Are UK businesses failing to create a modern workplace?

Employers must put more effort into providing the right technology and tools to meet the needs of their workforce, says a new study.

by Management Today Staff
Last Updated: 10 Sep 2019

Easy-to-use mobile apps and connected devices are transforming our everyday lives at a rapid pace. Yet these technological advances are not always reflected in the workplace, causing frustrated employees and many hours wasted.

Despite the wealth of tools available, workers feel their technology needs are not being adequately met, according to The Employee Experience report by Insight, an Intelligent Technology Solutions business, which surveyed 2,000 UK office workers. Less than a third (29%) of employees say they are completely happy with their employer’s approach to technology. A fifth claim there’s a "lot of room for improvement" and some are even prepared to leave the organisation because of it.

The report pinpoints problems of unintuitive or overly restrictive technology systems and inadequate training. Yet the business technology – from mobile apps and cloud-based platforms to virtual reality and artificial intelligence – exists to make people’s working lives easier, less stressful and more productive.

As businesses prioritise digital transformation to enhance the customer experience, they mustn’t leave the employee experience lagging behind. It is a vital ingredient for growth and innovation. In the US, business author Jacob Morgan found that organisations investing in all three areas of employee experience (technology, culture and physical spaces) had more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue of other companies. 

If organisations want to attract and retain staff, increase productivity and profits, then they need to listen to their staff to improve the all-round employee experience.  

1.8 billion hours wasted

Failure to adopt the right technology results in inefficient working practices. For instance, the Insight report found that employees are routinely forced to travel to unnecessary meetings that could easily take place remotely, because they don’t have access to the right tools (or the training to use them effectively).

On average, workers waste 2.4 hours per week at work due to these issues, with a fifth of
respondents claiming to waste 3-8 hours. This amounts to a staggering 1.8 billion working
hours each year for UK PLC.

Flexible working

Employee expectations of their working life have changed dramatically in the last decade, with remote working and flexible hours increasingly valued and expected. Nine in ten (87 per cent) of the UK’s full-time workforce either currently work flexibly or would like to do so, according to Timewise. 

Businesses know that flexible working can be beneficial in attracting and retaining staff. Just under three-quarters (74%) of firms in Europe allow home working, according to IDC.
 
Today’s workforce expect employers to make sure that the latest technology is in place to facilitate flexible working practices. Yet, the Insight report found that more than a third of respondents (34%) say a lack of support from IT "makes flexible and remote working difficult and stressful". 

If employers don’t allow employees to do their jobs how, when and where they want, they will ultimately fail to attract the best possible talent, as well as harm productivity.

"A sense of frustration"

The advances in consumer technology in the last few years mean employees want the same user-led experience they get with their personal apps and connected devices. And most people expect to be able to use their own smartphone in the workplace. IT is no longer confined to the office PC. 

The majority (80%) of those surveyed said they have felt disadvantaged at work at some point as they are unable to use their preferred technology.  "There’s a sense of frustration that the tools they use so readily at home, or similar ones at least, are not available in the workplace," says the report.

As the lines between home and work blur even more, enabling employees to use corporate apps on their smartphones is key. This is one way of avoiding ‘shadow IT’, where workers use third-party apps independently on their personal smartphone or tablet for work-related activities, which can pose significant security challenges. Having digital workspaces that enable employees to access the systems and tools they need from any device can enhance collaboration, increase productivity and drive innovation. 

Information overload

Providing the right information effectively to your employees is crucial for business success  too. Only half (53%) of respondents said internal communication is effective in their organisation. "In too many cases, managers inundate staff with content whether it’s relevant or not, resulting in employees ignoring key messages," says the report.

In today’s working life, the constant bombardment of emails and instant messages popping up on our screens can be overwhelming. The average office worker misses important or useful information at work four times a week, and 38% miss information at least once a day because they’ve been forced to manage too many communication channels. 

Lack of engagement

Getting internal communications wrong can lead to lack of engagement with the business: 60% of respondents admit to ignoring most information until someone personally brings it to their attention. What’s more, only 47% of the internal information shared with workers is relevant to them. 

Just as companies are making great strides to get to know their customers better and personalise their communications, businesses should be doing the same with their employees. The more workers feel their employers understand their needs, the more likely they will be to engage.

This involves ensuring that the information employees receive is relevant and personalised. Many staff find a centralised data store, like intranets, hard to navigate or filled with irrelevant or outdated information. The report suggests personalised information-feeds for each employee, sent by managers through a single channel can be much more effective.

Obstacles to collaboration  

Better problem-solving happens when individuals and teams are able to collaborate easily.
Yet, respondents claim they accept delays or a worse-than-expected outcome on a task/project on average three times each week because they don’t have the right collaboration tools. That could mean late or disrupted meetings, below par or incomplete documents and poorly organised cross-departmental projects. 

We all know that it’s not helpful to have multiple versions of the same file circulating around an organisation, and only one person able to work on a document at any one time. It causes wasted time and limits the scope for flexible working. 

It’s crucial that organisations invest in collaboration tools that employees can start using quickly and intuitively, which enable teams to work together anywhere in agile workspaces. IT in the workplace needs to mirror the consumer technology experience, otherwise it may be rejected by employees.

Failing to train

But it is not just a question of acquiring the right technology and tools. If staff don’t know why the technology has been introduced or have the knowledge or skills to use it, it will be a complete failure. Yet worryingly, the report shows that a staggering 77% of respondents say that at some point they have been given technology such as laptops, mobile devices, or business software without knowing how these tools will benefit their role or how to use them.

Businesses must really sell the benefits of any new offering, focusing on the needs of their staff. It is crucial that training take place before any change. Employees should also be asked to give feedback after roll-out. Most importantly, argues the report, the goal must be realistic. Adoption should increase over time rather than businesses expecting immediate uptake.  

Future proofing

The demand for remote and agile working – and the right tech to enable it – is only going to increase as Generation Z enter the workforce. These ‘digital natives’ have grown up using social tools to stay connected and want the flexibility to work from any location. 

Even within the current workforce, nearly half (48%) of respondents say the technology on offer would influence their decisions on future employers. 

As the report concludes: "Creating a truly modern workplace in which technology enables greater productivity and an improved user experience is not just good news for your current employees – it will encourage the best of breed next generation workers to apply too."

Download the Insight Report: The Employee Experience 

Discover more about Insight  

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