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An awakened workforce and how to serve it through engagement

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

Digital transformation means organisations have become heavily dependent on technology, with IT’s role ever more crucial. While most IT departments are no longer tucked away in the basement or hidden in the bowels of the office many leaders are focused on transformation efforts where IT teams are instead an integral part of the overall operation. Along with this change, workforces, too, are changing as employees are embracing a new way of working. Because of these two major evolutions in business, in the following we’ll examine some insights for helping you unleash your IT workforce’s potential and empowering it to impress customers (employees within the organisation) too.

Employees are most satisfied when being productive

This is the time of the customer and the employee experience is extremely relevant; the movement also has seen the development of the term “employee experience.” Forrester has an extensive playbook (opens in new tab) on the topic. So, by offering employees a quality working experience by providing them with a great physical, cultural and technological environment. To offer such an experience, we must understand what it is that makes employees engaged and satisfied.

Being in the zone allows for this, Mihály Csíkszenmihály’s study on flow shows us. (opens in new tab) This study shows that the perfect mix of skills and challenges brings people into the “flow” or “being in the zone.” The Progress Principle (opens in new tab) is another study that examines providing a quality employee experience. In this, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discuss the importance of meaningful work to create the best work lives possible. However, “getting things done” does not guarantee quality work life, but meaningful work and tasks can help employees feel like they are performing meaningful work no matter the task.

What does all of this mean for IT? Studies show not only how important it is to have a proper HR strategy so that your IT team members can thrive in their jobs; but that the IT team’s role and impact on the rest of the business cannot be underestimated. The IT team plays a major influence on how to achieve flow and work on tasks that help drive meaningful progress. This is known as “workforce enablement (opens in new tab).”

Let me clarify some of the steps IT organisations can take to enable the workforce.

Experience safari

The work conducted by service management teams has traditionally been demand-driven where orders are taken. These team’s users would either request or report something so the IT team fulfills the request and that which is broken gets fixed. However, as workplace technology gets more integrated and important throughout every aspect within the entire organisation, this approach is not enough anymore. IT departments that are simply “order takers” typically say “no” to quite some requests – perhaps for good reasons, such as security – but this image is then portrayed organisationally and people find their own solutions to the problem as workarounds. Instead, IT leadership must move their team to becoming a trusted advisor that knows the users well and help these individuals obtain what they need.

To do so, consider going on an experience safari. Through this, the team goes to a specific location or department to experience what it is that people in these areas experience and what challenges they really face. Here’s a real-life example: A car rental office hosted an IT team member from the corporate office to shadow employees for a day to learn about their daily processes with the business’ technology. This IT employee immediately noticed how slow the office’s computer software used to check out the cars to customers. Because of this slowness, employees at the local office actually had previously created workarounds so that customers had a pleasant experience despite the software’s delays. Tables with chairs were set up so that customers could relax, get something to drink and even read while waiting for their transaction to process. However, even after going to this effort to make customers’ experiences better, no employee had ever thought of raising the software’s slowness to the corporate IT team because the slowness had always been there.

After the IT employee shadowed the local office, the corporate IT team immediately investigated the issue and found some quick fixes to make the software process quicker, ensuring the entire car check-out went much smoother.

Experience safaris might not be this effective in solving a problem or problems nor are not always as successful. It’s important to note that these safaris should not be “rant to IT” sessions even though it might be something you have to get through when initially starting with this initiative.

Don’t forget customer journeys

Don’t forget to engage in the customer journeys. I recently purchased a new car. The brand is very well known for creating an amazing customer experience. The journey was, in fact, wonderful. From the moment I walked into the dealership to the moment I drove out with the new car and even after. Take, for example, the long wait when the time comes from finalising all of the paperwork. The dealership used this as an experience to further enhance the experience: It provides a tour of the facilities, introducing the service department, offers drinks and food and even makes massage chairs available. A very well thought-out process with the right timing. If that tour would have been toward of the end deal, I would not have had the same experience because I would just have been eager to drive my new car out of there.

Just make sure you look at processes from the point of view of the customer and seek honest feedback about the processes and focus on some key moments where you want to really wow your customer.

Dismantle silos

Finally, silos. Silos exists for various reasons: geographical location, language, jargon and conflicting goals. Silos do not contribute to common goals that enhance user satisfaction. Many daily life examples prove this. Imagine going to a restaurant and having to order meat, fish, drinks all with different people and from a different menu and that the delivery and checkout process for each is different as well. My guess is you would not leave the restaurant as a satisfied customer. Far-fetched example you might say, yet still very much a reality when it comes to how a lot of services are being delivered in organisations. New hires often end up being sent on a treasure hunt from one silo to another to just be able to do their job.

Creating awareness and understanding of each other’s challenges is the foundation of a great partnership between the whole organisation, including IT. Creating a cross-functional environment of enablement should be the main goal so the workforce can focus on their own meaningful progress. 

The workforce you serve is not just your customers, but also the IT professionals themselves, the steps mentioned here help to be considered and acted upon, and through them the workforce will likely awaken, and the organisation as a whole to embrace a new way of working, and a new way of accomplishment.

Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord, president, TOPdesk US (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio

Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord is president of TOPdesk US.