Why technology freedom of choice cultivates more productive employees
In past decades, people marked their identities by the kind of car they drove, the music they listened to, or the length of their hair. Today, part of who you are lies in your preferred brand of personal technology. There are the Mac adherents and Windows faithful, iPhone and Android lovers, and even some who still can’t give up their Blackberries. You know what you like, you wouldn’t want anything else, and no one’s going to tell you otherwise.
And yet for a long time, nearly all organizations mandated what kind of laptops and devices their employees could use at work. It was a technology dictatorship, where what mattered to the company – the ease and seeming efficiency of managing a single, standard platform (usually Windows) – took precedence over what employees actually liked.
I have two words for enterprises that continue to stick to this approach: Good luck.
To recruit and retain top talent today, companies must recognize that a user-centric IT approach based on choice has become essential. The BYOD guerilla movement that sprang up several years ago – if you couldn't use a device of your choosing, then you would bring your own – has transformed into a mature revolution.
More and more companies understand that empowering employees with the right technology is the best way to make them more productive and propel the business forward. IT leaders are reevaluating their services and offering catalogss of devices rather than pushing one type on employees.
The corporate world has made progress in implementing choice programs – (a recent survey conducted by Jamf found 61 percent of 480 respondents said their company has implemented such a program) – but there's still progress to be made.
Other findings in the survey reflect how technology choice is about much more than having the coolest toys. Selecting a device of choice makes employees more productive in the workplace, according to 72 percent of respondents. Choice programs are also important to the organizations' well-being, said 73 percent of respondents. Additionally, 70 percent of those without user choice said their employer should give them the right to choose the device that best enables them to do their job.
The millennial effect
Broader societal forces are (literally) at work in the shift to user-centric IT. People now expect a seamless experience between their professional and personal lives on a single device as well as a consumer-grade experience the moment they power on. Changing workplace demographics are playing a huge role too.
Millennials – adults between 18 and 34 – have surpassed Generation X and Baby Boomers to become the largest group in the American workforce, with 53.5 million workers, according to Pew Research. Millennials are unlike any previous generation. They grew up with broadband, laptops, and smart phones, are generally uncomfortable with rigid corporate edicts and want the freedom to work in the way that best suits them.
According to a PwC survey on Millennial work habits, 78 percent of young workers said access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work.
Ordering an employee to stow his or her preferred Mac at work and use a PC instead would be like telling someone who grew up playing cello to switch to violin upon joining the orchestra.
Why HR and IT must work together
As an HR professional, I can assure you that many incoming professionals simply won’t work for a company that mandates what technology they must use. It can be a deal killer.
With a younger, more mobile workforce motivated by the best available technology, organizations must adapt their IT methods to empower users. What was once anathema for IT, such as supporting Mac devices, now must become standard practice as employees design their own experience.
Interestingly, this means that HR and IT, which traditionally have been siloed from each other and even occasionally at odds, must now be on the same page when it comes to providing employees with the right technology to make them happy and productive.
It should by now be ingrained in every corporate culture that user choice itself is no longer a choice but necessary for cultivating more productive and appreciative employees.