
Critically, the technology must work as advertised. Businesses who make the mistake of upgrading their hardware to attract talent and retain employees but forget backend infrastructure will find they are fighting a losing battle. If the hardware and software are incompatible, then it will cause delays and ultimately become a source of workplace frustration. Estimates show that businesses lose 545 hours of staff productivity every year through IT outages (6), and given the earlier statements about productivity, this is downtime that businesses cannot afford to lose.
All of which means that leaders must be prepared to invest in technology or face becoming a part of the problem. Workers want to use the latest tablets, laptops and smart office technology to collaborate with one another and be productive, but it cannot impede their overall experience. Downtime and delays are disruptive, so businesses must assess their complete IT estate to have the maximum impact.
FINDING A BALANCE
Maintaining high levels of productivity is all about the experience. Leaders must find the right balance between introducing technology that is easy to use, but also delivers an improved service and boosts employee morale.
And what better place to start than the meeting room. How often do workers find themselves wasting time waiting for a conference call to connect or finding that someone on the other end doesn’t have compatible technology? As well as being frustrating and disruptive, it can set the tone for the entire session, whether that’s a 20-minute call or a three-hour meeting.
In fact, recent studies show that employees waste an average of 15 minutes per conference call simply getting started or dealing with distractions (7). Innovation in meeting room technology has developed to the point that both novice and advanced technology users can enjoy it without the everyday frustrations. For businesses, it’s about taking the leap in investment.