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Kill the sacred cows of the new workforce

A study has revealed a link between an employee’s ownership of their career and the means of how they expand that career. While employees like good coffee, more than 60% of them would prefer improvements on their desks, says CHRIS BUCHANAN, Dell Director – End user computing – Africa.

A happy employee is a productive employee. So we decided a few months/years ago to give our sales teams something that would make them happy. We turned our break room into a modern Silicon Valley enclave, complete with foosball tables and a barista. Really nice stuff and the staff were very keen for it.

If only I had known better…

To give you an alternative perspective, let me ask a question. Where is the world’s largest cemetery? You may hazard a few guesses, but would any of them be Facebook? Everyday, 10,000 of the social media giant’s users die. That’s incredible – and unheard of. It challenges our perception of the world around us.

But do we bring these new perceptions into our organisations? Not nearly often enough. We still treat workplaces with the same thinking as we always did. And yet the workers of today have very different expectations.

I’m a customer experience guy, with a love for technology. I enjoy it when humans are uplifted and can do more for themselves, especially with the right tech on their side. But I continue to be amazed how the small things, such as the aesthetics of a device, can excite an employee – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What Employees Really Want

Dell recently completed a multi-year study with Intel and the Institute For Future Technology. The results were astounding. Here’s a sample: 32 percent of graduates today will turn down a job if they don’t feel the tech they are provided with will enable them to do the job properly.

Not foosball tables or baristas (though I must add our staff are very happy with those additions!).

The study revealed a clear link between an employee’s ownership of their career and the means of how they expand that career. While employees like good coffee, more than 60 percent of them would prefer improvements on their desks than nice amenities.

This is where the technology comes in. This is an opportunity for IT managers everywhere.

Here’s another question: if you can improve someone’s desk, what would you add? There are many good ideas, but what about headphones? Absurd! Everyone has headphones! Except they don’t – the study shows that many employees see a good pair of headphones as the perfect cure for a busy and noisy office environment. It helps keep them focused.

The same for dual monitors. A second monitor can boost employee productivity by 19 percent. Combine that over a week and it’s nearly an entire day’s extra productivity.

Small Things Matter Most

One of my ongoing challenges in an organisation is the way IT treats employees. We technologists give lip service to the fact that we should be treating our employees as customers. When someone arrives, they might get the device they need only three days later, and then they get the model based on management levels. Little consideration goes into what people are going to do and how they will be productive.

Humans are becoming digital conductors. You don’t think about electricity anymore – it’s just there and you switch it on. That’s the way modern workers look at technology – it’s expected.

The effect goes beyond gadgets on desks. How long does it take to sign up a new employee? They would normally have loads of paperwork to process, which means they are not hitting the ground running. Yet it is certain their CV was sent in an electronic format. If your IT systems could capture that information digitally, it would preempt their paperwork and get them started faster. Everyone will thank you for that one.

Employee journeys are becoming as important as customer journeys. You want to retain good talent and enable them to excel. You don’t really have a choice, because they expect this. The good news is that you already have the power to make those changes, providing you understand the workforce.

Empower The Personas

There are five general personas in most companies: Desk-centric workers who spend half their time as a desk, corridor warriors who spend half their time in meetings, the on-the-go pro who travels a lot, remote employees who work from home, and specialised employees who operate in special environments such as remote audits of sites.

These are not carved in stone, but they give a general idea of who works for the business and what they need. Meeting those needs in practical and often simple technological ways helps keep them productive and motivated.

To tap this momentum, you need to step out of traditional thinking. Get rid of your sacred cows: a nice break room is not as important as multiple monitors or reliable remote access. Change your mindset and then query the digital readiness of your organisation. Get it to the cutting edge.

Study your workforce’s digital maturity levels and engage with HR – they know better than everyone which personas are inside your walls. Finally, create employee resource groups to give feedback. Employees are not meant to be only seen and not heard. If they have your ear, they can help you see the future.

I don’t regret our new break room. In fact, it’s pretty great. But back then I thought you had to go big to impress your workforce. That’s a sacred cow, the old way of thinking. Many small gestures are better than a few big ones. People remember the small touches that technology can deliver.

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3D printed room-service? Visit the hotel of tomorrow

To mark its 100th birthday, Hilton predicts the trends that will change travel and hospitality in the next 100 years.

Intergalactic getaways, fast-food nutrient pills, 2-3 hour working days and adaptable, personalised rooms that can transport guests everywhere from jungles to mountain ranges. These are some of the predictions for the next 100 years that the Hilton hotel group has put together in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

In a report supported by expert insight from the fields of sustainability, innovation, design, human relations and nutrition, findings reveal the impact of the growing sophistication of technology and climate change on the hotel industry in the future.

