Every manager and entrepreneur spends time thinking about how to boost employee productivity. Unfortunately, there's a limit to how much productivity you can foster through motivational speeches and selective hiring.
One of the best-kept secrets to improving productivity is based on a simple investment: upgraded technology, and if you learn to harvest it correctly, you could power your organization for years to come.
How tech boosts productivity
In today's modern age, businesses have integrated technology development, whether it's a single computer to keep track of orders, or a fleet of smart devices to manage inventory.
Regardless of how you use technology, investing in new and better devices can improve employee productivity in multiple ways:
New functions: Some devices and gadgets provide functionality you didn't even know your business was missing. For example, once you start relying on a virtual assistant to handle basic tasks and accept voice commands, you will wonder how you have got by without one. On a bigger scale, RFIDs and similar technologies can simplify your manual processes and save hours of time.
Automation: Automation is probably the biggest category, since it can be used in thousands of different applications and is only becoming more advanced with time. With the right software, the right procedures, and employees who have a mindset to find shortcuts, you could easily automate hours' worth of manual tasks. Simple protocols, like IFTTT, can take care of basic tasks like scheduling meetings or taking action in your project management platforms, and cumulatively save hours of time.
Faster processing: Investing in technology isn't just about adding more gadgets and devices to your network, it's also about upgrading and maintaining what you already have. Over time, computers tend to slow down, while new models offer faster speeds than ever before. Periodically upgrading your devices to the latest, or nearly-latest, model can make your employees work significantly faster. Faster processing can offer employees the ability to activate and manage multiple programs in multiple windows, all at the same time.
Morale: Don't neglect the effects that new technology can have on your staff morale. If one of your employees has been dealing with a slow, frustrating computer for the past several months, a new computer could give them renewed energy and optimism about their job. Conversely, if you force an employee to use an old computer or outdated system for too long, they may become resentful of your business along with other roll-on effects.
Consistency: As long as you have spent adequate time training your staff, you can rely on new technology to make your processes more consistent, and in some cases, less prone to error. For example, when entering information on a digital invoice, employees are usually forced to enter appropriate information into the designated fields, preventing them from straying from the accepted standard format. In automated inventory management systems, you don't have to worry about employees' flawed entries–you can rest assured that you're working with accurate, up-to-date information.
Security: Don't forget, old, outdated technology can also be a security risk. Upgrading your hardware and software can eliminate critical vulnerabilities, and significantly decrease your risk of being a victim of a cyberattack or data breach. Considering the global average cost of a breach is $3.6m, including the loss of productivity necessary when correcting the breach, the few hundred dollars it takes to upgrade are well worth spending.
Visit the Chief Data Officer Summit, part of the DATAx New York festival, on December 12–13, 2018
Of course, new technology isn't free, and many managers would easily decide to upgrade their team's technology if it wasn't so expensive.
Fortunately, there are some ways you can mitigate costs:
Choose the right apps and devices: Just because it's the most expensive product on the market doesn't mean it's necessarily the best. Do lots of research before making a final call and choose upgrades that seem to have the best cost-to-value ratio.
Sell your old devices: If you're buying a new replacement for an old device, get rid of the old device. If your “old” model is a couple years old or newer, you can recoup most of what you paid for it (so long as it's in decent shape). Just make sure to wipe all your company data from the device before selling it.
Buy used or refurbished: You don't have to wait long for a new model to start showing up on used marketplaces. Buy a used or refurbished model instead of a brand-new device. You won't see much difference in functionality, but you can save 10 to 20 percent easily, even for the latest models.
Time your upgrades throughout the year: Don't upgrade all your tech at once. Instead, upgrade your devices and apps one at a time, and throughout the year, so it never puts too much strain on your budget. This strategy also allows you to selectively target the devices and apps that need replacing the most.
If you can overcome the cost factor, new and improved technologies are some of the best ways to improve your entire team's productivity. Consider investing more in these increasingly powerful tools of the trade and pay attention to how much more your employees get done in a day.