Perkbox Roundtable: How Technology is Impacting Employer Relations // August 6, 2018

On 25th July 2018, TechRound was kindly invited to attend a Roundtable event at Perkbox HQ in Blackfriars, London. Perkbox is a leading employee benefit platform who hosted the event with other industry experts including Jonathan Lister (CTO of PensionBee), Nathalie Christmann-Cooper (Skills Matter) and Rav Dhaliwal (Customer Success Team for Slack).

perkbox-roundtable

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The event was moderated by Sajni Shah, a business analysis for Fintech company, Neyber. The topic of the Roundtable was:

“How technology is impacting employer/ee relations, an assessment by The UK’s leading workplace tech companies.”

We review the key findings, themes and observations discussed at the Roundtable below:

What technology is changing the relationship between employers and employees?

Popular technologies changing the face of the employee relationship include the use of emails, smart phones and task-sharing SaaS technologies such as Slack.

The emergence of more flexible work schedules and the use of technology remotely has become commonplace in the 21st century. Special mentions were made to Gitlab which has grown into an enormous company despite having all parties working remotely. Elsewhere, an experiment in China which encouraged 50% of employees to work from home, resulted in a much high employee retention rate.

Whilst some technologies are always adapted by some companies very early, the concept of ‘talking with our feet’ means that technologies become used so often, they become an integral part of the organisation.

Flexibility or workaholism?

The use of email, smart phones and instant messaging has an incredible influence on productivity and creates a quicker and easier way for employers and employees to communicate.

However, the ability to not switch off means that employees can become workaholics and this can lead to a negative experience for staff. Sally Percy, who attended the event on behalf of Forbes, spoke about a generation of ‘workaholics’ unable to decipher between work hours and non-work hours.

Rav Dhaliwal from Slack intervened saying “When it gets to the end of day, my emails are off.”

Collectively, it was agreed that this can depend on that person’s level of seniority within the company, whereas a less established employee may wish to over-work to secure job promotion.

The intensity of workaholism also depends greatly on the employer at hand and their expectations of the employee to be communicative out of hours.

Jonathan Lister of PensionBee explained that ‘its not about putting pressure on other peers, but rather about managers setting boundaries. For instance, you can say that this piece requires an immediate response or it can wait until tomorrow.’

Big brother

Whether technology is in-house or remote, organisations have the ability to ‘keep tabs’ on their staff which includes the amount of time they spend on their computers, monitoring of emails and phone calls. This opens the conversation to a dark theme of ‘big brother’ watching your every move.

In fact, companies can already pull data on their teams and staff to see when they are most effective including time of day, month and year. But how this is being utilised is still very new, given the traditional 9-5 setting.

Whilst this might be the case for some organisations, it elaborated the idea of communicating to employees that ‘we have access to all this information, but it will only be used for x, y and z.’ For example, there are restrictions to what you can search for online but certain things are anonymous.

A more integrated future

The future of technology between employers and employees could mean having more tools fully integrated together. Whilst we currently use lots of different accounts for things such as email, Skype, mobile, slack, trello and more – the future could be more integrated whereby we only use one platform for everything. This was evidenced by Perkbox’s suggestion to add some of their regular partners off-site to a company Slack conversation, taking the daily discussions away from email.

TechRound founder Daniel Tannenbaum spoke passionately about the future of employees working remotely as a way to reduce the strain on public transportation – and subsequently the employee relationship will need to evolve in light of that. The conversation can be found on the video below:

In conclusion, it is important to understand the potential with technology for the employee relationship but also its limitations. Understanding that employees cannot be treated as a means to end but instead, we should be using technology to solve problems and do internal tasks more efficiently.

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