You’re still likely to know someone who will tell you how much better things used to be before “technology”. This term covered anything from mobile phones to computers to fax machines to maybe even television sets. Whatever “it” was, it was to blame for making the modern world far too busy and far less human.
The neverending march of technology, however, has totally revolutionised business. Yes, the business world may well be more hectic and less personal now, but technological improvements are continuing to positively transform the way every company functions. Everything from business operations, employee relationships, communications, marketing and customer service are being made easier and cheaper, every day in almost every way. Our social lives might thrive without Facebook or Twitter but our businesses would not survive without the relentless advance of technology.
For managers and small business owners, this is equal measure blessing and curse. Sure, technological developments will improve productivity and lead to better profitability, but how will greater business efficiency directly help workers out in the field. Won’t they just see this as another way they will need to do more for the same pay? Won’t they see this as an everpresent threat to job security? Won’t they just be asking “so, boss, what’s in it for me?”
Small business advisor Dr Greg Chapman prefers to see it in another way. “Staff probably recognise if things are going well in the business or not, and quite often they will know before these sort of changes happen,” he says. “Everyone’s running around like a headless chook; balls are being dropped; mistakes are happening. There’s a lot of firefighting going on. “Potentially, fingers are being pointed for things that aren’t people’s fault. The system’s broken. I mean, it’s like ‘I’m doing my best here but I can’t get the resources I need’.
Chapman, whose website is empowersolutions.com.au, says that employees ultimately want to be in an environment where things work and customers are happy. Using the right technology in the right way delivers on both of these goals.
“Their life will be less stressful,” he says. “Things happen when they’re supposed to happen, so you’re not having to ring up at the last minute making arrangements for things that didn’t happen the way they were supposed to. You’re not being forced to stay back to fix up someone else’s mistakes, so you can get home on time. Doesn’t all that sound good?
“By having the right systems in place, there is far less stress. There are lots of rewards for everyone to share when business is more profitable. There’ll probably be pay rises for everyone because the business is more profitable and they will want to keep their staff. There might even be opportunities for promotion.
“As the business improves, there’ll be rewards for everyone to go around. But at the very early stages, they’ll be less stress and more job satisfaction.”
Lyn Goodear, chief executive of the Australian Human Resources Institute, says one of the dangers managers face when they invest in timesaving technology is that it can play into the hands of disengaged employees. “They’ll just spread out the work to fill in the time,” she says. Goodear is an advocate for the “Talent Equation”. This is a concept by US professor and author Dave Ulrich that contends that someone’s “talent” for a job is equivalent to their “competence” multiplied by their “commitment” multiplied by their “contribution”. All are necessary for success, but failure is assured if even one is missing. Introduced technology has the potential to disrupt the wellbeing of the most “talented” employee.
“There is perhaps a natural tendency for us to fill in the spaces there, whereas if we’re being stretched and challenged, we’ll create some personal efficiency and productivity,” Goodear says. “I think it does ultimately come back down to defining their contribution – making sure the job match is right for the competence, and making sure the skill set is right, and making sure that the stretch is there.”
In an article published in Smart Company, Punters.com.au founder Luc Pettett said that giving employees the right equipment is vital to improve business productivity. “I’m a big believer in giving staff absolutely everything they need to do their job: iPads, the best iMacs, extra monitors, a comfortable chair, great coffee,” Pettett said. “We don’t see any point in hiring a new employee and then slowing them down with budget limitations.”