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Empowering employees for the digital revolution

The digital revolution is here to stay and technology is pervasive in all aspects of our personal and business lives. Gartner predicts that worldwide spending on IT will be $3.8 trillion by 2020. Companies now need to deploy the latest technology to differentiate from the competition, improve customer service and attract and retain skilled employees.   

However, it is not technology that drives the business forward; it is your employees and the culture that will be responsible for success.

Listen and learn

With ‘customer experience’ moving from marketing to the Board, Senior Managers are less likely to converse with employees to discover what technology they require and why. Far too often technology is forced upon employees and as they haven’t been involved in the process, it is not used or utilised to its full capacity.    

I encourage companies to involve their employees in the decision-making process from the start. If you include them in the initial discussions, the design and the development process, then you are laying the foundations for success. You will speed up digital transformation and investment if employees are involved from the onset.   

It is advisable to talk in-depth to employees and find out what their pain points are with the current technology, and what technology they think would improve their roles and customer service. After all, they are the ones doing their jobs on a daily basis and customer facing, so they are the best ones to ask.    

Selecting innovators to champion technology use and evangelise the tools along with the difference it is making to them will help drive the advantages of the solution to the team. Also ensure that Senior Managers are using the technology and become advocates of the solution. Set up pilot user groups to test the technology on a daily basis over a period of time, ask them questions, listen and act upon their feedback.   

Often when new technology is rolled out there is a lack of ownership and this causes internal politics and disgruntled employees so ensure an owner is appointed to encourage and incentivise the group to use it. Also the dedicated person is the point of contact that employees can come to when they are experiencing issues or benefits from the solution.

Empowering employees

Technology needs to be user-friendly to make roles easier and not harder. If it is complicated, then no one will use it and the project will be a failure from the start.    

Technology rollouts frequently fall short due to lack of training. People are not aware of the capabilities of the solution or how to use them and as a result they do not get used. It is essential that comprehensive training is introduced to maximise user adoption. We would also advise to provide different options for training as everyone is different, so training could consist of: online videos, one-to-one tuition, classroom lessons, user manuals or mentoring.    

It is crucial to empower employees by educating them to feel positive about the new solution and the impact it will make on their lives. The ideal goal is to learn by working with each other so users they feel they have a real stake in the success of the project.   

By putting all of this in place you will be creating a culture of participation and engagement. It is this that is at the heart of digital transformation; it is the people and the culture that drive the change and the improvement, not the technology. 

Learn from Millennials

Onboarding technology to employees can be challenging and it is important to remember that different employees will approach it differently. Whether this is due to the level of technical skills or generational obstacles. The use of unified communications is second nature to Millennials but older employees or Luddites may fear change.   

Technology is the lifeblood of Millennials and by 2020 they will make up 75 per cent (Forbes 2013) of the global workforce. With their dependency on technology and the fact that they don’t know any different, naturally they expect these tools to be available in the workplace. A total of 59 per cent of graduates confirm that state-of-the-art technology is important to them when considering a job.

And 78 per cent of them say that access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work. Companies therefore need to have infrastructures in place that will incorporate their own devices into the network.   Unfortunately, many businesses appear to be stuck in the old way of doing things and not utilising this generation to learn from them. A recent IBM survey (2014) stated that more than two in five Millennials said they felt their use of technology was not clearly understood and they were held back by out of date and rigid work styles.

Digital culture

Embracing the latest technology also means embracing a new culture and accepting the ‘brave new workplace’. Technology and digital transformation challenge management structures, job functions and cultures.   

Millennials in particular want to work remotely and freelancing is estimated to grow by 50 per cent in the US by 2020 (Intuit). It is paramount then that businesses have the latest technology and appropriate corporate culture to recruit and retain the best talent.   

Talking and listening to employees requires the knocking down of silos that exist between departments. Communications and an understanding of what everyone does are essential and this requires a flatter corporate structure resulting in more fluidity within job roles.    

Companies will create an open, innovative culture where employees can share passions. It is also important for businesses not to be scared of failure so employees are encouraged to innovate and test new ideas using technology and not be scared if it doesn’t work out.   

This ‘brave new world’ is a challenge for the majority of business leaders and employees can learn from each other on how to use technology, discovering the new ways of working it brings and a new culture.   

Tony Blonk, IT Director, HW Fisher & Company comments, “As a company we are more digitally enabled with the Britannic Unified Communications solution, and we are all on a learning curve as to how to utilise the collaboration tools. We are discovering new ways of using them to maximise their functionalities. It has prompted innovation amongst teams and is refreshing to hear staff advising each other on usage, and pushing my team to do more of this.   

As a result, we have improved communications amongst staff and clients, increased efficiencies and productivity through discovering new ways of working.”   

All together

It is essential to align technology with business objectives, strategy and operations. Then alongside of this create an open and innovative culture to embrace and hone that knocks down silos and encourages a passionate fluid workforce. As a result, employees will be empowered and united to work together to make the business a success.

Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio
Jonathan Sharp, Director of Sales and Marketing,
Britannic Technologies

Jonathan Sharp
Jonathan Sharp, Director, Britannic Technologies has 20 years experience in IT & Telecoms with a proven ability to lead and motivate teams, execute change, deliver market differentiation and achieve profitable growth. Currently responsible at Britannic for Sales, PreSales, Marketing & Project Management teams and instrumental in company vision, strategy & direction.