Are Canadians unhappier at work than Americans?

By Francis Li (photo by S. Yume)

From the political arena to the hockey arena – and from literacy to life expectancy –Americans and Canadians love a good “compare and contrast” debate on just about any socioeconomic variable.
As organizations on both sides of the border place increased value on productivity and employee engagement, finding out whose employees are happier at work, and why, is of growing concern. Despite the stereotype of having a generally sunnier disposition, recent research has emerged suggesting that Canadians are less happy at work than Americans.
I’m sorry to break the news, eh?
A new Softchoice study on the relationship between technology and employee engagement finds implementing technology that empowers employees to be not just more productive, but productive on their terms, has a positive impact on their overall job satisfaction. And further, U.S. companies appear to be doing a better job at it.
For example, the study finds 66 per cent of American full-time workers use cloud applications (i.e. Dropbox, Evernote) on the job, compared to 57 per cent of Canadians. Those same respondents report similar gaps in workplace satisfaction. The study finds 77 per cent of Americans are happy with their current jobs compared to 65 per cent of Canadians, and 72 per cent of American workers plan to stay with their current employers for the long-term versus 61 per cent of Canadians.
Across the board, Softchoice found that employees who use cloud apps for work are more productive, more excited about their jobs, and have more flexibility in their workdays.
I’m by no means suggesting that moving applications to the cloud is the magic solution for Canadian businesses. Employee engagement is never that simple. However, enabling a mobile workforce through Internet-based apps puts the employee in more control of how they work, when they work, and where they work. That kind of autonomy – and I’m speaking from experience here – can lead to better work-life balance, productivity, collaboration and project management.
And despite the popular notion that the excess of mobile devices, apps and other tools available today overload employees, technology (when applied the right way) does contribute to increased employee engagement.
Compared to their American counterparts, it seems that Canadian businesses have yet to embrace cloud apps and other new technologies as a catalyst of employee efficiency. Research by SAP and Oxford Economics found that only 38 per cent of Canadian employees get access to the latest technology, and just 52 per cent receive ample training on workplace technology.
Any successful IT initiative demands active employee involvement throughout – from the requirements gathering stage, through to the implementation and the training and adoption cycle. Getting employees involved on the ground floor makes them a part of the decision-making process. It helps them to better understand the choices being made, and makes them much more likely to see value in using the new tool once it’s implemented.
When the potential of that technology is realized, it doesn’t just improve business results, it improves workplace culture and job satisfaction.
Whether it’s the IT or HR department, or the C-suite, business leaders need to understand technology’s positive influence on staff performance – and, consequently, morale. Cross-border competition aside, it’s time for all businesses to rethink the power technology can deliver, even in the least likely of places.
Francis Li is the Vice President of Information Technology for Softchoice, a North American technology solutions and services provider.

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