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Want to Connect Productivity, Engagement and Profitability? Tell IT There’s An App for That!

If you heard an executive say, “In order to satisfy our need for growth, we must do more with less in order to delight our customers by deploying consumerized technology to engaged employees,” would you worry that she had been hard-wired to a hyperbolic buzz-word machine?  Well, it might be that she had just encapsulated the real lesson of the last 5 years.  Now, we just need to get IT on board.

Employee Engagement and Customer Satisfaction

In a recent column in Insurance & Technology Anthony O’Donnell quotes author Tom Peters speaking at the IASA conference this year on the link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction:  “I’ve come to meetings like this for many years saying, ‘the customer comes first.’ I’ve changed my tune; now I say, ‘if you want to put the customer first, you have to put the person who serves the customer more first.”

O’Donnell argues that in the current economic environment, insurers have a better chance of reaching revenue targets by focusing on customer retention, rather than customer acquisition, which requires a strong focus on customer service.  O’Donnell concludes that a key element in employee engagement is providing the right tools to use in the job, which include those devices that employees use on their own time.  This is commonly called BYOD – Bring Your Own Device.

Process Optimization and Consumerization

We have written in the past about the increasingly prevalent employee expectation to be able to use tablets and mobile devices to access business applications.  There is evidence that these expectations are driven by a desire to do the best job possible for the employer.   Neil Florio, Vice President of Marketing at Fiberlink Communications, writing for a recent IDG report on tablets in business says that we should accept the common belief among employees that tablets are effective business tools.  He adds that tablets “bring speed, data accessibility, compactness, app store access, and the time and freedom to execute business processes at the employee’s discretion. ”

 Accepting Tablets in the Business Environment

So, there is a link between employee engagement and profitability.  And we see that employees are more engaged when they can use tools that they feel enhance productivity.  So what’s the hang up?

In a word:  IT.  For very good reasons, IT managers have concerns about security, data integrity and reliability. And these seem to be holding back progress towards the use of employee selected devices in the work environment.

Businesses are getting the message.  According to a recent InformationWeek survey, “Fifty-six percent of companies now consider themselves proactive or accepting of consumer-centric tech; two years ago, just 32% did–that’s a 24-point swing.”  However, support from IT is lacking.  Just one half of the companies surveyed provide any level of support, a statistic that has not moved in two years.

There are ways to address IT issues, but they take resources to implement.  In the cost-conscious environment we inhabit, no department – IT especially – can embark on a project without demonstrated business results.

So, a balance needs to be struck.  It is likely time for senior managers – of business and IT – to have a serious conversation about how to support employee devices which meet their needs and the needs of the companies customers.

So, what do you think?  Will employees be more engaged if they can use their own devices at work?  In your organization, does IT provide support for user owned technology?  If you’re in IT, what do you think needs to be done?

 

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