Businesses have been required to do a great deal of soul searching since the outbreak of the pandemic. The ones that will not only survive but potentially thrive in the coming years will be those that provide the greatest flexibility and understanding of their customers.
But equally important for future prosperity will be the way in which a business supports its employees. They too will expect increased individual consideration from their employers. Those businesses that are able to successfully reimagine their relationship with their employees will enjoy a loyal, productive workforce in the post-COVID-19 era.
So how do you achieve this?
There are a number of ‘expert’ opinion pieces telling organizations like yours the one thing you can do to help a multi-generational workforce thrive, or what the key is to cater for specific groups in the workplace.
The focus is often on making sure devices are always on to allow people to work anywhere, but in today’s world this should be a given. Additionally, according to our research, this doesn’t always make people more productive.
These articles miss one simple fact: regardless of age, gender, or background, every employee you have is a unique individual. And if you want them to be as productive as possible you need to empower them with the right tools to do their job and ensure they are supported in ways that make them want rather than feel obliged to work.
The simple truth is this: it’s no longer enough for devices to simply work or be up to date. The real value comes from providing connected services that empower and motivate people by truly understanding their needs and how and when to meet them. Our research shows that without this, people often feel less productive despite devices being more available.
This is easier said than done, of course. Catering for every individual when you’re a five-person start-up is one thing. But when you’re a multinational organization with tens of thousands of employees it can appear a monumental task.
But that’s where technology can make the impossible achievable.
Targeting individuals through technology
Conversations about catering for different types of people in the workforce often seem to default to discussing the four generations: how they differ from each other or how senior they are within the business.
But someone’s working style, motivation, or preference is determined by many more factors than simply their age.
A great example of this is an app called Buddy Connect which Fujitsu has developed for autistic employees. Because people with autism tend to struggle when interacting with people in certain ways and scenarios, we wanted to give them a way of feeling more comfortable and in control at work.
We’ve already seen a really positive impact from the app, but we intend to keep improving it. The next stage will be for Buddy Connect to provide a view on where their colleagues are within a building, to help them locate people they need to speak to in a stress-free way.
This example shows how a relatively simple app can have a profoundly positive impact on the way an individual feels and performs at work. And the more we use technology in this way, the happier and more productive our workforce will be as a result.
Joining everything up
As our Buddy Connect app illustrates, making a diverse group of people happy at work requires much more than a one-size-fits-all approach. And that’s where technology can really start to make a difference.
This isn’t about trying to produce a single service that could make everyone happy – it’s about targeting each individual with services that specifically add value to their working day.
What are their likes and dislikes? How do they like to work? And what devices or apps could help support that?
It’s important to find the answers to these questions, and understand how people spend their time between various tools already. This means moving from simple people data to complex, real-time information sets, allowing you to provide the technology they need and reduce the amount of time wasted on irrelevant or unproductive tasks.
Crucially, those tools and services need to be connected seamlessly in the background, to the point where employees don’t know when they’re moving from one software provider or operating system to another. This is achievable through simple, single interfaces.
The days when people were prepared to spend hours trawling through intranet sites and different applications for the services they need are long gone. If things are not simple, easy to find, and intuitive, people simply won’t use them.
How AI could soon change everything
As mentioned previously, achieving this is easier said than done. It relies on processing a huge amount of information to create these personalized experiences – a massive task, particularly in a larger organization, and especially with the security that needs to be considered in these areas.
Thankfully, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation can add huge amounts of value to workplace IT services by providing that contextual and personalized approach.
In short: we’re moving towards a truly intelligent workplace. One that knows what each employee needs and gives it to them without prompting.
And when that intelligent workplace arrives, it will change everything.
Why? Because everything I’ve talked about in this post – learning the ins and outs of every individual employee and serving them what they need when they need it – will only be truly achievable once we master the use of AI in workplace technology.
Conclusion: take the lead from consumer brands
The workplace technology expectations of individual employees are no different from what they’ve come to expect when using technology or online services in their private lives.
They want things to work smoothly. They expect everything to be joined up. They won’t tolerate any downtime at all. And they want everything to be secure enough to ensure their data is safe.
However, this is fast becoming a given. Providing targeted solutions that empower and motivate employees to be happy at work – and therefore more productive – will be key.
And if companies across the world have managed to deliver on those expectations for their customers, there’s no reason they can’t do the same for their employees.
For more insight into how you can reimagine how your organization meets the needs of your employees, download our research report.