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More digital employees translate into higher growth

Research reveals strong correlation between providing employees with a positive digital experience and business growth and ability to attract and keep top talent

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VMware, a leading innovator in enterprise software, has released a study into the state of digital workspace technologies which reveals that high growth companies that invest more in the digital employee experience are more likely to achieve business growth, have a progressive culture, retain talent and be rated as a top place to work by their employees.

Two thirds of employees (66%) across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) report that the flexibility of digital tools required for work would influence their decision to apply for or accept a position at a company, with 70% of all respondents saying their current employer should be placing more importance on this.

However, if companies are to reap the rewards of digital workspace technologies, greater collaboration between HR and IT is needed to improve the digital employee experience. Employee education is required to remove ambiguity over who is responsible for providing employees with a positive digital experience, with 49% of employees not knowing if they should approach HR or IT about their experience, and 21% feeling this is another barrier to delivering a positive experience.

In addition, the research demonstrates how surveyed organisations that have higher rates of growth** provide more digital experience factors, that include having access to devices, tools, apps and technology wherever they perform work activities,  to their employees (6, on average), compared to companies that have lower rates of revenue growth (3-4, on average). For example, those that are underperforming/not growing are much less likely to give employees the freedom to work from their personal device (36%),  give access to applications that enable productivity from day one (36%) and provide applications on any device for their most important tasks (excluding email) (47%), compared to those experiencing high growth/hypergrowth (76%, 68% and 93%, respectively).

And while there are different people who respondents see as ultimately responsible for the digital experience, 84% of employees are calling for HR and IT to work better together, particularly given that only 18% of employees report HR and IT collaborate all of the time, with eight in 10 respondents saying HR should be given more responsibility in improving the digital employee experience. 

“Too often, the conversation about digital transformation focuses on the technology and leaves out a key ingredient to a winning strategy – attracting and retaining the best talent,” says Ian Jansen van Rensburg, senior systems engineer at VMware. “To compete for the best talent, companies are prioritising employee experience, which encompasses technology, workstyle and culture.”

Delivering a better digital employee experience also plays a role in workforce sentiment. 

Respondents who say their organisation gives them the ability to work from anywhere as easily as from the office are significantly more likely to say they are proud of their organisation, compared to respondents whose company does not enable the freedom to work from anywhere (72% compared to 27%, respectively). They are also more likely to claim their organisation has a progressive culture (73% vs. 25%), is recognised as one of the top places to work (71% vs. 28%) and provides good work-life balance (70% vs. 28%).

“It’s very important that we give our employees the opportunity to shape their working environment as they see best fit for themselves,” says Dirk Eckert, managing director, Individual Solutions and Products, Deutsche Telekom. “Traditional values influencing how people picked a company as an employer were job security, a good salary and company benefits, but choice of how, where and with what device you can work is becoming increasingly important, especially for young people.”

A third of respondents who say that there are challenges to delivering the optimum digital experience cite a lack of understanding of what employees want as the biggest obstacle, followed by it not being considered a business priority (20%). Almost two thirds (61%) of employees feel like they don’t even have a voice when it comes to the tools they can use at work, despite 83% of ITDMs believing they do give employees a voice in this area.

Says Jansen van Rensburg: “Leaders committed to improving employee experience are adopting the digital workspace, a concept VMware pioneered three years ago. A digital workspace platform fuels modern digital experiences, which is critically important to current and prospective employees as well as improving other key business outcomes.”

Jean Pierre Brulard, senior vice president and EMEA general manager, VMware, says: “The key to any company’s success is its human capital. It allows them to innovate, execute and lead in the marketplace. But as talented employees find more adaptable job options that are amenable to their lifestyles and career goals, employers have no choice but to compete harder than ever to attract and retain them.” 

About the research

*In March and April 2019, 3,600 EMEA employees (1,800), IT decision makers (900) and HR decision makers (900) who use computer/smart devices for work purposes were interviewed. The number of respondents from each EMEA country were: UK (600), Germany (600), France (600), Italy (200), Netherlands (200), Russia (200), Poland (200), Norway (200), Sweden (200), Spain (200), UAE (200) and Saudi Arabia (200). They were from organisations in a range of public and private sectors and their organisation had to have an employee size of 500 employees or more.

