Asia Pacific SMBs falling behind employee expectations: Microsoft study

  • Employees in emerging markets will leapfrog those in mature markets
  • Only 50% respondents feel they have adequate work-life balance today
Asia Pacific SMBs falling behind employee expectations: Microsoft study

SMALL and medium businesses (SMBs) in Asia Pacific are lagging behind their employees’ expectations to be more productive, collaborative and innovative in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, according to a Microsoft Corp study.
While 74% of employees consider themselves to be mobile workers, only 31% work for SMBs that have formal work policies to support remote working, the company said in a statement.
Microsoft’s New World of Work SMB Study was conducted in March 2015 with 2,000 respondents working in small and medium enterprises with fewer than 250 employees in 10 Asia Pacific markets: Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The New World of Work Index is derived from respondents who rated themselves highly in the three key principles of people, place and technology, and provides a comparison between markets, Microsoft said.
The Asia Pacific mean score was 40 out of 100, while scores ranged from as low as 21 in Taiwan to as high as 62 in Indonesia, Microsoft said.

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The New World of Work covers three key principles:

1) People: Employees in the New World of Work have the capabilities to work flexibly and productively in the digital modern workplace. They are supported by leaders and cultures that help them succeed in this dynamic environment.
2) Place: Employees can work flexibly, anywhere at any time. Their offices support a collaborative, dynamic workplace design and their policies support flexible work at work, home or with customers.
3) Technology: Employees are empowered with technology to enable them to succeed in this environment, allowing collaborative work wherever they may go.


Asia Pacific SMBs falling behind employee expectations: Microsoft study

Microsoft said it worked with Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy helping companies solve the people and organisation challenges of growth, to design the study and gain insights from the data.
“Over the past decade, the nature of work has evolved and now requires more remote collaboration,” said Organisation Solutions chief operating officer Dr James Eyring.
“Progressive companies have changed their workplace, policies and capabilities to better succeed in this environment.
“By enabling employees to work anywhere, at any time, these companies improve employee collaboration, innovation, productivity and well-being. In turn, they better serve customers and grow their business.
“These companies also provide more flexibility to current workers and better attract young talent who are used to having a connected and mobile environment,” he added.
The findings clearly show that the traditional notion of work is changing, even within SMBs:

1) The responsive organisation: 71% of respondents said that they are required to respond to internal stakeholders within 4 hours; and 67% said that they are required to respond to external customers within 4 hours;
2) Work doesn’t end at 5pm: A resounding majority of respondents (79%) said that they are still required to be contactable outside of work today in order to complete their work effectively;
3) Limited mobile productivity in a highly mobile workforce: The top two reasons why they need to be present in the office were to have access to important equipment or tools (60%) or important information (41.5%). Only 25% feel they are productive outside the office (home, customer site, public venues).
4) Bring-your-own-device and bring-your-own-service culture is increasingly pervasive: Employees are using as many personal devices (52%) compared with employer-issued devices (48%) to get work done today. 52% are also using online tools (mostly free) that go beyond just email – document and file sharing, storage, virtual meetings, social.
5) Achieving work-life balance is challenging: 79% of respondents said that work-life balance is a very important aspect of their job, but only half of respondents (50%) felt that they had adequate balance today.
6) SMBs are making progress to have sustainable practices, with 73% of respondents saying their organisations are increasingly becoming paperless.


Asia Pacific SMBs falling behind employee expectations: Microsoft study

“Globalisation and technology innovations have brought the world closer and have fundamentally changed the way people live and work,” said Valerie Beaulieu [corrected], general manager, Small & Midmarket Solutions and Partners Group, Microsoft Asia Pacific.
“SMBs make up over 90% of business in Asia and contribute significantly to economic growth. We commissioned this study to understand how work and life has changed for employees in Asia Pacific and to determine how well supported they are in enabling them to succeed.
“While technology plays a key role to enable work from anywhere scenarios and higher productivity, there are other aspects such as organisational culture, policies, infrastructure, enabling collaboration or ability to break down barriers to innovation which are becoming increasingly important for an organisation to be competitive,” she added.
Emerging markets to leapfrog mature markets

The New World of Work Index also found that:

  • Employees in emerging markets feel they are better supported for a new world of work, and are open to using productivity tools to work better and smarter. They also clearly bring their own devices and services to the workplace to help them become more connected and productive. This was further reinforced by the insight that majority of respondents in these markets are using four or five productivity services today.
  • Employees in mature markets live in a world where advanced productivity tools are more readily available, but they do not harness online productivity tools as much as their counterparts in emerging markets. They may also be impeded by stricter policies or legacy processes and systems at the workplace.
  • 52% of respondents in Asia Pacific use at least four to five online services to enable their work needs (email, social, collaboration, virtual meetings, and cloud-based file sharing services). In the new digital world, employees in emerging markets will leapfrog those in mature markets in becoming workers of the future.
  • When ranked, the top 5 online services being used by employees in SMBs for work are: Email (89%); social tools (66%); file-sharing services (62%); document collaboration tools (61%); and virtual meeting tools (56%).

The benefits
When companies, especially SMBs, adopt the New World of Work principles, they are able to gain new business insights, realise greater operational efficiency, communicate and collaborate real time – all while reducing the impact on the environment, Microsoft argued.
In fact, the New World of Work presents four clear benefits for SMBs today: A more productive workforce, a more collaborative workforce, a more innovative workforce and a happier workplace, the company claimed.
The top three benefits cited by employees are:

1) To be able to work productively from anywhere (52.7%)
2) To share ideas, documents and information with colleagues instantly (51.9%)
3) To be more responsive to customers (47.05%)

Nearly half (48%) of respondents still do not have access to the breadth of tools in their workplace to be collaborative, break down barriers between organisations and distances, as well as to share ideas easily.
With productivity and talent retention being a key concern form SMBs in Asia Pacific, companies can no longer afford to ignore the needs of their employees to provide enhanced productivity as well as better work life integration in the New World of Work, Microsoft said.
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