The tech-saturated workforce isn’t so up-and-coming — it’s here and it’s here to stay.
Whether your business is primarily made up of Millennials or Generation X-ers, or a blend of Baby Boomers and others, offering user-friendly technology solutions is now a best practice for businesses everywhere.
Of course, offering user-friendly technology is more than keeping up with fads and trends — it’s a way to care about employees and give them the tools to be successful. Using good software, applications and devices not only communicates to already tech-savvy employees that a company is invested in the future, but also trains the rest of the workforce and exposes them to valuable professional knowledge. Using technology best practices simultaneously increases efficiency and upskills your workforce.
However, intuitive apps and clean interfaces alone won’t be enough to transform the way your company works.
In a study on collaborative teams published by the Harvard Business Review, the Concours Institute and the Cooperative Research Project of London Business School found that as company teams became more virtual, cooperation declined, “unless the company had taken measures to establish a collaborative culture.”
The study also found that a team’s successful (or not so successful) collaboration efforts reflected the philosophy of top executives in the organization.
With virtual collaboration becoming the norm for many businesses, how should company leadership leverage user-friendly tech to build an energetic, collaborative and open work environment?
While easier said than done, there are several ways a business can pair tech and attitude for maximum productivity and employee loyalty.
Get feedback on current technology
While managers can’t realistically please everyone, a good way to tell if tools are working is to gather employee feedback. While you can analyze data and results, only team members can provide the “why” behind performance.
People use the tools they love. While employees can (and often) go outside of company-provided tech to do their jobs, this practice can quickly get out of control. Teams will function better if they’re working with the same technology and collaborating via that technology.
Time-tracking software company ClockShark has taken this practice to the next step, testing all new technology before implementing.
“When looking at a new technology or software platform, we test it with a small team first before rolling it out to everyone. Changing systems can be disruptive, so we need to make sure the disruption is worth it. If we don't see a meaningful improvement, we abandon it,” ClockShark’s co-founder and chief technology officer Joe Mitchell said.
“If, however, we do get meaningful results, it's easier to push out to everyone because we can clearly say why it's better.”
Managers should encourage honest feedback from team members on company-provided applications — and leadership can likewise ask for suggestions for new technology.
Encourage continuing education, improvement when it comes to tech
Everyone knows a good team is made up of varying skill sets and skill levels. When it comes to software and applications, don’t stop the education after onboarding — encourage team members to continue learning about your company’s tools as they use them for everyday responsibilities.
To ClockShark co-founder and CEO Cliff Mitchell, company-used technology is like language.
“In order to really perform at the highest possible levels, everyone needs to be able to coordinate well — to speak the same language. It's worth taking as much time as necessary to get people on board and using the technology you’ve chosen because it will pay off in the long run,” Cliff says.
Companies can also make sure team members are on the same page by leveraging the resources associated with their applications.
Many software products come with huge libraries of tutorial videos or online academies. SalesPad’s marketing team uses HubSpot, and loves the HubSpot Academy which allows us to hone our skills in specific areas of the software.
Another example of “speaking” the same technology language would be encouraging your sales teams to use the CRM (customer relationship management) software. In this day and age, no one should be searching for contact info in email inboxes or sticky notes.
Try to generate buy-in from team members that the more data they put into the systems in place, the better data and insights they’ll receive in return.
Encourage all your team members to use applications provided by the company to solve problems. Will this become an endless and confusing email thread? Make it an IM group. Should you forward that plain document to your team members, or should it be inputted into one of your cloud collaboration tools?
Don’t just throw applications at employees and leave them hanging — encourage everyone to grow in how they use the technology that applies to their different roles.
Watch the way you talk about tech
Aside from leadership actually using the tools they’re promoting, decisions-makers need to watch the way they talk about their company’s chosen applications and software.
“All change has to come from the top or it doesn't stick,” Cliff says. “The behavior has to be modeled and valued in order for it to take hold.”
Everyone has technology woes. But, attitudes are contagious — keep yours positive. Promote your technology as a tool and resource, not a hassle or one more thing to learn.
To set the tone around new software, ClockShark includes leadership in the process of rolling out and testing new technology.
“We make sure to include a senior member of the staff in the initial testing team. This ensures that when it comes time to push it out to the rest of the company, we have buy-in at the top,” Joe says.
Every investment a company makes in new apps or technology platforms is more than simply money spent — it’s an emotional and mental investment. Spending money doesn’t promote productive collaboration. But, being excited about new, relevant and user-friendly tools, and communicating clearly all the way from implementation to ongoing updates, is a step toward smart use of tech.
Be willing to change
In addition to gathering feedback on technology, leadership can’t effectively listen to feedback without a willingness to change current practices.
For managers, supervisors and decision-makers, there’s a time to stick to your guns and there’s a time to bend. After all, collaboration and open communication is more than what you say or do — it’s about your posture toward hearing people out. Before employees ever say a word, there’s already an atmosphere of communication created by those in charge.
“Encouraging open communication is a cultural matter. Technology and apps can make collecting the feedback and facilitating the conversation easier, but if any conversation happens at all, it has to be baked into the culture,” Cliff says.
At ClockShark, leadership lets everyone know that good ideas can come from anywhere — and the company wants those good ideas.
Senior staff members at the company have debates and discussions publicly (or in public communication channels) to encourage open discourse among all teams. And, whenever an idea is implemented, credit always goes to its originator in team meetings.
If leadership in a company is known to turning a deaf ear to employee feedback about tech use or practices, you can bet feedback will slowly dwindle until team members don’t even bother trying to improve their own environment.
Conversely, if leadership has created an atmosphere of collaboration and openness through their attitudes, actions and communication, employees will feel comfortable bringing up their thoughts on technology improvement and changes.
“Good collaboration has a lot to do with making sure the right people are involved in the right conversations. This is where technology can really help out,” Joe says.
At the end of the day, today’s employees expect the right tools, apps and programs to get their job done painlessly. However, what will take a company beyond average is how its leadership couples new technology and productive collaboration.