Every year, innovators from around the world unveil the coolest new goodies and gadgets at CES, MWC, SXSW and beyond. This year, we’ve seen it all: Virtual reality! Connected cars! The IoT! From startups to the enterprise, it’s clear that lots of businesses are making very cool technology aimed at today’s digital economy.

So why does our workplace technology still suck?

Our office culture and environments have changed dramatically. Gone are the drab, isolating cube farms and the mandated 9-5 work day. “Business casual” now looks a whole lot different than it did even 10 years ago (hello hoodies, goodbye sportcoats). And consumer technology, as evidenced at the big expos, connects and streamlines our everyday tasks in ways we never dreamed were possible.

And yet, we still work in Microsoft Word. We still send long emails to big distribution lists. We still dial into conference calls with clunky passcodes. We still waste time, and therefore money, while video conferences experience technical difficulties. And your employees hate it.

To attract, win and keep top talent, you need tools that empower them, not slow them down. These solutions share five main characteristics:

Customizable

One of the most salient traits of the modern workforce is the need for personal expression. People thrive with tools that look, feel and work in a way that is meaningful to them. They expect workplace technology to operate like their phones. While every iPhone comes out of the box the same, each user’s apps, photos, music and cases quickly customize the experience.

In the enterprise, this translates to both design and functionality. Users should be able to make their technology represent them visually, as well as customize workflows to make them more efficient, productive and connected to their tasks.

Mobile

The importance of mobile almost goes without saying. But empowering your employees with anytime, anywhere access is not a yes or no equation. Email on your phone is not enough. Mobile experiences should be integrated into overall processes. They should not be an afterthought or a watered-down version of a desktop app. If anything, mobile should take priority.

Choose technology from a mobile-first perspective. Leave your laptop at home and see if you can do your job from your phone all day. Flexibility is critical to attracting and retaining employees. To deliver on their expectations, your workplace technology must work seamlessly across all devices.

Modular

Today’s technology must play well with others. Plug-and-play capabilities, built-in integrations, APIs and more should enable each tool in your toolkit to integrate easily with the rest. Siloed solutions create unnecessary barriers and waste time, while complex customizations and service engagements drain budgets and fail to keep up with the nearly constant updates common to most applications.

Look for solutions that are part of a bigger ecosystem. Whether a system of record or a best-of-breed point product, each component of your overall architecture should enhance the others, not get in their way. Ask about the frequency and ease of updates and integrations when selecting a new technology, and don’t underestimate the importance of the answer.

Adaptable

The pace of both business and technology requires solutions that can adapt quickly and efficiently. Nothing turns technology into shelfware faster than an outdated use case. Today’s employees expect tools that not only keep up with their needs, but anticipate and even bring about new ways of using the technology.

Consider not only what you need the solution to do today, but what you want it to do a year from now. What’s changing, in your business or externally, that would impact how you use the tool? What other needs or pain points could the solution theoretically address outside its primary use case? Next year, will it need to scale up or down, or do more, differently or better? Top performers often live on the leading edge of the technology curve. Your workplace solutions should as well.

Fun

These days, the line between “work” and “life” is blurry at best. Work has infiltrated our homes, but our “real lives” have merged into the workplace as well. We all want tools that are as enjoyable to use as the ones we naturally turn to in our free time. While submitting an expense report or setting up a video conference might never be as fun as chatting on WhatsApp or sending a snap, they don’t have to be painful.

The most cutting edge capabilities can’t compete with an experience that’s enjoyable, elegant and effective. Pay attention to how it feels to use the solution, not just what you accomplish. Is it intuitive or frustrating? Does it make you smile or frown at your screen? The “fun factor” is often determined in the details – the little things that impart personality into the typically sterile landscape of enterprise tech. Don’t overlook them.

The employees you want technology that’s helpful, not a hindrance. You don’t need tradeshow-style beacons and robots to attract top talent. Just give them tools that enable efficient, flexible work with emotional connection plus a dash of fun, and your employees – and your bottom line – will thank you.

(About the author: David Chao is chief strategy officer at ReadyTalk)

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