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New devices: part of the ‘egosystem’

Bringing people and ICT into balance

HR will soon become the most important function within your company, with ICT as the driver that supports it. That is why you need to increase your employees’ involvement and impact. Tablets and smartphones – two key components of your staff’s personal ‘egosystems’ – are important tools for achieving this. This is the future according to Jean-Marie Stas, Marketing Manager at Belgacom.

Up until recently, life was very different than it is today. Time and place were strongly connected with each other: in order to do our jobs, we would go to a fixed, physical location. That was done on a regular schedule. Professional activities only took place at the office, between nine and five. Everything before and after was ‘free time’. There were no leisure activities during work. “These days, the boundary is not so strict,” says Jean-Marie Stas, Marketing Manager at Belgacom. “Our activities have become detached from time and place. We no longer work only at the office, but at home or on the train as well. Yet, when we are at the office, we regularly make time for relaxation, by sending personal e-mails or surfing to social network sites.”

Device is crucial

A striking aspect of this evolution is the role of the devices. Jean-Marie Stas: “People keep their smartphone or tablet within reach at all times. The device becomes a part of the person: it makes up their ‘egosystem’.” This is an insight that puts developments such as ‘the consumerization of IT’ and ‘bring your own device’ in a new perspective. And this instantly confronts the HR-department with a major challenge. Jean-Marie Stas: “Employees not only bring their knowledge and skills to your company, but also a certain attitude, an idea of the perfect balance between work and private life – along with their social network, including the devices and applications which allow them to connect to that network.” The role of the device is crucial: the device allows modern employees to truly live their lives in the modern world.

Looking for performance

Yet it is impossible to overlook a second evolution in society: the greying of the population. The shape of the population pyramid is changing. In order to keep pensions and care for the older segment of society affordable, the government will have find creative ways to generate new revenues. These revenues will inevitably have to come from the business world. Jean-Marie Stas: “It is also creating a major challenge for companies. On one hand you have the war for talent: it is getting more and more difficult to attract good profiles and keep them on board. On the other hand there is the increased tax burden: companies have to go looking for better performance and creatively source new services and products.”

Involvement will be important

ICT offers many opportunities for increasing your company’s  productivity: by improving mobility, by simplifying the processes, through better machine-to-machine communication, through more integration… But in the future that will no longer be enough. “You will need to involve your customers and employees more closely in what you do. That involvement will become extremely important,” according to Jean-Marie Stas. Involvement also plays a key role in the war for talent. The retention level is higher for employees who have developed a close bond with the company. What’s more, these employees perform better. “Research has shown that a genuinely proud employee performs up to 21 percent better than someone who ranks at the lowest level of involvement,” points out Jean-Marie Stas.

How to measure involvement?

Generally 60 to 70 percent of all of a company’s operating expenses have to do with personnel. By strengthening your staff’s involvement, you can significantly increase your company’s productivity. Therefore, the greatest challenge is not so much for the ICT-department, but for HR. But how can you measure involvement? There are different stages: from familiar and satisfied to loyal, preferred and proud. The stages are also closely connected to the nature of Maslow’s pyramid theory of the hierarchy of human needs. Physical needs such as food and sleep are at the very bottom. Higher-up, there is security, love, appreciation and self fulfillment.

Inner peace

“According to Maslow, creativity is the highest need,” explains Jean-Marie Stas. “However it is only possible to fulfill this need if all of the needs lower down have been met. Self-fulfillment is a necessary condition for finding inner peace and vice versa. If you consider it, you will see that you not only need to provide technical training and management courses, but also programs geared towards this inner peace.” In this way, your employees should be able to find a better balance. Inner peace makes people better able to cope with the far-reaching changes the world is undergoing and also allows them to be more creative. “The advent of tablets and smartphones has disrupted this balance. For example, employees are constantly checking work-related e-mails – also in the evenings or on weekends. There is a risk that this overload may ultimately undermine productivity instead of increasing it. Balance is thus the condition for generating greater involvement.”

Impact through challenges

Involvement, in turn, is very closely related to impact. Jean-Marie Stas: “Everyone wants to be able to feel the success of his or her actions. That is impact. This takes a certain preparation. In order to be able to have impact, you need to know what you are supposed to do. You also need to be given the space and the resources. You need to be able to be creative and have the chance to finish the task. And above all: you need to receive acknowledgment for it from the management.” In order to increase your employees’ involvement, your company needs to offer them the chance to have impact. That is only possible if they know what the company expects of them concretely. “Your employees need to be familiar with your company’s strategy. At the same time, they need to be able to find their place in short-term projects. In fact, every 6 to 9 months they should be presented with a new challenge,” notes Jean-Marie Stas.

Innovation and continuity

In order to be able to select the most appropriate staff for these projects, naturally it is of crucial importance that you know who your most talented employees are. “Here again, we come back to the potentials of ICT,” continues Jean-Marie Stas. “An internal social network can help here: something in the style of Facebook or LinkedIn, but then only for your own company. It gives your employees the possibility to share more information about themselves with your company. Via wikis and blogs you can allow your employees to share knowledge and experiences.” Thanks to unified communications, your employees can work together more effectively. Thanks to teleworking, they can find the ideal balance between work and private life, and so on. “It’s a question of creating a new environment in which they can fully develop themselves, increase their involvement and have greater impact. Of course it demands vision and leadership of your company as well: for ICT, in order to make the required technology available, but also for HR and other departments. It’s a matter of finding a good balance between innovation and continuity.”

From motor to support

The importance of HR is expected to increase significantly, with ICT as support for your employees and your business. ICT is thus evolving from being the motor for productivity to a support service. ICT is the enabler that helps realize new business models. But above all it is clear that the ‘egosystem’ is growing into the major driving force behind ICT. “Tablets and smartphones form an indispensable part of that egosystem,” concludes Jean-Marie Stas. “You need to learn to respond to that reality. The issue of ‘bring your own device’ is just one facet of a much larger whole. You need to prepare yourself for the new challenges on the way: the greying population, the influx of digital natives… for this reason, you need to target your employees’ involvement and impact, and look for a new balance between people and ICT.”

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