Technology is completely transforming our common practices and reshaping how we work and play in the 21st century. Matthew Elson, CEO of SHE Software shares his thoughts on how businesses can adapt to this ever-changing landscape.
New technologies apply in ways that would have been unthinkable less than a generation ago: from 24/7 banking to real-time video chat across continents, tech defines our lives. Meanwhile, expectations of technology and how it applies to employment patterns have changed, too – particularly for those under the age of 35. This generation, known as millennials, are digital natives: having never known a world without internet access, technology is a natural and indispensable part of their lives.
“THE TRADITIONAL 9-5 ‘CUBICLE’ LIFESTYLE IS NO MORE, HAVING BEEN REPLACED BY FLEXIBLE, MOBILE WORKING.”
Given that more than half of the global workforce will consist of millenials by 2020, the workplace is changing dramatically. Correspondingly, the workforce is more global and diverse. Compared to previous generations, travel is much easier, while global economic integration and the desire or necessity to travel for work have changed employment patterns. For example, the number of non-UK nationals employed in the UK has increased from 928,000 to 3.56 million in the last 20 years.
More flexible working patterns mean less reliance on permanent employees based in a single location, with ever-greater numbers of contractors, agency workers, part-timers and remote workers – sometimes based hundreds or even thousands of miles from an organisation’s centre – filling roles. The traditional 9-5 ‘cubicle’ lifestyle is no more, having been replaced by flexible, mobile working.
As the world of work changes, the associated challenges of connectivity and communication become ever more apparent, and the intelligent use of technology more important. This applies strongly to health and safety: clunky, process-led practices look outmoded in comparison to dynamic, proactive and intuitive systems with ubiquitous availability. Surprisingly, many organisations still use manual ‘paper and pen’ or spreadsheet-based systems, creating a hefty administrative burden, and an approach that is unutterably alien to digital natives.
How, then, should employers respond? The answer is, of course, to actively embrace the ‘new normal’: to implement innovative solutions that go with the flow, including in the sphere of health and safety. There’s an increasing appetite for such solutions, and they’re proving beneficial to everybody, from ‘shop floor’ employees to senior managers.
Web-based platforms enable real-time involvement in safety for employees, and by making such platforms available through tablets or smartphones, safety is embedded in day to day activity. No matter where or when an employee is working, they can log hazards or near misses straightaway, ensuring safety teams have instant visibility and that issues are tackled before they become incidents.
This accessibility and ease of adoption is a vital first step in creating an inclusive safety culture, improving communication and giving employees a ‘safety voice’. By encouraging involvement, ‘safety first’ becomes an intuitive part of ‘the way we do things’ within an organisation.
Similarly, software solutions free safety professionals – or senior managers with health and safety responsibilities – from the weight of administrative burdens, reducing paperwork and allowing more time for proactive safety management. By capturing and analysing data in a single location, business intelligence tools can then easily identify both trends and exceptions, helping organisations to better understand their health and safety landscape.
Fundamentally, when it comes to health and safety management, using technology to enable the new normal is a no-brainer. The modern workforce will continue to evolve and, if employers want to stay ahead of the curve, a willingness to adapt is crucial. In the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, the only constant in life is change – and the only way to stay ahead is to embrace it.