The Link Between Technology And Retention

We do all we can to influence retention, or at least, we think we do. We measure engagement, we carry out exit interviews, we even have performance management programs. But in today’s technology-led world, are we missing a trick in the workplace? Is our talent leaving us because the competition is using better technology in-house? Is our talent leaving in frustration at our inability to keep up with the times?

Quite possibly.

The Link Between Home and the Workplace

Talk to anyone in IT at the moment, and BYOD is more than just an acronym, it’s enough to keep them awake at night. Bring Your Own Device is a nightmare in itself, for which any number of solutions are available (headache tablets, perhaps).

However, its growth reflects a growing frustration with workplace technology. Why is half the company using personal iPads for 20 minutes before they work on their laptops?

Because the laptops take 20 minutes to start up. iPads take 20 milliseconds.

That’s the situation I’ve encountered in two organizations recently. Technology brought in from home was being used for work purposes, because the work technology was either dated or overly restrictive.

As an employer, you have to face up to the fact that technology has become infinitely more simple than it ever used to be. It’s quicker and more adaptive, and yet workplace technology has hardly kept pace.

If you’re the kid in the playground with dad’s chunky old Nokia from the late ’90s, then nobody’s going to talk to you. Therefore, there’s a business case for investing in better technology — and that business case includes employee retention.

Helping Your People Succeed

Everyone wants to succeed. Earning money meets one of Maslow’s needs, but the satisfaction of succeeding at work is one of the key elements that keeps our talent in place.

If we’re failing our own talent with outdated technology, we’re failing the business, and we’re losing our talent.

As an example, four years ago, I visited the headquarters of one of the UK’s largest banks. The company was unable to use most cloud-based solutions of the time due to their inability to upgrade from Internet Explorer 6. Most of the employees had already accepted that they were never going to move beyond IE6 (which was unsupported), and there was a general feeling of having “given up” on the technology that was meant to support them.

Within that business, I spoke to members of the sales team who were unable to properly manage their pipeline due to old technology not supporting the solutions they had brought in. There are hundreds of ways to use technology to help sales teams (we won’t go into them here), and this is potentially the opportunity for HR to talk technology with sales directors, armed with a bit of knowledge about how an investment in better technology will have an impact on the bottom line in more ways than they had previously thought.

The fear of losing a top salesperson because they feel they aren’t reaching their potential might be enough to secure better technology, and therefore, improve retention.

Improving Communication

“What do you mean you didn’t get the email? Have you checked your junk folder?”

Despite our proliferation of communication methods, we are terrible at communicating. An over-reliance on email systems can lead to frustration at work, with some people flooded with emails and others ignoring them completely.

However, at home (or on mobile), we’re particularly good at communicating. We use social networks and we’ve already segmented our friends into different networks – family on Facebook, colleagues on LinkedIn, people we don’t know on Twitter…

There’s a lot to learn, and this can reduce some of the tension and friction that often arises from poor email communication in a business. Whether it’s instant messaging, social collaboration or simply telling people to turn their emails off for a day (I’ve seen it happen, although I haven’t seen it work), it’s our responsibility to lead this conversation.

People leave businesses for many reasons – we need to dig into those reasons through exit interviews, but we need to pre-empt people’s frustrations and help them improve the way they work. To provide a more satisfying, rewarding environment in which people can prosper, we need to start mirroring the way people use technology at home.

That involves providing better, quicker technology – and yes, we have to work through the security issues that inevitably arise; that’s not impossible.

That involves providing more supporting technology; whether you’re in sales or marketing, you need to give people the tools they need in order to succeed. If you’re not doing it, your competition might be, and it’s a great recruitment tool to say that you’ve adopted the latest technology.

That involves harnessing the latest communication tools in order to help people collaborate better within your business.

And if you can put a dollars and cents figure against a 2% improvement in employee retention, you can weigh it up against the investment in said technologies. And that’s not just a conversation worth having, it’s a conversation worth leading.

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