The untapped network


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The benefits of providing work life balance to your employees

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The untapped network

  1. 1. The Untapped Network How Companies Can Leverage Technology to Enable the Life Needs of T heir Employees By John Nelson June 2000
  2. 2. The Untapped Network Company Abilizer Solutions, Inc. provides a platform for transforming the workplace by strengthening the relationship between employee and employer, and enabling employees to effectively navigate their intentions at work and at home. Abilizer has more than 70 customers—with over two million employees—providing the Abilizer Employee Portal to their employee desktops. These companies include market leaders such as ACS, Ace Hardware, Applied Materials, AT&T Wireless, Chevron, EDS, Ericsson, Fluor, HOK, Oracle, PeopleSoft, RE/MAX, Robertson Stephens, Sun Microsystems and Visa. Abilizer is privately held and funded by leading corporations and private equity firms including Technology Crossover Ventures, Thomas Weisel Capital Partners, the Blackstone Group, Cendant, Information Technology Ventures, US Venture Partners, Comdisco Ventures, the European Web Group, E*Trade and Dorset Capital. Author Mr. Nelson oversees the research and analysis division of Abilizer Solutions, Inc. His group is focused on understanding the life needs of today’s workforce and how employers can best address those demands. Prior to his role with Abilizer, Mr. Nelson directed Andersen Consulting’s global Strategic Research Group around e-commerce and financial services. He can be reached at 415-216-0100 or at Acknowledgements Abilizer would like to thank the following individuals and organizations who have contributed immeasurably to this study: Pete Petersen, Larry Butler and Pam Farr of the Cabot Group for their guidance, quotations and content; Constat Market Research for conducting our nationwide focus groups; Jennifer Hale for providing research and analysis; Sudha Putnam for writing and editing; Jan Martí for production; and Camilla Layton for design.Overview 2
  3. 3. The Untapped NetworkContentsExecutive Summary 4Technology in the Workplace 5Personal Use 6Universal AccessControlled Usage 8Employee Needs 10ContentCommunityCommerceConclusion 14Endnotes 15 3 Table of Contents
  4. 4. The Untapped NetworkIn 1980, employees accounted Executive Summaryfor only 30 percent of corporate Nearly every communication a CEO delivers to the press, shareholderstangible assets; in 2000, or investment community includes the phrase, “Our people are thisthey will account for nearly company’s most valuable asset.” This statement is true in today’s70 percent. economy more than anytime in recent history. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1980, employees accounted for only 30 percent of corporate tangible assets; in 2000, they will account for nearly 70 percent.1 The dramatic shift to a “knowledge-based” economy places the focus squarely on attracting, acquiring and retaining a best in class workforce. The new workforce driving the “knowledge-based” economy is connected and empowered through Internet-based technology. The number of desktops with access to the Internet is increasing,The 30-40 million people with and the 30-40 million people with work access will soon produceInternet access at work will soon the same amount of traffic on the Internet as the nearly three-foldproduce the same amount of number of home users. While employees are using the Internet fortraffic on the Internet as the work-related activities such as gathering research on competitors and communicating with vendors, they are also using the Internetnearly three-fold number of for personal needs. Employees are accessing current news, tradinghome users. stocks, researching schools and price shopping at work via the Internet. In 2002, nearly 50 percent of Internet purchases will be made from the office. Despite concerns of abuse, progressive managers recognize the demands placed on their employees and are accepting a reasonable amount of personal Internet use while at work. Visionary companies are taking it one step further and lending assistance to their employees’ life needs by providing products, services and programsIn 2002, up to 50 percent of designed to help their employees better manage work and lifeproducts and services bought demands.on the Internet will be The technology is in place, and management is recognizing thepurchased at the office. personal needs of employees. Delivering programs that produce targeted content, foster corporate community and provide products and services around the life needs of employees helps protect a company’s most valuable asset: its people.Executive Summary 4
  5. 5. The Untapped NetworkTechnology in the WorkplaceFor the last ten years, companies have focused the majority of ITinvestments on building networks to help employees communicateand share knowledge more efficiently within the organization.Now, with the business world’s widespread adoption of web-basedtechnology, companies have begun to extend their corporate intranetsto provide employee access to the Internet. Forrester Researchestimates that the number of employees who have Internet accessat work grew more than 55 percent in 1999.2 Translated into dollars,by the year 2003, companies will spend nearly 50 percent of theirinfrastructure budgets on providing Internet access to employees.3(See Figure 1) Corporate Internet Expenditures 600 500 400 $ BILLIONS 300 200 100 0 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 TOTAL IT SPENDING (Less Services) CORPORATE INTERNET SPENDING Figure 1 Source: IDC, Abilizer ResearchAs companies become more connected, employees are rapidly takingadvantage of the power the Internet brings to their desktops. In termsof total number of hours spent online, the 30 million users accessingthe Internet from the workplace produce nearly the same amountof traffic as the 77 million active users at home.4 This has majorimplications now and for the future, as the workplace increasinglybecomes the location of choice for accessing the Internet.Clearly the motivation for connecting employees through intranetsand the Internet is to make companies more productive by improvingcommunication and the flow of information. However, employeeshave rapidly adopted these tools for their own uses as well. 5 Technology in the Workplace
