Fifty-one percent of small businesses—businesses with between 3 and 99 employees—cite “increasing employee productivity” as one of the top issues they face, according to the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report.
It’s a common issue shared by many of our clients too, and we’re often asked for suggestions on technologies that can help improve employee productivity. While our recommendations vary from client to client, there are three technologies we almost always recommend: enterprise-class email, smartphones and GPS.
Since the early days of the Internet, email clients such as Outlook or Entourage have used POP or IMAP Internet standard protocol to retrieve emails. The problem with these methods is that emails are downloaded to a computer’s hard drive and then deleted from the email server, limiting what employees have access to when they’re away from their computers.
Today, enterprise-class email solutions, like Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps for Business Gmail, store email on remote servers or in the cloud instead of locally. This allows all devices connected to the email portal (i.e. desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones) to synchronize access to all email folders and any individual folders set up by the employee.
This level of email access offers employees the flexibility to read and respond to email while on the road or at home—increasing their productivity away from the office. In addition, should an employee’s hard drive crash or should there be an issue with a lost/stolen computer, email archives are safe and accessible, eliminating downtime while the computer is repaired or restored.
Advancements in smartphone capabilities and software have made these devices some of best for improving employee productivity. According to Citrix, 53 percent of U.S. businesses that have integrated smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into operations experience productivity improvements of more than 10 percent, and 16 percent showed gains of 30 percent.
Useful apps are the main reasons for the jump in productivity. Thirty percent of small businesses surveyed in a recent AT&T Small Business Technology Poll use mobile apps because they “save time, increase productivity and reduce costs.” Some of the most popular small business apps in a recent Fox Business poll include: email, location-based navigation services, social media, and mobile banking.
Additional Reading: If you’re evaluating smartphone options for your business, check out our recent post on the topic.
GPS Navigation Units
While driving is an essential part of business—especially for small businesses with locally based customers—it is also a significant threat to employee productivity.
To combat this, small businesses are outfitting their mobile employees (i.e. sales representatives, support technicians and delivery professionals) with GPS navigation devices (i.e. Garmin, TomTom) and smartphone turn-by-turn navigation apps (i.e. Google Maps Navigation and AT&T Navigator).
According to Honeywell, GPS units help to improve employee productivity by:
- Cutting down on the frequency of employees getting lost.
- Improving route planning—getting employees from point A to point B more efficiently.
- Helping employees avoid congestion with access to real-time traffic reports.
Also, keep your employees safe on the road with GPS turn-by-turn navigation that eliminates the need to look down at paper or smartphone maps.
How are you improving employee productivity with technology? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.