There have always been two views about buying and using technology in the enterprise. There is the view from the C-Suite and the view from the workers. While it may come as no surprise that there is a divergence between the two points of view, new research from PwC shows just how divergent those views actually are.
Technology and Employee Experiences
According to the findings of the Our Status With Tech At Work: It’s Complicated search report, 90 percent of C-Suite executives agree their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new digital technology.
Digital technology refers to the “platforms, systems and software” employees use to complete their daily tasks at work. The research surveyed 12,000 people from Canada, China and Hong Kong, Germany, India, Mexico, the UK, and the US to share their views about the digital tools they use in their daily work. The employees surveyed came from a range of industries including consumer markets, health industries, financial services, manufacturing, technology and media.
Meanwhile, the report shows that only 53 percent of staff believe the company is focused on their digital technology needs. The challenges leaders and staff face are also very different. Sixty-five percent of C-Suite executives said they are often frustrated by technology at work. But, when tools don’t function the way the boss thinks they should, there’s usually someone to delegate the problem to. For staff, however, there is no choice but to muddle through.
While 92 percent of C-Suite execs say they are satisfied with the technology experience their company provides for making progress on important work, only 68 percent of staff agree. This experience gap matters, the report adds. When you don’t have a clear and accurate understanding of how people use technology in their jobs, and what they need and want from those tools, the overall experience people have at work can suffer.
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Who Chooses Your Tech?
One conclusion reached by researchers is that a subpar employee experience can have a ripple effect across the organization, shaping everything from how engaged people are to their enthusiasm for delivering a superior customer experience. So what do your employees really want from the tech they use on the job?
The most obvious area that this has implications for is the enterprise website. Jen Salamandick is strategy director and partner at Edmonton, Alberta-based digital marketing agency Kick Point. She said that for many of company’s clients, their website is the most important (and most expensive) piece of tech that has been purchased for them. When the needs of marketing and communications teams (and the needs of actual end users) are ignored, a large amount of money and time gets wasted. “I often find that the marketing directors, managers, coordinators and digital marketing strategists that we work with are very frustrated with the SaaS products, website content management systems, and analytics and reporting tools that have been purchased or built for them,” she said.
She cites the example of a website that her company recently took over for a large concert hall that the marketing and communications team has absolutely no idea how to use. Additionally, ticket sales had dropped significantly after launch because the new website was difficult to use and incredibly slow. The problem, as it turned out, was that the design and development company for the new website and been picked by the CFO, not the users. “The CFO had never used a website back-end before. The CFO had never taken on any customer research to evaluate the ticket buying process. It was a huge waste of way over $150,000,” she said.
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Too Many Apps, Functionality
This is one example of a much wider problem. Often enterprise software is sold based on the longest list of features, which many perceive as value. For many companies the list of features helps them check the boxes from their organization's wishlist. However, we have all experienced the 80/20 rule whereby enterprise users regularly only utilize a small percentage of the features available.
Often the tools with the longest list of bells and whistles are the most challenging to use on a daily basis, according to Rafael Solis, COO and co-founder of Braidio. “Sure, the idea of eating from a buffet with over a hundred options sounds attractive and may in theory appease most appetites, however the reality is the majority [of workers] would be happy with a few, limited options. Same goes for software tools, employees would prefer a couple of simple options to be their primary/daily go-to tools. Plus, with an all you can eat buffet, there's only so much you can eat before feeling sick,” he said.
It may, in fact, be, that C-Suite executives are actually paying too much attention to workers’ demands. Often they take an inventory of the needs from their employees, but sometimes this can result in too many options, Solis adds. Each employee brings a different perspective based on their individual needs that adds to the ever growing wishlist and causes some of the problems outlined.
Give Employees Time To Chose
Jonathan Stone is COO and CTO at the Kelser Corporation, a technology consulting firm in Connecticut. He said that the PwC research reflects an accurate picture of their experience. “At Kelser, we find that when employees at our client companies are given a lot of time to get used to the idea of new technology, to learn about how it works and what it can do, and are given insight into what the company hopes to achieve with the technology, they are more amiable to it,” he said. “In addition, when executives allow their team members the opportunity to test new technology and give feedback on technology decisions before they are made, they're likely to see a much greater buy-in.”
At the heart of this is the need for executives to be clear about why they're making a change and what the benefits are. Often, executives have different goals in mind than the employees, and for everyone to feel good about new technology, they need to be on the same page.
If the rationale is purely to save the company money without regard to the end-user experience, that's not going to play well. Even when executives are making technology decisions with their employees in mind, they need to be transparent about their thought process and do some listening to their team before moving forward.
Don’t Separate Technology and Experience
There are a number of interesting conclusions to the PwC report that covers a wide range of subjects covering the digital workplace. For technology buyers, though, the principal takeaways are that you can’t separate technology from your people’s experience and what motivates them. To manage for both, the report reads, look to the promise of new technology and consider what motivates people to adopt new ways of working with tech. It can’t be one or the other. The goal is to get beyond titles and delve into attitudes and behaviors. That’s the approach that leads to more relevant communication, rewards, and performance and development.
Automation will put even more focus on understanding how to create great places for people to work because it will impact just about everyone’s role, job content and decision rights. Today’s workforce is overwhelmingly positive about the potential for technology to improve their lives in our survey, but they also have concerns about how it can be used.