**Companies cited as experiencing high growth/hypergrowth YoY on average have 6.3 digital employee experience factors out of ten, compared to 3.7 factors in companies not experiencing growth.

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Broadband gets a helping hand

Behind this week’s news that MTN fibre provider Supersonic has launched a fixed LTE service is an effort to rethink home connectivity, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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This week, MTN made its biggest play yet into the market for fibre connections to homes, but its biggest impact may well be within the home.

The mobile operator’s fibre-to-the-home subsidiary, Supersonic, launched a Fixed LTE offering on a month-to-month basis, meaning that homes in areas not yet wired for fibre can receive high-speed broadband. More important, they can get that access at rates that seem unprecedented for mobile data. 

There are two differences from regular packages, however. For one thing, the SIM card that comes with the package only works in specific routers that have to remain plugged into a power supply. For another, the data allocation is split half-half between regular hours and a Night Owl timeframe: the hours between midnight and dawn.

“It just needs users to adjust their internet behaviour a little,” says Calvin Collett, MD of Supersonic. “Conducting massive mobile phone updates or downloading an entire library of Netflix content shouldn’t be prioritised during the day, but should be scheduled for Night Owl data consumption.”

The biggest benefit, aside from pricing, is that one does not have to wait for fibre to arrive in a specific area. While Supersonic’s core business is fixed-line fibre-to-the-home, it is now set to leverage its parent company’s massive mobile data network.

“MTN’s LTE network coverage sits at 95%, after billions of rand was invested in network upgrades in recent years. There is absolutely no reason why those waiting for a fibre connection shouldn’t move to Fixed LTE.”

Collett argues that consumers are far more savvy and well informed of developments in the telecoms space than observers think. They carefully investigate the products and services they choose to spend on, and are looking for the best deals available.

The result is that Supersonic has quietly built up a side business in installing what is called a Mesh Wi-Fi network, consisting of a main Wi-Fi router connected to the standardfibre or LTE or router, and a series of additional access pointscalled plumes, placed in areas of low coverage through ahome.

The plumes – small pods that plug into any power point –connect to one another to expand the network across a wide area. Where traditional WI-FI extenders lose up to half the fibre bandwidth with every extension, the plumes maintain most of the speed regardless of how far the network is extended. All the pods connected to the same router form a single network with the same network name, eliminating the complications Wi-FI extenders usually introduce.

“The traditional Wi-Fi router has replaced the dial up connection, and we’re all happy about this – the infamous dial up tone is ingrained in the brains of anyone over the age of 30,” says Collett. “Wi-Fi revolutionised our way of life as the router gave us access to the internet without directly connecting to a modem. 

“We’ve moved forward, transitioning from ADSL to fibre. While fibre allows for high speed internet access, it is still connected to your Wi-Fi router. Naturally, the further you move away from the hub, the poorer your internet connection will be. Those dead spots around the house can become frustrating when your Wi-Fi signal shows 1 bar and it takes 5 minutes to load a single web page. Mesh Wi-Fi is the solution.”

Collett says he specifically researched a product that looked good, offered app-based management and required no cables. His research led him to Silicon Valley, and the result is the Supersonic Plume Mesh network system.

The drawback is that installation can be complicated for the non-technical consumer. To plug the gap, so to speak, Supersonic sends out technicians who conduct a Wi-Fi sweep of a home and advise how many Plume devices will be needed for 100% coverage. Based on this the technicians make a recommendation for an optimal “smart Wi-Fi”solution. Once installed, though, the network can be monitored and managed from a Supersonic App.

We tried it out and found it was a tale of two experiences. The initial experience was frustrating, as the pods tried to find each other. This is a necessary evil, it seems, as the Plume Mesh network optimises itself over a period of several days. That means the experience at the edge of the network can be very poor at the time of installation. After a few days, however the network was flying.

With a 100Mbps line, the experience next to the main router was around 105 Mbps, both up and down. That in itself was something of a marvel. But the biggest impact was felt at the furthest point from the router: where a Wi-Fi extender had previously delivered speeds of below 10Mbps, download speeds of 80Mbps became not only commonplace, but almost taken for granted.

