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5 ways technology increases employee retention

Turnover is continuous for today’s employers, so increase retention with smart investments

9-minute read

Gone are the days when people expected to work in the same job for decades.

“My grandfather worked at same insurance company for 60 years, my dad at one engineering company for more than 30 years,” says Leon van der Poel, Senior Business Advisor, BDC Advisory Services. “That kind of loyalty no longer exists. Workers today want flexibility and quality of life. ‘Can I work from home? Can I work hours other than nine to five?’ Investing in tech is one way you can give them what they want.”

Worker expectations shifted significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which sped up the shift to remote and hybrid work and has prompted entrepreneurs and employees to start thinking seriously about what the future of work will look like.

Those shifts are likely to continue as Generation Z — born between 1995 and 2010 — becomes the largest segment of the available talent pool. Technology is so essential to their daily lives that 91% of young people say a company’s technology would influence their choice when comparing similar employers.

As an entrepreneur, you should be asking yourself an important question: how can you attract and keep younger talent?

“Knowing how to attract these up-and-coming workers is not only a competitive advantage, it’s essential,” says van der Poel. “If you don’t invest in your people and your competitors do, they’ll be able to out-hire you and out-perform you.”

Investing in advanced technologies can increase retention by boosting employee satisfaction and gives businesses access to a wider talent pool in the bargain.

If you don’t invest in your people and your competitors do, they’ll be able to out-hire you and out-perform you.

Five ways to win and retain workers using technology

From his experience in the tech sector and working directly with BC businesses as a BDC advisor, van der Poel says technology can be a big help on the HR front by allowing employers to:

1. Make work more flexible

According to a BDC study, more than half of workers surveyed say that in applying for or accepting a new job, the ability to work from home will be a determining factor. Flexible working hours appeal across demographics: some workers need time to care for children or elderly parents. Others might just want to go for a run in the middle of the day.

This desire for “clock independence” is more acceptable than it was even just a few years ago, largely due to the impacts of the pandemic. Everyone is more familiar with people needing time out to juggle crying babies, homeschooling children and barking dogs.

“Technology that provides secure access to all of your resources and information will allow your company to work on whatever timetable suits the needs of the business and your employees,” says van der Poel. “Investing in cloud computing can provide the basis for a virtual work environment, which can be enhanced with business apps, such as mobile tools, unified communications, project management software or video conferencing technology to give remote employees the same access and connectivity in-house employees would enjoy.”

2. Make geography less relevant

The explosive growth of remote work has shown that physical workplaces aren’t essential for all businesses. Even some big companies, like Shopify, have decided to make remote working permanent for their entire workforces.

That aligns with the way many people want to work, says van der Poel. “There’s a desire to not be tied to a geographical location to be employed. Reliable video and teleconferencing technologies, cloud applications and mobile tools can provide that geographical independence. Your company may be in Calgary and have employees in Victoria or at a beachfront condo in the Bahamas.”

Taking away those boundaries can benefit employers, too. It opens them up to a much wider talent pool: no longer just local or requiring candidates to relocate. It is literally possible for even small businesses to hire people virtually anywhere in the world.

For companies based in centres with high costs of living, that can mean labour cost savings, too. New hires may consider a lower salary if they can live in a more affordable community. And businesses able to reduce or eliminate their need for physical space save also on rent and utilities.

It’s not just companies with desk workers that can use technology this way, van der Poel says. “Land surveyors could use remote-piloted drones to map territory,” he suggests, “or you could have a Toronto plumbing company use mobile tech, GPS and networked apps to run a ‘franchise’ in Ottawa without having any physical facilities there, just people in vans.”

3. Offer more autonomy through automating HR

Gen Z in particular values autonomy. Adopting people-management dashboards that allow them to view and book their vacation days, check pay statements, peruse benefits, claim expenses, respond to their annual review and manage professional development options will likely appeal to them — while freeing up your HR department from managing these tasks.

You could have a Toronto plumbing company use mobile tech to run a ‘franchise’ in Ottawa without having any physical facilities there.

4. Use robots to offer humans more meaningful work

People today are less interested in jobs that involve repetitive, manual tasks, says van der Poel. That opens the door to another branch of workplace technology: robotics.

“Some people have worried about robots replacing humans for certain jobs,” he says. “But younger generations especially are not interested in doing mechanical, monotonous work. Getting robots to do these repetitive tasks frees up human workers to do more interesting and innovative work that has more value for the business.”

Cobots” (short for collaborative robots) can work alongside humans taking on production steps that are strenuous or even dangerous, says van der Poel, thus increasing safety and productivity while contributing to greater job satisfaction and worker retention.

This isn’t out of range for even small businesses. Delivery robots, for example, can be leased cost-effectively and, in a restaurant, for example, can serve up to 400 customers per day.

5. Make your workplace more sustainable

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in supporting environmental initiatives that matter to workers today. Technologies that aren’t directly related to productivity — such as smart heating, cooling and lighting systems that optimize and minimize energy use — can be attractive to sustainability-minded workers and make them feel like they’re employed by a company that’s aligned with their values.

How to get started with adopting more tech

For companies not sure where or how to begin bringing more tech into their business, van der Poel has three pieces of advice.

1. Get past the fear factor

“One great thing the pandemic taught us is, once you get over the fear, you open up a whole new world of opportunities,” he says. “Consider that only two short years ago, the idea of working remotely and having all meetings online was unthinkable. Then the pandemic happened and now people can’t get by without their Zoom.”

2. Start with optimization

You can start this step without spending any money. Take the time to sit down and examine how your business is run by doing a pain-point assessment. Review your processes and workflows to identify points where technology has the greatest potential to bring value.

3. Bring in an expert

Finally, van der Poel suggests consulting with an independent advisor who can give an objective opinion on where to invest first, such as the Business Advisory team at BDC.

“A consultant who is truly objective, who isn’t tied in with any particular technology vendor, can help answer questions and provide invaluable advice about the tech that will serve your business best,” van der Poel says.

The good news is that many businesses may be farther along than they realize.

“Due to the pandemic, you may have already invested in technologies that allow employees to work remotely and access company databases,” van der Poel notes. “Your work culture may have already adapted to people working outside the hours of nine to five. It’s just a matter of taking whatever step is next.”

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