Happy Employees: Is Technology the Answer?

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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

HR Trends and The Future of Work

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HR Trends are trending. Every week or so, another article or report is published with its version of where work and the workplace are going. Of course, HR technology plays a major role in almost every assessment, even more so in reports that attempt to predict the future based on current trends. Captain Future, Wikimedia Commons Constellation Research[1], for example, recently presented a webinar called 5 Social Business Trends Influencing the Future of Work[2]. The five trends they identified are: Moving to the Cloud  Key business functions and collaborative activities are shifting to the cloud at an accelerated rate. The …

Big Data Meets Behavioral Science

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The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) recently released a report called Our Minds at Work: Developing the behavioral science of HR.  The report explores the many ways in which behavioral science can contribute to a better understanding of workplace dynamics and individual performance. While acknowledging that behavioral science is neither a panacea nor a “silver bullet” for management, the report suggests that it does provide value in the form of increased understanding of human behavior at work and strategies for influencing that behavior. Since management and leadership can only be enhanced by a greater …

Bridging the Gap between HR and Finance

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PayStream Advisors has just released a report called “Driving Critical HR Business Processes: A CFO’s Guide to Human Resource Management Solutions.”[1] Wait a second, does that say CFO? Photo by Alan Cleaver, Flikr The report starts with the following statement: “For some time now, PayStream Advisors has witnessed the growing trend towards increasing the CFO’s role as it relates to human resource management (HRM) and payroll. Human resources (HR) plays a critical role in organizational growth, performance, and profitability, and CFOs are becoming advocates for making HR a field driven as much by …

HR Technology - From Thought to Action

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Companies have been talking about investing in HR technology for a long time. In 1999, the intent was clear, with 100% of this survey’s respondents planning to automate their HR systems (or upgrade their current automated systems). Before moving forward, however, most organizations were waiting for a new generation of technology to emerge that would support a more robust business case.  Cognizant Confluence 2013, Flickr Fifteen years later, intent has become a reality: investment in HR technology is growing across all industries and geographies and HR technology solutions now exist to meet a wide range of needs and budgets.  …

What Mobile Means to HCM

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There is a lot of hype these days about the ubiquity of mobile. Much of the conversation focuses on which type of device is capturing the most (or the least) market share and whether people access the Internet on an iPad or a smartphone most often. What’s more important than the device wars is the fact that mobile “free[s] people from having to decide which device to use. If you sit in your office, mobile means using your laptop. If you sit at home, mobile means using whatever device happens to be within reach. If you …

Mobile HR: The Future is Now

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The ADP research Institute has just completed a study called Employee Self-Service and Mobile HR Applications[1] The introduction to the study succinctly states: “Fourteen years after the first BlackBerry® smartphone was introduced, six years after the first iPhone®, and just three years after the first iPad®, mobile access has become the ‘new normal’ for a rapidly growing number of people and organizations worldwide. In 2012, global mobile data traffic grew by an estimated 70 percent and average smartphone usage grew globally by 81 percent.[2] By the end of 2013, the number of mobile-connected devices is expected to …

Three Lessons HCM Can Learn from ERP

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It’s generally recognized that the Human Capital Management (HCM) space is heating up and that HR professionals and departments are opening their wallets and investing in technology. Existing systems are aging, cloud systems make software easier to buy and advances in user experiences make purchases more compelling[1]. In this flurry of growth, however, it can be easy to lose track of the long game. As we evaluate HCM vendors and a new generation of HCM solutions, we should keep in mind that it is a quickly evolving landscape and there are lessons that can be learned from ERP: …

Engagement, Performance and Leaderboards

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Wikimedia Commons, cucodevenegas, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license Over the past few years, gamification, the idea of using gaming elements in a business setting to help achieve a wide range of business goals, has gained popularity. In the realm of HR, this trend has some pretty significant implications. While it may be greatly beneficial to incorporate elements from game design into, for example, eLearning applications, it’s important to distinguish between adding specific game design elements that draw on the psychology of motivation and simply turning required work into a game. When they are thoughtfully implemented, game design …

HR Technology and the Remote Worker

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With the growth of the knowledge economy, technology has become an enabler to the growing phenomenon of telecommuters or remote workers. From electronic time cards to video conferencing and GoogleDocs, the technological tools for connecting with and managing employees in the field abound. Creating effective virtual teams, however, involves a lot more than providing cool technologies and a good broadband connection. Remote workers face a number of challenges as do the companies that employ them. Both structured and ad hoc communication with remote employees, for example, becomes critical. Supporting an awareness of the company’s vision and mission can …

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