How can IT departments improve their employee experience? [Q&A]

happy workers

We're all aware that there is a skills shortage and that it’s particularly acute in some areas -- such as cybersecurity. One of the ways companies can help retain the employees they have -- while making it more attractive to work there -- is by improving the employee work experience.

But what exactly does improving an employee’s work experience actually involve? We spoke to Pedro Bados, CEO of digital experience specialist Nexthink to find out.

BN: Why should companies be concerned about the 'employee experience'?

PB: Everyone knows that a company's employees are the backbone of its success. Companies are in a war for talent, trying to retain existing employees and attract new ones. If day-to-day experiences at work are not positive, then current employees will leave and new talent won't join. Companies in this situation need to improve their employee experience or resign themselves to settling for second tier talent.

The employee experience has historically focused on two important pillars (people and places), which include culture, morale, company perks, great office spaces and more. Keeping current employees motivated and feeling valued is incredibly important in making your company and your open roles stand out in today’s competitive job market.

However, as companies have marched forward with bold digital transformation initiatives, employees have increasingly become dependent on a wide variety of technologies and applications to work efficiently and effectively. These digital initiatives have significantly increased the importance of a third pillar of the employee experience equation… technology -- leading companies to realize they must actively monitor and maintain it as closely as their focus on people and places.

A negative experience with any one pillar can affect the entire employee experience and cause a successful employee-company relationship to break down.

BN: How much difference does having a positive workplace experience make?

PB: A positive workplace experience ensures that the mindset of your employees remains positive as well. When people feel that their company is delivering an optimal environment for them to thrive, they are going to be more productive and more likely to add meaningful value on a daily basis.

In contrast, when disruptions pop up and positive employee experiences turn negative, it can be detrimental to important workplace elements such as company culture and employee engagement, creating a trickle-down effect.

Think about it: have you ever had a less than desirable experience at work and not mentioned it to one of your co-workers?

Whether a new application was acting faulty or your computer was having issues, I'm willing to bet that you said something about the situation. While it seems like innocent water cooler talk, this kind of small-scale negativity can take its toll on a company when compounded over time.

Employee morale is contagious. When the chatter around the office is anything other than positive, employees are going to view their company in a negative light, even if only slightly, and that could eventually lead them to begin seeking employment elsewhere. Once a person shifts their mindset this way, they may even begin speaking about the company in a less than ideal way to outsiders, bringing negativity to the brand both internally and externally -- a lose-lose scenario.

The bottom line? A positive employee experience ensures that employees remain productive with positive mindsets, happy with their current careers and ready to consistently contribute in a meaningful way to the company.

BN: How do you begin to improve that experience?

PB: Real-time information is essential to providing a positive digital employee experience. Without a clear understanding of what the workplace experiences with your technology, tools and applications actually are, improvements simply cannot be made. IT needs to be able to quantify the digital employee experience of every single employee - and in doing so, find a way to measure it continuously.

Forward-thinking companies are moving towards IT models where they benchmark the status of the digital employee experience, gathering real-time data on application usage within an organization. In parallel, they gather feedback from employees about their success or frustrations with workplace technology - and in comparing what they’re seeing from technology and hearing from employees - they’re able to have a holistic view of the actual experience.

With a recent report finding that employees waste 2.4 hours per week at work due to IT issues, it is critical to identify what is making an employee experience a bad one, so it can be repaired. Part of this process is to use the information gained by tracking and scoring your company's digital employee experience. By doing so, you’re able to shift from the traditional mindset of needing to deliver the latest technology to one that is people-centric and where the employee’s experience with technology is first and foremost.

BN: Why does this matter particularly for IT teams?

PB: For decades, IT used a model where they provided services to 'users' who were expected to accept what was provided to them. That world has changed, and IT now provides a service to ‘customers’ who can complain or bypass what is provided if they don’t like it. The relationship has changed.

Still, IT is under constant pressure to innovate by introducing new technologies that accelerate the company’s success and impact the digital workplace on a daily basis.

Any new technology rollout, as innovative as it may be, comes with the risk of frustrating users via disruptions and impacting their ability to be productive.

In addition, IT teams now have the added pressure of dealing with a new generation of employees who have been brought up with high-performing digital tools and excellent experience with their personal devices. This results in the expectation that they’ll have a similar experience with their work technology. In fact, a Microsoft survey found that 93 percent of millennials say that up-to-date technology is one of the most important aspects of a workplace.

IT has to deliver flawless digital employee experiences by understanding the extent to which employees are satisfied with their digital workplace - and the impact a change could have on that employee experience. It is important for IT teams to learn how to introduce change while limiting risk and disruption.

The best IT teams are moving towards models where real-time data on application and device health is at their fingertips, allowing them to proactively identify and fix issues, often before the employee even knows there's a problem. Proactivity enables the IT team to ensure that the digital employee experience is flawless, while still arming employees with the new technologies they need to do their jobs effectively.

BN: How can businesses measure their employee experience?

PB: IT can leverage real-time application and device data, coupled with timely and contextually-relevant user sentiment, to better understand how technology is experienced within your company -- enabling the business to understand what needs to be improved or what should become a best practice moving forward.

One way to do this is to establish a scoring system for your digital employee experience initiatives. A scoring system enables the organization to see, through hard data, if IT roll outs are actually achieving the goals set for them, and how helpful (or not) that they've been for employees.

By benchmarking against historical data, both within the organization and within their respective industry, a digital experience score becomes a true guiding star that the business can look to when considering improvements. As new technologies are added into the mix, IT is able to seamlessly see how the employee experience is being impacted in real-time.

This knowledge is crucial, as the management of positive employee experiences is a continuous effort, not simply a snapshot in time. With real-time, hard data at the fingertips of IT, the business will be able to consistently improve while continuing to evolve.

Photo credit: Roman Samborskyi/ Shutterstock

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