What Employees Want in Increasingly Hybrid Work Environments
The not-so-secret ingredient to attracting and retaining employees is a good digital employee experience. But if you think a good digital employee experience can be achieved by implementing some shiny new tools, think again!
To achieve the strong competitive advantage that a satisfying and productive employee experience can provide, organizations have to strike the right balance of technology, organizational structure, and culture.
In attempting to strike this balance, they must adapt a new approach to designing digital tools and services, judiciously choose and apply advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics, revamp organizational structures to become more multidisciplinary and cultivate a C-suite that understands the digital experience and is willing to create a culture that allows it to flourish.
The cost of inadequate work tech
The employee experience isn’t the only thing harmed by insufficient workplace technology; it’s also harming the wider business. Freshworks’ survey reveals that legacy tech is restraining business productivity, as frustrated employees grapple with daily IT challenges.
During the pandemic, businesses spent the equivalent of US $15 billion extra a week on technology to enable remote working, according to KPMG. Despite the global shift to hybrid working igniting the biggest surge in technology investment in history, 61% of business leaders still predict their technology will not be “fit for purpose” and able to meet the demands of the business in 12 months.
Business leaders also identified challenges they faced when trying to get employees to embrace new technology and tools. These include inadequate training provision (66%) and that new software is hard to use and has a high learning curve (68%). On top of this, over two thirds (69%) of leaders feel that employees are not given sufficient time to learn to use new software and that the benefits are often not adequately explained to employees (67%), making it clear that financial investment alone is not sufficient to improve business efficiency and employee experience.
According to new research from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, the four biggest challenges to a good digital employee experience are in the areas of design, overload, integration, and leadership. Let’s break these down further to understand the full grasp of the challenges.
Barriers to the digital employee experience
Historically, IT designed tools with little understanding of what employees needed to do or how. But that’s changing for good. Organizations are starting to use design thinking and agile problem-solving to ensure digital tools are relevant, useful, and satisfying. Organizations have begun incorporating input from both employees and user-experience experts as they develop tools.
Without feedback, companies could take away valuable tools that employees use and leave them with bloated applications they never use. 54% of IT pros say their org pays for SaaS features that IT never uses, but 70% hesitate to share feedback because they don’t want to sound like a complainer
A better approach to overcoming the design barriers may be when technologists, designers, and users work together directly and co-create tools emphasizing a delightful experience.
The overload challenge involves the management of digital tools, services, and data. Over time, many organizations have built up many different tools from various vendors, all having disparate interfaces. When tools have been mandated for certain tasks, employees become frustrated and unproductive because they spend so much time switching from one tool to another. Information and data can overwhelm employees if it is disorganized or hard to find.
This barrier is particularly significant in remote and distributed work environments. Intranets serve as a virtual front door, creating the first impression for potential employees, customers, and partners. They are also where new hires start when looking for help. For example, a new employee who can’t locate a particular presentation might message multiple colleagues for help locating it, which can cascade into many people spending time searching for the same information.
Employees want a unified, consistent digital experience, but the integration required to deliver such a thing is a big challenge at most companies. It’s not just a question of integrating technology but also of transforming the organization. Individual departments commonly take ownership of certain processes and tasks, but for organizations to benefit from digital tools, they have to link their operations to digital workflows.
At Freshworks, we started by asking our employees for their opinions on software and looked for ways to consolidate software contracts. Instead of using different providers, companies are more efficient in using one provider for many aspects of the business. Companies with the same CX and ITSM software can use customer insights to inform how/where the IT routes tickets without creating silos to gather key info. Software with native AI allows companies to put past conversations to work to make AI smarter and understand intent much better than a third-party
There’s only so much technology and tools can do to make business initiatives and mandates happen successfully. IT leadership is a huge, valuable part of driving the new IT mandate, and these new business outcomes in the modern technological landscape. At the end of the day, the driving force behind every technological advancement in a business is an IT leader who puts in the effort to understand how technology works and lives in today’s world—all while solving real-life problems. The trick, though, is to have an IT leader truly willing to put that effort in.
Employees are key to creating business value. As the battle to hire and retain talent continues, organizations that provide a satisfying employee experience will likely find and keep the best workers. To close the gap between what organizations think they are delivering digitally for their workers to use and what employees actually want in increasingly hybrid work environments, IT leaders must elevate the digital workplace experience by being resilient by design, with flexible work practices and the technologies that support them.