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What role is tech playing in our changing approach to employee motivation?

Business man holding technology - laptop, tablet and phone.

Technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives – and with such a dramatic pace of change, it can sometimes feel hard to keep up. But when it comes to your business, can you risk falling behind?

The opportunities that technology offers are vast – particularly when it comes to the role it can play in employee motivation. At the most basic level, this can often relate to perception. People are increasingly aware that technology has the power to disrupt age-old business models and it is a growing threat to brands that fail to respond – think Blockbuster, a once vast video and DVD rental company that underestimated the enormous shift in how we consume media. In swooped Netflix, and Blockbuster vanished from our high streets. Similar disruption has occurred in almost every industry: Uber has put enormous pressure on traditional London black cabs for example, which had been slow to introduce payment by card – something we all now take for granted; and you only have to walk down one depleted high street to see the impact that online retail giants such as Amazon have had on traditional stores. The lesson here is clear – remain stuck in your ways, and you risk becoming obsolete. Importantly, your existing and future employees will know this too. Given the choice of working for a company that embraces technology, or one that seems to operate as if in the dark ages, and the increasingly digital-savvy pool of talent is only going to go one way.

So, it can help ensure your survival, and support your ability to recruit and retain talent, but in what other ways is technology changing how we motivate our workforce?

We are seeing a big shift in the things that people value in their jobs – especially amongst younger workers, defined as ‘Millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’, for whom quality of life is increasingly valued alongside – or even above – financial recompense. It’s a trend that is being reflected at a nationwide level, with high-profile discussions about whether GDP is actually the most effective way to measure our country’s health, and if we would in fact be better off by focusing on metrics that monitor wellbeing or whether we are operating sustainably.

One of the most commonly cited factors that people now value from their jobs is a healthy work/life balance, and the ability to work flexibly. We are seeing a gradual decline in the traditional working day and week; fewer people are working 9-5 Monday to Friday - hours that used to be conventional for most office roles – and it is increasingly the case that employees expect to be able to fit their jobs around their lives, rather than the other way around. And anyone who has ever had to endure rush hour travel will surely agree that anything that helps ease the pressure on transport at these times can only be a good thing. Importantly, flexible working doesn’t seem to impact productivity. Indeed, it can be a major factor in motivating staff to work more efficiently at times that suit them. There is even growing talk of the virtues of a four-day week, with the Bank of England’s Chief Economist predicting that this will be the norm by 2050.

Ensuring that your business is prepared for such seismic changes in how we work will require you to have in place the technology that enables it – and if you haven’t started to invest in this already; the time to think about doing so could be now.

Digital natives are used to deploying technology to make their lives more efficient. We’ve probably all at some point turned to a sat nav, or the various travel apps and maps on our phones to help us get from A to B without hitting traffic or to ensure our train is running on time. There are undoubtedly arguments about the risks posed by our increasing reliance on technology and it is of course important that we don’t cease to utilise our own natural senses and abilities. But the inescapable truth is that technology can make us more efficient – and being able to be efficient at work is a critical aspect of employee motivation. Imagine you have spent hours slogging away on a complex report – the deadline is approaching when your old, outdated computer suddenly crashes and you lose all of your hard work. It would be demotivating to say the least. In contrast, providing staff with up-to-date technology will not only enable them to get their job done more efficiently, but will help them feel that they are working somewhere dynamic and impressive. Creating a sense of pride in your organisation should not be underestimated as an important factor in employee motivation.

Technology is changing the way we communicate and, in the workplace, provides us with the opportunity to improve collaboration and teamwork. There are now a whole host of channels available through which we can share knowledge and insight, and businesses are increasingly introducing workplace collaboration apps that are designed to expand our day-to-day access to people throughout the firm – people with whom you may not otherwise interact. Technology can break down hierarchies, and help us learn from each other in an efficient and accessible way.

Being part of an engaged business community is a great way to increase employee motivation, as it encourages people to contribute something of value to the organisation as a whole. And perhaps most importantly, technology can help us to share in each other’s successes. For example, good reward and recognition programs will utilise various digital channels to allow people to nominate colleagues for recognition for outstanding effort. After all, recognition is probably the most powerful motivator of all.

Employee recognition can be one of the best ways to motivate your team. Download our free e-book to find out more about how to build an effective recognition strategy.

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