Companies risk becoming prime targets for headhunters looking to steal top-performing workers, while they also tend to see productivity fall, if they don't ensure employees have the best technology, say experts on managing technology in the workplace.
"There are many examples of where (technology) is working as an enabler, but there are certainly examples where it has crippled organizations," says Kevin Hall, managing partner of executive search firm Ray and Berndtson's Calgary office.
As a headhunter for companies across a wide range of industries, Hall likes to focus his efforts on companies where there is good talent, but a poor technology strategy.
"There's a higher level of frustration in those companies, so it's easier to go in and pull people out," says Hall. When companies don't manage office technology effectively and keep up-to-date about new tools for employees, productivity decreases, it becomes difficult to attract and retain good workers and the ability to compete is compromised.
Large organizations must go a step further than just naming a chief information officer or manager of information services, says Mike Bulmer, Microsoft Canada product manager. Executives must integrate human-resource department functions with the informationtechnology side of the business.
"These tools are more than just current worker tools. They need to be leveraged by the HR department, as well," says Bulmer. Essentially, that means understanding the relationship between the technology and the people, or such things as soft skills and recruitment or retention.
A study conducted by Ipsos-Reid for Microsoft Canada found between 75 to 90 per cent of employed Canadians take office technology into account when considering a job offer. One in five say they do not currently have the best technology to do their jobs.
"There is a technology gap in what (companies) are currently providing . . . and I think Canadian companies need to think about that more," says Bulmer, noting technology can play a key role in increasing -- or reducing -- worker productivity.
Statistics Canada recently reported labour productivity in Canada experienced its worst quarter on record for the past eight years in late 2004, at 0.2 per cent growth. That compares with U.S. growth of one per cent in the same period.
While a strong Canadian dollar has been blamed as one of the reasons for this limited economic boost, Bulmer says a good technology strategy is one area employers can control. Any boost to productivity and further retention of top employees helps improve the bottom line.
"Too many companies have taken a real piecemeal strategy," says Hall.
It's a matter of having a mixture of the latest software and hardware tools, properly integrated, combined with adequate worker training and the ability to keep pace with advances. Growth of the company is another key consideration, says Hall.
Large, established companies such as Wal-Mart, for example, have been able to effectively develop all types of information systems that have allowed the company to gain a competitive edge.
Its purchasing, logistics and supplier information are seamlessly integrated to the point where Wal-Mart is able to instantly purchase a replacement item when one is bought off the shelf and they do not pay for the product until it is sold.
"You get a degree of satisfaction with those kinds of (employers) because of the technology they provide their employees with," says Hall.
Bulmer notes that, with an increasingly technologically savvy workforce entering the labour market, companies will feel more pressure to offer the latest tools. "We've got this new, future generation coming . . . who've grown up understanding (technology). They just think of it as a way of life," says Bulmer.
The end result is very simple. "If you don't make a commitment to strong technology, you're going to lose your best people," says Hall.
The Office Technology Gap:
- At least 75 per cent of workers surveyed said they take office technology into account when considering a job offer (up to 90 per cent in some areas of Canada);
- About 20 per cent, or one in five, workers surveyed said they do not have the best technology available to do their jobs;
- Canadian workforce productivity experienced its worst year of growth in eight years in the last quarter of 2004, at 0.2 per cent growth compared to U.S. growth of one per cent.
Source: Ipsos-Reid and Statistics Canada
© The Calgary Herald 2005
© 2005 Ray & Berndtson