The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how business gets done. And when it comes to midsized and small businesses, the importance of investing in new technology, facilitating remote work and maintaining a tech-savvy workforce has never been so clear, according to a new survey.
Conducted by The Harris Poll for CIT Group Inc., a leading national bank focused on empowering businesses and personal savers, the survey of leaders of U.S. middle-market and small businesses is designed to illuminate the intersection of technology and talent.
Compared to last year’s survey, significantly more leaders today believe continuous technological investment is a business requirement.
“The resiliency and flexibility that technology can deliver businesses has been convincingly proven by COVID-19,” says David Harnisch, president of CIT’s Commercial Finance division. “Business leaders have taken that lesson to heart and are focused on making technology a fundamental part of their ‘tomorrow thinking’.”
Most executives surveyed wish that they’d invested even more in technology over the past 12 months. In fact, more than three in four middle market executives believe investments in technology would have helped their company fare better during the pandemic. For small businesses, roughly half felt similarly.
However, there’s little question how important technology will be going forward, with the majority of respondents saying it’s crucial to future success.
Seemingly determined not to repeat the mistake of under-investing, the majority plan to invest as much or more in their business over the next 12 months as compared to the past year. Only 15% of small businesses say they may invest less this coming year, likely due to financial constraints resulting from the pandemic.
“Small businesses don’t always have the financial resources that larger enterprises often enjoy,” says Ken Martin, managing director of CIT’s Small Business Solutions group. “When investments are imperative, borrowing or leasing may be the right solution to acquiring the technology needed to remain competitive.”
When it comes to these upgrades, investments that make it easier for employees to work remotely are a clear priority. Over the next 12 months, 71% of middle market executives and 31% of small business leaders who plan to invest will spend on technology that facilitates remote work.
“It’s not just a matter of convenience. Businesses that empower employees to work remotely have a clear competitive advantage,” says Denise Menelly, CIT’s executive vice president and head of Technology and Operations.
This is a trend that’s likely here to stay. Approximately a quarter of small businesses operating remotely expect — and want — these changes to remain permanent after COVID-19 subsides, and about 40% of middle market executives expect the same, with some seeing it as a means to grow the company.
However, this digital transformation puts a premium on a tech-savvy workforce able to support customers and collaborate with colleagues remotely. While many believe their current workforce has the skills to keep up, businesses are also substantially more likely than last year to say companies need to focus on hiring tech-savvy talent.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty for small and midsized businesses, it has in many ways clarified what’s needed to remain successful in an evolving world.