From The Editor | June 29, 2010

Tech Learnings From Employees

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By Ed Hess, Executive Editor, Integrated Solutions magazine

I read an interesting article the other day about Lockheed Martin and the company's internal collaboration system, called Unity. Essentially, Unity is part social networking and part wiki. It's a tool that allows groups within Lockheed Martin to share ideas and best practices and learn more about each other. Why did Lockheed Martin feel compelled to create such a system? Well, there are definite efficiencies being gained, but this wasn't the key driver. The company's primary motivation was the belief that in the next five years many of its employees would retire and be replaced by millennials. Not only was this going to mean a tremendous loss of knowledge through their retirements, but the new employees — millennials — expect better tools to contact and communicate with one another. In short, they expect their work tools to be as good as or better than the tools they leverage outside of work in their personal lives.

Personal Tech Meets The Enterprise
All right. Think about how much of a challenge this is for your company. Do your company's technology tools outperform the technology in your personal life? At first blush, you're inclined to say, “Yes.” But, how does your company keep track of mobile workers? Do you offer employees integrated GPS to not just improve directions, but optimize overall schedules? Turn-by-turn directions are great, but now it's just a free app from Google. Your company has to deliver more.

How about real-time data exchange in your work environment? At this point, there really is no excuse for not having a mobile solution. But, if you're still relying on pushing paper and manual data entry, then your days are numbered, or you play in a market that's way more forgiving than most. First, real-time data access is what your employees have outside of work. So, there is an expectation that your company should match or beat this performance. Second, the real-time data connection allows your company to optimize schedules, shorten billing cycles, and better comply with service level agreements. Consumers use real-time data access to get a movie review on the fly. That same connectivity should be transforming your business.

The millennials you're hiring today are using location technologies to keep track of their friends' activities. They scan product bar codes to power a smartphone app that compares prices on that product at other nearby stores. They use RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to pay for food and gas. Today's workers are surrounded by technologies that make their lives easier. But, are they surrounded at all times or just after they leave work for the day?