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The Connected Employee: What Every Business Leader Needs to Know

By Andrew Morawski, President & Country Chairman, Vodafone Americas

Andrew Morawski, President & Country Chairman, Vodafone Americas

All over the world, today’s enterprises are operating in an increasingly complex business landscape. A number of factors–both internal and external–are disrupting the business environment and fundamentally changing how companies operate. The socio-economic climate, new regulatory and legal factors, and importantly, new technologies, all play a major role in shaping the way business is done.

One of the most powerful impacts the new business environment has is on people. The changing business world is leading workplace structures to evolve, which in turn, is changing the way we work. Employees increasingly rely on technology for every task and interaction, from new technologies that create opportunities for remote work, to tools that help increase productivity. Technology is so ingrained in the enterprise environment that today’s employee can be called the “Connected Employee”–one who expects to have access to workplace data and technology from virtually anywhere, at any time.

As businesses consider the steps they must take to adapt to the new enterprise environment, leaders must look to create a digital workplace and equip members of the workforce with the skills and tools they need to adapt to new ways of working today and into the future.

Embracing New Ways of Working

The advanced communication technologies available to the enterprise today have opened avenues for entirely new ways of working. The growing trend toward remote and flexible working is just one of the key outcomes of technologies, such as video conferencing and instant messaging, which allow employees to work efficiently outside of traditional offices spaces.

While remote and flexible working is becoming more common, companies are also seeking ways to ensure workers are more productive than ever. Customer expectations and the speed at which business moves today create pressure for businesses to increase productivity. In fact, according to our research, 84 percent of businesses believe helping their employees to be more productive is of major importance. While it may seem that remote and flexible work could lead to lost productivity, the opposite is true: according to Vodafone’s Flexible: Friend or Foe study, 83 percent of companies that have a flexible working policy have seen an improvement in productivity.

When employees have a sense of autonomy in their work, they are more likely be fully engaged with their company and their colleagues. In turn, more engaged employees produce better quality work. These new ways of working, enabled by technology, are improving both engagement and productivity, leading to a “perfect storm” for positive outcomes for businesses.

Supporting the Connected Employee with the Right IT Infrastructure

It’s not enough for business leaders to just encourage remote and flexible working–they need to ensure employees have access to the right tools that will allow them to work productively both in and out of the office. In order to drive employees to be better connected, organizations must implement IT infrastructure powered by secure, high-capacity connection. This infrastructure serves as the backbone for the digital technologies that support new ways of working, such as mobile, video communication, instant messaging and other collaboration software and tools.

Business leaders building out their digital capabilities should also explore tools such as the Internet of Things, (IoT) which can connect objects and turn them into “intelligent” assets that can send and receive data. Organizations in every industry, from transportation, to energy, to retail, have seen countless benefits from implementing IoT into their IT ecosystem, including an increase in productivity. In fact, according to Vodafone’s latest IoT Barometer report, 45 percent of companies that have adopted IoT have seen improvement in employee productivity.

Securing Data in the Digital Enterprise

While new technologies offer countless potential benefits, organizations that adopt new tools and new ways of working should be aware of the potential security challenges that may come along with them. In order to ensure employees can access company information remotely or from their own devices without creating security and compliance issues, organizations must have robust security protocols in place. For example, businesses should put new technologies and applications through rigorous, repeatable tests before deploying them throughout the business. This will ensure that new technologies will function well and interact with the entire IT infrastructure properly.

As businesses look to secure their systems to enable the Connected Employee, they should also put measures in place that will allow them to continuously review and reevaluate security protocols. Flexible security protocols will help ensure that company and employee data remain safe from potential new threats.

Looking ahead: The Connected Employee in 2030

Think ahead to the year 2030. What will the world look like? It’s safe to assume technology will be an even more constant part of our world than it is today–for example, we may rely on artificially intelligent virtual assistants to help us with all daily tasks, from ordering groceries, to scheduling vacations, and even driving cars. At work, the technologies enterprises deploy in 2030 will need to enable constant collaboration and frictionless experiences between employees, and between businesses and customers.

How can organizations ensure they are ready for today’s Connected Employee, and the Connected Employee of 2030? Business and IT leaders should work together now to evolve their organizational structures in a way that reflects new, flexible ways of working. Organizations that support the needs of today’s Connected Employee and anticipate the changing workforce will be best equipped for success in the future.

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