Do Your Employees Have Better IT at Home?

With the entrance of Millennials into the workforce, and the overall higher digital competency of the public, companies are behind the times. The digital offerings at the office often are inferior to what employees have at home and even on their smart phones. That’s the observation of Dion Hinchcliffe on technology news Website ZDNet.

I think Hinchcliffe’s observation is probably correct, primarily because of the innovations of mobile applications. There’s an app for everything today. Type any need into Google, and particularly if you are doing this search on a mobile device such as a smart phone or tablet, an array of apps will be listed in response.

With that in mind, I wonder if the time is approaching when work groups at digitally sophisticated companies will be able to each create their own apps. I’m envisioning a time maybe not far off when a work group, or perhaps just the manager, would determine the needs of the group’s workflow and then work with the IT team to create a private app. For instance, a team of product development specialists might develop an app that would allow all members of the team to have access on their phones and tablets to a portal of ongoing and new ideas, including alerts sent to phones during working hours when a member of the team adds a new idea. The app also might send alerts to mobile devices during working hours when a product sketch or plan has been reviewed by a manager. There also could be access through the app to an archive of product ideas and products that have come to fruition and to market since the company’s inception. The archive could include market performance for each product. And all this by just tapping an icon on the employee’s phone or tablet! The app, of course, also would connect to a portal online that employees could access on their regular work or home computers.

Creating the app could even be a work group teambuilding exercise, as well as an exercise in goal setting and work flow planning. The project of creating the medium through which the group would work would itself become a learning opportunity.

This idea about each work group having the ability to create its own private app may be too advanced for now for many organizations, but there are things a company can do today to ensure its employees are well served. A few things Hinchcliffe points out include staying on top of needed computer upgrades; providing intranet or employee portal search capability; and offering internal social media for easy, natural interaction.

The investment needed for these enhancements pays for itself in the time and distractions saved. For example, an employee on the third floor who wants to chat casually about a work project might send a message through Facebook now to a co-worker on the fifth floor, knowing an alert about a message will appear instantaneously on her colleague’s phone. Similarly, think about the interruption and distraction when an employee must leave the internal work portal to conduct a search on Google because she knows Google will uncover more about her company’s products than the company’s own system will. Another often easy-to-fix office technology glitch is slow Internet access. I’ve had to do work or look at a video at home because the content was just taking too long to load at the office.

It also is important to ensure that security systems in place to protect the company’s information don’t impede collaboration with co-workers and clients or customers. Hinchcliffe points out the need for easy sharing of files and data. He mentions this challenge as it relates to file size. I’m thinking of it also from the perspective of allowing access. The security systems in company networks should be sophisticated enough to allow an employee to grant temporary access to a co-worker from another department or even to a client.

Finally, it would be great if companies took into consideration the need many of its employees have to promote work and achievements to the public on social media. Currently, those who have the need to update multiple social media sites daily have to rely on public tools such as Hootsuite to streamline the task, but how secure is a public tool like this, and is it tailored to the kind of social media needs a particular company has? An internal tool that would help lines of business promote themselves on social media might be a smart investment.

I once worked at a company that I told my mother was like working in an orphanage. I always felt like whatever we were given technology-wise (or even office furniture-wise) seemed second-hand. Your employees shouldn’t feel like charity cases while they do work on your behalf.

How important is it to your company to provide up-to-date and efficient digital systems to employees and train them on such systems? Are there any improvements to your systems that you are helping to oversee or guide? What improvements are needed?