This HR expert outlines the way leaders can support employees with tech-related issues remotely.
How many of your meetings lately have started with someone having tech issues?
From cameras not working during video conferences to staff struggling to connect to servers, tech issues are costing companies time and money. One global study found employees were losing 50 hours a year to IT issues, and that’s only for issues actually reported. The likely number is over 100 hours.
For those who previously worked in an office (perhaps even sitting less than 1.5 meters from a colleague), minor tech issues were firstly handled by asking your desk-mate if they could help, then escalated to IT or team leaders as needed. In smaller offices, the question might bounce around until someone with the answer heard it and came to the rescue.
When you’re removed from that space it becomes more difficult to find those answers.
For employees who weren’t so tech-savvy to begin with, being left to deal with these issues on their own can feel very isolating and at worst embarrassing when struggling with technology during video meetings.
Ideally, every organisation would have an IT department who can be called upon to help, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Not all businesses have IT teams and even those who do might find it takes a while to get their problems solved as IT experts are overwhelmed with requests.
Karen Gatley, founder of leadership and people-management consultancy Corporate Dojo, says responsiveness and end-user support is critical right now to keep employees productive. She suggests three ways to support staff with technology issues, even if you don’t have an IT department.
1. Creating a culture of support
Gatley says employees need to feel empowered to speak up – to not just ask questions but also let the team know when they’ve found something useful.
“When people are afraid to speak up because they don’t know, or they’re not familiar with something they’re more likely to hold back and kind of try and work it out on their own,” says Gatley.
“We need to create an environment where we accept the fact that there’s going to be the unknown. There’s going to be different levels of capability. And that’s okay.”
One way to create this culture is to recognise common issues publicly in weekly meetings or add a tech-support segment as an ongoing agenda item.
Gately says there is an opportunity here for workplaces to explore functions in their systems they didn’t need to use before. For example, to remain collaborative more people have needed to tap into document sharing options on Word or Google Drive so employees can continue working on the same project.
She suggests employers consider additional training for staff, even for the tools and technologies you’ve been using for some time.
“I think generally there’s a problem with technology implementation,” she says, “we tend to chuck it on the server, tell everyone where it is and tell them where the user guide is but we don’t necessarily invest in that training to make sure we’re using all the components.”
2. Find your technology heroes
When formal training is not an option, organisations could turn to employees who are already comfortable with the systems or technology.
Gately calls these employees “super-users”.
“For example, if you’re an administration team and there’s an admin system you use, one of the steps you can take is to find out who is a super-user, the really experienced person.”
If possible, try to make that person accessible to the rest of the team, while being mindful of their capacity.
Gately suggests using communication technology, particularly chat systems like Slack or Teams, to connect the super-users with those who need help.
This links back to creating the culture of learning and support as employees need to feel that speaking up and sharing their knowledge is a valuable contribution.
“Leaders can go a long way by setting up the forums to have those conversations rather than just relying on people to share their ideas. Think “let’s actually draw everyone’s minds to that space.”
3. Be deliberate in your communication
A huge part of leaving the shared office has been the loss of incidental conversations which means workplaces have needed to become more comprehensive in sharing information.
This includes sharing guides and tips on overcoming technology hurdles.
Gately says teams need to become deliberate in talking about technology and areas people are struggling with, including asking employees what their capabilities are and where they might need further training.
“In the office, we kind of rely on someone being around to answer our questions. In this time we need to be deliberate, we can’t just rely on that happening by accident,” she says.
“We need to ask what technology are our teams relying on every day? What’s our level of capability across them.? And are there proactive ways to solve issues with them?”
Gately warns that employers should consider their unconscious biases when asking these questions and be careful they’re not zeroing in on particular groups of employees, for example, older workers.
“There are plenty of older workers who are very comfortable with technology, while there are younger workers who lack the experience with it and might be struggling. Leaders should always challenge their unconscious biases.”
Overall, Gately says technology is not a set-and-forget tool and that remote work has really reminded us we need to stay on top of an ever-changing technological world.
“What this period has taught us is there’s so much technology that’s available to us that many of us haven’t even begun to master.”
“Most systems that we’re talking about are incredibly powerful and we’re only using a small percentage of its functionality or capability.”
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