Tackling technology challenges in the small business workplace

By Clint Indrele

Many of our clients talk to us about the challenges of implementing technology in the workplace, and it is often the case that small to medium businesses don’t feel as though they are getting the expected value from their investment.

Most modern-day occupations require some level of connection with technology. If your workplace is a multigenerational one, you’re in good luck – generational diversity in the workplace means a wider range of talent.

It also means you may encounter different levels of comfort with technology from one employee to another. These often, though not exclusively, fall along generational lines, with Baby Boomers, Gen Y or Gen X frequently having different work styles, needs and ideas.

Below we explore some of the challenges leaders face in a multigenerational workforce – and what they can do to promote high performance for all.

Baby boomers

While there are always exceptions to the rule, most people would accept that “on average” baby boomers are more technologically challenged than their younger counterparts but on average more “socially” advanced, meaning that they are more often equipped for managing “relationships” within businesses.  Some of the common challenges we observe with baby boomers are:

  • Sales Reporting Systems – With most if not all companies requiring sales persons to report on sales metrics, some baby boomers may avoid or incorrectly complete their reporting requirements. This can make it difficult to track things like telephone calls made, leads followed up, client visits conducted and so on.
  • Customer Management Systems – For those in customer service roles, it is not unusual for boomers to not meet expected standards when inputting information into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. This can lead to confusion with customers as to the status of orders, previous discussions, returns, price issues and so on.
  • Administration / Filing Systems – For those responsible for administration, baby boomers may not keep records as well as their younger counterparts. This information could be vital for a dispute or compliance issue at a later time.

Gen Y and Gen Z

While Gen Y & Gen Z employees may have superior technological skills, common challenges can include:

  • Follow up – Gen Y/Gen Z employees will often consider an email as sufficient follow-up. But in order to win or maintain business, or resolve a dispute, a far more personalised approach is often necessary.
  • Outbound calls – Gen Y/Gen Z employees sometimes feel uncomfortable contacting key stakeholders by telephone. What can often be achieved through a two-minute phone conversation may require over an hour of send-and-reply emails.
  • Adaptability – Gen Y/Gen Z employees often expect that all other members of the community have the same knowledge about technology as they do. This can lead to a customer/client feeling uncomfortable in dealing/negotiating with a particular representative on a business transaction.  
  • Theft of information – In our experience, theft of customer information/databases is more common in those who understand how to extract the information from company databases.  

So what are the solutions?

Successful clients tend to balance these generational issues very well. It may be the case that in an induction program more training on systems and technologies is given to baby boomers compared with Gen Y/Gen Z employees.

Related: Are accelerators the new MBAs?

On the flip side, with Gen Y/Gen Z often picking up the technology aspects quickly, the additional time can be spent on sales or customer-based training. Providing direction as to sales and client conversation strategies, as well as how to adapt to different kinds of customers, is important.

What if my employees are not meeting business expectations?

Sometimes, despite the amount of time and effort invested, some employees will simply not meet the required expectations with respect to technology or building and maintaining internal and external relationships, meaning that performance management and termination becomes a consideration.

Before making such decisions the following should always be considered:

  1. Do I have policies, procedures or standards of performance which I have clearly communicated to the employee?
  2. Have I provided sufficient training?
  3. Have I given the employee a reasonable period of time to improve their performance?

These are likely to be just some of the many considerations in unfair dismissal proceedings that may be taken by a former employee.

Clint Indrele is the founder and principal consultant of Indrele Workplace Consulting, which advises small to medium businesses on workplace relations and human resources matters.

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June 2019
June 2019

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