Thought Leader: Why NZ must get tech-smart

The average Kiwi seems to be innately programmed with the view that we are, as nation, an inventive and resourceful bunch. We’ve historically taken great pride in our pioneering spirit, and our ability to fix almost anything with piece of four-by-two and some number 8 wire. This approach has served us well for many years, but unfortunately it’s out of date and irrelevant in the new technological age.
The reality is New Zealand businesses are lagging when it comes to technological ability and productivity. But why? Did we just get lazy? Or could it be that we are just bit bamboozled with all the new tools and systems that are in front of us?
The results of research commissioned by the New Zealand Computer Society in 2010 found addressing ICT competence within the New Zealand workforce could result in productivity gain of up to $1.7 billion per annum. In business that employs 1000 people that equals up to 3000 hours wasted per week, or conservative cost of around $2 million per year.
There are some important changes being rolled out in schools which include government enquiry launched to investigate how our schools are keeping up with technology. Despite the focus on lifting education at school level, working adults are left to their own devices or are reliant on their employers to offer IT training.
As the dust settles post-recession, it is now vital that New Zealand businesses are up to speed with the fast-moving, ever-changing digital landscape and we are working quicker, smarter, and better than ever before.
In my job I meet lots of different people with varied and differing IT capabilities. Most of them freely admit to low skills and reliance on their PA or even their children. Every day I see people frittering away opportunities to increase their productivity with really simple stuff. Whether it’s Word, Excel, Outlook or SharePoint, few minutes spent learning how to find better way could save you time every working day.
I think we rely too heavily on the traditional ‘she’ll be right’ mentality. It’s view that, if we’re not careful, will leave us lagging well behind. In the past few years our increasing dependency on mobile devices such as Blackberrys, iPhones and iPads for communicating, accessing news and staying connected, and the rise of social media, which has further fuelled the need to stay connected 24/7, means that an inability to access or use technology is effectively barrier to social integration and personal development.
With increased business confidence, New Zealand companies are already looking to invest more heavily in technology, and that is when the skills shortage is really going to start letting us down. There’s requirement for business leaders to become accountable for the digital literacy of their workforce. They have the ability and responsibility to encourage and empower their employees to use technology more efficiently to achieve more. This will deliver significant overall benefits to the organisation and the country, as well as the individual.
The best way to address this issue is to invest in targeted and meaningful training, which in turn is an investment in people. Dedicate time and budget to learning for staff at all levels and build IT up-skilling into regular performance reviews. You’ll soon find that few hours IT systems training time spread across six months pays off, not only in performance and productivity, but also in job satisfaction.
The less work time employees spend on day-to-day functionality, the more available time and energy they will have to focus on the key objectives that help move business forward.
It pays dividends back to the business in other ways too. Not only will staff feel more empowered, job satisfaction will improve and retention will rise.
A commitment to up-skilling needs to come from the top, but there’s plenty that individuals can do to take ownership of their own learning. Actively encourage staff to expand on what they currently use and to share their learnings with the rest of the team.
In 2012, digital literacy is now an essential life skill and the right of every New Zealander. We have got to get up to speed, and the sooner that happens, the closer we will be to closing that $1.7 billion annual deficit and building more confident and able workforce. M

Susan Carlow is productivity and coaching team leader at Kinetics. [email protected]

Visited 4 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window