Technology and corporate culture: a combination that can drive bottom line results

Oct 29, 2013

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The New Way of Working (NWOW) flips organizational conventions and changes the way enterprises communicate, collaborate and innovate.

About a year ago, Alcatel-Lucent carried out a large-scale market research project with technology-enabled professionals in the US, at all levels of organizations and across industry sectors. The sampled population included IT decision makers, senior executives with budget authority, and technology workers. Although academic studies in the past have shown that technology itself does not drive bottom line results, this research has found that technology matched to corporate culture does.

Seven NWOW habits adopted by highly successful companies have surfaced:

1. They put high end mobile technology in the hands of their employees

Enterprises use the network constantly and mobility is the new normal. 47% of top earner companies allow employees to work wherever they choose, and 61% of those who work remotely say they are more productive – because they feel “more comfortable”, they experience “fewer distractions” and they can “spread their work over time”.

2. They leverage the employees’ personal technology

57% of workers use mobile devices such as tablets or (smart)phones at many times in a single day, in numerous (mainly) small enterprises Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has become a common practice, and cloud services such as Gmail, Office 365 and Dropbox get broad adoption. Although IT managers still have serious security concerns, this ‘consumerization’ has reduced the need for (and thus the cost) of IT support, and increased employee productivity.

3. They use IT to equip workers with useful tools and drive a healthy culture

When an organization has a clear purpose for using the technology, collaborative tools can help nurture healthy cultures—making investments in applications like videoconferencing and social collaboration worthwhile. Almost 70% of high-performing companies equips employees with innovative tools, services, or capabilities. And with an ever-growing mobile workforce, the challenges in creating collaborative environments will only intensify.

4. They seek out leaders with poise, not drones who follow direction

Successful companies mention ‘confidence’, ‘leadership’ and a ‘strong work ethic’ as most desirable employee characteristics. On the opposite side, struggling companies still recruit people that are good in ‘following direction’ and are more likely to offer technology to senior leaders, rather than equip their front line with the tools and technology that may be needed.

5. HR and IT communicate to improve culture and recruitment/retention

The tension between decision makers and workers plays out on the IT stage. Almost three in five HR leaders in ‘cultural guru’ organizations say that they work closely with IT departments to improving company culture. They also recognize the role that technology can play in helping to attract and retain employees. As such, 77% say they are happy having more influence in regards to technology decisions than 3 years ago.

HR and IT communicate to improve culture and recruitment/retention

6. They understand that employees need to take breaks

Almost 70% of employees in successful companies are allowed to use social media and other internet activities (for personal reasons) as a valuable break to make them more productive. In this case, a bidirectional and trusted relationship between management and employees is key.

7. They have forward-leaning cultures that break from the norm

Success or failure are often rooted in culture. Successful companies respond well to changes in their market environment and involve many people in the decision-making process, thereby increasing the likelihood of diverse viewpoints and mitigating the risk of poor decisions. They also encourage employees to take calculated risks without fear of reprimand in the event of failure. They reward their staff based on clearly defined performance measurements, instead of subjective management evaluations.

In the past few years a technology revolution has started inside (and outside) many offices. With people becoming increasingly mobile and self-sufficient with technology, the way workers connect, communicate and collaborate has changed. Alcatel-Lucent research has indicated that these technology benefits are most pronounced in an open culture, with minimal governance barriers. Rules are needed to ensure security and to reduce risk, but they need to be carefully put in place – without killing innovation.

Companies should consider new technology as a strategic asset, capable of delivering competitive advantage, and offer employees flexibility to work from wherever and whenever they choose. IT and HR departments should do more than accommodate this revolution. They should work together and lead it!

More results of Alcatel-Lucent’s research have been published in the book “Transforming Business: Big Data, Mobility, and Globalization” by Allison Cerra, Kevin Easterwood and Jerry Power (John Wiley & Sons, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-118-51968-4)

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