The workplace, they say, is defined not just by the kind of work that’s been done but also by the people who work there day in and day out. What about the success of the business? Does it depend on the kind of people actually working on the floor? By “kind” I do not imply the generic “hard working” or “lazy” dichotomy but more like the divisions that are created by absolutes, like age and experience. A company with more workers in the age group of forty five and above than one where the median age is twenty seven – how do they compare? A business textbook might tell you that these people are just “resources” or “employee IDs” but a seasoned or creative leader will beg to differ. It is true – age does create a difference; generation gap is not a myth. The key is to integrate both sides of the age gap under one banner and heighten productivity. Let us see how modern SaaS (software as a service) tools can help achieve that.
There have been many debates and discussions regarding the differences between ‘Baby Boomers’, ‘Traditionalists, ‘Generation Y’ and so forth in the work environment, but from a business perspective, the main area of contention is how they each react to new technology. The use of new technology at the work place is a natural progression. Take the example of memos on post it notes and their eventual demise at the hands of group emails. Not only does it save time, but it also makes for easy two-way communication. Now imagine the same kind of technological leap at a slightly larger scale. Bigger organizations frequently use in-house tools to keep frequent two-way communication running. Smaller companies often find that they do not have the budget to do the same. So how do they get out of this fix?
Let’s look at Industrial Mold and Machine, an Ohio-based company, develops customized materials for businesses, such as pill bottles and hardware pieces. In 2010, the family-owned company, with only thirty five employees, where people not on the manufacturing floor are the only ones using computers, decided to increase productivity by introducing computer kiosks on the production floor in which the workers had to make entries about their progress, their targets and their objectives. Without a good Saas model in place, this noble idea merely turned into a hindrance for the workforce. The shift from paperwork to computer work was not easy. It was then that Socialtext, a company based in Silicon Valley that builds enterprise social software for various workplaces around the globe, was called in.
Before we delve into how Socialtext rescued Industrial Mold and Machine, let us try to understand the importance and value of enterprise social software, especially with small businesses in mind. Companies like MindTouch, PBWorks and Socialtext build special software suites for companies so that they can use new web based technologies to reduce redundancy, increase productivity and lessen the pressure on the physical labor force. They do so by integrating tools like microblogging, social media, online group platforms, open source widgets and the willingness of employees to learn new things. The last bit is especially true for those who believe that business can still be conducted in strictly traditional ways in this day and age.
By introducing the workforce to these Web 2.0 tools, smaller businesses can benefit the most, as even a minor drop in redundancy for these companies can equate to a vast growth in productivity. Moreover, when older people at the workplace make an effort to understand these tools, it resonates well with the younger folk. The divisive stereotype of the old not being good with modern technology and the young not being able to survive without it is quickly erased when the staff in its entirety makes collective progress. This is exactly what transpired at Industrial Mold and Machine. In just one year, the company cut 40% of labor hours and increased production by 20%. By leveraging mobile technologies, the company enhanced communication processes for faster delivery of products, allowing for the company to take on 30% more business. It was also beneficial as the company attracted new talent, including a number of new employees under the age of 30, who leveraged Socialtext to quickly learn the ropes from company experts.
The key to increased productivity in both big and small offices is the happiness of the workforce. When web 2.0 technology using SaaS tools can make the work easier and faster for everyone, it is in their best interest to embrace these services. After all, even famous companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter also use these among their staff. The productivity of these companies is super high only because the people that work there are generally happy.
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