The business world inevitably reflects the society that surrounds it, as changes in societal norms and evolving cultural values naturally filter into office environments. After all, businesses are composed of people.
What’s less obvious is that the relationship works both ways – business has an important role in driving positive change in society and, due to influences both at a grass-roots level and from a newer generation of societally conscious leadership teams, responsible business has emerged as an integral part of how enterprises operate.
As business decision-makers reflect on how their organisation will change and adapt post-COVID, addressing the topic of corporate responsibility has never been so timely, says Jim Holland, regional director for Africa at the Lenovo Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG).
To understand these issues more closely, Lenovo conducted research to gain greater insight into what IT decision makers in EMEA and, through their perspective, network users expect from their employer with respect to digital transformation efforts, and the extent to which sentiments around responsible business have manifested.
“Change can often be a slow process and once change has taken effect, it can seem inconceivable that things would ever return to the old ways,” says Holland. “Take our current global circumstances, for example. The concept of work has always had an implicit association with a physical workspace. Over the past decade, correlating with advances in laptops, mobile devices, VPNs and virtual desktops, working from remote locations such as homes and cafés became more permissible, yet rarely the default.
“Now, organisations that once ignored processes like remote and flexible working are embracing them, understanding the necessity to place human needs above business goals during the Covid-19 outbreak. While many employees are itching to get back to their office routines, it’s likely that non-conventional ways of working will be viewed in a different light than before.”
Holland adds that where and how employees work is only one element of broader transformation efforts, with some areas yet to adapt to changes in expectations.
One area highlighted by the research was the shortcomings in the level of priority given to human factors in decision-making. The results showed 62% of IT managers report their investment decisions are entirely business-centric, and only 6% of IT managers across EMEA stated their IT decision-making is user-centric.
“This disconnect suggests that technology decision-making typically isn’t broad enough in perspective to consider all of its impacts. After all, productivity gains come from humans capitalising on technology capabilities, not from the technology itself,” says Holland.
The research offers a range of insights on what the varied impacts of transformation are, and what the IT managers themselves view as important as participants in intelligent transformation.
One significant insight is around attitudes towards the vendor’s ethical and sustainability practices. Among the responses, 78% consider ethical supply chain as important or very important when investing in new technologies.
Alongside this, 74% cited the environmental impact of the vendors supply chain and 72% mentioned sustainability impact of the technology’s manufacturing process as important factors in investment decisions.
Other important factors cited by the respondents in their purchasing included the energy usage of the technology (75%), fair treatment of vendors in payment terms (79%) and accessibility of technology for less abled employees (78%).
These findings show that responsible business is a wide-reaching factor that doesn’t simply start and stop at the office doors but extends across the business’ internal IT operations and wider network. As these attitudes continue to evolve, the need for enterprises to be working with vendors in a responsible way is likely be pushed further up the corporate agenda.
“Positive change, we know, will come over time. But as an industry we can help accelerate it and reinforce its impacts. In the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, now is the time for organisations to Think Human in how they approach considerations around business and technology, placing people at the centre of technology decisions and embracing the opportunities that smarter technology creates.
“If this is addressed, and businesses take a people-first approach to IT adoption, we will see a greater number of responsible businesses emerge, bringing positive change for both organisations and wider society,” Holland concludes.