How transparent should you be with your IT?

A workplace where all employees understand your company’s IT systems and software and feel empowered. Sound like a lofty goal? For many businesses, the IT consultant or team continues to work their magic behind the scenes so employees don’t even have to think about it. Most employees would agree, this is how they prefer it. They want to enter their username and password and carry on with their technology-related tasks unburdened by the details of how technology supports them.

Let's Be Clear: Transparency in Tech is Critical

The rise of a more mobile workforce and employee use of varied devices and communication modes throughout their workday is forcing the issue: employees need a greater understanding of their company’s IT system. Employees who are left in the dark, perhaps because of a company’s fear of sharing too much knowledge, are not only less productive, but at higher risk for compromising data and information security.

According to a Cisco report on data leakage, data stored on the corporate network is at risk because it is more accessible than ever. Employees are using company computers for personal reasons and their behaviors pose a high risk to IT systems. Cisco’s report asserts that the ultimate goal is for everyone, at every level, to believe that corporate security is critical, understand the policies and procedures for achieving a secure environment, and implement the necessary activities every day.

At the most basic level, companies from small to large in size that are transparent about their IT systems establish a better relationship with employees. Employees who feel empowered technology-wise help the company as a whole advance productivity, collaboration and communication.

Here’s a Step-by-Step Process to IT Transparency

Know Your Workforce
The first step in improving understanding of a company’s IT system is knowing your workforce — their tasks, their mobility and communication preferences. Rather than providing them with IT facts and details, this understanding is key to communicating why they should care about it.

Arm Employees with Basic Info about Your IT
Create a 1-2 page IT system summary to share with employees. Customize this for each type of employee you have. Explain your platforms, basic integration, current software, and data types that you are managing. Most importantly, tell them why it’s relevant for them and give them best recommendations and note any incompatibility or troublesome areas to avoid.

Communicate with Your Employees Regularly about IT
A solid IT department or outsourced partner should keep on top of new software and business trends for your company’s particular industry. Monthly status updates can help you stay on track. Include what your IT consultant/ department is working on, examples of how are others using and implementing new technology and 1-2 simple bits of information they can use immediately on the job. Be sure to ask employees for feedback on what tasks are challenging for them. Then follow up.

Set the IT Mindset to Proactive, not Reactive
There’s an immediate physical response when a new technology-related task or issue occurs for an employee. Whether it’s an online form to file to submit an IT request to the help desk or picking up the phone and dialing your IT consultant, an employee has a preconceived idea of how the process will go. Because frustration levels may be high if they’re currently at a standstill, employees may be agitated. For many employees, this is their only type of interaction with the IT person or team.

To offset the reactive mode techs often operate in, proactivity is key. Make regular check-ins with various departments so you clearly anticipate their business growth and technology challenges and then support them.

Taking these steps toward IT transparency and building the IT and employee relationship to the positive ultimately increases employee productivity. Alarmingly, for all of the good technology can bring, employee productivity only increased by 0.09% last year, as cited in this infoTECH Spotlight article. Companies who do IT right have more opportunity to increase those numbers and remain competitive in today’s marketplace.