· Features

People or profit? Why businesses must consider both when it comes to IT

The working life of an employee today looks nothing like it did a year ago – every action, conversation and strategy is augmented with technology.

But as innovation continues to speed up, there’s a danger of leaving employees behind. Companies considering new technology investments have tended to make decisions based on business goals.

However, today’s business leaders stand at an important juncture. There is a growing awareness about our collective responsibility – to our environment, to our employees and to ourselves, driven by major global events such as climate change and the COVID-19 outbreak.

But this doesn’t mean that companies have to choose between profit or people. Perhaps this is the start of a better kind of business, where putting humans at the heart of business decisions means the best of both worlds.

The cart leading the horse

To realise this new era’s potential, the adoption and roll out of technology needs to go beyond productivity goals.

Business leaders need to make technology investments with their employees in mind – do they truly understand how effectively their employees are adopting technology? How intuitive will the new technology be to use? Will it solve rather than create challenges? These are considerations which need to be front and centre of the investment consideration process.

All too often, the human perspective isn’t given adequate focus. Rather than looking at technology as a means for employees to make better use of their working day, it’s viewed as an end in itself. Affirmations such as ‘we need to be doing machine learning’ or ‘can we put this data on a blockchain?’ tend to miss the point.

Companies must remember that technologies are utilised and operated by human command. They do not serve as panaceas for business problems in their own right and, done incorrectly, can actually make the user’s life more difficult.

Taking responsibility

Employee expectations have seen a marked change in recent years. Growing public awareness of ethical and environmental issues have percolated into the workplace – employees now hold their own employer to higher standards.

In turn, this has led to businesses to consider and bolster their responsible business strategies. Mental health services are becoming commonplace in corporate environments, reflected in the fact that 82% of people said they’d be more willing to discuss mental health issues in the workplace than they would have a few years ago.

In our current situation, unprecedented events surrounding COVID-19 have forced organisations to take a more flexible, empathetic approach to their staff.

Businesses that would not normally allow working from home are being obliged to do so. But more widely, organisations are having to recognise the reality that isolation forces working and home lives to collide.

Thinking human

With the right planning, technology can be the tool that unites both aims – human benefit and business profit.

When applied with the right objectives, it creates the potential for employees to work faster and bypass some of the laborious manual processes that traditionally slowed down daily tasks.

From project management and business intelligence, through to video conferencing and messaging, software advancements have enabled users to add creativity to what was once mundane, bringing distinctively human qualities into how they work and what they produce.

A springboard for change

While it’s still premature to be seeking out silver linings, the current situation has made one thing immediately apparent: stripped of the physical office location, we see the human side so much more clearly. Businesses have had to be proactive in supporting their employees through the crisis, helping them to stay safe as the primary priority.

Amid ongoing uncertainty, we hope that the consequence of the current global context will be to usher in the next phase of enterprise development, where employee impact and welfare are as high a priority as the business’ financial and productivity goals.

Where responsible business is seen as an opportunity and not just an afterthought. At Lenovo, our goal is to support leaders to take action to enable a human-centric approach to innovation that will provide value for many years to come.

Ian Jeffs is UK GM at Lenovo DCG