Workplace technology develops and transforms at an incredible pace; we see new possibilities for working each day from the latest video calling software to voice-powered assistants and virtual office spaces.
Almost 50% of executives are planning to invest more than £10m in digital technologies and ways of working by 2020. The allure of new IT designed to modernise and innovate, bolster employee productivity and overall cost-efficiency, is clear. However, poor confidence and anxiety over digital changes is having a serious impact on the workforces using this technology.
Statistics suggest that the rate of digital disruption is creating mounting uneasiness in employees and that businesses are failing to support staff with the transition.
A joint study conducted by Microsoft, Goldsmiths, University of London, and YouGov found that 61% of staff were anxious about new technologies at work. Furthermore, only 23% of business were investing in cultural change programmes to help staff adjust to changing work practices and understand the value of technology investment.
Fears concerning IT skills, job automation and the unknown aspect of technology now occupy the modern worker. Low staff confidence has repercussions on individual wellbeing, business performance and employee retention. Only 12% of employees feel highly productive in organisations with a weak digital culture and two out of three employees quit their jobs because of inadequate training and support.
The issue facing UK businesses presently is one of mental transition. With the rapid emergence of new technologies businesses must appreciate the concerns of staff who are accustomed to legacy systems. It is time to devise a company-wide embrace of technological change.
Opening the conversation
Instilling confidence in workers must take place in the heart of the company’s culture and become integral to the business’ core identity. Through fostering a supportive digital culture, businesses will help employees to engage confidently with IT programs.
The Deloitte Digital Disruption Index found that just 45% of executives are confident in their own digital skills and ability to lead their organisation in the digital economy. Businesses who have this attitude at an executive level risk such pessimistic feelings being felt amongst employees, contributing to low technology self-esteem across the company.
Business leaders and CIOs can tackle this by encouraging an open conversation about the impact of new IT in order to make the shift less intimidating for everyone. The feeling of inadequacy with not understanding applications, whether that is Skype for Business or SharePoint, often prevents individuals from asking for advice. Advocating communication around digital issues is vital for changing this mentality.
Individual and office training
Creating a supportive environment where employees can discuss technology issues is a crucial first step, however the key to resolving IT fears is training. Often when businesses face obstacles in digital adoption, either the technology is blamed or the user is made to feel incompetent. In reality, it is more likely that the business has not invested properly in end-user training.
It can take time for staff to adapt from legacy systems to new devices and software. Upon implementing any new IT, organisations should provide staff with one-to-one training onsite to enact a real digital culture change. Staff will benefit from a personalised training experience where they can learn fundamental skills and ask questions freely.
Initial training is also more cost effective in the long-term as it will reduce the need for external technical support. Organisations might also consider training courses on the programs that staff use daily, such as Office 365, helping to maximise engagement and enrich workers’ digital skills.
Offering training to the company’s own IT department is often overlooked by businesses, however this is essential when adopting different systems and equipping staff with a continuous support system.
Appreciate individual abilities
Each employee’s engagement with technology is different. Today’s workforce is mutigenerational and with everyone from baby boomers to millennials working alongside one another, it is necessary to appreciate the varying abilities in your workforce.
While the ‘digital native’ generations might be more comfortable with different technology, this is not always the case. Businesses should encourage all staff members and not diminish any person’s skills.
Tailored training for each staff member will help to minimise skills shortages and enhance individuals’ confidence but it is also useful to highlight the value new IT applications will bring to the business. Holding workshops which educate your workforce on the benefits of the new technology will help to underpin a positive digital culture and in particular support those who are struggling to transition from older technology. \
People are ultimately the drivers of IT applications. Therefore, human interaction and communication is more important than ever to inspire greater confidence and effective collaboration.
Promoting a positive digital adoption in your workplace requires transparent conversations, supportive training and empathy towards the concerns and abilities of each employee. In this way, organisations can lay the foundations for a confident digital culture, maximise employee engagement and support staff with an optimistic outlook towards the future of technology.
John Brett is technical operations manager of Nexus Open Systems
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