Digital technologies: is your organisation falling behind the curve?

Joe Svetlik

Friday 19 May 2017

A worrying proportion of businesses are yet to implement the right IT processes and tech devices in the workplace. Here’s how to manage a digital rollout effectively.

Digital technology in the workplace can streamline internal processes, and make it quicker and easier for people to do their jobs. So it’s important businesses stay up to date with the latest innovations and advances, and yet this doesn’t always seem to be the case.

The lack of uptake

Digital technology is all around us. It’s in our phones, our computers, our tablets and, increasingly, in hitherto more analogue objects such as cars, kettles and fridges. However, amazingly, it’s not standard in all workplaces.

A recent study by Cisco, entitled Digital Culture Clash, found that 29 per cent of UK businesses were yet to roll out digital technologies in the workplace. And it’s not the workers’ fault. Employees are positively in favour of new technology, with over two-thirds (67 per cent) of those surveyed saying that digital technology has had a positive impact on the way they work. More than half (56 per cent) of respondents said digital technology had made their job quicker, while 50 per cent said it had made their job easier.

This is reflected in digital technology use in the home. The vast majority (86 per cent) of UK workers said they were confident in their home use of digital technology. They were also open to accepting digital technology in the workplace – 45 per cent said half of their working day was already taken up using such technology.

And it’s not just the UK. All across Europe, workers are ready for digital. Last year research carried out by Accenture revealed that 57 per cent of European workers think new digital technologies will improve their working experience; just eight per cent thought it would worsen it.

If the technology exists, and the workers want to use it, why aren’t more businesses rolling it out? And how do you make sure your business doesn’t fall behind the curve?

Challenges in rolling out digital technology

It’s vital to choose the right technology. Take the time to make sure it’s appropriate for your needs and does the job you ask of it. Too many organisations are swept up by the hype of a new product or service, and end up giving their employees the wrong tools for the task. Buying in technology for technology’s sake will not only prove costly – it will alienate and frustrate workers as well as harm both their productivity and that of the business as a whole.

It’s just as important to explain the rollout to workers, so they know what’s happening and why. This might sound obvious, but a lot of employees are still being left in the dark. According to the Cisco study, 51 per cent said they understood the technology was being implemented in order to cut costs, while 47 per cent said it was automate tasks. These figures could be a lot higher. As it stands, around half of workers didn’t know why digital technology was being rolled out across the business.

But it’s hardly surprising, given that almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of workers weren’t consulted in any way on the new technology. It’s not enough to let people know it’s coming; managers should consult with workers on how the new technology will affect their jobs, and take their feedback into account.

How to roll out effectively

To be perceived as a successful rollout, digital technology has to do three things. It has to make it easier and quicker for employees to do their job and to streamline internal processes.

However, the most important factor is instilling a positive digital culture in the workplace. This involves ensuring workers feel confident in their use of digital tools, fostering a positive organisational culture around the value of digital, and – crucially – management showing clear leadership and involving the workforce in the process.

Six ‘success factors’ are recommended to bring about this kind of culture. These are: training and confidence (making sure workers are fully trained and have confidence in the leadership team); digital vision (communicating a clear plan for the organisation’s future); matching expectations (ensuring workers know what to expect); consultation and collaboration (using worker feedback to improve working practices); and rewards (building the digital technology into employee development and reward systems).

As so often in business, communication is key. It’s up to managers to talk to staff and ensure they are made aware of the many benefits of digital technology, not only for them but for the business as a whole.

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