When most people think of employee experience, they think of “HR hiring practices” or “onboarding tools,” but that leaves out the one thing that makes it possible to do any of the work: technology. And, simultaneously, it neglects the gatekeepers of the company’s technology, tools, apps, and tech stack: the IT team.
Employee experience encompasses a broad swatch of activities and tools — from HR hiring practices to IT technology and everything in between. It’s how employees arrive at the office and do their jobs. It’s how they feel while they’re there and what they learn in the course of their careers. And, at the heart of all that work are the tools and technologies that make work possible.
As IT partners more and more closely with the business units it serves, employee experience becomes more of an imperative, and 78% of IT leaders say that projects related to digital employee experience are a higher priority compared to two years ago. We know that the role of IT is changing, consider that 77% of IT leaders believe IT functions as an extension/ partner of business units rather than as a separate function.
Since IT is now seen as an extension/ partner of the business, most IT leaders already think about the key elements of employee experience and how that impacts their organization. IT leaders have always known that they contribute to the bottom line with their impact on employee productivity, collaboration, upskilling opportunities, and control of data and workflow control. Through the lens of employee experience, the foundation for productivity, collaboration, information sharing, and upskilling is the organization’s underlying technology. IT builds, supports, and manages the technology that empowers a positive employee experience.
Here are three ways IT can impact the employee experience.
Productive employees mean departments, teams, individuals, and systems all function at optimal capacity. It means that data is able to flow between different parts of the organization without getting caught in silos or lost along the way. For employees, that means more automated processes using bots and workflows and greater data accuracy. It means every employee is fully enabled and has the tools to do work faster, smarter, and better.
Here are three questions IT leaders can consider to recenter their focus on employee experience:
- How can we be proactive and not reactive? This is a huge challenge for IT leaders on the whole, particularly with legacy systems. If you’ve been warily eyeing full-scale integration, it’s time to put those plans into action. Integration and updating or replacing legacy systems is an enormous task, but the long-term gains could be well worth the initial time and effort investment, and as technology evolves, integration becomes more flexible — if not less painful. Centralizing your data can revolutionize your employee experience — whether it’s really centralized or not. New integration tools make it possible to keep your data wherever it is, while still making it accessible and usable from a centralized workspace.
- How can we do pre-work to enable employees to do work fast? Pre-work is the idea of IT setting up workflows, or building functionality to enable employees to work more efficiently. IT can do pre-work by centralizing the data that employees tend to look for and making it searchable. Nineteen percent of the average workweek is spent searching for and gathering information. If that information is centralized and easier to find, then productivity can increase by 30-35%. This limits the number of tickets that will need to be logged in order to find and access things. It also enables employees to begin to self-serve, and that in turn allows them to work faster and more effectively. In the end, that more than makes up for IT’s initial time investment.
- How can we support more transparency? It might seem strange to talk about transparency as an IT problem, but technology can go a long way in supporting a culture of transparency, and transparency can power up productivity. If results are siloed and not communicated, and projects are run without vision into and from the rest of the organization, it makes it easier for data to get lost. When data is lost or not available, productivity slows down. Transparency is equal parts culture and technology, but IT can help by putting employees into open communication platforms, and developing more customized permissions so that data can be shared more openly — without compromising the access of those who need it.
Collaboration for employee experience sounds deceptively simple: employees need to work together. But it’s much more than that. Not only do individual contributors need to be able to work together and exchange data, but teams, departments, remote and contract employees all need to be able to do so as well. And they will all need different permissions, access to different files across disparate systems, varied timezones, and devices. IT teams tend to end up managing a huge a variety of tools to help accomplish this, but employee-experience focused IT leaders can narrow down to just a few with the greatest impact:
- Social Media for Internal Use: Social media platforms can actually increase productivity and collaboration – when used internally of course. A McKinsey Global Institute Study found that social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20% to 25% due to improved productivity and collaboration.
- Google Search-Like Employee Intranet / Information Database: Most employees spend nearly 20% of their workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But a searchable employee intranet can make it easy for employees to find and share information on almost any part of their work or workspace without needing to log tickets with IT.
- Mobile Technology: With the rise of remote work and businesses increasingly becoming global the ability to work from a phone or tablet — not just to check email — is more important than ever before. Fifty-one percent of IT leaders agree that by 2025, the most successful businesses will have made the switch from desktop-first to mobile-first development.
When deployed strategically, these tools can actually reduce the amount of infrastructure for IT to manage. This can have an enormous impact on a positive employee experience.
The final piece of the puzzle is how to enable employees to continue to build skills and chart their own career paths. With IT leaders facing skill shortages in almost every area, upskilling becomes increasingly important for supporting the growth of their teams, but it’s also critical for the entire business. This is also the one area where IT doesn’t necessarily have to add any additional technology. Employees are good at helping each other — and they’re also good at learning new ways to do their work. When they all work on a single platform, they can do both of these things at scale.
Creating a single platform for all employees empowers them to develop skills that can be used in other parts of the business — and help others do the same. It also gives them the power to chart their own career paths: with a change of permissions, an employee can also move from one part of the business to another, and the added flexibility is a bonus for retaining top talent.
IT leaders are increasingly responsible for supporting their business units beyond just the maintenance and implementation of apps. As the lines between IT and traditional business units blur, initiatives like employee experience will continue to fall under the purview of IT. Businesses recognize the innumerable ways that technology makes business possible, but IT leaders need to reverse that process and recognize all the ways that they participate in the human experiences of their organizations.
Learn more about the role of IT in the employee experience, download the Employee Experience Technology Report.