Monitoring and improving the employee experience is a big topic in 2020, catalyzed by the rapid growth in distributed working. Jacob Morgan, the speaker, author and futurist has been championing this issue long before it became fashionable to do so. His latest book, The Future Leader, was written after gathering information from 14,000 employees across 140 employers. It builds on some of the themes from his previous and popular publication: The Employee Experience Advantage.
An in-depth exclusive interview with Morgan conducted at the end of the Summer revealed some insight for IT leaders looking to improve the experience of their distributed workforce. With 2020 posing fresh problems for IT teams in ensuring remote workers are productive, happy and secure, this guidance has never been more relevant.
The first thing Morgan draws attention to is a LinkedIn survey, which was designed to better understand the factors that go into creating an environment that employees actually want to show up and contribute to. It found that 40% of what makes a great employee experience is the culture, with the physical workspace forming around 30%.
“Now that so many people are working from home, they’re almost entirely in control of their own workspace – their chair, their desk and everything else that makes them comfortable. That has been a great leveler in the employee experience between different organizations.”Jacob Morgan, “The Future Leader”
The remaining 30% is tools and technology. Morgan says that the software, the devices and the processes that workers have to use to get their jobs done is crucial in shaping the employee experience, meaning IT professionals have a lot of responsibility when It comes to improving it.
Why does the employee experience matter?
For Morgan, the reason to take the employee experience seriously is obvious. He points to his own research: an analysis of 250 organizations found that companies with a better employee experience (EX) had several advantages over the competition. The main benefits are that companies with a good EX have more engaged/productive workers, are more profitable and can more effectively attract and retain talent.
“Employees mostly just want to get their work done – it makes them happy. If you can create a happy workplace and a good technology environment, you’ll get happy employees. That means productive employees, and a better performing business.”
Advice for IT and technology leaders
Culture is a nebulous, collective and intangible thing. Every leader in the business should be taking it seriously, yet it is notoriously difficult to influence directly. What can be influenced directly, however, are the tools and technologies that employees are expected to use. The problem is that many of these tools do not contribute to a high-quality employee experience.
The software (and hardware) that employees use, in general, is chosen by IT. That might seem logical, but Morgan is quick to point out that it’s not so simple.
“IT uses a checklist to determine which technology to invest in. The specification list might say it needs seats, four wheels and an engine, but after you buy it you realize that all four wheels are on one side of the car.”
The analogy works well when you consider the criteria that goes into purchasing software, for example. Take Zoom or Slack’s explosive growth compared to established collaboration tools this year. End users like features such as emoji support, virtual background and seamless access across browsers. While Sharepoint or Webex might have had all the necessities from the IT perspective, the reasons that employees reject them are not always transparent. Morgan explains that the shift to distributed working has expanded the importance of this topic too, with self-provisioning and shadow IT rampant in most organizations: “Employees will circumvent IT even more when they are at home.”
Morgan’s comments are backed up by the data. According to a study of 500 employees in September 2020, 62% of remote workers confess to using rogue applications for work that their IT department does not know about.
Digital transformation and what’s next
With almost every company at some stage in a digital transformation (DX) project, understanding how to ensure a successful transition is crucial. For Morgan, DX must be EX-first or it won’t work.
“Without an excellent employee experience, adoption of new technologies and processes simply won’t happen. Employees will always take the path of least resistance; of most convenience. The one with the best experience.”
Including other departments in DX will help improve adoption rates, too. Involving stakeholders from sales, marketing, HR and other domains to better select the right technologies is a much better way to get buy-in from the start. Morgan describes standardization and universal adoption as really hard challenges to overcome, suggesting self-provisioning and agility are key to overcoming them. “Employees ultimately want a consumer-grade experience in their professional life. If they don’t get it from their employer, they’ll craft it for themselves instead if they can”.
Whatever the industry, company or nature of technology – from remote access software to new mobile devices – one thing is clear: the future of work is focused squarely on the employee experience.
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