Technology is moving at unimaginable speeds. Last year alone 205 billion apps were downloaded worldwide, equal to nearly 30 million apps downloaded every hour. This is expected to rise to 258 billion by 2022. And it’s not just apps – new technologies and platforms are constantly changing and adapting which can be difficult to keep up with, leaving your head in a spin.
It's for this very reason that embarking on digital transformation and embracing new technologies for your organisation might seem extremely daunting. While there is much to consider and the ultimate execution might seem complex, it doesn’t have to be.
Leaders must overcome fears, be brave and make bold changes. Part and parcel of this are recognising that technology is only beneficial if used correctly and for the right reasons - but it doesn’t stop there. It’s also about sticking with that change despite teething problems and seeing the tech through - from being adopted by employees, to being successfully embedded in the workplace. We call this the ‘techno-optimistic’ mindset – the view that exponential technological growth will allow you to expand resources ahead of exponentially increasing demands. Organisations have a responsibility to cultivate and nurture this optimism, especially in times of change.
Last year, our Economy of People study, conducted in partnership with Oxford Economics, found that businesses fostering an ‘optimal office’ could generate £36.8 billion in additional GDP for the UK. To achieve this, businesses must maintain optimism and holistically evaluate how technology, processes and workspace are balanced, with people at the forefront.
But what are the steps businesses should be taking to ensure this workstyle innovation will result in a lasting impact? And how does this play out in real-life scenarios?
A people-first approach
Tech can be more a hindrance rather than an enabler if people’s needs aren’t considered. Without the right processes in places, it can be difficult for employees to get to grips with new platforms. A holistic, people-first approach during the implementation stage is critical to ensure your organisation is maximising productivity from new technology.
Monzo Bank Ltd saw the need for a people-first approach to business from miles away. Undoubtedly the latest inspirational FinTech, they identified that the banking industry, particularly in the UK, was in dire need of disruption, recognising that what traditional institutions labelled ‘too difficult’ was a key point of customer demand.
Monzo embraced this desire for change and harnessed a people-first approach towards its operations and product offering. Despite initial industry and media backlash, the company had faith in the process, maintaining optimism in the conviction that they had picked the right approach. Such belief and perseverance were vital to Monzo’s success and through this, they were able to disrupt against all odds. The company prides itself on being user-friendly and now stands at a valuation at £2 billion, with its coral coloured card instantly recognisable across the country.
Not all businesses will have a clear vision of how to achieve success, but, like Monzo, a people-first approach is a good place to start. That’s where the techno-optimistic mindset comes in: recognising there might be initial teething problems with tech, but also understanding how to adjust these new platforms to meet people’s needs.
This optimism applies not just for businesses keen to innovate with a new product offering, but also for employees who are adopting new tech in the workplace.
Achieving culture change
Creating a positive working culture is a crucial element of a people-first approach. Not only is this a key driver of motivation, wellbeing and satisfaction, it’s also crucial in generating creative ideas and strong performance within your organisation.
But cultured change doesn’t happen overnight. Every organisation will take different paths to achieve this, largely because different people that make up an employee base have different needs. Workforce United research highlights this point, with 37 per cent of Gen Z now entering the workforce is more likely than any other generation (33 per cent) to find workplace change too fast-paced. Employers must do more work to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and doing so will result in a culture of optimism where productivity levels are elevated.
A case in point for this is the NHS, an organisation which has faced countless roadblocks. Several years ago, the NHS was steeped in legacy infrastructure and inadequate, outdated tech. Fast forward to 2019 and NHS is reinventing how transformation can be realised through NHSX.
The NHS's ability to scale with continuously increasing budget constraints is a real sign of optimism. And even the failure of their first IT initiative that launched in 2002, the National Programme for IT, demonstrated an ongoing pursuit to find the right pathway for success. Importantly, criticism was levelled at a lack of culture and top-down approach which meant technical errors went unresolved, and communication became fragmented. Since then the NHS has persevered, adopting a people-first mentality which has been more resilient and prepared in the face of failures, which are inevitably encountered.
The ongoing developments and successes of the NHS demonstrate the importance of optimism in business, a mindset and culture instilled by a people-first approach to the way processes are carried out.
People first technology
Workforce United research found that regardless of age, employees across Europe are keen to make a greater commitment to work and increase productivity through training and technology. 72 per cent of workers said they want to contribute more to their work. This suggests that a culture of optimism is waiting to be taken advantage of and that leaders must provide the right people-focused opportunities and the environment to unlock this.
With this in mind, there should be a strong investment in employee training so that people understand how best to use tools to maximise productivity. Listening to employee feedback is also crucial, to understand their needs better as well as identify which areas require updating. Additionally, technology should be reviewed regularly to ensure that what is deployed remains relevant and provides effective support for staff.
The speed of investment in technology can often leave employees finding new tools confusing and complicated. This can ultimately hinder productivity, so it is vital to understand and support employees along the journey of digital transformation.
A lasting impact
Thinking of technology as an ‘enabler’ is an optimistic mindset which all businesses must adapt, and doing so will result in long-lasting change.
Indeed, the optimistic view can be applied to a range of scenarios. For example, if your business is expanding in headcount, it doesn’t have to be constrained by limited office space – technological innovation can aid this and increase productivity through hot-desking as well as flexible working. Our Economy of People research found that with the right tools and technology, 78 per cent of employees believe they could be more productive when working remotely.
These examples underpin the notion that exponential technological growth results in continuous improvement through new advancements and techniques. Through techno-optimism, businesses can provide more output while spending less money on legacy technology. In turn, businesses will realise the lasting impact of successful transformation.
Chas Moloney, Marketing Director, Ricoh UK & Ireland