Tech aids retention

Companies that don’t provide their employees with the right technology to do their jobs risk losing their top talent, according to a recent study by Ipsos-Reid and Microsoft Canada Co.

These same firms lost in the technology Dark Ages, could also fail to attract new talent. That’s because 75 per cent of Canadians consider the technology and software a prospective employer uses an important factor when deciding to accept a job. However, this varies regionally. Ninety per cent of Atlantic Canadians consider technology compared with 87 per cent of Manitoba/Saskatchewan dwellers, 77 per cent of British Columbians, 79 per cent of Ontarians, 75 per cent of Albertans and 59 per cent of Quebecers.

The study surveyed 1,130 randomly selected individuals by phone. The sample included people who were employed full-time, part-time or unemployed but looking for work. Of the sample, 1,055 were employed either full-time or part-time.

Mike Bulmer, product manager, Microsoft Office at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont., attributes the increased tech-savviness of Canadians to the young people entering the workforce for the first time. Adults in their early 20s have grown up with computers, he explained. It’s seen as something that is simply necessary.

“Pretty soon, we won’t have anyone who remembers the pre-computer generation,” he said. As a result, these people are more likely to get frustrated if they don’t have the right technology to do their job.

Sue Banting, a partner with recruitment firm Ray & Berndston, which specializes in finding executives for technology and IT firms, said it is not uncommon for job candidates to ask about the technology tools they will have at their disposal.

She also said it’s not uncommon for companies to dangle their cutting-edge technology like the proverbial carrot in front of a prospective employee.

For example, Ian Miles, president of Toronto Hydro Telecom Inc. (THTI), said the U-telco is finding that more prospective employees and current employees are asking questions about technology and tools. They are also curious about training to help them stay current.

For example, THTI uses network equipment mostly from Lucent Technologies Inc. — an attractive prospect for those who already have experience with another vendor’s networking equipment like Nortel Networks Inc. or Cisco Systems Inc. Also, because THTI has a 10-Gigabit Ethernet network, it is already on the cutting edge.

“They really enjoy working for a company that has the latest technology without the legacy stuff,” Miles said. “It’s difficult, if you’re a young employee moving up, to maintain the legacy equipment while learning the new stuff.”

Conversely, Banting said lack of cutting-edge technology at a prospective employer might deter some candidates but is unlikely to deter a potential CIO from accepting a CIO position because these people often view such a situation — where a company is underequipped — as a challenge. But she said candidates from technical backgrounds are much more likely to inquire after a company’s technology than candidates from business backgrounds.

But it’s not just providing the technology for the IT people, it’s about properly enabling everyone to do their job, Bulmer said. And it’s not just IT professionals who are demanding better technology — this trend spans different careers from sales to marketing, for example.

In sales for instance, Les Faber, founder Faber & Associates in Ottawa, which helps companies enhance the performance of their sales teams, said an effective sales force needs access to specific technologies: a notebook computer with a high-speed Internet connection; a wireless device such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) or cellphone; and a high-speed Internet connection at home, paid for by the employer.

If a salesperson has to connect to the corporate network via dialup, it is more difficult for them to share documents and collaborate with colleagues and customers, Faber said. Not to mention the frustration of dialup’s relative slowness and unreliability.

THTI’s Miles agreed that it’s not just IT people who are asking questions about technology, however non-IT folks still ask less often. “But certainly people have that expectation that in a larger, well-funded company you will have access to systems and technology,” he said.

But the question is, whose responsibility is it to ensure that the right technology is available to the right people in the organization? Microsoft Canada’s Bulmer said it’s not just the responsibility of the CIO and the IT executives, but it is the responsibility of everyone.

At THTI, Miles said the directives about technology come from high-up, such as from the CIO and the CFO.

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