By Kevin Peesker, General Manager, Consumer and Small Business Europe, Dell

In the past three years we’ve witnessed a huge leap in technology innovation with increased connectivity, mobility and device options. As a result, workforce expectations have changed significantly. Business leaders and IT departments are seeing a growing preference amongst employees for greater flexibility and choice in the technology they use. This places technology at the crux of the productivity equation.

There is a growing awareness in the business community that companies can benefit from increased workforce productivity by allowing employees to have some level of choice in the technology they use. Dell and Intel’s Evolving Workforce Study found that 83 percent of workers around the world believe that advances in technology and choice in the workplace have enabled them to be more productive. Small businesses are leading the way in their ability to change and adapt more quickly, with companies in countries such as China, Brazil and Mexico particularly advanced. For small businesses considering going global, expanding into markets that are more welcoming of the evolving workplace can only but help them expand their business quickly.

One major trend is the concept of bring your own device (BYOD) which is becoming extremely popular, especially among small businesses. 40% of UK small business workers are able to choose the device they work on, compared with only 20% of large enterprise workers, and this is expected to increase in coming years due in part to the fact that small businesses have the infrastructure and cost rationalisation for it, for instance the reduction of hardware expenses.

Despite the potential upside, business leaders are trying to determine whether increased productivity generated from greater technology choice among employees outweighs their concerns around increased security. Some key factors small businesses should consider when implementing this new way of working are:

- Approach with an open mind – Companies need to understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and they will need to embrace the consumerisation of IT with a considered and transparent approach

- Establish parameters – As more employees bring in their own devices there will be an increased concern around accessing sensitive data. Employers should review internal policies to make sure employees do not use untested devices or software

- Tracking and measuring productivity – With three out of four employees believing that productivity should be measured by quality of their output and not the time they’ve spent in the office, it is an option to be considered in the evolving workplace

- Solicit feedback from employees – To enable companies to successfully supply their employees with tools and resources they need to solicit regular feedback on how they can improve. One option is to create a Connected Workplace programme that allows employees to give feedback and have a flexible working practice

- Trust – Having trust in the company is an important motivator for employees. By fostering trust between employees and employers, organisations can expect to get the best results from their workplace. Being transparent about what devices employees can use and the parameters around flexible hours or mobile working is key to ensuring trust

So in summary, what we are seeing is that the arrival of smartphones, tablets and cloud computing is underpinning the evolution of the workplace and fostering an even more creative and productive workforce for the future. While new technology will continue to emerge, the most intelligent strategies are the ones that are sympathetic to the needs of both workforce and organisation and will be rewarded by productivity gains. Taking an open and transparent approach with employees and involving them in the discussion is a positive step companies can take in harnessing the potential benefits that new technologies bring.