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How big of an impact will mobile have on business performance?

Jean Turgeon, Vice President & Chief Technologist for Software Defined Architecture (SDA), Worldwide Sales in Avaya, discussed with ITPP the idea of mobile in business, its greatest impacts, how mobile affects employee satisfaction and productivity, and how it all affects business performance.

ITPP: Tell us about the findings of the Aruba mobile engagement study. How are the results different than other studies out there?   

JT: Unlike most of the employee engagement studies published to date, the Aruba study on Mobility, Performance and Engagement, a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, focuses on mobile technology and its impact on the workforce. Past studies on engagement have focused on just one company, or in some cases, a small number of companies, but the Aruba-sponsored study is far more holistic. This inclusivity proves how significant mobile has become to organisations across all industries.   

The results from the Aruba mobile study, which illustrate how great an impact mobile can have on business performance, validate what we’ve been hearing and seeing from our customers. The effect mobile technology has on employee engagement and the employee experience will greatly impact the technology and management that decisions C-level executives and leaders across all organisations make in years to come.   

ITPP: In your experience, what factors have the greatest impact on the "employee experience.”   

JT: When it comes to managing the employee experience, these three factors have a huge impact:
Giving employees the ability to know their role on the team. We all appreciate understanding how our work contributes to the bigger picture. When employees don’t know why their daily work matters, they easily become disengaged. Imagine if a sports team was asked to rally to beat another team but the players didn’t know what position they were supposed to play. When employees are given purpose and connection at work, they stay engaged and perform better.  
A sense of community. Employees don’t just want co-workers. They want to bond and feel a personal connection to their colleagues. We spend roughly one third of our lives working, and if employees don’t feel comfortable with their work community, they risk becoming reclusive or worse—looking for another job.  
Easy communication. When employees have to jump through hurdles just to find pertinent information about their own company, it hinders daily work and engagement. According to the Aruba mobile study, only about half of employees think their employers support “accessing information quickly and easily” in an effective manner. Yet, 42 per cent of respondents say the ability to access information quickly and easily has the greatest impact on productivity. Mobile technology provides an accessible way for employees to stay engaged and know the basics about their workplace and their colleagues.   

ITPP: How has employee engagement changed in the past few years?   

JT: In my past life, I worked with ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) and was responsible for growing the team drastically while keeping employees engaged. Just five years ago, few companies had strategies around employee engagement, even if they were beginning to believe it was important to their company. I believe we’re at the beginning of the employee engagement revolution as companies not only agree it’s important, but are also beginning to understand and act on strategies for increasing engagement.    

There are a variety of outside factors impacting the employee engagement landscape too. Millennials—which now comprise a majority of the workforce—have prompted organisations to have important conversations about workplace challenges that resonate with all generations. In short, millennials have forced businesses to rethink human capital management and focus on the individual. Organisations now understand that people are their greatest assets, and leaders are proactively responding by finding ways to better engage and retain employees.   

ITPP: What are some similarities between the customer experience and employee experience and how are both of these evolving?   

JT: The “customer experience” as we’ve come to know it is definitely ahead of the “employee experience” game, because, for the past decade, companies have been thinking about their specific audience and how to engage that audience. This same kind of thinking is now pervading management, too, as businesses rethink the employee engagement conundrum. Businesses have begun to realise the value of understanding when and how employees prefer to be communicated with and how engaging employees across the channels they prefer has a direct impact on the bottom line.   

The Aruba mobile study is a great example of how communicating across the right platform can make a vital difference in the employee experience. Sixty per cent of survey respondents claim the use of mobile devices for work make them more productive, and 45 per cent claim it makes them more creative. Fifty-three per cent of respondents say the use of mobile devices for work makes them more satisfied in their work, and 37 per cent say they’re more loyal to their employer when they can leverage mobile devices for work. These statistics are evidence that it’s more important than ever for employees to invest in mobile technology to stay current with employees and keep them engaged.   

ITPP: How has the smartphone revolution impacted how companies communicate with their employees?   

JT: Email is no longer the best avenue for communicating with or engaging employees. While I don’t believe we’re going to see email die any time soon, there are more effective methods for organisations to regularly share company news and updates and keep employees engaged. When employers begin to communicate with employees on an internal mobile application or even across an internal messaging tool like Slack, it allows messages to be conveyed in short, simple ways. This type of quick, employee-centric communication is not possible without the use of smartphones.   

The Aruba mobile survey highlighted how significant the ability to work from any location at any time is for many workers. This is largely made possible by the rise of the smartphone. One quarter of survey respondents say the ability to work from anywhere at any time has the greatest impact on whether or not they’d accept a job from a prospective employer, while 38 per cent say it has the greatest impact on job satisfaction, and 24 per cent say it has the greatest impact on how loyal they are to their employer.   

ITPP: The study showed how mobile has a big impact on employee productivity, creativity, satisfaction and loyalty. Can you give some examples (maybe your clients) of when this has proved to be true?   

JT: Mobile has an immense impact on employee productivity, creativity, satisfaction and loyalty. We've seen companies that completely skipped the email revolution and until working with Bluebridge, had limited interaction (outside of old fashioned snail mail) with employees. They now have an internal application powered by Bluebridge that allows employees to access company information and messages from their smartphones, quickly amplifying productivity and employee satisfaction.   

Internally at Bluebridge, we use our own product to communicate important company milestones, goals, priorities and messages. Simply providing a community where employees are comfortable to express thoughts and messages freely and informally has upped our teams’ creativity. I believe building this sense of community across our company is directly correlated with Bluebridge employee satisfaction and long-term loyalty as well.    

ITPP: What should be the top priorities of CIOs and CEOs in terms of employee engagement for the next few years?   

JT: In short, CEOs should be focusing on how to best communicate with employees and CIOs should be focused on enabling CEOs with the best technology to support these communication patterns. The Aruba mobile study showed the direct correlation between the use of mobile technology and employee productivity. Respondents who say their employee is either a pioneer or good at mobile use score themselves 7 per cent higher at productivity than those who do not. 

Similarly, those who have the ability to work from any location gave themselves a 10 per cent higher productivity score than those who do not. Adopting the right mobile technology to support employees should be top of mind for all C-level leaders in the coming years.   The authors of the Aruba mobile study outlined a few practical tips for CIOs specifically. To summarise their suggestions:
1. Effectively support productivity through mobile technology that allows employees to work wherever and whenever they wish.
2. Employees see collaboration as a key to creativity and company loyalty, so choose technologies that establish mobile technology, often in the form of a mobile app, as a platform for collaboration
3. CIOs should consider offering employees IT support and security for the mobile devices they own and use for work.   

ITPP: How does a positive employee experience or increased employee engagement impact business performance?   

JT: Increased employee engagement leads to better workers, which in turn has a positive impact on business performance. I’ve seen positive employee experience impact business performance time and time again across teams of all sizes. Engaged employees are going to contribute more to a company, as well as stay with the company for a longer period of time.   

I believe giving employees a reason to be and stay engaged is a business leader’s moral duty. As a chief people officer, I personally strive to provide meaningful ways for employees to use their skills, and believe our company will have higher retention and productivity rates as a result. It’s our obligation to help employees find purpose in their work by giving them meaningful ways to use and improve their skills.

Todd Richardson, Chief People Officer, Bluebridge
Image source: Shutterstock/Chinnapong

Todd Richardson is the Chief People Officer and co-founder of Emplify.