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Distracting the future

From self-tying shoelaces to automated cars – the future is about innovation and ease of use, but is it really about productivity?

Google is regularly thought of as one of the most creative companies in the world. The Googleplex is famous for its unusual extras and impressive employee extras. There are: laundry rooms, sleep pods, swimming pools, volley ball courts, cafeterias, dinosaur skeletons and spaceships. It is considered one of the coolest places in the world to work and there is a method in the supposed madness – creativity and focus. The fun and the fabulous are designed to give employees a space in which to explore their creativity so they can keep on coming up with ingenious ideas and keep Google ahead of the innovation curve.

So far it’s working. And the stats back it up, according to research from HBR and the Economist Intelligence Unit, an inspired employee is 125% more productive than a satisfied one.

The point isn’t that every organisation should now rush out and install a life-sized space ship in the offices. No. The point is that innovation and agility rely on people and creativity and that these qualities need to be nurtured within the organisation. Ditch organisational drag, remove the obstacles to innovation and pay attention to the trends.

Stay on target

Fortunately for the modern business, the digital revolution is making all the difference. With the tools inspired by technology, working life has become a lot simpler and more flexible. People can work from home, the café, the bar and the bistro. They can use automation software to unshackle themselves from tedious admin and free up time to focus on their work. Social media has deepened the potential of the customer experience, and the potential of digital in both home and office is almost limitless.

While it would be a mistake to ignore innovation, it is as big a mistake to grab at it with both hands without assessing its long-term impact on productivity and personnel. The business needs to tap into technology without it becoming a distraction, and ensure that employees are not left floundering when faced with new solutions and systems.

Any new enterprise resource planning (ERP) installation, any fresh analytics tool or data-driven solution needs an informed end user to make the most of its potential. When the business is sold the lights and action of a system, they see what it can do when people know how to use it, not what it will do if nobody understands it. A lack of training not only impacts on employee morale, but on productivity. It is also one of the most common mistakes made by organisations that shift from old systems to new.

Interestingly, the flip side is also true – if a company isn’t investing in the latest tools and technology for its employees, then their morale and productivity will be affected. Intel did a survey where it monitored the productivity of its staff when they were upgraded to wireless notebooks, and the result was a significant increase in productivity to the tune of 100 hours per year. That’s just with a wireless notebook – imagine what virtual, flexible and AI can do?

More is less

While there remain some pockets of resistance when it comes to remote working and allowing for digital to release employees into the wild, the statistics continue to point towards it being a success. According to a TinyPulse survey, remote workers are happier at work and feel more valued, they also had an impressive 91% say that they were more productive when working remotely. These numbers are given more weight when carried against a recent PwC study that showed increased job satisfaction and that 48% were more likely to rate their job a 10 on the happiness scale if they worked from home.

That said, the TinyPulse survey also revealed that co-worker relationships were less satisfying for remote workers, and it is worth remembering that not all employees want the same things. Some dislike the idea of working from home and need the routine and relationships of an office. The upshot is that perhaps the biggest mistake any business can make today is to enforce rigid rules and regulations on an employee market that expects a better work/life balance, more room for creativity and the autonomy to make informed decisions. By embracing technology, understanding cultural complexities and completely rethinking the employee value proposition, the business can boost productivity and efficiency while creating a space where everyone will want to work.

Until next time, thank you for your continued support of First Technology.

Warm Regards

Johan de Villiers Managing Director


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