What can CIOs do to boost workplace productivity?
Workforce Planning and Management

What can CIOs do to boost workplace productivity?

Many organizations have seen a sharp slowdown in workplace productivity, a concerning issue due to the effect this can have on business performance, growth and profit.

Technology and productivity are often seen to go hand-in-hand, yet a recent Citrix-commissioned report, published by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation, highlighted that despite growing digitization, the majority of employees feel they’re no more productive today than they were three years ago.

The report, entitled Productivity, technology and working anywhere [pdf], points out that a positive link between workplace productivity and correctly-implemented technology is undeniable, but that productivity is being held back by outdated IT, a lack of innovation, poor business planning and a low uptake of flexible working cultures.

Much of this can be changed by IT leadership implementing change from the top down. Managers questioned for the report noted key drivers for productivity included stronger leadership, better technology and more flexible working practices, so we asked the experts what IT leadership can do to make changes for the better.


Better technology

Outdated IT equipment is one of the many issues that is stalling productivity according to the Work Foundation’s report and it is clear that more up-to-date and faster performing systems are required in many businesses.

“Any old IT won’t cut it – it is clear that up-to-date, fast and performing technology is required to make the difference between enhanced productivity and inefficiency,” says Michelle Senecal de Fonseca, Area Vice President, Northern Europe at Citrix.

However, the answer isn’t simply giving everyone a new mobile phone, tablet or laptop points out Anne Sheehan, Enterprise Director, Vodafone UK. “It’s about connecting people, processes and information to make sure employees can work and collaborate efficiently from wherever they need to be to get work done and to best serve customers. There’s also a huge opportunity for businesses to look to digital technologies in order to streamline processes.”

To ensure a business is technologically forward thinking, IT leaders will need to realize the benefits of evolving technologies of the future, including mobile analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, cloud computing, robotics and blockchain, as well as the widening potential of the internet of things (IoT).

“Employee productivity initiatives can benefit from different mixes of technology depending on the use case, such as customer service; remote maintenance; or internal transaction processing. However, a balance of mobile, AI, and IoT with traditional process-driven applications and the power of the cloud are creating new opportunities across many aspects of business operations,” notes Leonie McGloin, Program Marketing Manager, Mobile Platforms at Red Hat.


Lead from the top

To help improve workplace productivity, IT leadership should be at the forefront of a commitment to change, building and incentivizing from the top. Lesley Giles, Director at the Work Foundation, believes that not enough businesses are being sufficiently ambitious when it comes to new technology adoption, and that success lies in leadership showing the way.

“It is vital that leaders tell the story, live the values embedded in it and are prepared to invest for the long-term,” she says.

Senecal de Fonseca highlights that IT leaders must look at what will help them achieve strategic objectives when choosing which technologies to invest in.

“For efficient IT adoption, strategies for the use of technology need to align with the strategic priorities of key departments, including IT, procurement and purchasing, marketing, HR and facilities/premises, as well as with any strategies at operational level,” she says.


Work with the business

In addition, a new technology implementation is more likely to be successful if it has employee buy-in.

Engagement across the business is key, as technology on its own can’t deliver the productivity returns that businesses seek, so involve all tiers of the business – line managers, for example, play a critical role in liaising between employees and strategic decision makers.

The Work Foundation report recommends appointing and supporting innovation champions across the business who can lead the way by identifying and putting new technological practices into place for each department.  


Improved training

Another key point is making sure staff have the skills needed to use new technology. With any technological roll out, it’s important than technical support and training programs are put into place to overcome any fears and skills gaps.

However, as Avado CEO Mark O’Donoghue points out, time also needs to be invested in identifying and communicating the ‘why’ of what’s expected to change as a result of using the new technology.

“It might need a mindset shift in how people operate – so training that focuses on the outcomes is more likely to be impactful than ‘how to use this’,” he notes.


Creating a cultural change

Despite growing technological investment, flexible working cultures appear to be stalling, as the Work Foundation’s report noted that over 70 per cent of workers based in an office claimed they were still not given the opportunity to work remotely. Problems around this include a lack of technology in place to enable remote working, but also the challenge of providing secure access data to remote workers.

Another issue comes down to a lack of sufficient technologies to enable remote working. The tech is out there, so what’s holding business back?

“It is clear that we have to tackle business culture once and for all. We need to encourage collaboration, engage the workforce, finally clasp the working anywhere culture and – most of all – support internal innovation,” says Senecal de Fonseca.

“As we move away from the traditional workplace, we have significant work to do to unite workforces across the country. Leaders must go back to basics, reviewing their ‘people, processes and technology’,” she concludes.


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Keri Allan

Keri Allan is a freelance journalist and editor who has been covering the engineering and technology sector for over 15 years, writing for titles including E&T Magazine, The Engineer and Arabian Computer News.

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