Technology in the Workplace: Exposure and Expectations

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As technology continues to affect so many aspects of our lives, from communication to leisure to transportation, our changing experiences affect our future expectations. If I can have a meaningful video call with friends and family overseas, why can’t I do the same at work with colleagues? If I can collaborate on a personal project with a designer in New York, why can’t I apply that remote productivity to my job?

Those of us who remember life pre-internet left our education with crates of books, folders and files. Contrast this with millenials, many of whom submitted their GCSE coursework in digital format and took their exams on computers. The integration of technology in the classroom normalised its application to educational tasks, setting expectations of its role in other aspects of life, from employment to entertainment to dating.

The younger generation, through greater exposure to technology throughout their cognitive development, form different habits and develop different expectations when it comes to the world of work. Click To Tweet

As Avant Homes’ Peter Adams explains in our CIO Watercooler roundtable discussion, when someone grows up surrounded by computers in the classroom, they’re more enabled in terms of access to technology, which sets their expectations for later life. Thus, the younger generation, through greater exposure to technology throughout their cognitive development, form different habits and develop different expectations when it comes to the world of work.

The variety in employee expectations has this generational element to it, explains Peter. It is these expectations, agree the CIOs on the panel, that put pressure on businesses to keep pace with the development of IT. The use of technology is an intrinsic part of how people live their lives outside of work, so if the access to technology inside work is different, that raises feelings of incongruity.

In the previous era of business, it was in the workplace that people would have access to the latest IT. As development has progressed and prices have dropped, technological innovation has become cheaper and access to tools has increased. 

The pace of digital innovation increases exponentially, hard- and software becomes rapidly obsolete, and businesses no longer have the resources to keep up with developments in technology.

Today our technology is portable; we bring powerful devices into work every day. If employers aren’t providing the access to technology their employees demand, they’ll simply fill the gap themselves. Whether that’s connecting their own devices to the VPN, or installing unregulated software on their work device, this is the kind of ‘shadow IT’ risk that keeps CIOs up at night.

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Our CIO panel anticipates the way people want to work will accelerate the changes in business technology, which puts pressure on public and private sector businesses alike to all keep pace.

Approaches to work have changed dramatically over the past half century. Expectations have evolved. Today’s employees dare to want to enjoy their work; they want to get on with their work without being hampered by substandard tools. They don’t want to have to effectively downskill in order to navigate a task or a challenge. This type of friction affects employee motivation and engagement. 

In the current climate, the pressure is on businesses to address their employee experience (EX) proposition. Research by Jacob Morgan found companies that invested heavily in the employee experience earned more than four times the average profit and twice the average revenue compared to those that didn’t.

Attracting top talent is what makes a business competitive, and offering an attractive EX is a significant part of that talent acquisition. Workforce enablement, and access to cutting-edge technology, go towards meeting potential employees’ expectations, giving holistically-thinking companies an edge in the jobs market.

We can’t talk about these changes without mentioning the term digital transformation, but digital transformation is about much more than just changing technology. As Ade McCormack, Founder of the Digital Readiness Institute, mentions in the discussion, sprinkling your business with AI, IoT and blockchain isn’t a catch-all for success in a digital marketplace. Success is about developing a business that can thrive in the digital age, an age in which technology has replaced humans in some aspects of work. In this marketplace, our value proposition as humans is the ability to apply our cognitive capacity to challenges and tasks. Employers, therefore, need to create environments that allow them to harvest as much of that cognitive capacity as possible. Upholding archaic structures such as measuring productivity and value simply in terms of time can hamper a business’s competitive chances.

A massive prerequisite in the battle for talent is enabling employees to reach their own point of productivity. For some, that will be in an open plan office surrounded by people. For others, that could be on the road between on-site visits. Younger employees, with their enhanced exposure to communication on the go, are more prone to work wherever they can get a 4G signal. When that connectivity is replaced by 5G, that potential will explode. 

Making mobility awkward for employees will only push them elsewhere into an environment that is more enabling, with greater flexibility. As effective ‘customers’ of a business, employees look for convenience: the kind of commitment that will cause minimal disruption or imbalance in their lives. Forcing people to go to work during rush hour is anathema to that need, and is the kind of demand that drains your asset. The businesses that resist this change will suffer.

For more insights on the evolution of technology in the workplace, read the ebook or watch the full discussion below.

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Originally published Jun 04, 2020, updated Jan 17, 2023

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