Technology’s Role in Employee Retention

Businesses often look for unique ways to keep employees happy. Something overlooked, though, is the role that technology plays in employee retention.

Employee retention is often on the minds of business owners. The longer your employees stay, less funds are needed for training new employees. When a business has employee longevity, it is often more efficient, too. Pre-pandemic, employee retention was a big talking point. It’s expensive to have a high rate of turnover, there’s training involved and a slowdown in production. Then if that person doesn’t work out, you have to start over. In order to combat this, businesses desire to create a culture of inclusion and retention, whether it’s a gift card for your birthday or fun company outings or something else, businesses aim to build cohesion and trust. One thing businesses may not consider, though, is technology. According to a recent study, that’s a mistake.

The study was conducted by Workfront, an Adobe Company, which just happened to time their State of Work Report survey perfectly. In the first quarter of 2020, pre-pandemic, a round of questions was sent to participants. When the entire world shifted as the pandemic shut everything down, the report itself shifted. So, in the fourth quarter, Workfront sent the same round of questions to the same participants and compared the two datasets. The participants included 1,000 remote employees working at large companies across the U.S. There were four major discoveries worth noting: Digital workers are resilient, digital workers are even more engaged, digital workers have new expectations and generations are being impacted differently.

We aren’t going to get into all four of those, the summary by Workfront does that well enough. But we do want to highlight two things: digital workers are more engaged and digital workers have new expectations.

Digital workers are more engaged than in-person workers. It seems backwards, right? How can you be more engaged in your work when you are home with who knows what kind of distractions? A psychologist can probably list out reasons why this is, but research shows that our brains lose focus after 90-120 minutes, that’s the benchmark for drifting and getting distracted. If we are at home, we can get up and move. We can take a walk or grab a snack, parents can feed children or change diapers or do meal preparation. Some small task or handful of tasks that gets our blood flowing is all it takes. When we sit back down, it’s much easier to refocus. In an office setting, those types of breaks are few and far between.

Thinking about the above, many people feel more engaged with work during remote work because when they get to take these breaks, it’s not just refreshing your mind. Those breaks refresh your body, moving around, especially exercising, releases endorphins that make you feel better. It’s why doctors tell you to exercise when you are depressed, our bodies create a natural remedy. When mental health is being cared for, the benefits extend beyond productivity. People are more creative, better able to think outside the box and find solutions to tough problems. It’s a vital part of the survival of humans.

The second part we wanted to mention is that digital workers have new expectations. According to the report, “49% of respondents said they will quit a job if the technology is out of date or hard to use.” Almost half. That’s a staggering number. Remote workers are used to a certain level of customer service, and they expect that from their employer. Most people, at some point in their lives, have had to deal with tech they didn’t understand, was hard to use or didn’t receive enough training to use. With all of the latest innovations through the pandemic, technology is more consumable than ever. Employees expect to be provided with easy-to-use, professional tech that doesn’t make their jobs harder.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed many businesses in different ways. No matter what type of business you run or what industry you claim, employee retention plays a huge part in the success of a business. Keeping a team together means they learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They learn how people operate and how to effectively work toward a common goal. Productivity and efficiency are generally higher when turnover rates are low.

Digital transformation is no longer just about staying competitive and updating systems, it’s about keeping your employees happy. High turnover rates are bad for business, it becomes expensive to continuously train new employees. There is always some acceptable rate, of course, not every employer is a fit for every employee and vice versa. But one thing is clear, ensuring your technology is up-to-date and user-friendly is incredibly important.

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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