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Job satisfaction and the tech-savvy employee

Poll shows software and tools a major consideration for many workers

Wallace Immen
The Globe and Mail
March 26, 2005

The money, benefits and title were right — but Les Faber says he turned down the offer of an otherwise dream job last year.

Why? Because the company’s technology wasn’t up to snuff.

The position would have been a step up to vice-president of sales for a major Canadian company. But the firm had aging personal computers and dated software, and no plans to renew them, Mr. Faber says.

Most importantly, he found the company didn’t have a “customer relationship management” program to automate and continually follow up on sales.

“I felt that the lack of the right technological tools would hinder my success,” says Mr. Faber, adding that a friend signed on with the firm and has struggled ever since.

Anyone looking for career success should ask prospective employers more questions about laptops, cellphones and software than they do about salary and benefits, Mr. Faber says.

After turning down the job, he started his own company — Ottawa-based Faber & Associates — and now counsels salespeople on increasing their effectiveness with technology.

“A company that’s not providing the essential technological tools is not a viable company to work for. It just doesn’t make sense,” he says.

A new Ipsos-Reid survey shows that a majority of Canadian workers agree with him. The poll of 1,130 full-time workers across the country released this week found that 75 per cent agreed with the statement “technology tools and software are an important consideration” in choosing a place to work.

Yet, 20 per cent of those who felt technology was important also said they don’t believe their employer is giving them the tools, such as laptops, cellphones and software, to be productive at their jobs.

Despite growing awareness, a lot of executive job candidates still think of technology as an afterthought.

She finds that all too often in interviews for executive jobs, candidates seem afraid to ask about the technological arsenal their prospective employers will provide. But they should make a point of asking, because the skills that companies are looking for in executives have changed in recent years.

Only a few years ago, most companies said they were mainly seeking people who communicate well and are good team builders, Ms. Banting says. Now, their priorities are that people know how to work in a global economy and are risk-takers and innovators. For that, they need the right tools.

In following up the success of executives she recruits, Ms. Banting says one of the most common frustrations executives express is that they don’t have access to enough information to immediately take charge and initiate change. Better technology can help them do that.

“In management, the first 90 days on the job are important and people have to get up to speed in a hurry. The things that help are being able to understand the business plan, quickly mine the data and meet the team and figure out how to get things done in a new environment,” she says.

Some corporations still don’t provide laptops and personal data devices to their executives because there remains a mindset that these are little more than toys, says Michael Bulmer, product manager for Microsoft Canada Co.

But he argues that such tech tools are actually “mission critical to their success.”

Mr. Bulmer points to a study of 14 large Canadian and international organizations done by Navigant Consulting Inc. in 2003. The study found that the installation of company-wide office information management systems made staffs up to 4 per cent more productive almost immediately because of improved access to information, speedier decision making and the elimination of steps to completing a task.

The study also found the ability to connect through e-mail or digital messaging reduces time that executives spend in meetings by an average of 35 per cent.

Mr. Faber says asking for the best available technology can actually give you the edge in an interview with a prospective employer.

“It says you know how to use technology and want to be a more effective employee,” he says.

“I would not hire anyone who was not tech-savvy. . . . For me, it’s just common sense. I couldn’t envision a day without all the tools that are available.”

Key questions

Want to make sure a potential employer is up to tech speed?

Michael Bulmer, product manager for Microsoft Canada Co., says candidates should ask these questions during job interviews:

  • What computer hardware, software and other devices will be provided? How often are they upgraded?
  • If working on a team, do you link members with collaboration software?
  • What influence do individual employees have on improving productivity and performance?
  • Does the job require travel or mobile work? If so, does the company provide mobile devices, such as a wireless laptop, personal data device and smart phone?
  • Does the company’s current information technology allow easy and secure remote access to e-mail and information?
  • What training will be provided and how ongoing is it?
  • What opportunities are there to work from home? What tech tools used at home, from computers to Internet access, will be provided and paid for by the company?

For executives, a key question is how much information technology spending power and authority to put systems in place they have.