  6. 6. The Untapped Network“ The Web serves as a continuous Personal Use medium that crosses between Despite soft corporate policies restricting computer and Internet the workplace and the home. use to work-related business, personal use of company technology People are taking advantage is prevalent. In one survey, 90 percent of respondents indicate that of the Web’s productivity around they access non-work-related sites at least once a day. Fortunately, the same survey reveals that 82 percent of bosses tolerate a the clock and are becoming “reasonable” amount of personal use.5 much more efficient at handling everyday tasks, whether they are at the office or at home.” EMPLOYEE VOICE Allen Weiner When asked about employee access, a strong majority of —Vice President, Nielsen//NetRatings respondents confirmed that they are shifting away from using the Internet at home to using it at work. Nearly all respondents admit using the Internet at the office for non-work-related activities. The consensus of the group is that personal tasks need to be performed at work, and that companies understand this. In addition, if the company can provide assistance with these tasks, all parties will benefit. The following factors are driving the preference for work access: • Faster connections, which reduce time for browsing and shopping • Longer work days • Employer-provided online resources and solutions for personal needs The employee groups surveyed agree that Internet access is not only an essential business tool, but also a sign of a progressive company. Besides becoming more productive personally and professionally, those who are granted access to the Internet feel recognized as being valuable employees, feel a greater sense of community within the organization and develop an increased sense of loyalty. Results from employee focus groups conducted nationwide by Constat Market Research Reasonable personal Internet use by employees can have far-reaching benefits for both the company and its employees. The ability for employees to better manage and facilitate daily life needs allows them to spend more time focused on their work, and decreases time away running errands. Personal Use 6
  7. 7. The Untapped NetworkUniversal Access “ In the future, providing company-A significant development in the drive to connect employees to wide access to the Internet andthe Internet is Universal Access (UA). With UA, companies provide company intranet will be criticalall employees with a home computer, Internet connectivity and a for both technology and non-company-based employee portal, either for free or at a subsidizedprice. technology companies. It is understood that a smallCompelling benefits of Universal Access include:• Increasing the number of hours that employees can work, percentage of time on these helping the company increase productivity resources will be for personal• Providing tools to help employees accomplish personal tasks use; a fair trade off considering online, bolstering the company’s image as a supportive employer the increasing demands placed• Differentiating a company from its competitors, creating an “employer of choice” mentality—internally and externally on the employee in today’s• Developing employee computer proficiency, improving the marketplace.” overall skill-base of the organization Larry Butler• Providing a centralized office bulletin board that is accessible —V.P Human Resources (retired) . anytime, anywhere, helping a company communicate with Peoplesoft a dispersed workforceSeveral large companies, including American Airlines and Intel,have rolled out UA initiatives to their workforce. Intel’s programincludes personal computers, Internet access and Internet servicesat no charge, to all employees worldwide. “We’re delighted to offeremployees and their families the ability to take advantage of theeducation and e-commerce opportunities on the Internet,” saysPatty Murray, Intel vice president and director of human resources.“The Intel Home PC Program is the right new benefitfor the year 2000.” 7 Personal Use
  8. 8. The Untapped Network“ A key to competitiveness is Controlled Usage to create an environment that Along with the benefits of wiring desktops comes concern around attracts, retains and excites top the abuse of company technology and Internet content. According talent. Attractive compensation to the American Management Association, more than 80 percent of and benefit packages, meaningful large companies will have implemented some type of controlled usage by the year 2001, primarily to restrict access to adult content sites.6 work and development opportunities are important Additional workplace controls may include: • Restricting news and entertainment URLs factors. Increasingly, employees • Blocking software downloads are also asking for a flexible • Impeding the acceptance of cookies (information that a website environment that helps them records on a user’s hard disk for future use) integrate work and personal life • Blocking online purchases priorities. This requires not only effective tools, techniques and EMPLOYEE VOICE programs, but also a willingness Employee research respondents agree that companies must protect on the part of management to themselves from allowing pornographic and other inappropriate accommodate individual needs. websites to be viewed on their systems. However, blanket policies In the past, mangers emphasized that restrict access to commerce and content websites can have a consistency in employee matters. negative impact. These policies not only weaken the morale of the workforce