While technology is critical to the success of most businesses, it’s people who are needed to make sure your business is implementing the right hardware and software for your operation.
Data from PwC revealed that 57 percent of procurement leaders determine the “involvement of stakeholders,” especially their employees, as the most important factor in getting business digital transformation right. However, despite this figure, about 1 in 4 employees would still upgrade their workplace tech if they were in charge, reported Resume Lab. For those staff members, improving current tech is so important that it’s a higher priority than hiring additional staff members, reducing micromanagement and offering additional health benefits.
Below, we examine why it’s important to involve employees when introducing new tech into your business and share four ways to get it right on an ongoing basis.
How employees are driving the workplace tech revolution
Your staff knows the pressures they work under. They see where the bottlenecks in your business occur. They understand from their daily experience what would improve their own productivity and reduce frustration for themselves and your customers.
So, as an employer, it makes sense to involve your team in the decision-making process when investing in new tech. If you don’t, you’ll pay the price for it. Employee engagement consultants O.C. Tanner found that when solutions were imposed top-down without a process of staff consultation or consideration of the work culture, successful technology adoption fell by 51 percent and decreased overall employee satisfaction by 32 percent.
Get it right, however, and you’ll see improvement across the whole company. In fact, according to Forrester, employers need to think about employee experiences, including how happy they are with their tech stack, to prevent attrition and to find top talent.
Your staff may be more enthusiastic about technology than you realize. The vast majority of staff told O.C. Tanner that they believe that new tech will improve their work experience with many expressing excitement about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Why employee input on workplace technology is important
Getting your staff and the information technology team to work together to choose the right tech delivers the following four major benefits to them and your business as a whole:
1. Investing in the right tech means it is easier to hire and retain the right people.
By 2030, the United States labor force participation rate is expected to drop to 60.4 percent as baby boomers begin retiring en masse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As worker numbers drop, competition for staff will grow and so will wage inflation.
Supervisors at the average American company will be predominantly managing millennials and Gen Zers — so-called “digital natives,” who expect business tech to work. So much so that, in a CompuCom poll, half of American workers reported that they’ve either switched jobs or are thinking about doing so because of frustrations with workplace tech.
The right tech not only improves productivity but can be a major factor in reducing employee turnover in a time of increasingly intense competition for top talent. So, why not involve your employees in the decision-making to get the best outcome possible?
2. Meet the growing demand for flexible working.
Whether employers like it or not, many staff now consider working from home as a norm after the COVID-19 pandemic. A McKinsey survey found that 92 million Americans (58 percent of the workforce) now work remotely part of the time.
The widespread availability of super-fast broadband and cloud-based apps like top customer relationship management (CRM) systems and highly rated call center software has made it far easier for businesses to cope with this demand. Employers who listen to employee tech needs will have access to this pool of job candidates.
3. Manage staff workloads and customer expectations better.
Just 10 or 20 years ago, businesses purchased a variety of software packages to perform specific tasks but they didn’t really talk to each other, which made organizing things, such as inventory levels and staffing schedules difficult.
Now, thanks to native integrations, application programming interfaces and software development kits, you can plug in a workforce management app to talk to and share data with, for example, your CRM system and HR management app in real time. [Related article: Best HR Software]
This type of integration makes running a business easier in all areas. For example, if you have seasonal spikes in demand, a workforce management app plugged into your general tech stack makes it easier for you and your managers to know how many staff members you’ll need on a particular day:
- On the shop floor
- In the warehouse
- Out delivering to customers
- In customer and technical support
- To take orders over the phone
The upsides here are that there’ll be enough staff to cover the work; meaning, you’ll keep customers onside, even at very busy times. Employees can offer perspectives on which products might meet your needs best, especially since there are so many options available.
Many customers also prefer self-service rather than phoning and emailing someone for help. To relieve the pressure further from front-line staff, many companies invest in web-based knowledge areas that contain information on how to use a product’s or service’s features step-by-step.
Involving staff from the outset in choosing new work tech also ensures much greater participation and enthusiasm when you actually introduce the new tech.
4. Use AI to create better employee and customer outcomes.
Many managers worry about staff onboarding and training is harder in a hybrid work environment. If this is a concern, you should investigate whether an AI-powered workforce engagement app is the right solution for your business.
These apps can train staff in real-time and on the job. For example, if a new starter is dealing with a customer with a complaint, on-screen prompts appear during the call with suggested responses depending on what the customer is telling your agent. Some companies use gamification apps in these situations which reward agents for certain actions and outcomes. It’s a great way to build experience on the job and reward and motivate employees when they achieve milestones.
AI-driven apps also field customers’ questions when they get in touch by email, short message service (SMS), social media or messaging app without a human being involved. If the issue can’t be resolved by the bot, it then sends the inquiry to co-workers most likely to be able to satisfy the client’s needs because of their skill and experience. Effective routing of inbound calls and messages adds a lot of time back to workers’ days to spend helping customers who need the most support.
How businesses can involve employees in technology decisions
It’s hard for owners and senior managers to understand the pressures of someone working in sales or someone in dispatch. Imposed, top-down solutions rarely solve workflow problems.
Instead, involve staff in the process of picking tech that helps them improve the way they work and that finds new efficiencies and increases profit margins for your company.
1. Get staff to share what tools they need.
Two-thirds of American workers spend up to two hours a day on non-productive manual tasks, according to CIO Insights. Ask your employees which activities sap up a lot of their time without delivering any added value. You’ll be surprised just how much time handling emails, directing calls, streamlining accounting entries and chasing unpaid invoices takes.
Next, ask your employees to list the tasks that do add value to your business. Get them to share with you the frustrations they have in completing those jobs. Work with them to find the tech that can make getting things done faster and more accurately.
2. Ask for feedback on integration opportunities.
Earlier, we mentioned how modern business apps, especially cloud-based apps, can now share data with each other.
Ask your employees for ideas on which apps might help cut out time-sapping, motivation-draining mundane tasks. You can start by considering:
- Integrating your merchant account dashboard with your online accounting software: In our Clover review, we explain how its integration with QuickBooks and Xero creates separate entries from merchant account settlements and fees, saving your bookkeeper time.
- Integrating your e-commerce store with your inventory management software: Automatically remove an item for sale from your website when it’s out of stock to avoid disappointing customers.
- Integrating your call center software with your CRM app: No more asking customers 20 questions about who they are when they call in. Agents see everything about a customer when they get in touch by phone, SMS/multimedia messaging service, social media messaging and more. This makes first-call resolution far more likely.
As well as improving efficiency, integrating as many of your apps to work together as possible will give you and your managers the chance to find additional valuable insights by running accurate, real-time reports on business performance.
3. Launch new technology properly and train your employees.
Now that you have pinpointed what tech is needed to free up time for your staff and create a more efficient business overall, it’s time to implement it.
Many companies use an agile product development approach to introducing new technology. They first get to a minimum viable product and then roll it out. Be sure to train your team members on how to use their part of the system. You could do this through classroom sessions, instructional videos or even an internal knowledge base. Proper training ensures that employees will use the new technology appropriately, and allows the chance to obtain their feedback on the new tech.
4. Look for ways to improve constantly.
Don’t stop there. Always seek user suggestions on further improvements. No system is 100 percent perfect but, by constantly adding new functionality and making existing features easier and faster to use for employees, you’ll keep your workforce happy and bring down costs.
Getting tech right is critical for business survival and growth. Make sure that, from now on, you include the thoughts and suggestions of the people you trust to do the work.
Additional reporting by Mark Roberts.