After a year and half into the pandemic, we have seen digital business initiatives accelerate and workforce models shift, along with a resetting of long-term employee expectations. In Prudential’s recent Pulse of the American Worker survey of over 2,000 full-time workers:
68% of workers prefer a hybrid-work model, and
87% want to continue to work remotely at least one day per week.
That means teams and organizations will be more distributed than ever. As businesses continue considering long-term virtual work strategies and what a return to the office could end up looking like, some say Chief Information Officers hold the key.
CIO roles have evolved considerably during the pandemic. Many CIOs and their IT organizations have shifted beyond the cost-center role within the enterprise to a broader role that includes contributing to supporting business value and continuity. As the technology experts, these teams fast-tracked digital initiatives and powered e-commerce sales channels — finding new ways to deliver goods and services to customers. IT teams also played a critical role in enabling quick work-from-home pivots — now pushing the employee experience to the forefront of where they are making significant impact.
How the Employee Experience Delivers Organizational Value
Simply put, the employee experience is the sum of the various perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work. These perceptions drive how employees feel about their work and how much effort they put into their job. The employee experience determines how effective your company is at attracting, retaining, and engaging your workforce.
According to MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research, the employee experience is defined by work complexity—how hard it is to get work done in your organization—and behavioral norms around collaboration, creativity, and empowerment.
When it comes to the employee experience, in some cases, the work is simply being enhanced—such as, made faster, more efficient, or more accurate—but in many cases work is being reimagined as digital technologies replace, augment, or create roles and tasks.
MIT research found that companies that had invested in both technology and processes were able to reduce work complexity. These companies provisioned tools and advocated practices to connect employees with ideas and each other and to reduce friction around non-value creating tasks. In their research, three behavioral norms emerged as critical for building business value: collaboration, creativity, and empowerment.
These behavioral norms made it easier for employees to contribute to new ideas, regardless of where the ideas originated in the organization; to share new ideas for both customer- and employee-facing initiatives; and to curate their own ways of working to meet individual and collective needs.
In their studies, low work complexity and strong behavioral norms for collaboration, creativity, and empowerment — great employee experiences — were more innovative and profitable and had higher levels of customer satisfaction. Companies with scores in the top quartile of employee experience were twice as innovative as those in the bottom quartile, based on the percentage of revenue from new products/services in the past two years. These companies were paving the way for employees to work together effectively and engage with customers in new ways to enhance revenue streams.
They also saw a 25 percent increase on the industry-related profitability measure in their survey, indicating that those companies scoring high in employee experience are lowering costs and/or increasing revenue to shift their performance relative to competitors.
A strong employee experience can make a huge difference on your organization’s bottom line. In another analysis of over 250 global organizations, Jacob Morgan — author of The Employee Experience Advantage — found companies that scored highest on employee experience benchmarks have four times higher average profits, two times higher average revenues, and 40 percent lower turnover compared to those that didn’t. This demonstrates that an investment in employee experience does pay off.
Employee Experience & Technology
The technological environment of the organization refers to the tools employees use to get work done. This includes everything from the internal social network to the mobile devices to which employees have access plus any apps, software, e-learning tools, and the user experience and design elements that impact how employees use these various tools.
From the vantage point of IT, creating a great cultural environment requires having tools that focus on employees’ needs — and employee dissatisfaction with IT tools can have a ripple effect that can result in long-term damage. An improved employee experience, however, will pay off in retention, more effective collaboration, stronger engagement, and a bolstered sense of culture and community.
Here are three key actions IT teams and leaders should prioritize if they want to improve the employee experience.
Own your influencer role
CEOs recognize the value CIOs bring to leadership post-pandemic. Four in 10 CEOs expect CIOs or equivalent tech leaders to be a key driver of business strategy in 2021 as strategy is enabled by technology and driven by data, according to Deloitte’s Tech Trends report.
CIOs have a responsibility to influence not only the future direction of the organization’s external products and services but also the internal processes and culture of the entire organization — because all of this is impacted by technology.
It’s entirely possible to have a great workplace culture that’s not a high-performing culture, but most organizations want both. It can help to experiment—at a regular cadence—with ways that new technologies (e.g., analytics, mobile, virtual or augmented reality, and process automation) could make the employee experience a richer one.
And the IT unit of a business is uniquely positioned to set those trends. The world in IT changes faster than any other world, so this group serves as a model. As a result, CIOs are set to lead the organization in the use of technologies that enable employees to be more productive and focus on higher-value tasks — and make the kind of game-changing recommendations that influence the rest of the organization in improving its agility.
Commit to take action
What do organizations that survived or thrived through the pandemic have in common? The answer is transformational CIOs, who aspire to be influential across the organization, addressing the employee experience.
Improving the employee experience should become a CIO priority or it won’t happen. Part of doing this means fixing process problems. Key questions to start asking:
What specific things are we going to do in terms of people and process to make this a better place to work?
Who owns it, and how are we going to measure that this thing got done?
And then how do we measure whether or not it worked?
Consider frequent surveys to figure out important areas for improvement and to identify the characteristics of high-performing teams. This will help determine what you can employ and how you can better support teams.
Also consider adopting self-service approaches for common IT tasks such as password resets, requesting access to tools, and equipment provisioning. It doesn’t just give employees more control or free IT up for more strategic or innovative projects, it can also help change some of the less flattering opinions IT staff may hold about users and vice versa. Once employees begin solving their own easier problems, you remove the scenarios that potentially become catalysts for negativity.
According to John-David Lovelock, Research Vice-President at Gartner, the unprecedented speed of digital transformation in 2020 to satisfy remote working continues to advance, as measures that were put in place earlier in the pandemic to help people collaborate are being updated. Now, we’re seeing more cloud unified communications — encompassing voice, email, chat, meetings, and content collaboration – and businesses will be forced to accelerate digital business transformation plans by at least five years to survive in a post-Covid-19 world that involves permanently higher adoption of remote work and digital touchpoints.
We know it’s no longer about enabling work tasks from home, but considering how to better support people doing work from wherever in order to accelerate productivity. The concept of the “everywhere employee” recognizes the fact that staff like the flexibility of choosing where they work – and as strategic organizational advisors, IT leaders like you hold the key.
Over the last 12 months at Humantelligence, we’ve worked with a number of IT leaders charged with implementing a communications stack to better support hybrid teams. By infusing actionable emotional intelligence data into the daily workflow of all teams, employees are able to engage in higher quality and more meaningful collaboration from wherever they work.
Specifically, with “EQ” or emotional intelligence data infused at just the right moments — within email or calendars through Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Gmail, and Facebook Workplace — teams are improving employee understanding, communication, and engagement, as well as practicing a more inclusive approach to collaborating.
Companies using EQ Everywhere are reporting more effective teaming, better engaged employees, and increased productivity of distributed teams. As the most scalable and affordable team collaboration tool on the market, it’s also the quickest to implement and requires no training — which has helped ensure frictionless adoption.
When you set the trends on technology for your organization, commit to making the employee experience a priority, and enable collaboration among your teams, you’ll see a return on your efforts. In fact, a strong employee experience is one of the most powerful investments your organization can make. It leads to noticeable benefits such as a wider talent pool, improved retention, and increased revenue.
But it doesn’t stop there. A well-designed employee experience also ensures that your employees – your company’s greatest assets – are set up for success before, during, and after their tenure at your company. If you’d like to learn more about driving initiatives that support a strong employee experience, we’d love to hear from you.