One of the most useful features of the Plume Mesh is the level of monitoring offered through the Supersonic app. One can observe exactly what devices are connected to which pods – each is given a name, typically of the room, that is visible only through the app.

The biggest surprise of the plume solution is that it has not become a standard solution for Wi-Fi networks everywhere. In an era when we have become deeply dependent on a decent Wi-Fi signal, it has become a necessity rather than a luxury. As a result, home connectivity should be taken far more seriously than merely fobbing consumers off on low-performance extenders. 

MTN seems to have taken this message to heart, rethinking its own approach to home usage.

“Internet access has become the third utility behind electricity and water,” says Collett. “Our goal is to ‘own the home’ but not just by connecting a bunch of devices to a central point. It’s really about how these devices can pioneer habitual change in the home that’s convenient and saves valuable time and money.”

Click here to read about SuperSonic’s pricing.

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Location data key to transforming SA’s transport system

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Location technology can transform South Africa’s transport system – but don’t expect to see self-driving cars on our roads any time soon. What’s more relevant is the need for the public and private sectors to work together more closely to unlock the significant social and economic benefits that more efficient transport and mobility systems would bring to the country, including less congestion and fewer road accidents. 

That was the message from Michael Bültmann, Managing Director, in charge of international relations  atHERE Technologies, a global leader in mapping and location platform services, at an event hosted by the international law firm Covington & Burling in Johannesburg last week, to discuss how digitization could support better mobility, safety and integration in South Africa. 

“Society needs to solve some fundamental challenges, and relevant location data can play a key role in creating a better future for mobility in South Africa. If we know where the goods and people are, and how and why they move, we have the basis for a system that matches demand and supply far more closely, and uses our transport infrastructure more efficiently,” saidBültmann.

“But no company, government or individual can do it all themselves. It’s all about collaborating. If we get real-time data use right, it would have a profound effect on the way the entire economy works: less congestion, fewer accidents, more efficient use of vehicles and public transport, less air pollution, greater quality of life, and potential savings of billions of rands in fuel, time and safer roads.”

Speaking at the event, the CSIR’s Dr Mathetha Mokonyama said that despite the billions of rands pumped into the country’s mass public transport network in recent years, 90% of commuter seats available are still provided by either cars or taxis.

“We have the right to dignity. If you want to see indignity, look at people getting up at 2am to get unreliable transport to a job that only pays R3500 a month. In our country, access to transport is critical for people to make a living, and our focus as a country should be to implement an equitable and just transport system that caters to all sectors of society,” he said.

“It was a pleasure to support the event that brought together so many viewpoints on the question of the effective use of data and location intelligence to enhance the mobility of goods, people and services,” said Robert Kayihura, senior advisor in Covington’s Johannesburg office.  “While the harmonization of regulatory regimes around the continent will take time, a key takeaway from our discussions is the critical need to build a shared vision of the future through consistent public-private dialogue and collaboration in order to accelerate and ensure the sustainable and safe digitization of Africa.”

Paul Vorster, the chief executive of the Intelligent Transport Society of SA (ITSSA), said the effective sharing of data between metros, government and the private sector would ‘go a long way’ to improving the efficiency of existing transport infrastructure.

“The starting point is to improve what we already have. Once we know what we have – that is, data – we can start solving real problems, like knowing where the demand and supply are. But to do this, metros will need to learn from each other, and they often face political hurdles in the process,” he said.

Bültmann said increasing levels of urbanisation across the world were creating the need for cities to better predict, manage and plan future urban movement. Combining and analysing data from different, complementary sources could help South African cities to improve urban planning, relieve congestion and curb pollution for better quality of life.

The event was also attended by Presidential Investment Envoy Phumzile Langeni, the National Planning Commission’s Themba Dlamini; SANRAL’s Alan Robinson; and Dr Rüdiger Lotz, the Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy. The guests were welcomed by Witney Schneidman, the head of Covington’s Africa practice and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1997-2001) in the U.S. Government.

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