What makes some of us tech laggards at work?

Not everyone in an organisation can keep up with the rapid advancements of new technologies at the same pace.
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Dubai: Are you one of those who is slow on the uptake when it comes to most things tech? Do apps and DIY instructions befuddle you? And do you feel it’s purely IT’s business to fix your problem when you get stuck on the computer?

Well, you could well be labelled as a tech laggard – and there are many others like you out there. But the good news is, it’s not impossible to catch up.

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Speaking to Gulf News, Ali Al Mansoori, Group Chief Human Resources Officer at e&, cited a joint report with (State of CS and ICT Education in the UAE) and said 88 per cent of the public in the UAE recognises the value of computer science in creating jobs and reducing inequalities.

“This rings especially true when you consider the growing importance of digital skills in today’s world. However, ensuring everyone in your organisation can keep up with the rapid advancements of new technologies can be challenging,” he acknowledged.

Ali Al Mansoori

There are several reasons why upskilling can be tardy. According to him, “People from different backgrounds may have varying levels of experience and comfort with technology. This can make it harder for them to pick up new skills quickly. An early introduction to computer science builds a foundation for future learning and future work, making it easier to adapt to new advancements.”

The report found that 24 per cent of the UAE population possess programming skills which is why local initiatives like “UAE Codes Day” and “One Million Arab Coders” are crucial, he said. “They focus on the up-and-coming generation and equip them with digital literacy and coding skills early on, setting them up for success in the increasingly digital world.”

Mindsets matter

Educational backgrounds and personal learning mindsets do matter.

Aws Ismail, founder of Marc Ellis, a tech recruiting agency, said, “People often hesitate to embrace new tech because they feel it may be overwhelming or may add an extra layer of work. They hesitate when it comes to stepping out of comfort zones.

Aws Ismail

“I also believe that some people just don’t see the need to switch up their routine until it’s absolutely necessary.”

He said this is particularly true in domains like banking, manufacturing and even small retail businesses. “These sectors have their traditions, and sometimes, the attitude is, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Deepak Ramesh, CEO of SourceEzy, a cloud-based e-procurement platform, doesn’t see age as a factor for employees to adopt new technology.

Deepak Ramesh

“In my experience, companies might be hesitant to embrace new technology due to disruption in workflows, lack of understanding, risk of failure, legacy systems, security concerns or a huge investment in terms of costs,” he said (See box).

Factors impacting tech adoption
According to Deepak Ramesh of SourceEzy, there are a number of factors that influence an employee’s or company’s adoption of technology:
Disruption: Introducing new technology can disrupt existing workflows and processes, so companies may be reluctant. Executives who are open to a small proof of concept would be willing to try new technology.
Lack of understanding or expertise: Adopting new technology often requires employees to learn new skills or adapt to new ways of working. If employees lack the necessary knowledge or expertise, there may be resistance to change within the organisation.
Risk of failure: There’s always a risk that new technology may not deliver the expected benefits or may not integrate well with existing systems.
Security concerns: With the rise of cyber threats and data breaches, companies may be cautious about adopting new technology if they’re unsure about its security implications. They may fear that new systems could introduce vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors.
Legacy systems: Many companies rely on legacy systems that may not be easily compatible with newer technologies. Migrating away from these systems can be complex and time-consuming, leading to reluctance to embrace new technology.
Cost: Implementing new technology often requires a significant financial investment, so allocation of funds can be an issue, especially if they’re uncertain about the return on investment or if they’re already operating on tight budgets.

Beating the challenges

According to Ramesh, “While there are numerous potential benefits to embracing new technology, there are also various challenges and considerations that companies and employees weigh before taking the plunge. We have to enable the decision-making with baby steps to ensure that they get the comfort, see the benefits of using new technology and adopt it wholeheartedly.”

“To empower employees to truly leverage the potential of new technologies, it’s crucial to cultivate a culture of continuous learning and exploration,” said Al Mansoori. “This means encouraging a mindset that embraces new ideas and approaches so that employees feel comfortable diving in and experimenting with new tools. By adopting a hands-on approach, they gain valuable experience and confidence. Ultimately, this journey of exploration should be viewed as an opportunity for professional growth, allowing them to develop new skills and expand their capabilities.”

According to him, “Technology shouldn’t be intimidating; instead, it should be viewed as a tool that can simplify and enhance work. An environment that facilitates experimenting with different technologies firsthand is key to understanding their potential benefits. We encourage our people to innovate by providing opportunities to experiment with new technologies like AI.”

Ismail believes tech laggards can see a change if they are open to upskilling. “This is done best when there is a mix. Learning on the job is great—you get to apply what you learn right away, which really helps it stick. But specialised courses can fill in the gaps, offering a broader perspective or the latest tech skills, which can be a game-changer for people’s careers.

He says training needs to be up to date and engaging for it to be adequate. “Sometimes, training courses can be delivered in an old school way which can result in disengaged participants,” he said, adding that incorporating activities and fun in the training helps.