From Ports To People: The Times Are Changing

Lord Heseltine recently published his “No Stone Unturned” report which calls for further action from the government to stimulate growth and outlines 89 policy recommendations to impact on the government’s ability to interact effectively with businesses throughout the country.

However, as promising as this may sound (whether you directly interact with the government or not, its impact on the private sector cannot be underestimated) there will be a significant time delay before any relief comes from the public sector.

So, as ever, it is up to individual businesses to review their organisation and structure in order to cut costs, remain productive, and ensure profitability to benefit from whatever policies are eventually enacted.

The recent recovery has seen businesses of all sizes doing just that: investing in the latest technologies to cost-effectively serve widely dispersed and highly mobile, virtual teams. Despite working for a technology vendor, I do realise that technology is not the sole answer to the challenges set by the economic climate.

Without a focus on the management of these mobile employees, full productivity cannot be achieved. The way in which they are managed and incorporated into how a business operates will have a dramatic impact on productivity and will define how quickly and effectively that business will react to future challenges or opportunities.

We have reason to believe that the traditional management style is not working. My company’s recent survey of small, medium and large companies and organisations across the public and private sectors found that 75 per cent of respondents find their team members more likely to get distracted during ‘virtual’ meetings.

In particular, one respondent took the time to add a comment that has resonated strongly with many managers that I have spoken to: “In my experience, at least 50 per cent of the people on any given call are not necessary, but included to reduce fear of exclusion which seems higher with a distributed workforce.”

Aside from the obvious inefficiency, this highlights a conflict between distributed work lifestyles and effective team collaboration. Without the focus on uncovering employee potential and developing the right team, UK businesses will be unable to remain productive and competitive, despite their technological advantages.

To provide a productive working environment, we recommend that businesses shift their focus “from ports to people”. It is clearly no longer sufficient just to deliver a technology platform to staff; the individual experience must support increased productivity. Businesses should enable and encourage staff to seamlessly move between devices, locations and teams.

Technology, in short, has gained the ability to transform not just the method of working but the culture in the workplace. If implemented with the right training and guidance, mobile working strategies offer unprecedented office productivity gains. The next few years will see those companies with innovative and effective managers unlocking the potential of virtual teams and thriving because of it.

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Trevor Connell is the Managing Director of Siemens Enterprise Communications Northern Cluster, consisting of the UK and the Nordics. A business leader with a strong background in business management, international sales & people development, Trevor has worked for Siemens Enterprise Communications and Siemens for the past 16 years where he has held a number of senior management, sales leadership and general management positions both in the UK and overseas.