When the gurus talk about their recipes for happy workers, they seldom mention technology. Information technology is normally only discussed in terms of productivity. But it turns out employers looking for a happy (and productive) workforce ignore technology at their cost.
“Lifestyle IT” reaches the office
Technology is marketed as aspirational. Phones are not sold to consumers as something they can use to make calls. New computers are not marketed in terms of being able to open Microsoft Word faster than their predecessors. Consumers are persuaded to buy technology because it will enhance their lifestyle.
That idea of technology offering something more than plain functionality infiltrated the office a few years ago. Just over 40 percent of employees say having the latest and greatest technology is “very important” to them.
Use it or lose them
One out of four employees say the quality of the technology in the workplace would influence their decision to stay with one employer or move to another. This is even truer at the management level. Management expects the best technology. If they do not get it, they are more likely to leave.
What to do?
IT decision makers had plenty to juggle before being told their decisions affect employee happiness and retention. There are some quick fixes.
First, hear them
Employees report being disgruntled when not included in IT decisions. Less than half of employees feel decision makers take their views into account when selecting technology.
A simple first step to improve employee engagement is to talk to them about the technology they need to do their jobs. You don’t know until you try whether consulting employees will cost you more. They might want something different, not something more expensive. Even if it cannot be done, you have provided a forum to explain why.
Second, enable them
More than half of employees are using their own devices for work or expect to do so in the future. Letting them do so could relieve some of the pressure on you. It is one reason 54 percent of companies globally are allowing BYOD.
The key is to allow it in a structured way. If you forbid it, there is a chance employees will do it anyway. That opens holes in security. Even of companies that formally allow BYOD, only 27 percent are securing the personal devices. Policies, permissions, and structure are important.
The idea of engaging employees in dialogue about a subject as involved as business technology might not seem appealing. The financial rewards, however, can be attractive. In some organizations, even the slightest uptick in retention rates can be significant.
The same is true when it comes to employee happiness and productivity. And with consumers being better educated about technology than ever, you might just learn something too.