Having attended four conferences in the last six weeks, I've been inundated with information on investment strategies, best practices, new technologies and ideas from thought leaders in the industry. One theme emerged again and again: Embrace technology.
On many occasions, a recommendation was made to provide efficiency tools to employees: dual monitors, smartphones, iPads, scanners and more. I'm a big fan of technology's benefits in terms of time savings and consistency. But how much should you spend on any particular employee? In other words, how far is too far?
In my opinion, buying new "individualized" technology for employees requires answers to two questions:
1) Will it increase productivity relative to cost?
2) Will the employee view it as a significant benefit?
Evaluating should be based on four quadrants:
A) High increase in productivity relative to cost, significant employee perk.
B) High increase in productivity relative to cost, insignificant employee perk.
C) Marginal increase in productivity relative to cost, significant employee perk.
D) Marginal increase in productivity relative to cost, insignificant employee perk.
For me, the "A" tools are a definite purchase and the "D" tools are not. I will also purchase "B" items, knowing that it is helping productivity even though the employee(s) might not celebrate. I may even buy some "C" tools if the cost is not great compared with the potential boost in motivation and employee satisfaction.
In my firm(s), all employees have two monitors. They doesn't cost much but greatly improve productivity. Do my employees think of this as a great perk? I doubt it, but I still feel good about my decision. For some employees, having their own scanner would be a big time saver. Scanners are a couple hundred bucks each so I'm willing to try it for those it will help. They will also like the idea that I'm thinking of them and their needs. Perhaps the biggest perk in the eyes of an employee would be providing them with an iPad or paying for their smartphone. Would these purchases result in increased productivity? Or would the boost to morale be enough to justify the cost?
I don't have all the answers. Is it easier to say “yes” if the tool stays in the office, like monitors and scanners? Is it harder to justify if the employee can use the item outside the office or have access for personal use, like smartphones and iPads? Where do you draw the lines? What do you buy for your employees?
Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.