Skip to main content

Employee experience: Giving productivity wings

(Image credit: Image Credit: Sean MacEntee / Flickr)

Sometimes, office work feels like having to walk on swampy ground: in the morning, the employee arrives at the office in high spirits, immediately finding that even just booting up their desktop PC (much older than the consumer notebook at home) seems to take forever. After that, they click through an endless stream of application windows, just to initiate a workflow or approve a request. This poor experience makes employees feel bogged down and severely impacts their productivity.

Employee experience is the overlap of their expectations about the workplace and the work environment their employer provides. Ideally, there is a 100 percent overlap. This sounds simple, but there’s a challenge: experience is based on the individual employee's expectations – which means that there is considerable variation, although in practice there usually is some common ground. So, companies – from business leadership to HR or IT – must find this common ground, evaluate it, and act upon these findings.

This situation has become even more challenging in recent years because today’s employees expect their business IT environment to work as effectively and effortlessly as the consumer apps and smart gadgets they use in their private lives.

Recent research found that improving the employee experience is the top priority for a third (33 per cent) of leaders when it comes to collaboration between IT and HR. A quarter of respondents also confirmed that further teamwork between these two departments would be key for recruiting IT talent (26 per cent) and protecting employee privacy (22 per cent). One in seven (14 per cent) recognised the value this would provide as organisations prepare for the impact of automation on jobs.

The majority (85 per cent) of executives agreed, somewhat or strongly, that badly chosen or implemented work-place technology can have a negative impact on the employee experience, with a similar figure (86 per cent) believing that implementation should be a key consideration in all IT projects. Yet just 14 per cent of CIOs have an active leadership role when it comes to shaping the employee experience.

State of the art

The majority of UK business leaders recognise the importance of creating a productive and engaging experience for their employees. Many of them see technology as an important factor in creating such an experience, yet there’s a risk of departments being seen as ‘passing the buck’ when it comes to taking responsibility to make this happen.

As the war for talent rages on, leaders cannot afford to be seen as simply paying lip service to what is a growing employee demand. IT and HR must therefore build stronger relationships within organisations and establish clear lines of ownership around the employee experience – as there are no excuses for failing to set employees up for success.

Smart devices, and the consumer cloud services we all access with them, have become the point of reference for what is considered "state of the art." Ever since the rise of the iPhone and the huge wave of smart devices that followed it, this so-called "consumerisation" has substantially raised the bar for IT, and for employee experience in companies. While consumerisation has been a hot topic in enterprises for years, today this debate has reached a new peak. The reason: generations Y and Z, who have grown up immersed in smart devices and a seemingly boundless multitude of apps and cloud services, will make up roughly half of the global enterprise workforce next year!

In the future, companies will only be successful if they meet the expectations of this new type of workforce. That means "consumerise or die!", provide an excellent employee experience or be totally unattractive to new talents. Companies need vigorously to focus – or refocus – on their workforce, and how they engage employees in an increasingly digitised environment.

Enterprises need an engaged workforce to be successful. According to Gallup's 2017 "State of the Global Workforce" report, enterprises with engaged employees achieve 20 per cent higher sales, and 21 percent greater profitability. However, the same report says that 67 percent of employees are not engaged at work, 18 percent are even "actively disengaged." These dramatic figures demonstrate that there is a huge gap between employee expectations and their current work environment.

From a car to an airplane

The biggest hurdle for having an engaged – or, at best, even enthusiastic – workforce is a poor employee experience. Complex workflows, legacy IT, single-purpose cloud services, and siloed information combine to create a negative work experience. Enterprises urgently need to change this to remain competitive. If the network is slow, if employees have to navigate through multiple interfaces just to click one "OK" button, if they spend hours upon hours trying to find the right bits of information in a plethora of data repositories, it all reduces their productivity – but most people want to be productive!

Providing a fast, positive, and smooth experience is the most effective way for businesses to increase productivity. The best a company can do is to treat their employees like customers: providing them with the best user experience that is technically possible to guarantee seamless, effortless workflows.

This is why intelligent workspaces are essential: they bring consumer-style simplicity to the enterprise IT world, with a high level of flexibility, ease of use, and intelligent automation, allowing employees to work where, when, and with the kind of device they want. At the same time, they play a critical role because they provide enterprise-level security that is blatantly missing from so many consumer apps and services. They guarantee state-of-the-art security by delivering all apps and data from one unified, user-friendly interface with single sign-on (SSO), avoiding the clutter of logins and passwords that so often confuse and frustrate end users. Most of all, this innovative technology utilises machine learning and AI to simplify routine workflows, minimising frustration, speeding up business processes, and improving productivity. This reduces the time needed to perform many of the routine tasks that eat up so many hours of the business day.

To employees, their deployment feels like switching from a car to an airplane. Yes, a car will take you from, say, London to Edinburgh – but you will arrive much faster by plane, and you even get a lot of work done on the way that you would otherwise waste driving a car. This way, the intelligent workspace gives wings to the workforce: it frees up valuable time that people can otherwise spend more productively.

Darren Fields, Vice President, UK & Ireland, Citrix