Happy Employees: Is Technology the Answer?

One recent study[1] found that better technology was reason enough for one in four employees to consider switching jobs. Almost half of the respondents in the same study said they would use personal devices to get the job done, rather than struggle with sub-standard technology at work.

In an article for Fortune[2], Padmasree Warrior (Strategic Advisor and former CTO at Cisco), ranks access to technology and the internet with the most basic of needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy, and advises organizations to adapt accordingly.

While today’s employees are increasingly particular about workplace technology; the writing has been on the wall for years. In 2011, Futurist Ross Dawson identified the following five facets of employees’ increasing technology expectations[3]:

  • Excellence: When people go into organizations they expect to use technology that is at least as good as the technology they have access to as consumers.
  • Choice: Employees are no longer willing to accept rigid technology guidelines. They expect to make their own choices regarding the technology they use at work.
  • Flexibility:  Since technology enables workers to do their jobs from a variety of locations, employees expect to take advantage of that flexibility to avoid (for example) rush-hour traffic and unnecessary commutes.
  • Speed: Not only do employees expect the technologies they use to be fast and responsive, they expect their IT departments to be equally so. If not, they’re liable to “fix it themselves.”
  • Opportunity: People want access to all the opportunity technology provides, including the ability to experiment and develop ideas even within the framework of existing employment.

Employees Want the Right Technology

A recent Canadian study, called Transformation of Work[4], found that “50% of Gen Y full time employed Canadians are willing to sacrifice something in order to work remotely more often.”  To attain this flexibility, new entrants into the workforce have very specific expectations of employers when it comes to the technologies they need, including: more connectivity to work, greater use of mobile technologies and more support for BYOD.

Clearly technology plays a significant and increasing role in the evolution of the employee, as Jacob Morgan (author of The Future of Work) demonstrates with this infographic on Forbes.

Workplace Tech: Just a Millenial Thing?

While much of the research and commotion about workplace technology has focused on the expectations of younger workers, recent research[5], conducted by Jason Dorsey and The Center for Generational Kinetics together with Ultimate Software, started off that way, but led to some unexpected results.

The researchers set out to view millennials “through the context of the three other generations in the workforce,” expecting to find many differences and “generational challenges in the labor force.” What they found instead was a growing consensus across generations when it came to expectations about technology in the workplace. In fact, the study found:

“All four generations now expect the software they use at work to operate like consumer-grade applications, particularly in the area of mobile accessibility, speed, simplicity, and efficiency.”

While there’s lots of evidence to support the importance of workplace technology to employees (of all generations!), the many articles and reports that hype it as the secret to employee happiness are dramatically over-simplifying the complex realm of human motivation. You can’t expect the latest technology to miraculously create happy, engaged employees; but you must accept that employees really hate bad technology!

If your technology is out of date or so slow you can take a bathroom break while it loads; this will frustrate your people. If essential pieces of technology are missing or malfunctioning; this will make your employees unhappy. If fixing an IT problem takes days instead of minutes or hours; your workers may well spend the downtime browsing job ads. When it comes to making employees happy, having the right technology may not be the answer, but it sure helps.


Contribute to your employees’ happiness with NetSuite TribeHR, the right social HCM technology.

[2] Padmasree Warrior. What employees Really Need at Work http://fortune.com/2012/08/27/what-employees-really-need-at-work/

[3] Adapted from 5 facets of employees’ increasing technology expectations by Ross Dawson  http://rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2011/11/5-facets-of-employees-increasing-technology-expectations.html

[5] The Center for Generational Kinetics, Ultimate Software. Is There Really a Generational Divide at Work? http://www.ultimatesoftware.com/workforce2015


Photo credit: Photo by Hyena Reality, courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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