By: Ken Martin
The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted how important technology is to the success and survival of small businesses. At CIT, we wanted to dive deeper and so we collaborated with The Harris Poll to survey small business executives in the U.S. for the second year to uncover the latest trends at the intersection of technology and talent – two of the most important factors driving today’s businesses.
Last year, we found that small businesses were cautiously optimistic about technology investment as business was mostly “personal,” or required human touch. This year’s study reveals how small business leaders’ opinions have changed in the wake of COVID-19 and what they think the future will look like.
Keeping Technology Investment Top of Mind
Since the pandemic hit, small businesses have been prioritizing online operations from both an employee and customer perspective. For companies with remote work capabilities, the average percentage of employees regularly working from home has nearly doubled compared to pre-pandemic times (from 38% to 64% during the pandemic).
According to the survey, more than 1 in 3 small business executives (35%) wish that they had invested more in technology/software upgrades over the past 12 months. What’s more, nearly 4 in 5 small business executives (79%) believe the technology that a company has is key to their survival. For those that plan to invest, nearly a third will spend on remote work tech (31%) and/or productivity tools (30%) over the next 12 months.
Emphasizing a Tech Savvy Workforce
Among the small businesses that can operate with remote employees, about half (53%) say they plan to allow employees to work remotely on a permanent basis after the pandemic subsides. Technology has enabled the transition to remote work for many businesses, but the shift has put a premium on a tech-savvy workforce.
Small businesses now require employees that are competent in technology to support customers, navigate the software and hardware that drives operations, and collaborate effectively and efficiently with colleagues in a remote setting. While more than 4 in 5 executives (82%) believe their current workforce is tech-savvy enough to keep up with digital transformation, they are significantly more likely than last year to say companies need to focus on hiring tech-savvy talent (79% SB in 2020 vs. 69% in 2019).
Staying Prepared with Tomorrow Thinking
For any business, investment in recruitment, technology and equipment can be expensive. And navigating those investments while maintaining business operations can be even more challenging. That’s why it is critical today’s business leaders have support for their financial needs. More than half of small business executives gave an “A” grade to the core banking services their primary bank provided during the pandemic (online banking, access to checking and savings, and payment processing).
Small businesses typically don’t have the financial resources that larger enterprises often enjoy. As a result, borrowing or leasing may be a better solution when the time comes to acquire the equipment and technological resources needed to remain competitive. Some of the key benefits of financing technology investments include an increase in working capital, preservation of cash reserves, the ability to buy equipment faster, predictable monthly payments and potential tax benefits.
Overall, these survey findings underline the importance of Tomorrow Thinking and investing in technology and talent. Despite the pandemic, financing savvy investments in tech and talent can help today’s small businesses to stay resilient and grow.
The 2020 Technology and Talent Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of CIT from June 17 to June 29, 2020 among 304 executives at middle market companies (defined as companies with 100-9,999 employees) and 304 executives at small businesses (defined as companies with 1-99 employees). Data from the small business and middle market segments were weighted where necessary by employee size to bring them into line with their actual proportion in the population.
Ken Martin, CIT Small Business Solutions Managing Director cit.com/business
See more on the “2020 Tech & Talent Survey” results for small business, including an infographic and whitepaper.