Dec 15 2020

Q&A: Are Businesses Selecting Workplace Tech in the Right Way?

Research indicates a disconnect between executives and workers when it comes to technology. Carrie Duarte, a partner with PwC, explains how employers can do a better job of selecting the right solutions and boosting adoption.

As workplaces around the world continue to evolve and businesses accelerate their efforts on digital transformation, the pressure is on technology le­aders to deliver world-class work experiences. PwC’s Technology at Work survey found that workers and executives don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to workplace technology. In a conversation with BizTech PwC Partner Carrie Duarte says or­ganizations need to rethink how they select s­olutions for their teams.

BIZTECH: What’s the disconnect between b­usiness leaders and workers when it comes to their perception of work technology?

Duarte: We tell organizations to think about the tech experience outside of work, how it’s intuitive and speaks to what you like and don’t like, and compare that to how employees feel about the technology when they come to work — and how it feels slow, heavy and clunky in a lot of cases.

You see in our survey that tech leadership and business executives think things are going really well, and they’re satisfied with the technology experience. In fact, 92 percent of C-suite executives say that. Only 68 percent of employees feel that way. Where’s the disconnect? What’s the difference?

One thing we find is that workers say, “We’re the ones actually using it. Our C-suite isn’t using this technology.” That’s a key piece of this: The most successful companies at getting the broader workforce to adopt technologies are the ones where leadership uses them first. They lead by example.

BIZTECH: How have businesses’ tech needs evolved this year?

Duarte: We find companies are really focusing on how to maintain productivity through a much more virtual and distributed workforce. We’re seeing organizations have accelerated their digital transformations by two to three years. To maintain productivity, what do leaders and managers need to be focused on and how do they enable it? We’ve been focusing on what we call the six C’s.

The first is creating. What do workers need to get their individual work done? The second is communication, and there’s more than one mode of communication. People used to say, “I sent two emails out on this, so people should know.” Well, that’s not how much of your workforce receives and retains information.

The third is coaching. Now that we’ve all gone virtual, how do we tech-enable coaching relationships? The next is community, and this is the one that a lot of folks are really struggling with, the informal connection. This is where some of the burnout is coming from, working alone in your home all day. The fifth is collaboration. Companies are very focused on that, and there are a lot of technologies around it. The sixth is commitment. How do you get folks to really want to take the helm together, and how do you enable that with technology?

WATCH: Learn how to lead an organization with technology as a core capability.

BIZTECH: What are organizations failing to do to enable community, collaboration and commitment?

Duarte: Most folks already have the instant messaging and chat room technology, and more are getting the digital whiteboarding technology. But how do you get the workforce to use it?

That gets to digital upskilling. That’s become a real requirement. What that means is getting everyone comfortable with new technology. For example, people are reticent to do virtual whiteboards, so how do we create some fun around that? Folks who can combine digital upskilling with some fun — when people have this great fun experience and don’t even know they’re learning a new skill, but behind the scenes you’ve really planned out how to use your new virtual whiteboard — that’s success. Then that team is able to use these technologies for business purposes. You’re also creating community when you do that.

BIZTECH: Are organizations changing their views on how much people need to be in the office in the long term?

Duarte: They’re breaking down what the work really is by their need to create, communicate and coach, and by how you build community, collaboration and commitment. What we’re finding is that the tech is available and working well across many of these dimensions. However, collaboration is the area where folks are asking, “How tech-enabled is that?” Often, collaboration is the main reason people need to be in the office, and so we’re creating schedules and structures for teams to come into the office to collaborate as a team or with different teams, because they don’t yet have the tech that’s enabled for the type of collaboration they’re doing.

If you’re a CIO, the questions are these: Do we really understand the types of collaboration that need to be done by different workers? Do we have the right technology available to enable?

BIZTECH: Do companies have the right t­echnologies in place for the moment we’re in?

Duarte: So many companies actually have ­multiple solutions for everything. What they really need to do is pare down the universe of solutions: Pick your horses, and then really get behind those when it comes to adoption, so it becomes ingrained in the ways of working. Right now, there are so many solutions all over that you can’t get momentum and scale.

The other thing is that companies aren’t maximizing the value of the solutions they have, and often they’re seeking new solutions to do things without realizing they already have capability with their existing technology. An example is hoteling, which we’re hearing a lot about right now. Everyone’s going out into the market to figure out the right hoteling solution and then they’re going to have to roll it out, when actually there are tools that many organizations already have embedded in their infrastructure that can do what they need. You don’t have to do a whole new rollout.

BIZTECH: Are businesses going about the tech selection process in the right way?

Duarte: That’s where a lot of the disconnect has been. When selecting a solution, businesses need to know who the end users will be and how they will use the technology throughout the day. Then, they should gather their input on what the roadblocks are that the user would have with certain technology and what would be on the wish list to enable them to get the most out of it.