Increase productivity with technology-employee partnerships

12 Feb 2020

Although digital technology is a must if you want to stay competitive in today's business world, it's pointless if it doesn't deliver the business outcomes you need to reach your goals. That's why a digital transformation journey shouldn't involve rushing out to buy the latest technology. In fact, if your goal is to increase productivity, improve the customer experience, and gain the insights you need to innovate and grow your business, at some point you need to shift your focus away from the technology itself, and turn your attention to digitalization.

In “Digitization, digitalization and digital transformation: the differences," i-SCOOP notes, “digitalization is about systems of engagement and systems of insight, leveraging digitized data and processes."1

To leverage data and processes as effectively as possible, you need to first digitize your information and make it easily accessible to your team. You can learn more about how to do this in, “3 ways to drive business outcomes with a digital transformation."

In this post, we'll focus more on digitalization as systems of engagement and systems of insight, and how viewing your employees and the technologies they use as partnerships can optimize these systems for a more successful digital transformation. We'll look at the following three areas to help you build effective technology-employee partnerships across your organization:

  1. Alignment
  2. Assignment
  3. Technique
  1. Alignment
    Create a more collaborative work environment by aligning technology with people and business strategies

    A successful digital transformation should lead to higher employee engagement by empowering employees to make informed decisions quickly, which allows them to experience a collaborative work environment that enables them to share innovative ideas that lead to healthy business growth. When looking for technologies that can help to deliver these outcomes, it's important to focus on employee needs. You can get started by asking the following questions:
    • How do your employees currently work toward your business goals?
    • What busy work could be eliminated to help your employees spend more time on your strategic business initiatives?
    • How do they partner with each other?
    • How do they partner with your customers?

    The word "partner" is significant when it comes to employees and technology. When you consider a new employee for hire, how he or she will work with other members of your team influences your decision. You also consider how he or she will interact with clients. In other words, you focus on the various partnerships that will result from your new hire. To make the most of a digital transformation, it helps to view technology in a similar way. i-SCOOP notes that technologies cause behavioral changes which lead to disruption.2 Just as new hires can influence behavioral change in other employees, technologies can affect the way your employees behave based on how the technologies are aligned — or out of balance — with both your employees' work styles and your business strategies.

    Analyzing employee skill sets will help you determine what technology is most effective in driving your business strategy. In fact, you should consider employee skill sets before you consider any technological solutions. Every employee has specific skills that can be used in tandem with other employees — who preferably have complementary skills — to accomplish tasks. A technology-employee partnership can be viewed in the same way: employee skill sets should match up with technological functionality that addresses their needs.

    Let's say you have consultants who are industry experts that are more than capable of converting new customers. However, to meet your business-expansion goals, you need to retain more clients. As you investigate your consultants' skill sets, you find that, although they can engage customers and close deals, they don't have access to customer data that could help them better understand your current clients' pain points. Based on your consultants' proficiencies, you determine that if they had easy access to specific client information, they'd be able to effectively address and resolve client issues and help you reach your client-retention goals.

    In this example, you might look for a digital solution that will fill the gap by bringing client information to your consultants' fingertips — enabling them to make more informed decisions quickly during every client-consultant engagement. You could also start exploring your consultants' needs to help ensure you create the most valuable technology-employee partnership possible. This may involve finding a solution that lets them access data remotely, or creating a customized dashboard that brings customer data together in ways that lead to more insights about the clients' needs.

    All businesses have unique needs and goals, which is why considering how you and your team can partner with technology is so important. Once you figure that out, you can get more granular by considering the tasks your technological solutions need to perform.

  2. Assignment
    Assign technology dedicated tasks that can help employees increase productivity

    Once you've created a strategic partnership between your employees and the technologies they use, it's important to become a steward of this technology. This involves appropriating tasks to specific solutions. Just as you'd assign an employee certain tasks, you also want to dial into what your technology can and needs to perform while pairing that technology with the right people in your organization.

    A good approach is to start in a specific department and look at a specific workflow to help you determine what processes make the most sense with particular solutions. Let's say you have an IT department that needs to focus on a strategic project but just doesn't have the manpower because they're too busy managing print servers and fielding help-desk calls. In this example, you have a mismatched technology-employee partnership: the on-premises print infrastructure is actually interfering with IT's ability to focus on other, more important business initiatives. In this case, you need technology that will work with — rather than against — IT. This may involve looking for technologies that let you remove the burden on IT by moving your print infrastructure offsite.

    According to a Gartner CIO Agenda Report, 39% of CIOs surveyed noted that their IT departments could benefit from a major talent overhaul.3 This is a conclusion that any CIO can come to if their IT staff is so busy maintaining servers that they don't have time to innovate. In fact, when any department is overtaxed with busy work, talent and creativity suffer. By digging into departmental workflows and how technology can be tasked to make processes more efficient, you'll also be able to truly discover the potential of your employees and how to optimize this potential.

    When considering which departments and which workflows to look at, you may want to start with your most problematic areas. Chances are, as in the example above, processes are problematic because current technologies aren't aligned with the employees who use them. If you do see that a technological solution used in a certain workflow is well-aligned with its users, yet there are still inefficiencies within the workflow, try to determine if the solution is assigned to the right tasks. To help make this determination, consider if the technology is being used to help your employees:

    • Execute more effectively
    • Increase their speed to act
    • Improve bottom-line profitability

    If your solution does not help your employees in all three of these areas, see if there are other tasks it could be performing to achieve these results. For example, an interactive whiteboard that's used strictly for PowerPoint presentations doesn't enable employees to take full advantage of the interactive features. As a result, if remote customers aren't able to view the whiteboard on their smart devices or laptops, communication gaps are created. In a case like this, you may decide to complement your whiteboard with other collaboration tools that can help your employees deliver more interactive presentations that can engage remote customers — providing them with the full visual and audio experience no matter where they are in the world. Your employees can then execute meetings more effectively, deliver information faster and help to increase profitability by improving the customer experience.

    Regardless of what types of digital technologies you have in place today, you should assess every process throughout your organization to determine whether or not each solution is a good fit. Once you optimize the way you assign tasks to technological solutions, you can further improve how these technologies are being used by your employees.

  3. Technique
    Consider how your employees engage with technology to get the most out of your digital transformation

    A digital transformation is not about deploying technology, it's about embracing it to get the results you need. You want to be able to walk into a room with a turnkey solution that's quick to get going and easy to use. When you've done your due diligence by aligning people with your technology and assigning tasks to your solutions, you've already made it easier for employees to learn how to use technology more strategically. From there, you and your team can continuously adapt techniques that strengthen the technology-employee partnership.

    Let's look at information management solutions as an example. These types of solutions offer a variety of benefits, such as:

    Allowing employees to access and share data quickly and easily
    Optimizing processes and speeding up workflows with automation

    Helping employees deliver more accurate information by centralizing content and reducing data redundancies

    These benefits alone can help to drive business strategies, but employees can accomplish even more with such easy access to precise data — such as adapting more innovative ways to use these tools to gain actionable insights. The business insights that can result from easier access to data can help you break into new markets, build stronger relationships with customers and further increase productivity.

    Whether you're evaluating how your employees use data management tools, collaboration solutions, mobile technologies or other digital solutions, there's often a possibility that your team can find more ways to use the technology — adding more value to your business. Keep in mind that a digital transformation is a circular process. Technology is always changing, so continuously revisiting the alignment-assignment-technique process is vital if you want to stay competitive.