Have you ever had a coworker who made your life miserable — one whose mere sight would set your pulse racing, and make you wish you could duck like a gopher behind the nearest cubicle wall? These sort of experiences run counter to the collaborative environment a business needs in order to thrive in 2019, and yet they’re all too common. No, we’re not talking about your bagel-related blood-feud with Karen from accounting. We’re talking about the oft-tense relationship we all have with business technology.
Companies need technology to survive. That’s why they spend millions of dollars each year to implement the latest and greatest solutions; they understand what it can do for their productivity. But many times, this technology actually falls by the wayside — ending up in a proverbial corner collecting dust because no one’s put it to work yet. Imagine if you did that with a hiree! All that money, just to have them spinning around in their rolly chair swiping right on Tinder because they’ve never been given a task. That would be absurd, right? What a terrible ROI!
This is the central thesis behind one of our favorite TED Talks: “Why you should treat the tech you use at work like a colleague.”
In it, London-based tech advisor Nadjia Yousif describes how businesses of all shapes and sizes can maximize their “return on technology investment” by helping employees embrace the tech they use every day. The video starts with a sobering fact: 70% of jobs require at least mid-level tech skills. If employees aren’t able to successfully interact with the technologies meant to make their jobs easier, they’re productivity output will be significantly reduced. It’s not much different than having two coworkers butting heads so frequently that collaboration becomes impossible. Even if you don’t get along with your coworkers, you still need to be able to work together in order to effectively do you job.
The same goes for technology. In order to best serve your needs, working with it must be seen as a collaborative effort between man and machine. Just like you might with a colleague, you might consider “team building” exercises. That is, give your employees an opportunity to better get to know the tech they use.
An obvious way of doing this is with employee training. One company highlighted in the TED Talk had had new Human Resources software for over a year, but almost no one went near it. After giving everyone an hour to sit down and familiarize themselves with the program, use skyrocketed — and so did productivity! If employees are never formally introduced to the colleague they’re meant to be working with, how can that relationship succeed? Collaboration won’t magically appear from nowhere.
Another thing you can do is perform regularly scheduled “employee” reviews by asking a series of questions about the tech your business is uses.
- Is your existing technology playing well with others? This doesn’t just include the workers using it, but also the apps this tech might integrate with. Compatibility issues decrease efficiency, hurting your bottom line.
- Is this tech performing up to your expectations? Sometimes the technology you thought you needed isn’t the right fit after all. Needs can change as your business grows and evolves.
- Is there a department overwhelmed by the amount of technology they have to interact with? Just like someone might feel spread thin by having to manage too many workers, the same can go for technology. Perhaps there’s a way to divide up the techload more equitably.
- Do you have tech in your office that doesn’t really have a home? If there’s technology that no one is really using, it might be time to hand it a pink slip.
In many cases, the employees on the front lines will have the best sense of what’s working for your business and what’s not. Listening to these ideas and asking questions is one of the best things you can do for your company. Sometimes the most revolutionary, game-changing ideas come from the lease-expected corners of your office.
Opening up the floor for employees to give suggestions for new tools to implement will also foster a more collaborative environment internally. The same goes for giving people the space to ask questions about the technology they use. Sometimes it really does help to simply understand why a tool has been chosen for use, rather than simply having it imposed on you!
It’s hardly news that employees face a lot of stress at work. As industries evolve, jobs have become more difficult and demanding than ever before. Technology in the workplace should reduce stress rather than increase it. In fact, companies that allow their employees to get comfortable with the technology they use (rather than just throwing them in at the deep end) report lower worker stress levels. A less-stressed employee is a happier employee. And a happy employee will always do their job better, and work better with others.
The future of business will be all about collaboration. We should all find better ways to work better with our tech.
Contact JNT TEK for methods on how to better utilize your company’s technology.