It’s widely accepted that giving a good customer experience is the essential component of success. But what about your own employees? As businesses grow larger, a gulf can open up between the board and the shop floor, and it might seem inevitable that this will result in a more distant, less responsive workplace. Here’s why that’s a bad thing, and what part tech can play in tightening up your operation:
Why technology is important to the employee experience
It can happen gradually when a business grows, or suddenly when two or more companies merge. A point is reached where the lines of communication between CEOs and the workers become strained. Employees increasingly feel like a number, like their input is not being recognized or appreciated, and that their opinions on how the business is run are worth less. Dissatisfaction will have them looking elsewhere before long.
The usual solution is to install new levels of management or to beef up HR, and some of the time that can work. But increasingly, businesses are turning to technology to improve the employee experience and to keep people in the loop.
But can tech help make the links closer, improve communications and keep work flowing smoothly? And will this keep employees more engaged and satisfied?
The answer to both questions is yes.
A ubiquitous example was forced upon offices when COVID-19 struck home in spring 2020. The concept of remote conferencing was still alien to large sectors of business, but they had to learn quickly. Now, it’s fair to say we’ve all got used to the opportunities, limitations and characteristics of the medium, and many new adopters have no intention of stopping its use when the offices return.
Perhaps it’s lucky that wide use of flexible working had allowed a quick uptake of the digital tools that facilitated it. As long ago as 2016, computer giant Dell had allowed 25% of its employees to work from home, and according to a CNN Money report, that saved $12m in office space.
It was projected to reach 50% by 2020, and we can only assume that figure was greatly exceeded (albeit possibly temporarily). Importantly, employees appreciate the flexibility, and Dell gets to secure excellent people who can’t – or don’t want to – work in the office Monday to Friday, 9–5.
Training and onboarding is another element that can use tech to deliver personalized machine learning to greatly reduce training time, improve outcomes and enhance satisfaction. App-based learning platform Amplifire, for example, delivers adaptive, focused training to staff that they complete on their own and which automatically emphasises the areas in which it detects weaknesses.
The company claims that its system reduced training time for a call center from 240 minutes to 21 minutes. In industries with high employee turnover like that, that makes a huge difference to the bottom line, and could even lead to better retention as employees get more out of the job they feel better trained for.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Everywhere you look, the connections between employee and employer are growing thanks to the capabilities of tech.
Technologies that are changing the workplace and employee experience today
The list of technologies that are challenging the way businesses help the employee experience is large and growing. Here are some of the key ones that are making waves, and probably changing the shape of the office forever.
Being able to work on documents simultaneously, and to have a historical record of changes, has been one of the most notable changes tech has brought to the office. Multi-disciplinary teams can work on the same documents, images, spreadsheets and slide shows to ensure speed and precision, but most importantly to be sure no one is working on an outdated file.
Whether permanent or ad hoc, teams have long been vital units when it comes to working on projects. Now, team members can be anywhere in the world and able to contribute to the effort 24/7 thanks to collaboration and workflow tech. Find out more about agile teams in our white paper.
2020 might have given remote working more urgency, but frankly, it had been on the rise for more than a decade, thanks entirely to online technologies making office presence unnecessary. Businesses see no drop in productivity and employees achieve a more harmonious work/life balance: a win-win situation.
Training and onboarding
Bespoke training tech can learn employees’ existing competencies and focus on where there are gaps. It all makes for a quicker, more efficient training process. HR departments are certainly on board with this type of onboarding.
Scheduling and booking space
Part of the agile working philosophy means employees can choose to work from home, in the office or even at the café if they want. But the main economic justification for agility – smaller office spaces – can only work if employees know there will be a hot desk or meeting room available for them in the office. Solutions like Condeco’s address this need in an app, so everyone knows where they’ll be at a given moment.
Many businesses have given employees access to an HR portal where they can find their company handbook, raise HR queries and modify their personal details. They can usually log in to book holidays, register a sick day or claim expenses, and as it’s all centralised and hosted in the cloud, there’s no double-booking, employees can do it from home and HR has 100% visibility.
Apps are being used to gamify the working day. Meeting targets can earn points that contribute towards rewards, which can be anything from bottles of wine to holidays. It’s even more effective when the rewards are accumulated by teams or departments, not necessarily in competition with other teams, but given common aims.
All those desktop logins and being buzzed into offices can be eliminated with quick and easy biometric passes like facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans and voice recognition. These are things you can never forget or leave at home, so help to smooth the day and relieve one more stress – all thanks to workplace technology.
How you can introduce new technology into the workplace
The most crucial goal with new workplace technology is to achieve buy-in from the employees. Although many businesses have had to introduce new tech with great speed recently, that’s probably not the ideal way of doing it.
Start with one solution, perhaps an HR tool that lets employees control their own holidays and sick days. Collaborative solutions are relatively common too, so you should be able to let them share and modify documents with little friction.
Don’t forget that you can use training tech to get employees up to speed on new office solutions. Many of them will already know how to use some of the technologies, so a bespoke training app could be just perfect for individuals to learn from. If you’re going fully agile and letting employees choose their own workplaces, a centralised desk booking system saves a lot of hassle and gives employees the feeling that they’re in full control of their workday – which, of course, they are.