Canadian Underwriter

Where do you invest first to grow your business: People or machines?

July 2, 2019   by Adam Malik

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To grow their business, broker principals would be wise to zero in on health, happiness and staff harmony as priorities. That’s the strategy going forward for many for Canadian businesses, according to a new study.

Naturally, business owners are looking at the usual ways to boost growth, said the report, Navigator: Made for the Future. More than half (54%) of the 200 Canadian companies included in the survey said they will continue to put money towards innovation and research as their primary strategy for increasing business.

But making sure staff are satisfied in their jobs is becoming a top priority, said the study, which surveyed 2,500 firms across 14 countries on behalf of HSBC. The study found that 47% of business owners intended to invest in boosting skills training, the second-most important growth strategy. Employee satisfaction ranked not far behind at 42%.

Trailing behind were more traditional growth strategies, such as investing in things like logistics, equipment or office upgrades, and business restructuring, all of which came in at 37%.

This points to the value of workers in spite of all the talk about technology taking over certain jobs, said Dan Leslie, deputy head of commercial banking at HSBC Bank Canada. “Business leaders recognize that we need to invest in people to be successful,” he said.

In order to be more efficient and customer-centric, up-skilling and adopting innovative technologies are key. Canadian companies said they plan to boost investment in customer experience (54%) as a result. They’re bringing in wearable, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning to make their business a place employees in which want to work. Some are even introducing 3D printing, the survey reported.

All this technology will make staff more productive, according to 77% of companies in the study. Employees want to use the latest technology, not archaic systems; plus, they feel valued by seeing their bosses invest in upgrading their skills. Seventy-four percent believe advanced technology will keep their employees satisfied and enhance their well being. As the labour market tightens, making the office a place where employees feel happy is an important part of employee retention and recruitment.

“Nearly one in four companies said one of the driving forces behind their investments in sustainability is to improve their ability to recruit and retain the best people,” the study said.

Adds Leslie: “Businesses made for the future will need their people to be highly trained and highly engaged – or they may take their skills elsewhere.”

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