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Business Community Insights

Companies That Maintain a Stranglehold on Employee Tech Risk Being Left Behind

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Advancements in connectivity, smart devices and cloud computing have revolutionized the way businesses across just about every economic sector operate. However, too many companies still struggle with outdated technology, fragmented legacy systems, and restrictive device policies. One of the biggest resulting challenges is attracting and retaining talent.

We have grown accustomed to instant connectivity and the flexibility of choosing our favorite devices and how we use them. But it remains common for workers to be tethered to an office-based computer because of outdated applications. That turns off an increasingly dispersed and mobile workforce that expects “always on” connectivity to collaborate. It can also be the difference that determines whether companies can recruit and retain the best talent — or risk losing it, according to a new study from Harvard Business Review commissioned by my organization, Insight.

More than half of the companies polled found that outdated office technology has a direct impact on their ability to find and keep high-value skilled workers, and roughly four in 10 believe their systems make it harder for employees to maximize productivity. Fifty-eight percent say job candidates are evaluating technology and device policies when weighing an offer.

From the employee perspective, these sentiments largely come down to having autonomy. Capabilities respondents say their employees want from tech and IT support include the ability to choose their own devices, more opportunities to service devices themselves, and for self-service upgrades and online tech support.

Failure to upgrade employee technology has broader business impacts, as well. For example, the majority (57 percent) of companies that prioritize providing technologies and services to boost collaboration and productivity among employees (“highly connected” companies) report a better market position relative to their competitors. Executives at just 27 percent of poorly connected companies said they had an advantageous market position. In addition, only one-third of that group believe their technology is facilitating business outcomes, including improving profit margins or securing new customers.

The benefits of investing in the latest technology are clear. Not only do newer end-user devices, operating systems, and cloud computing facilitate better collaboration and a more effective workforce, they can affect the bottom line. Forty percent of highly connected companies reported revenue growth in excess of 10 percent over the past two years, compared to 29 percent of their less connected peers. Furthermore, businesses generally see ROI in technology investments, with the vast majority believing that modern end-user systems are improving productivity.

Unsurprisingly, resource constraints are the main hurdle to technological modernization: More than half (55 percent) of survey respondents cite budgetary limits as a hindrance to updating end-user technology. Other reported negatives include incompatible legacy systems (44 percent) and seeing IT resources get diverted to those legacy systems (30 percent).

But for companies struggling with these challenges, strategic investments in modern technology can help reduce costs down the line. The key, of course, is to ensure that your investments are aligned with true and measurable business outcomes. For example, adopting a cloud-based device management model may directly increase end-user productivity and free up valuable IT resource bandwidth that can be turned into growth projects focused on revenue generation.

We are truly in a golden age of technological innovation, and companies committed to staying on the cutting edge are poised to reap the benefits through happier, more productive employees and streamlined IT operations. Those who cling to the systems of the past, though, may be setting themselves up for extinction in the era of the connected workforce.

David Mayer is vice president and general manager, Connected Workforce at Insight.

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