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May 6, 2016updated 28 Mar 2017 5:38pm

Mobility and employee engagement

By John Oates

Work productivity

There have been many claims for the positive impacts of mobility for businesses. These include improvements in staff happiness and satisfaction provided by more flexible working practises as well as making companies more attractive places to work for younger staff.

But research from the Economist’s Intelligence Unit is unusual in finding solid improvements in perceived productivity and creativity as well as staff morale.

The global research surveyed 1,865 full-time employees at a wide variety of companies. It was sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise company Aruba.

The survey found companies considered ‘pioneers’ in supporting mobile engagement could see increases in productivity of 16 per cent along with increases in loyalty of 21 per cent and of employee satisfaction of 23 per cent.

Improving mobile strategy has often been linked to improvements in staff engagement but hasn’t previously been linked so closely to business outcomes like loyalty and productivity.

Employee engagement

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Researchers considered two themes in how staff interact with and perceive their employer.

The first of these is ’employee engagement’ – the degree to which people feel personally invested in the company they work for. This is seen as very important for corporate success with a direct benefit to the bottom line – a five per cent increase in employee engagement contributes to a three per cent increase in revenue growth the following year, according to consultants Aon Hewett. This links into ideas of ‘start-up’ culture and increases in staff loyalty.

Employee experience

The second factor is ’employee experience’ which relates to ‘customer experience’ and covers all the interactions a person has with their employer. This covers everything from how a firm rewards workers to company culture, working environment and daily working practises.

Technology can play a big role in improving the ’employee experience’. Some companies are even moving to mobile applications to run human resource functions and other aspects of staff administration. The unit used the research to offer CIOs tips on altering mobile strategies to improve staff buy-in.

Mobile strategy

One of the surprising potential strategies for CIOs was to offer staff technical support for their own mobile devices.

This might seem like going a long way ‘above and beyond’ the work of a traditional IT department but does make sense if staff are being asked to use their own devices for business functions.

Almost half, 45 per cent, of companies rated as ‘good’ for mobile strategy already offer this to staff.

Other welcomed developments included allowing the use of messaging applications like WhatsApp for business communications as well as providing ‘non-desk working environments’ – like break-out areas which can staff can use while using working on mobile devices.

Respondents pointed to the ability to work anywhere and at any time was seen as the biggest boost to their productivity.

In descending order other advantages were: accessing information quickly and easily, collaborating effectively with other people, working anywhere in the office or workplace and finally concentrating on work.

Staff viewed these factors as key to improving productivity – respondents who said their employee did this well rated themselves as 10 per cent more productive than those who do not.

Another key benefit of mobile working, and arguably a better known benefit, was in opening up dead time – whether waiting at an airport or travelling to or from work.

The second benefit was that mobile technologies allow employees to more easily manage their own time by allowing flexible working at home and working around other personal responsibilities like childcare.

Different attitudes from different groups

Researchers found different attitudes to mobile technology from different groups within workforces but noted this was not a simple ‘old vs young’.

Nor were people who self-identified as early adopters always simple evangelists for new technologies. In reality they were sometimes more sensitive to the negative impacts of mobile technology than other groups.

These concerns included worries that use of personal devices for work could give their boss access to their private information. Early adopters also worry more about keeping a work-life balance being made more difficult by technology, compared to other groups.

They also told researchers that they could sometimes be distracted from work by their mobile devices.

CIOs need to address these concerns when setting mobile strategy which will appeal to all staff within the organisation.

Regional differences

Researchers found that the mobile revolution, unlike some other business technology moves is a truly global phenomenon. But they did find some interesting regional differences in responses.

A third of Japanese workers said collaboration tools were most important in increasing their productivity – a factor identified by 21 per cent of respondents across the world.

Employees from Australia and New Zealand were more likely to choose quick and easy access to information as the key to improving productivity – 53 per cent versus 42 per cent globally.

Singapore comes out as the most mobile friendly country with respondents there most likely to use a tablet device for work and are most likely to say mobile technology makes them more productive.  Sixty per cent consider their employer to be a pioneer in mobile support. An impressive 66 per cent of Singaporean employees questioned said their company supported messaging applications like WhatsApp. But Singaporean companies are less keen mobile collaboration tools like Slack or GChat – with only 36 per cent offering support compared to 56 per cent of UK firms.

Conclusions

Researchers found several lessons for CIOs. Firstly the idea of offering support for staff’s own mobile devices was seen by many as a key differentiator.

Creating systems and practises which allow staff to work wherever and whenever they want is the most important way to support productivity.

Employees see collaboration as key to creativity and company loyalty

These can also help IT develop deeper relationships with human resources by providing technology which has so much impact on staff satisfaction with the working environments.

Finally CIOs should address the concerns which still surround mobile technology – namely worries about privacy and about maintaining a good work-life balance.

Get this right and your company will not only keep existing staff working at their best but also make it easier to find future recruits too.

There’s more from the Economist’s Intelligence Unit here:

http://news.arubanetworks.com/press-release/mobile-optimized-work-environments-drive-measurably-higher-employee-engagement-and-bus

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