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Employee experience is a tech trend challenging companies to change

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

Digital transformation is omnipresent. There’s a simple explanation to this: Millennials and Gen Z treat technologies like their pals. So, when this crowd touches on any sphere of everyday life, consumer technology expectations swell up as if by magic.

Companies seem to acknowledge this fact and meet customers’ expectations by serving up connected experiences. At the same time, it doesn’t occur to employers that their own employees are those same customers on the outside who want their workplace to mirror their personal lives.

Employees expect a user-friendly technological environment with a barrier-free access to data and an opportunity to collaborate. And it’s not something that’s nice to have, it’s an imperative. When you ignore this need, you give your employees and prospective candidates a one-way ticket to more technology-friendly employers.

What do the stats say? According to a Salesforce research, 84 per cent of IT leaders admit that cutting-edge workforce technologies are critical for their companies to compete. At the same time, only 21 per cent of IT leaders say that their workforce tech maximises employees’ productivity.

So what are the challenges in trying to nail the technological side of employee experience?

Challenge #1. Inflexible legacy systems

Weirdly enough, corporate systems themselves often come as main inhibitors of employee experience initiatives. Legacy systems, once developed to cater to specific requirements, are inevitably becoming outdated and hard to apply changes to.

However, their replacement can be an ambitious project due to security reasons and budget constraints. With legacy systems still in place, companies need a huge stack of complementing apps and an army of developers to maintain them. When data is housed in multiple apps that cannot talk to each other due to incompatibilities, employees can’t gain 360-degree visibility over a customer or a project.

What to do about it?

If you’re ready to replace your legacy system, brace yourself for rebuilding everything from the ground up.

To facilitate the process for sales and marketing teams, for example, look toward cloud-based CRM platforms, Salesforce being one of them. You can model such systems according to your minutest needs due to their customisation and integration capabilities. What’s more, most issues can be resolved by a few configuration tweaks instead of heavy coding.

If you are particularly attached to your legacy system and aren’t going to get rid of it anytime soon, leverage APIs to integrate the legacy system with your company’s newer internal tools. It’s usually a challenging and intricate task that requires a sophisticated integration platform (like Salesforce’s MuleSoft, for example) and a team of developers or third-party Salesforce consultants.

While implementing new systems, don’t forget that we live in the mobile-first world. Your employees, like most people around you, got used to solving various tasks with their smartphones. So when they can only access a system on their desktop, they can get frustrated. Doing business via mobile has shifted from optional to critical.

Challenge #2. Silo mentality

While no one starts a company with the purpose of creating silo mentality, many still run into this problem. The major warning signs are these:

  • Teams lack visibility into a bigger picture and have no free access to company-wide data.
  • Bottom-up communication is non-existent.
  • Unhealthy inter-department competition hampers collaboration on shared goals.

Siloed data is perhaps the main threat to digital transformation in the workplace. Teams don’t share knowledge and data due to various reasons, the most common being an inefficient organisational structure. As a result of such data hush-ups, businesses can’t quickly act on opportunities as well as take data-driven decisions, which may kill the corporate sense of purpose. It also leaves little room for collaboration, which makes people feel like they don’t belong.

What to do about it?

Teams tend to see everything from their own perspective. That’s why they’d rather protect a well-being of their own department than that of their company on the whole. For this reason, the task of promoting a ‘shared-goals’ mentality lies mainly on executives’ shoulders. They need to nurture teams’ spirit toward achieving the same objectives, which can be a good incentive for collaboration and data sharing.

Top companies are already engaging IT forces to build more interconnected internal processes. The ideal foundation for this is the use of collaboration tools that pull information from difference sources into one place while providing shared access to it.

Most businesses use cloud-based CRMs where it’s possible to centralise data sourced from each team as well as integrate these platforms with other apps in use. For example, if you run a large company, you can try Salesforce, Oracle, or Microsoft Dynamics 365. If you’re a small business, then HubSpot, Zoho, or Insightly can potentially address your needs.

Don’t forget about the issue of data readability. Make sure all the teams can read and understand data provided by their colleagues as well as know how to use the system in the first place. Otherwise, employees will continue using sticky notes and spreadsheets and ignore fancy tools.

To alleviate the hardships of silo mentality, you can also get a social platform where employees can voice their pains, share ideas, and reach out to colleagues. For example, in Slack it’s possible to connect with any employee, create public and private channels, run polls, get handy add-ons, etc.

Challenge #3. Time-consuming tasks

Employee productivity suffers daily from overflowing inboxes, chat notifications, endless meetings, and cumbersome systems. Repetitive work increases the risk of human error. Decision-making dramatically slows down when an employee needs to chase a colleague to resolve an issue or has a limited access to data from other teams. As a result, people have less time to actually do their job, which decreases both KPIs and job satisfaction.

What to do about it?

There’s no other way except for tapping into tech to help your employees be more productive. Workflow automation tools, such as Nintex, Zapier, Integrify, or Flokzu, can rise to the challenge and help almost every team, from marketing to finance, to:

  • Automate and streamline monotonous and time-consuming processes, like entering new data, keeping up with issue statuses, delivering reports, scheduling conference rooms, etc.
  • Integrate actions and data from third-party systems
  • Never lose track of project updates

Also, try collaborative tools, like Slack, Asana, or Miro, to provide a friendly environment for employees to share their ideas (and give more opportunities for job-related ‘stalking’).

Challenge #4. Technological overload

Many companies keep an eye on IT trends and rush to equip their business processes with top-notch technologies. As a result, IT teams struggle to keep up with an ever-increasing number of new apps and tools. As for employees, more often than not they have no idea how to leverage those technologies in their work. So, instead of being work enablers, technologies frequently become a burden.

What to do about it?

Once you’ve decided to implement a technology, do that with the employees in mind. In order to make tech tools your staff’s BFFs, keep to the following plan:

  • Ask your employees about their pains and needs before choosing a new tool.
  • Design an onboarding strategy to teach your new hires as well as employees about the new system. Onboarding cannot be the same for everyone—it should be based on the routine of a particular department. Otherwise, employees won’t be able to apply it to their work and have to fill in the gap by trial and error.
  • Invite your employees into development or customisation, and make any necessary tweaks based on their feedback.
  • Provide ongoing training in case your tools get updates related to their UIs and features.
  • Make self-service resources available for a quick look-up.

Summing it up

Apparently, customer centricity is not the only imperative of digital transformation today. Employee experience is also turning into a tech trend in its own right. Employees need digital tools, including mobile ones, to stay connected, have access to a bigger picture, and communicate with each other when and how they want.

Companies that choose to ignore this need are taking risks—they push their employees to seek more progressive workplaces. Most employers do recognise the trend but some still struggle with addressing the associated challenges, such as replacing outdated legacy systems, wiping out silo mentality, automating time-consuming tasks, and training employees to leverage technologies in their daily work.

Valerie Nechay, MarTech and CX Observer, Iflexion

Valerie Nechay is MarTech and CX Observer at Iflexion, a Denver-based custom software development provider. Using her writing powers, she's translating complex technologies into fascinating topics and shares them with the world.