Since the middle of the 20th century, the world has been developing at a rapid pace. Factors such as various free trade agreements or the invention of the internet have significantly torpedoed the development of globalization. It has however also caused an unfair distribution of wealth, an increase in child labour and contributed significantly to climate change. However one may feel personally about globalization, one thing no one can deny is that at least our technology, and with it the technology enabled tools, have made a giant leap forward within its framework.
Or have they?
“Most people believe that globalization will determine our future. But the truth is that technology is much more important in this respect.”
In his book “Zero to One” Peter Thiel describes that the progress of technology is mainly limited to the IT area, while everything else around us has remained relatively the same. As coincidence would have it, I read this passage of the book on my smartphone, a device with which I would have been able to call my abroad living parents for free and in real time via video call, while sitting in the same bus that I also took to school 20 years ago. However, I still don’t think it’s accurate to say that technological progress is “limited” to the IT industry. After all, this IT industry is the reason for the technology enabled tools on which I will elaborate today. It is also the same IT industry that landed the Mars Rover on another planet, or enabled people like Greta Thunberg to initiate a global movement like “Fridays for Future”. In other words, I don’t believe technology is limited to IT, it is rather IT that makes technological progress possible.
In many ways, today’s technology has become an integral part of our lives from which we benefit on a daily basis. Companies, much like private individuals, also benefit from technology, and in some cases, may even depend on it. Being on top of new technology in your private life may be practical, but isn’t really necessary. As a company however, having an overview on what new technology enabled tools are available is more important. And this is due to the following reason:
Over the past two decades we have witnessed a shift from the model of “competitive evaluation” to the “coaching and development” model. This is how Josh Bersin explains it in this article.
The model of competitive evaluation involves ranking employees based on their performance, assigning them to a corresponding list and regularly dismissing and replacing those at the bottom of this ranking list. Competitive assessment fits well with an industrial work model, a model where management plays an important role and where the labor force, similar to a cog in the general machinery, is easy to replace.
The second model dissociates itself from the idea of “survival of the fittest”, promotes the support of all employees in the improved execution of their profession and the striving for a growth mentality of the company. In a world where more than 85% of market capitalization is made up of intellectual property, brands, services and software, the second model seems more fitting, also taking into account that employees are more relevant. Bersin even goes one step further in his train of thought and writes that managers today are mainly there to support their employees and not the other way around.
The message here is that companies today are more interested in improving the performance of their teams, rather than risking high fluctuation. In addition, companies want to make their goals more agile by distributing, but also by receiving more feedback and using this feedback in a target-oriented way to become more successful. This development however requires an alternative way of working and corresponding technology and technology enabled tools that accentuate this feature accordingly.
Through the use of modern technology enabled tools, managers nowadays have the opportunity to gain insight into the development and challenges of their employees and, for example, through employee feedback, also have the chance to create certain opportunities to promote these developments and overcome given challenges. This provides the necessary flexibility within the company to adapt to new industry trends and to not fall behind their competitors.
The question remains how and to what extent modern technology enabled tools are applied in companies today.
A German survey conducted by Steelcase Studies in 2016 showed that despite the worldwide widespread use of mobile devices in the private sector, the vast majority of study participants reported that their employers use twice as many fixed devices in the office as mobile devices. In Germany, 80 percent of workstations are equipped with desktop PCs and 94 percent with landline phones.
But does this really pose a problem? Steelcase argues that these figures may be due to the nature of the work done, but could also reflect the challenge employers face in keeping pace with ever-changing technologies. Regardless, employee mobility inside and outside the office is influenced by fixed technology solutions, preventing them from realizing the full potential of diverse spaces. The media and everyday culture have shaped the public perception that the workplace has changed dramatically over the past decade, and that work environments work best when they are open, informal and team-oriented. This may be the reality in some offices, but most people around the world still work in a traditional office environment where hierarchies and individual work at the desk are common.
However, the predominance of the “traditional” working method does not necessarily mean that modern tools and software should not be used within the office to make everyday work easier. To use my bus metaphor again: Just because you may still be driving to work on the same bus that drove you to school 20 years ago doesn’t mean that the bus ride has to be similar. While in the past you might have read a comic book or just have looked out the window, nowadays you have the option to check your emails, browse your Kindle library, watch Netflix, book a holiday, update your social media, etc.
In other words, you can use your time more efficiently.
Naturally, you are still free to simply look out of the window and enjoy the ride, but nowadays you at least have the option of using your time in a different manner.
The situation is similar at work. Let’s just imagine that the bus is your workplace and the smartphone represents the modern tools and office applications. Just because your workplace follows the
same pattern as it did 20 years ago, with a fixed seat, a desktop and a landline phone, that doesn’t mean that the use of technology enabled tools can’t make your daily work much more efficient.
We at Honestly also have fixed workplaces, some of us also use desktop PCs, landline telephones and are spatially divided into our respective teams. It’s just more practical that way. At the same time, however, we also use many digital tools that make cross-team collaboration much easier.
Tools like Slack, Asana or Personio, so-called “systems of productivity”, as Josh Bersin calls them, facilitate internal office communication, administration, reduce email traffic and can also be used as a tool to measure internal progress. In other words, they simplify processes, save time and improve communication.
Good tool, half the work
Which tools are best suited for your own company is sometimes difficult to determine due to the multitude of possibilities and may require planning. An article by Human Resources Manager suggests the following in this case: The secret of selecting and implementing state-of-the-art technologies requires a strong partnership between HR, communication and IT. It can lead to technical solutions that fit their purpose perfectly, make everyday work easier and can thus be successfully implemented.
As an employer, you should always bear in mind that technology and the implementation of technology enabled tools is also a key factor in increasing employee engagement. A characteristic feature of engaged employees is that they, to a large extent, are able to decide for themselves where and how they want to work, and that they always strive for improvement, be it in methodology of how they work or what tools they use in the process.
If this progress is not guaranteed, or if management disagrees with such proposals, then the employees, and thus also their commitment, are severely restricted. Have a look at the following article, if you want to find out more on effective communication between employees and management .
We can summarize as follows: It is definitely possible for companies to continue operating, even if they ignore existing technological advances. However, this is not recommended. Companies that do not promote technology fail to keep themselves informed about new methods of work and therefore hinder the implementation of potential, possibly more effective working methods. Continuing with cumbersome work practices that constantly require unnecessary workarounds also affects employee motivation and significantly limits potential engagement.