Key predictions for the hotel of the future include:

Personalisation is King

  • Technology will allow every space, fitting and furnishing to continuously update to respond to an individual’s real-time needs – the Lobby will conjure up anything from a tranquil spa to a buzzy bar, giving every guest the perfect, personal welcome
  • From temperature and lighting, to entertainment and beyond, microchips under the skin will enable us to wirelessly control the setting around us based on what we need, whenever we need it

The Human Touch

  • In a world filled with Artificial Intelligence, human contact and the personal touch will be more critical and sought after than ever
  • Technology will free up time for hotel staff to focus on what matters most: helping guests to connect with one another and building memorable moments

‘Sustainable Everything’ – The Role of Responsibility

  • Only businesses that are inherently responsible will survive the next century
  • Sustainability will be baked into everything about a hotel’s design – from weather-proofed domes, to buildings made from ocean-dredged plastic
  • Hotels will act as the Town Hall of any community, managing local resources and contributing to the areas they serve with community-tended insect farms and vertical hydroponic crop gardens

Menu Surprises and Personalisation

  • Our diets will include more plant-based recipes and some surprising sources of protein – Beetle Bolognese, Plankton Pies and Seaweed Green Velvet Cake will be menu staples!
  • Decadent 3D-printed dinners and room service will provide unrivalled plate personalisation
  • Chefs will be provided with biometric data for each guest, automatically creating meals based on preferences and nutritional requirements

Futuristic Fitness and Digital Detoxes

  • Outswim a virtual sea turtle in the pool, or challenge yourself to climb the digital face of Mount Everest, your exercise routine will be as unique as you are. What’s more, exercise energy generated from workouts will be used to power the hotel, providing a zero-impact, circular system. Guests could even earn rewards based on reaching workout targets
  • Pick up where you left off with trackable workouts and holographic personal trainers
  • Offline will be the new luxury as we seek to find moments of tech-free time

“Since its inception in 1919, Hilton has pioneered the hospitality industry, introducing first-to-market concepts such as air-conditioning and in-room televisions. Last year, Hilton also became the first hospitality company to set science-based targets to reduce its environmental impact,” said Simon Vincent, EVP & President, EMEA, Hilton. “We enter our second century with the same commitment to innovation, harnessing the power of our people and technology to respond to guest demands. Our research paints an exciting future for the hospitality industry, highlighting the growing importance of human interaction in an increasingly tech-centric world.”

Futurologist Gerd Leonhard said: “In 2119 we will still be searching for unique experiences, but they will be more personalised than ever. As technology shapes our lives we will seek out moments of offline connection with others, including hotel team members who will help us truly get what we need from our stays. 100 years from now hotels will have to create opportunities to converse, collaborate and connect, delivering moments that matter, individually, to each and every guest.”

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Gadget ed to chair Digital Council

Specialist financial services provider Sasfin Bank has established a Digital Advisory Council to provide the market with industry-leading expertise and insights on trends shaping the use of technology in financial services.

Digitalisation is one of the most powerful forces for change shaping Finance today. This has turned Fintech into one of the most vibrant sectors in both information technology and among start-ups, generating billions of dollars in investment and development globally. The South African fintech space is dynamic, and Sasfin is playing a leading role in the transformation of local financial services and the resulting enhancement of customer experiences.

“We have been investing in fintech development in-house and acquiring or integrating fintech start-ups,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon. “Over the last year we have built further digital offerings, integrated via APIs into leading businesses and invested in fintechs. We built and launched B\\YOND, an innovative digital business banking platform and SWIP, a digital wealth and investing platform. We have invested in Payabill, an online SME lender and DMA, a digital trading platform. We recently announced our alliance banking relationship, leveraging open banking, with Hello Paisa to offer seamless banking to the unbanked. We feel that there is a huge opportunity to improve the experience of South African businesses and savers through using technology. We have therefore created an independent forum to assess how to even better improve financial services for South Africans by leveraging the digital economy.”

Arthur Goldstuck, founder of high-tech research consultancy World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Gadget, and a globally respected technology analyst has accepted Sasfin’s invitation to head up the Sasfin Digital Advisory Council, an independent think tank that will help Sasfin and its clients decipher the fintech present and future.

“The Sasfin Digital Advisory Council is broader than providing only the bank with a source of insight on how digital services are evolving and lessons from across the world,” said CEO Michael Sassoon. “Sasfin has been involved in fintech investing for many years and we are leveraging this experience as well as the experience of independent experts such as Arthur to provide insights and guidance to interested stakeholders in this space.”

The team appointed to the Digital Advisory Council is being selected for the breadth and range of knowledge they would bring to the table, with further appointments to the Council being announced soon.  There will also be room for the Council to co-opt specialist expertise as it is required.

Goldstuck, who has been covering the fintech sector as an analyst, commentator and columnist for many years, says he sees the role as a welcome challenge.

“There has been a long-standing need for a clear understanding of the impact being made by fintech today, and the exponential change it will cause tomorrow,” said Goldstuck. “My role will be, partly, to curate the wide spectrum of fintech and digitalisation knowledge and insights that the members will bring to the Digital Advisory Council, and help create scenarios that businesses and policymakers may use to navigate the future – both inside and outside Sasfin.”

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