How Humanizing Workplace Technology Will Win the War for Talent
- January 27, 2020
When it comes to consumer technology, Uber is often hailed as the benchmark for fast and easy customer experience. After a couple of taps in the app, you’re standing on the curb with the knowledge that a driver named Jason will arrive in two minutes in a blue Toyota Camry. Jason zips you straight to your pre-set destination, and your credit card on file is automatically charged. Simple as that.
It’s a quintessential example of the seamless, effortless, empowering digital experiences we’ve come to expect in 2020. So why does it still feel like 2010 (or worse) when we’re at work? Outdated equipment, clumsy software interfaces, burdensome security requirements, long waits to get support from anti-social IT agents — that more accurately describes the technology grind that most corporate employees deal with on a daily basis.
For years, employees accepted it as a fact of life, a necessary evil in the world of work. But that’s all changing as the job market flourishes. Companies in every industry are finding that modernized, digitized IT services aren’t just nice to have; they’re becoming table stakes for competing in today’s raging war for talent.
The balance of power has shifted
As of this writing, the U.S. is currently enjoying the longest economic expansion in the country’s history, and the unemployment rate is still near the 50-year low hit last fall. Ironically, positive statistics like these aren’t always music to the ears of companies who desperately need to hire and hang on to top quality personnel. When job openings are plentiful, highly desirable candidates can afford to be choosy, and dissatisfied employees can easily pack up and leave for greener pastures.
In other words, today’s workers are in the position to make demands, and what they want is better technology. They’re accustomed to using instant, personalized digital services wherever they go and are increasingly frustrated when they don’t find the same conveniences at work. One recent study found that more than a third of employees worldwide feel their job is harder than it should be because of outdated processes and technology. Not surprisingly, younger generations (i.e., managers and employees of the near future) were especially intolerant of poor workplace technology.
At a time when companies desperately need to attract and retain qualified workers, modernizing the workplace technology experience becomes a critical business strategy. And the IT department must play a central role in bringing it to life.
It’s time for an IT makeover
For decades, IT has suffered from what amounts to an image problem. However undeserved it may be, the corporate IT profession, in general, has a reputation for being aloof and unaccommodating, insistent that non-technical employees must adapt to technology when it should actually be the other way around. If companies are going to improve the employee technology experience, it starts with IT developing a more customer-focused, service-oriented culture.
That process might include training field service personnel in the soft skills they need to consult with employees and solve their problems effectively. But perhaps more importantly, the commitment to modernizing workplace services must come across in the technology itself. IT needs to lead the charge in developing and deploying easy-to-use systems and tools with their internal customers in mind.
Ideally, services should make use of and/or mimic the technologies employees already know and use in their personal lives. The adoption of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, a current online collaboration platform, and internal social media channels are a good start. But those user-friendly tools should also extend to how employees interact with the IT department itself. Imagine using an Uber-like app to open a support ticket, followed by a status update that your friendly IT agent, Samantha, will be arriving at your desk in five minutes. What’s more, you can rate her level of helpfulness when the job is done.
That’s the kind of service employees expect outside of work, so companies should strive to deliver it in the office as well.
Working smarter, not harder
While creating higher-quality interactions between IT and employees is paramount, it takes time and resources to do it right. To be as valuable as it can be to the organization, IT must find ways to work faster and smarter.
One way to do that is through the increased use of self-service tools. Traditionally, the IT service desk has been inundated with simple but time-consuming requests like resetting passwords or granting/revoking access privileges. But today’s automated systems allow IT teams to rise above such mundane responsibilities. Just like digital banking has reduced the need for consumers to visit an actual bank, self-service IT portals give employees exactly what they need in less time, and allow IT personnel to focus on higher-value work.
Beyond managing customer requests, most IT departments also have a long list of applications under their purview. Too many tools competing for adoption not only confuses users and slows productivity, it creates technical debt in the organization as opportunities to adopt more complete solutions pass it by. Hence, IT can improve the employee experience and make its own life easier by cutting the cord on redundant or outdated systems. Modern, converged platforms, such as Microsoft 365 and VMWare’s Workspace One, are designed to address this challenge.
Finally, security should be a top priority for any IT department — not necessarily making it stronger, but making it simpler. One of the top complaints employees make about workplace technology is that the arduous security requirements (frequent password updates, multi-factor authentication, etc.) waste their time. So while sophisticated security is undoubtedly still needed, IT operations and security must work together to find solutions that reduce the friction.
Benefits flow both ways
This article might focus on meeting employees’ technology demands, but that doesn’t mean IT workers are destined to become their humble servants. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; modernizing IT services will improve the work lives of technology workers too. As new digital tools and automated services liberate IT staff from endless busywork, they’ll have more time to do what they really signed up for — providing consultative support and solving complex technology problems that drive the business forward.
Technology has changed a lot about the traditional employer-employee relationship, but at least one thing remains the same: people want to feel valued and confident about their future at work. Ultimately, a company that invests in a modern digital workplace sends the message that it’s also investing in its employees, empowering them with the tools and services they need to achieve their full career potential. Given a choice between that progressive company and one that’s slow to adapt, the decision for employees is clear.