by implying a sense of distrust and preventing employees Flexibility is replacing consistency from accomplishing vital personal tasks, but at times can interfere at “employers of choice”. with work responsibilities. Pete Peterson —Sr. VP Human Resources (retired) • “They block the CGI scripting so that if you’re trying to fill out a Hewlett-Packard form—for example to apply to The Wall Street Journal—it won’t allow you to fill it out completely, even though the site itself has been approved by the company.” • “I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when I’m working late: It’s eight o’clock, the stores are closed, and I can’t get online to buy a birthday gift.” • “They trust us with making decisions about their business, but not with accessing the Internet. It doesn’t make sense.” Results from employee focus groups conducted nationwide by Constat Market Research Controlled Usage 8
  9. 9. The Untapped NetworkIn spite of the potential for abuse, many managers believe that theInternet does not necessarily encourage additional abuse; it simplyreplaces other unproductive activities. “The people abusing theInternet are generally the same employees that had productivityissues before they were granted access. Our top people are notsurfing all day.”7Progressive business managers concede that allowing employeesreasonable freedom for personal Internet activities can benefit boththe company and its employees. Workers can manage their personaland business needs more efficiently, allowing them to focus more ontheir work and decreasing the time for non-work-related activities.Longer-term benefits include increased productivity, morale andloyalty. Leaders in the HR community seem to agree: “We recognize that a certain amount of personal tasks will get taken care of at work. It’s expected that people will use email and the Internet for business purposes, but we realize that people have lives.”8 “When potential employees interview companies for employment, they evaluate all of the benefits, which may include schedule flexibility, on-site dry cleaning or on-the-job shopping…each trip an employee makes to the store is more time taken away from the employer.”9 “Companies probably lose more money trying to control their employees with an iron fist than they do in lost productivity by giving them free access.”10 9 Controlled Usage
  10. 10. The Untapped Network“ Growing traffic on corporate Employee Needs intranets will draw the As employees become more sophisticated about the resources attention of e-commerce players. available to them via the Internet, and as companies realize the Companies and vendors will value of using technology to enhance work-life navigation for their work together to develop employees, the demand for company-sponsored programs will grow. When employees were asked what their companies could bring corporate buying programs to their desktops to better assist with their work-life navigation, to gain access to this captive responses centered around content, community and commerce.11 audience. Just as companies offer employees on-site childcare Content or dry-cleaning drop-off, they The amount of information available on the Internet and company will see intranet e-commerce intranet is overwhelming; the challenge lies in providing targeted, relevant content to each employee. Assistance with developing and as a lifestyle-enhancing perk. locating content that is pertinent to the workforce is being provided Intranet marketplaces will by many leading companies. By understanding employee needs, blossom as retailers gain a companies can negotiate directly with vendors and content providers, new audience, companies give or partner with third party providers, to deliver a broad spectrum employees a new benefit and of value-added offerings to the employee desktop. workers save money through corporate discounts.” EMPLOYEE VOICE —Forrester Research, The New Employee research participants provide positive feedback around Business Portals, February 1999 the idea of their company delivering content to their desktop that addresses work-life needs. • “Our company could take a poll to see what the majority of the company is interested in as far as being able to take care of their personal needs, and then create or modify our existing intranet.” • “If they offered information online around having someone that I could trust to watch my children, that would cut down on my stress and allow me to focus on my work, my productivity.” • “Trust is the interesting point; having someone that you can trust. We find a lot of these sites on our own, but I think an added value would be that the company has done some background research on how good the service is, the reputation of the doctors or the quality of the dry cleaning. Then you have a little bit of confidence using the service because the company has done some research into its background.” Results from employee focus groups conducted nationwide by Constat Market Research The pre-selection of content partners can reduce, or even eliminate, the time employees spend searching and price shopping. Providing these services can be viewed as a company benefit, demonstrating that management understands that employees have lives outside the office, and are willing to lend assistance. Employee Needs 10
