Chris Buchanan Client Solutions Director Dell Technologies South Africa
On the way to the new world of work, where remote working is part of normal everyday life, there is no way around optimising employee’s IT infrastructure. Only those who integrate the needs of employees into the procurement process will ensure satisfaction and productivity.
Today's companies are uniting more heterogeneous generations under one roof than ever before: Baby Boomers, Generation X, millennials or Generation Y, and Generation Z. They differ significantly in their qualifications, ways of working, demands on the employer and last but not least, in attitudes towards their work-life balance. In addition to the generational differences, changes to the way we work have also changed our tech needs. For example, flexible working models and remote working will also have an impact.
Around 80 percent of Generation Z state that a high standard of IT infrastructure is a top priority for them when choosing their employer. They are used to high-performance tools and applications on their private devices and expect companies to provide an IT infrastructure that is at least as powerful, if not better. On the other hand, quite a few older employees are still challenged by digital change, as they constantly must familiarise themselves with new tools and applications and learn completely new ways of working.
In the increasing battle for skilled workers, companies cannot do without the digital natives or the silver surfers. Both bring along qualifications that are indispensable for competitiveness. If companies want to accompany all generations on their way into the new working world, they must consider the different needs in the change process and take measures to create acceptance for the change.
As a first step, it is essential to get management enthusiastic about the changes. By aligning the strategic cornerstones, it must create the conditions to initiate change. This can sometimes be seen in the KPIs that they set for their IT departments. In the past, these were designed to set up workstations in the most cost-optimised way possible and to ensure that they were easy to manage.
Today, modern companies focus on internal "customer satisfaction" and the idea of efficiency. This is why a person-centred approach is recommended for the procurement process of the IT infrastructure for employees, i.e. the purchase of new PCs, notebooks, keyboards and mice. This puts people and their needs in the foreground.
The workplace should be set up in such a way that employees have the exact equipment they need to carry out their tasks efficiently. A well-designed IT infrastructure reduces the potential for frustration and thus increases employee satisfaction. To achieve this, the company must first have the appropriate knowledge about the requirements of the various workplaces. Even if this sounds self-evident, the efficiency-oriented setup of workstations often fails because of a well-thought-out specification. To avoid this becoming complex by focusing on each individual employee, the definition of so-called personas helps.
Two simple questions
The personas are the division of employees into different stakeholder groups. To define these, companies must ask themselves a few key questions. First: What do users need their PC or notebook for, i.e. which applications are crucial for them, what performance does the device have to deliver? Second: Where do users use their PC or notebook? Do they only work stationary in the office, are they often in meetings or on the road? Do they take advantage of the home office option or do they even work in an environment where they encounter extreme environmental conditions? From the answers to these questions, various use cases can be derived, which are importance to the decision process of the provision of the IT infrastructure for employees.
Dell Technologies, for example, define five different personas in this way: the Office User, the Remote Worker, the Traveller, the Corridor Warrior and the Speciality User. The characteristics and number of these personas vary depending on the industry and the focus of a company. In SMEs, for example, the number of different personas will generally be smaller due to the size of the company but also because there is less diversity of job profiles.
Human resources and IT department working together
To get answers to the above questions, large companies can collect usage and performance data using special tools. In small and medium-sized companies, this approach would go beyond the scope of this study. In these organisations, a user survey and close cooperation between the HR and IT departments is more appropriate. The HR department knows the job profiles and can obtain additional information on the requirements from the employees. Together with the IT department, it prepares the findings and defines the personas. Based on these, the IT department plans the procurement of the workplace infrastructure.
SMEs also find support and advice from manufacturers. For example, they have established the practice of setting up a showroom at the company on request. This offers employees the opportunity to take a closer look at preselected devices and provide direct feedback. Afterwards, a few selected employees from all departments can test one of the devices they consider suitable for their needs for several weeks. This ensures that the computers in question meet their requirements.
A person-centred approach to workplace setup may sound like a lot of work, but if the implementation is done professionally, the support effort for those responsible is reduced because the employees have exactly the infrastructure they need. In addition, all devices can be managed via one platform using appropriate software. As a rule, the person-centred approach is worthwhile for companies with 50 or more employees who have at least three different job profiles.
Transformation needs acceptance
The optimal set-up of the workplace only benefits if the employees are aware of their advantages. In addition to personal-centred IT procurement, therefore, further measures are needed to drive the transformation forward. One of these is the training of employees. This also bridges the generations. Whilst younger employees expand their knowledge, older employees are familiarised with the tools that are relevant to them. In this way, the benefits of digitalisation are made tangible and the differences in knowledge between generations are reduced.
Finally, the digital transformation without the participation of the employees is practically impossible. Accordingly, managers and employees are important to show the change and make its benefits visible. The latter also includes explaining in the context of internal communication why changes are needed, how they affect everyday life and how to deal with them. If employees feel that their company is interested in actively involving them in change and supporting them in the event of challenges, they will be more open about the changes and will support the transformation on their own motivation.