By Aimee Chanthadavong

It’s time for more CEOs to listen to their employees as businesses look to invest in new technologies to improve business performance, according to new research from Australian Industry Group (Ai Group)/Deloitte National.

The Business Investment in New Technologies report, which surveyed 540 business CEOs in the manufacturing, services and construction sectors to examine business investment in new technologies over the past three years, found business new technologies is contributing to improved business performance through to higher productivity, ongoing product innovation, improved energy efficiency and better workplace safety.

And the main source of information about new technologies for business that have internally developed new technologies is their employees.
Deloitte National Technology, Media and Telecommunications leader Damien Tampling said the way the innovation of technology is being driven by employees is interesting.

“More employees are bringing technology from home into workplaces. It use to be the 13-year-old at home that got the parent’s hand-me-down technology and now it’s the 13-year-old handing mum and dad the technology. This shifting change in the way technology is consumed in the home is filtering its way into all facets of the industry,” he said.

“What that means is that employees are turning up to work with their perosnal PCs in one arm and their iPod, iPhone, Blackberry and iPad in the other. This means the innovation coming from employees of ‘how could we do this’ and ‘how could we do that’ is now more prevleant and that shift is quite significant.

“There are different kinds of ligthbulbs going off when employees are using software as a consumer so it’s definitely not just hardware. It can be specific to software and applications where they are joining the dots on how it can be relevant to organisations.”

The report also explores how well prepared businesses are to take full advantage of the emerging opportunities from a national broadband network. While businesses are preparing to train their workforce and recruit new staff as the network expands, only 30 per cent report having a high or medium degree of information about the practical impacts of faster broadband speeds. Just over 50 per cent are adequately prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that may arise.

Heather Ridout, Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive, said the impact of internal skills of what is driving business to invest in new technologies is phenomenal but CEOs face the challenge of listening to their employees in the first place.

“It think it’s a real challenge for employers to recognise that employee potential within them and to harness it,” she said.

“The challenge from this survey is for CEOs to ask themselves are we using our employees in an efficient way.”

The report found that computer hardware (47.1 per cent) and software (19.3 per cent) along with machinery and equipment – particularly automation and control equipment (19.5 per cent) – were the most common areas for investment. Meanwhile, telecommunication equipment and e-commerce software were on par at 10.4 per cent.

The internet was highlighted in the report as one of these particular new technologies with more than 60 per cent surveyed believing it has had a positive impact on their business productivity. This has risen from approximately 58 per cent in 2008. And this is only expected to grow further as the National Broadband Network (NBN) becomes more prominent.

However, according to the report the federal government needs to boost the understanding by small-to-medium businesses in particular of the opportunities provided by a NBN.