  11. 11. The Untapped NetworkCommunitySeveral recent trends—including the push towards globalization andthe continued growth of mergers and acquisitions—have resulted inunprecedented size and profitability for corporations. However, oneof the many repercussions of these trends is the loss of corporatecommunity in the workforce. Company intranets have made greatstrides in facilitating the exchange of business information, corporatecommunications and knowledge capital with disconnected employees,but in most cases it has ignored the benefits of linking employeesbased on personal interests and life needs. EMPLOYEE VOICE Employee research group participants indicate that building and maintaining corporate communities covering work-life issues is critical, but often ignored by HR departments. Simple intranet or Internet tools such as employee classifieds, group calendaring and topic-related bulletin boards foster a closely-knit community among employees, as well as enhance and extend the employer-employee relationship. • “When I was forced to relocate across the country a year ago, I really could have used some form of local information, or a way to contact others in the office to find out what neighborhood to live in, the best place to find an apartment....things like that, where you really need word-of-mouth” • “Bulletin boards just don’t cut it anymore” • “Everything is focused around the corporate headquarters. If you’re out here in a satellite office you do not feel very connected with the company, and cannot take advantage of all the perks that those at the home office are accustomed to.” Results from employee focus groups conducted nationwide by Constat Market Research 11 Employee Needs
  12. 12. The Untapped Network Commerce Employees are accessing the Internet at the office not only to retrieve news and conduct research, but also to engage in online commerce. There is a growing preference for purchasing goods and services over the Internet at the workplace. (See Figure 2) Online Shopping—Home vs. Work $90.0 $80.0 $70.0 $60.0 $ BILLIONS $50.0 $40.0 $30.0 $20.0 $10.0 $0.0 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 WORK BASED HOME BASED Figure 2 Source: Jupiter, Media Metrix, Abilizer Research A number of explanations can be attributed to the growth of online commerce at the office. These include longer work hours, faster connections and the growing acceptance by management of attending to personal issues at work. However, the bottom line indicates that online commerce at the office will continue to grow as more workers choose to access the Internet at work in place of at home. Employees are not just buying flowers and checking stocks online at the office; they are also performing time-intensive tasks such as researching schools for their children, planning travel and price shopping for major purchases such as home mortgages and electronics. According to Jupiter Communications’ “Home Versus Work Usage” study, approximately 70% of employees spend time gathering product information and price-shopping at work, a sharp contrast to the roughly 25% of employees involved with less time intensive tasks such as checking bank statements or credit card balances online.12Employee Needs 12
  13. 13. The Untapped NetworkWhen examining actual purchases from the workplace, the evidenceindicates that they are complex, expensive and research-intensiveproducts and services. (See Figure 3) Percentage of Employees Ł Buying a Given Product from Work Financial Services 63% Computer Hardware, Software 61% Travel 54% Books/Music 53% Flowers/Gifts 48% Paid Bills 46% 46% Apparel 33% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70%Figure 3Source: Jupiter CommunicationsLeading organizations are increasingly allowing employees reasonablefreedom with personal Internet purchases that typically would havebeen performed with a phone call or a trip to a store during workhours. Large companies can use volume purchasing, partnershipsand access to their employee base to negotiate discounted rateson popular products and services. Examples include movie andamusement park tickets, subsidized childcare or preferred rateson car loans and insurance. “When you’re talking about savingemployees hundreds of dollars (with company discounts), that’ssignificant… the job market is very tight, and any benefit is a tool.” 13 13 Employee Needs
  14. 14. The Untapped Network Conclusion As Internet and intranet access becomes ubiquitous, employers gain a means to extend work hours around the clock and around the globe, as well as a new tool to help employees manage their lives. Corporate intranets provide the infrastructure for connecting employees to a broad range of programs, products and services via the Internet. According to Hewitt Associates, employees confront a life decision every 12-15 minutes at the office.14 Given this frequency—and the case that “reasonable” personal use is an accepted reality—it makes sense for companies to help employees accomplish personal responsibilities more effectively. Providing employees with online programs that deliver targeted and personalized content, foster ongoing dialogue, promote community-building and provide access to a wide range of products and services around their life needs can help to differentiate a company as an “employer of choice”. Before companies can truly revolutionize the way they conduct business by taking advantage of the Internet and online commerce, they must first transform their workforce. Empowering employees with the necessary online tools, and giving them the freedom to use them in their personal and professional endeavors, is a first step towards building the company for the twenty first century.Conclusion 14
  15. 15. The Untapped NetworkEndnotes1. Forrester Research, “Internet Services Hypergrowth,” February 1999.2. IDC Corporation, Abilizer Research3. Nielsen/NetRatings, 2000, Abilizer Research4., February 20005. American Management Association, 19996. Constat Market Research, 20007. Constat Market Research, 20008. “Desk Service,” Incentive, January 1, 2000, p. 99. “All Work and No Play.” The Industry Standard, May 15, 2000, p. 13810. Constat Market Research, 200011. Jupiter Communications, “Home Versus Work Usage,” 199912. “Workers bag new perk with shopping on the job tight labor market means creative benefits,” USA Today, November 16, 1999, p.1B.13. “Workers bag new perk with shopping on the job tight labor market means creative benefits,” USA Today, November 16, 1999, p.1B.14. Hewitt Associates, 1999 15 Endnotes
  16. 16. Abilizer Solutions, Inc. 744 Alabama Street, Second Floor San Francisco, CA 94110 Phone: (415) 216-0100© 2000 perksatwork.comAbilizer and Abilizer Solutions are trademarks of