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How to make the right technology decisions for employees

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

Organizations are already investing in technology to deliver intelligent business insight and drive workforce productivity. It’s now widely recognized just how much digitizing systems and processes can improve how organizations perform. The level of digitization of course varies across industries, and this variation has been evident in the way different companies have been able to initially respond to Covid-19.

The pandemic, and its impact on business, has tested the many new and existing technologies that organizations have in place. It has imposed huge changes to the way we work and highlighted the lack of tools or prior technology investment required to support a virtual mobile workforce.

It’s those early adopters of technology that will have immediately been able to support remote working, to respond to and keep up with quick changes in demand, mitigate risk and have more confidence around the continuation of their business. They have been better prepared to face this challenge head on. Those who have been slower to weave technology into their operations have struggled.

Until recently, many businesses have not experienced a critical event that would change their attitude and approach to IT investment. Now they have and agility is paramount.

What’s clear is that, more than ever, technology is essential in enabling people to work remotely and carry on doing their job effectively from home, as well as connecting teams and workers with their managers without disruption. And it’s a model that is here to stay.

In recent months, we have seen how technology can give people their time back as well as save money. Commutes, for example, have transformed from three hour round trips on trains and tubes to a three minute walk downstairs. It’s enabled organizations to review the need for office space and see how their employees cope at home, therefore potentially reducing business expenditure.

And the winner is… the cloud

Some technologies have come into their own during the unforeseen demands of 2020. The cloud has certainly been able to prove its worth. After all, cloud-based business software is built to drive team collaboration, and it gives staff instant access to the tools and information they need anywhere and at any time. It’s therefore encouraging to see that more than half (57 percent) of organizations now have a cloud strategy in place, according to our Digital Business Report, up from 49 percent last year.

Organizations that have adopted a cloud-first strategy would likely have been better prepared to deal with the challenges around lockdown – as long as their expectations for what the technology can deliver have been met. Our research shows that, in some areas, the cloud has more than lived up to expectations. In fact, our same survey shows that 37 percent say the productivity benefits are what they hoped for, along with mobile working at 34 percent, and speed of implementation at 22 percent. We can expect these figures to rise further as organizations look to the cloud as part of their recovery strategy.

How organizations are using the cloud varies, but we have all seen the meteoric rise in the use of tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack, with some organizations favoring them over traditional forms of communication like email. This online collaboration can significantly improve productivity levels. It can also ensure employees are sharing and storing sensitive company information on a shared platform rather than their individual laptops which would otherwise bring security risks to this data. 

The cloud can also drive productivity levels and improve performance in a range of business functions, from sales and marketing through to finance and HR. Interestingly, only 40 percent of organizations have a digital HR strategy in place, but it’s anticipated this will increase over the coming weeks and months in response to the workforce management demands of Covid-19.

After all, the use of technology systems and tools to manage employees is critical, but even more so in the current crisis. Employees have been working from home, some have been self-isolating, and many have been furloughed. This disruption unsurprisingly becomes incredibly difficult for HR teams to keep on top of without the right technology to help streamline this process.

People need to come first

Organizations with cloud-first digital transformation programs in place will be better able to recover from Covid-19. However, having to decide which new tools and technologies to implement under the pressure of the current situation can feel overwhelming for some.

Therefore, before looking at implementing these new tools and technologies, it’s important that organizations first review what they already have in place. Which software and systems are enabling the change in working practices? And are they being used by staff to their maximum potential?

Tools like the cloud can help boost productivity and performance but, going back to the earlier point on expectations, they will only be worth the investment if the workforce understands their benefits.

One of the biggest challenges when adopting any new technology is ensuring there is willingness from the workforce – otherwise it will be a waste of time and money. In other words, employees must believe the tools that they are given will make their jobs easier and better. If they see little or no value, the chances are they will go back to their old ways of working. This will create serious problems in a world where many people are still working from home and who will be working from home for the foreseeable future. Google, for example, recently announced its employees will work from home until at least summer 2021. It’s likely other organizations will follow suit.

Business leaders will therefore need to regularly communicate with employees to understand their pain points, concerns, worries and needs in the workplace. It will help them identify and support staff who are resistant to change and prefer the old ways of working, as well as those who lack the confidence to embrace new technology. With a workforce made up of five generations, which now includes Generation Z, leaders will also need, for inclusivity, to understand how to appeal to each of these different age groups, and address the needs of different personalities and employee types that come with them. It’s also about discovering the strengths of each employee and using them to an organization’s advantage.

The importance of having a clear strategy in place to ensure employees are engaged and supported during this unprecedented time cannot be underestimated. But it’s critical organizations don’t run before they can walk. It’s about finding the right balance between implementing new technology to support the ‘new normal’ and using it to help people work to the best of their ability.

Amanda Grant, Chief Product Officer, Advanced (opens in new tab)

Amanda Grant is the Chief Product Officer at Advanced, the UK's third largest software and services company, which recently published its annual Digital Business Report.