A recent Zoho-sponsored survey of 500 North America business from Beagle Research Group found:
- 66% find high satisfaction in the work they do.
- Only 4% report that their job is chaotic and difficult to do well.
- 69% agreed their job provides them with meaningful work they take pride in.
- 68% of front-office employees and 75 percent of back-office employees said they felt a sense of purpose in their work.
These number are pretty positive generally speaking, but when you also factor in that the survey was fielded in the midst of COVID-19 they really are impressive. But the numbers took a significant dip when employees were asked about the technology they are provided at work:
- 51% of employees categorized these systems inadequate in keeping them aligned with company goals while working remote
- 52% of those surveyed found their computing systems not conducive to their work, with that number growing to 56% at the small and medium enterprise level (businesses under 500 employees)
Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research on Employee Technology
I spoke with Denis Pombriant, longtime industry influencer and Managing Principal of Beagle Research, about the study findings, and to get his take on what kinds of tech will make the most difference in the post-COVID era.
You can listen to the full interview in the SoundCloud player and read the edited transcript of it below:
Denis Pombriant: Employee engagement is the result of a few things. It’s not a thing in itself. It’s a result of how well are your employees aligned with what you’re doing? How well are they led? How well are they trained? And then, you get engagement out at the other end. So we designed a questionnaire that would look at all four of those things. We actually grouped alignment and competence together and technology and employee engagement. What we discovered was that employees really like what they’re doing. Employees like their jobs, thought their bosses were pretty cool. Didn’t have any major issues. They felt fairly well aligned with the directions of the organization and felt that the organization did a pretty good job of communicating with them about the mission and what have you.
What we also discovered though, was that they’re using a Balkanized set of technology that doesn’t make their jobs any easier. And the conclusion I drew from it is that if you want to improve company performance, it’s not going to be in training. It’s not going to be in alignment or engagement. Those things were all pretty well covered. The thing that’s going to improve your business is the technology that you’re giving your employees to do their job.
I think what it also shows is that employees probably don’t know what they’re missing.
They just know that their jobs are a little bit harder because they have… three, four, five screens open or windows open at the same time. They can have their phones open trying to pull everything together and do their jobs. And that’s just asking an awful lot.
And it really shows up in when you ask people, “Why do you typically lose business?” And the answers they come up with is, “I didn’t have the right information to offer something valuable to the vendor.” Or, “I got snookered by a competitor who got there faster with better information.” And so that’s another reason that my conclusion is that if we had better tools, we’d be doing a better business.
Small Business Trends: What impact do you think the pandemic had on the survey results?
Denis Pombriant: Well, I would like to redo the survey in another six months and see. But in the middle of it, people were trying to get used to working at home and not go into the office. And we asked some pointed questions. “Do you think this technology that you’re using right now is sufficient to help you do your job remotely?” And I forgot what the numbers were, but I think the majority, maybe not a super majority, but a majority said, “Yeah, yeah, we could probably get through doing our job this way.” But another plurality, at least if not a small majority said, “Oh, I don’t ever expect to have to do this job remotely.” So, the dime was not totally cast.
Small Business Trends: I find that interesting that only 4% said that their job was chaotic. Even though they’re going through a very chaotic situation with Covid-19 and their technology doesn’t appear to be what they think will really help them do their job. That feels a bit out of balance there a little bit.
Denis Pombriant: It does. And to try to analyze that, I invented a scoring system that proved to be very insightful and influential. Most of the questions were asked, do you agree or disagree on a scale of one to five. So one and two were strongly agree, agree. Four and five were disagree, strongly disagree. Three in the middle was neutral. And what we discovered was that if you take… You can make a ratio, throw out the neutrals. Make a ratio of agree and over disagree and you get a number. And what we discovered was that when these people had bad news to report, the neutrals went way up. So, when we were asking a question like, “How do you like your job?” We had like over five to one, I love my job. And like 20% neutrals.
When we asked about technology, we got two to one and about 38% neutrals. So people really didn’t want to give you an answer if it was bad. In the report I say, it’s like what your mother used to tell you. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything. And I saw this in the math. And what was interesting to me is that… It’s legitimate to not have an opinion. However, if we’re talking about the job that you do eight hours a day, not having an opinion is I think a suspect answer.
Small Business Trends: Do you foresee that the current environment is making people feel less comfortable being truthful about whether they like their job or not?
Denis Pombriant: Well, first of all, I agree with you. I think some of the people answering the survey were a little fragile. Fragile from the perspective of, “ am I going to have a job in three weeks?” And so I think returning to that questioning in six months, especially if we have a path forward. We know that there’s a vaccine that’s going to be out shortly. We’ve done our social distancing and our mask wearing. The hot spots are way down. Florida looks then like New York looks today. It didn’t have any COVID deaths over the weekend, something like that.
Small Business Trends: That’s great.
Denis Pombriant: That’s great.
Small Business Trends: Yeah.
Denis Pombriant: So I think you go out six months and all of those things are true. You could see people being a lot less fragile.
Small Business Trends: What can the right technology add to those numbers? Because it seems like employees are feeling pretty good already.
Denis Pombriant: Yeah. The numbers look pretty good, but I think the context you have to look at them in is that this is a broad based study. It surveyed a lot of people across North America, including Canada and the United States. And what it says is that everybody’s got about the same level of technological support. Now, we all know digital disruption is real and people are working like crazy to understand digital disruption and digitize the business processes that they can to have better results.
If you go forward from that proposition, you can easily see a stratification of companies. The ones that do a lot in terms of digital disruption and the ones that don’t. And over time, you’re going to see winners and relative losers. So I think what this saying is that now’s a good time to adopt technology that can support your users better. It also gives you a place to look at what are the processes that my people do? What are the processes that require them to be in four screens at once in order to get enough information to serve a customer? What are the apps that I’m letting customers use? And what is the fallout rate on people? Are my customers using them and liking them or are they just saying, “Oh, this is terrible.” And giving up on it?
So it’s an important point in time. It’s a snapshot in time, a checkpoint. It’s a no man’s land. I would say, you don’t want to be here in a year. You want to be doing something.
Small Business Trends: Were you surprised that only 10% of employees felt like they had what they needed to have a full understanding/view of their customers?
Denis Pombriant: Well, it wasn’t surprising per se. It was okay. This is where we are. So for example, there were single digit responses to questions like we can talk to our applications. We have voice interface.
Small Business Trends: Right.
Denis Pombriant: Or my apps recommend the next best thing to do, single digits. So yeah, we’ve been here before. Maybe things have gone up and down a little bit. But in the 20 years that I’ve been following CRM, it strikes me that it’s only within the last handful of years, that we’ve really had technology that would change the equation. You go back 10, 15 years and what you had was an application that was pretty much an old fashioned relational database application. You could add, change, delete. You could get reports. And other than that, you had to apply your own intelligence to figure out what are the deals I need to work on today for example. There was no next best algorithm lurking. So, we have gone a long way in the last 20 years. I think in the last few years, we finally started applying analytics and some of the things that we need to actually improve the way we do work.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.