Posted on / Article

The gadgets and tech toys of yesterday are today’s business tools

Chris Talbot
March 23, 2005

It’s almost a cliché to say that while an employer is choosing an employee, the worker applying for a job is also choosing an employer. A new study conducted by Ipsos-Reid for Microsoft Canada indicates that the potential employee might have a new — and very important — factor for choosing who they go to work for.

If an employer’s technology is not up to snuff, that employer might not be able to attract the strongest candidate for a job. The Ipsos-Reid study found that 75 per cent of Canadians see “technology tools and software” as an “important consideration” when they are choosing a place to work. Depending on specific regions, that percentage fluctuates a bit, but all regional results show a majority of Canadians want to work for companies that have the right level of technology for them to succeed in their jobs.

“Canadians as individuals are becoming less productive than their counterparts around the world, and we’re interested in how that’s going to affect companies. And we also see this sort of trend of this new sort of worker coming on board that’s never grown up without cell phones and instant messengers, and the ability to have instant communications and access to content streams of information,” said Mike Bulmer, product manager for Microsoft Office at Microsoft Canada.

Even outside of the workforce’s fresh blood, there is a very distinct representation of Canadians that want to work for companies that provide the best technological tools. In some provinces, the percentage of Canadians that said technology was an important factor in choosing where to work went as high as 90 per cent (Atlantic Canada), and the lowest the percentage was based on region was in Quebec (59 per cent).

“If you’re given the right tools and infrastructure, you’ve got a better chance of being successful, and you take that into consideration when you’re looking for a new place to work,” Bulmer said.

Unfortunately for businesses, one-fifth of Canadians don’t believe their employers are committed to providing them with the latest and best software, technology and tools with which to do their jobs, according to the study. Also, about 1.7 million Canadians don’t think their company provides them with the tools and software they need to be most productive.

Bulmer said it’s clear that technology makes workers more productive, so there could be a link drawn between technology and the ability to be a successful employee.

“[Technologies] used to be luxuries. Maybe they’re not luxuries anymore. Maybe they’re now a cost of doing business and a cost of recruiting and maintaining the best employees,” Bulmer said. Ipsos-Reid surveyed a random sample of 1,130 full-time, part-time and unemployed Canadians in late February, and the research company considers the results to be accurate within 2.9 percentage points. Of those surveyed, 1,055 were employed in full- or part-time work.

“Companies that think about technology and think about it in the future are successful, and ones that don’t aren’t,” said Les Faber, founder of Faber & Associates.

It might seem like the types of workers that would be demanding the highest level of technology could be information technology workers, but the results are more far-reaching than just IT workers. For instance, the healthcare industry is seeing new doctors coming out of school that have been trained on the latest and greatest technologies in their profession. Those new doctors are expecting the same level of technology from their new — and potential — employers.

“It’s across industry and across function,” Banting said. Companies are always looking to get more business value out of their IT investments, Bulmer said. Now that value extends to keeping current employees and attracting new employees, he said.

“There’s an opportunity here for companies to talk about technologies they provide employees as part of their recruitment efforts,” Bulmer said.

Faber added that while it used to normal to show up at a new job and be handed little more than paper and a pen to get up and running, that’s definitely no longer the case. Workers are expecting the latest tools. For instance, a from the perspective of a sales force, salespeople are expecting to have mobile devices such as laptops and PDAs to help them in their jobs, as well as access to high-speed Internet. Wireless access for the laptop doesn’t hurt, either.

“Things that were considered gadgets are now considered tools,” Faber said.