Embracing the future with technology

Published:  13 February, 2020

When watching films or TV shows of a certain vintage, one can’t help noticing how ubiquitous the street phone booth was for everyday ‘real-time’ communication. And there seemed to be an awful lot of paper on desks in episodes of The Bill, accompanied by the incessant clatter of manual typewriters. Needless to say, things have moved on in leaps and bounds from a technological perspective in today’s business and social world (maybe except for the reams of paper that still seem to be on quite a few office desks).

Nevertheless, a new global report finds that close to half (40%) of all SMB employees who participated in the study are dissatisfied with their work environments as an increasingly mobile workforce shapes employee expectations for access to technology that enables co-working, shared spaces and better work-life balance and integration. According to the Lenovo-commissioned report conducted by Forrester Consulting, SMBs appear to have fallen behind the curve on delivering positive employee experience (EX).

It largely goes without saying that SMBs are key to a country’s economic growth, representing over 90% of the business population, 60 to 70% of employment, and 55% of GDP in developed economies. The new study gathered responses from 813 employees and 803 device buyers from companies with fewer than 1000 employees globally to evaluate EX trends among SMBs. The markets include the UK, US, France, Italy, Germany, Russia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

According to an earlier Forrester report, enhanced EX leads to benefits including better work performance, lower turnover and improved customer experience, suggesting an imperative for SMBs to address the disconnect and prioritise technology that will create a positive work environment for employees.

To improve EX, the new Lenovo study suggests SMB employers actively listen to employee feedback on current work environments. Improving technology use is central, as most employees at SMBs still use desktops as their main device (71%, according to the study). Additionally, a hefty 74% of SMB employee respondents do not have access to cloud-based tools, nor have the flexibility to choose technologies that are most suited for their tasks. It will be key for SMB IT decision makers to invest in more mobile and portable device options, such as laptops, smartphones, 2-in-1s, and next-generation smart devices like augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) and smart office set-ups, to improve EX. Creating an environment where employees can work remotely and achieve better work-life integration is essential.

Dilip Bhatia, vice president of Global User and Customer Experience, Lenovo, makes the point that SMBs pioneered the now widely held ideas about the mobile workforce. However, he adds that this notion is unmatched in SMB organisations’ ability to offer their own employees more flexible technology for a better employee experience.

Another study that picks up on the theme of embracing technology in the workplace is the World Class Leader Report. This states that very few leaders working within the manufacturing and industrial sectors are embracing technology, particularly those working in the later stages of their careers. The findings from the report, produced by executive search and recruitment specialist TS Grale, states that successful implementation of the latest technological advancements is a major challenge for many older business leaders. From automation, to Artificial Intelligence (AI), right through to embracing digital marketing and social media opportunities, the report suggests that many business leaders lack the skills to implement future technology solutions. Researchers for the World Class Leader Report interviewed more than 20 board level executives and directors across private, listed and private equity backed businesses, with turnovers ranging from less than £20 million to more than £1 billion. Jason Saunders, co-founder and director at TS Grale, reflects that it seems smaller businesses and those with younger CEOs and dedicated technology teams are savvier and adopt a more connected approach to absorbing and implementing new technologies. It seems clear from the report, however, that some some successful business leaders shy away from things such as AI, as they don’t understand how it could work within their operation, or they can be intimidated by the pace of change.

It makes sense for many companies to bring on board more specialists with in-depth knowledge regarding the most applicable technology. In this way, these organisations would have a better chance not only to survive as technology increasingly becomes a non-negotiable asset, but also thrive and steal a march over less tech-savvy competitors. Technology’s here to stay, so it needs to be embraced.

Ed Holden

Editor Hydraulics & Pneumatics magazine

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