Barrett Coakley | 02.13.19
Summary >

Having the latest technology will play an ever increasing role in improving employee engagement.

I do not think we need to discuss the impact of employee engagement on the customer experience, financial results, productivity and other areas as the research has proven its importance. However, how to actually move the needle on engagement has been one of the tougher problems to solve. People have proposed gamification, more collaboration, more meetings, better training and puppies in the office. Ok, maybe not the latter but I am sure it has been brought up during a meeting. While many ideas have proven to be successful, one of the harder aspects to measure is the impact of technology on employee engagement. However, given the changing dynamics of the workforce from boomers to younger generations, the impact of technology on engagement is likely to take center stage. With the retirement of boomers and the influx of new, digitally-native workers, field service could be looked upon as ground zero for measuring and detailing the impact of technology on engagement, and in turn, results.

Generational Shifts

Millennials have little tolerance for outdated or inefficient processes that get between them and the work they truly care about doing. That means unnecessary time doing manual paperwork or time on the road following poorly planned routes will lead to dissatisfaction on the job and has the potential to deter them from joining a firm in the first place. Technology is key to engagement and satisfaction for younger generations. Consider these statistics on the importance of technology for these new generations:

  • A survey of 1,000 millennials conducted by Microsoft showed that 93 percent cited modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace.
  • 93% of millennial workers say that a business having up-to-date technology is an important factor when choosing a workplace.
  • Penn Schoen Berland reports 42% of millennials stated they would leave a company due to "substandard technology."
  • 92% of employees say that having the technology to do their job efficiently affects their work satisfaction

As this data shows, the impact of technology on recruiting, retaining and engaging this new generation is of paramount importance. Outdated mobile workforce management software, poor schedule optimization that does not include real-time updates to reduce travel and engagement tools that impact both the employee and customer will not be tolerated by these new field professionals. In fact, these new technologies are giving rise to a new, digital worker profile that can positively impact your business in multiple areas.

Why is it Valued?

Considering that  30% of the 13 million new jobs created since 2010 have required digital skills, it is not surprising that new generations have been filling up these high-tech roles. But why?

The most obvious answer is that this new generation has grown up with technology. This is the Uber generation of smart phones, laptops, Facebook, Waze and other digital toys that keep them connected to the information and resources they need to perform in their daily lives. Having to fill out a paper based form, looking up a route on a map or having to call back to the office to wait for information to be relayed is considered the dark ages.

However, there are other reasons as well. PwC's 2018 Technology at Work study found that employees are motivated to use new technology for one of three reasons:

  • It will help them advance their careers or gain status (cited by 37 percent of respondents).
  • They are curious about the promise of better efficiency and teamwork (34 percent).
  • It helps them do their own work more easily and within a predictable environment (29 percent).

This generation is very self-sufficient and one of the reasons is that they rely on technology to provide them with always on services they need to make their lives easier. Instant ordering from Amazon, Netflix on demand, Uber and Lyft for rides and immediate communication with their friends through various apps make their lives dependent upon technology. Without it, they feel lost. As a result, technology adoption is critical to engaging this generation and it is why field teams need to invest in the correct technologies to fill open roles.

How are Organizations Doing?

Given the importance of technology for the next generation of workers, it would make sense that the C-suite is implementing the latest digital tools. However, the results are mixed when executives are asked about technology versus their employees: For example, in the referenced PwC study, they found the following:

  • 90% of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, but only about half (53%) of staff say the same.
  • 92% of C-suite execs say they’re satisfied with the technology experience their company provides for making progress on their most important work, only 68% of staff agree.
  • Only half (50%) of staff and 64% of managers are satisfied with the resources they have at their disposal to learn how to use new technology.
  • 46% say their company doesn’t value employees who are technologically savvy.

Obviously, there is a disparity between the two groups. This could signal the need for more training, a more robust change management strategy or a different method of choosing technology with more input from the field.

Conclusion

In the past, employees had access to cutting edge technology like laptops, mobile devices and other tools since they were too expensive for the average consumer. That has all changed as the technology people use in their personal lives now is faster, more immediate, more accurate and has significantly better user interfaces and user experience than the technology they interact with in the workplace. Given the new generation of workers dependence and demand for consumer like technology in the workplace , organizations need to provide employees similar capabilities and experiences at work. As a result, technology will enable better levels of engagement because employees will have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs and field service teams provide the perfect place to start given the available, modern FSM technology in the market.