With increasing pressure on enterprise leaders to provide top employee experiences that place people at the heart of the digital workplace, many of those leaders are turning to technology to provide the best experiences. There are so many different vendors providing technologies that feed into the digital workplace it is impossible to say what is useful technology and what is not.
However, when we recently asked enterprise managers to identify what they believed the top employee experience technologies were several distinct themes emerged. With 77 percent of Americans owning smartphones, most digital workplaces are run on apps that employees can access from their mobile devices. These apps are constantly adding functionality to empower middle managers and their associates. Apps like shift management, onboarding, communication, training and many other features that employers use to put responsibility in the hands of their associates are also enabling remote working and ultimately the digital workplace.
In response, vendors are now building or upgrading their software and platforms to dovetail with those trends, the main one of which is remote working and providing employees with access to work apps through their mobile devices.
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Why Remote Working Improves Experiences
According to Jimmy Carroll, partner and director, direct sales at Chicago-based TetraVX, enabling remote workings is one of the key elements of a digital workplace. “These days, more and more employees are requesting to work remotely. Ensuring that employees are equipped with the tools they need to collaborate seamlessly regardless of geographical location is essential in helping them do their jobs successfully,” he said.
In this respect he cites tools like Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx and other meeting room software packages as examples of how technology is enabling persistent group collaboration by making it simple to instantaneously share documents with groups, or providing unified messaging where all messages — SMS, voice, chat, and email — arrive in the same place.
Carroll also points to video collaboration as one of the emerging collaboration trends that is adding a new layer to the way we work from home. Video was always seen to communicate with clients or for larger meetings, but with technologies like Skype and Zoom, video and desktop sharing are becoming more of the norm for smaller or even peer to peer meetings.
There are number of implications for employee experiences that follow-on from the rise of remote working. Christian Na of BrightTree Studios, a technology design and consulting firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says that the remote working has created three issues for the physical workplaces they are connected to:
Downsizing offices - As corporate offices downsize due to remote workers, these remote workers still visit the office from time to time using shared desks. A technology experience can be created that allows employees to use an app to see if desks are available prior to coming into the office and reserve a desk in their favorite spot.
Employee tracking - With people tracking technology, we can know what floor each individual employee is on so that we don't have to go searching for them. As a result, managers can increase face-to-face interactions, collaboration, and efficiency by knowing where people are in the building, and enabling easy, quick access to other employees.
Connected conference rooms - By integrating the office's corporate conference room technology into the corporate calendar, employees can walk into a conference room and the room will automatically turn on all equipment and dial the video conference call without the hassle of the user pressing any buttons. This accelerates setup time for presentations and audio/video conferences, allowing employees to focus on their actual work, not the technology with which they’re trying to share it.
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Enabling Middle Managers With Technology
In many enterprises the middle managers are the ones responsible for dealing with issues around employee experience as they are the ones that manage workers daily. “Middle managers have a great deal of responsibility, whether it be managing up or managing down,” Steve Kramer, co-founder and CEO of Montréal-based WorkJam. “Many often find that they are bogged down with tasks like scheduling and recruiting, hiring and training new associates. Because of this, they lack the time required to actually lead their team.”
To manage this, Kramer suggests using a crowdsourcing platform. While crowdsourcing was first used to secure feedback from the public, the applications for crowdsourcing today are far more wide-reaching. One of the more recent innovations is the crowdsourcing of labor. Because the workforce of today is far more technologically enabled than the workforce of yesterday, employers can use this new level of connectivity among their workforce to streamline processes, putting power in the hands of associates and freeing up managers to lead more effectively. Through a digital workplace, employers can unleash the potential of their workforce and give managers back their time to lead. There are other ways to enable digital managers though including:
Providing digital scheduling - Managers must synchronize individual schedules, and often must assign shifts without knowing associates’ availability. By migrating this process onto a digital management platform, employers put the power in the hands of the associates, who can list personal preferences, volunteer for available shifts, and trade shifts with other associates.
Provide onboarding technology - Between the paperwork, the scheduling and the ongoing training sessions, bringing on a new team member is one of the most time-consuming responsibilities handed to managers. Managers can streamline this process using a training module built inside their digital workplace platform. Using videos, quizzes and online documents, managers can get associates up to speed quickly, so they can start having an impact fast.
Offer unified communications (UC) - Managers are typically charged with managing disparate, outdated communications systems, from phone trees to email blasts. These types of communication serve to establish a hierarchy, with frontline workers feeling increasingly removed from management. Employers can solve these issues by using a unified, digital communication platform. This takes the stress of phone trees and other inefficient communications systems off managers and encourages communication between associates.
How To Manage Your Content
Advances in design and user experience considerations can unlock huge collaborative synergies within an organization, according to Stéphane Donzé, CEO of San Francisco-based AODocs, which provides a cloud document management platform built on Google Drive. He pointed out that advances in design and user experience considerations in document management systems and enterprise content management systems are unlocking a huge collaborative synergy within the organization. “Think... Work projects searched as effortlessly as Facebook friends or invoices called up as quickly as an Uber is ordered. This is of the utmost importance as young people (under the age of 30), who will soon make up 50 percent of the workforce, demand that enterprise tools are as easy as the tools they use in their personal lives,” he said.
He added that because younger generations are prone to job hopping, many companies need to better manage the time it takes to onboard and train workers with more user-friendly, consumer-grade tools. If an enterprise does choose to ignore such cloud options and thoughtful UI, those businesses won't have to wait for millennials to flee to see the deleterious effects of poorly conceived enterprise content management. “With the proliferation of SaaS applications, it's becoming easier and easier for users to procure alternative tools elsewhere to do their job. Quite simply, if a company tries to impose tools that everyone hates, users will just find better tools online leading to shadow IT,” he said.
Assessing Employee Experiences
Companies can no longer subscribe to a "one-size fits all" mindset when it comes to what matters most to their people. Data and insights can help direct where investments are made on HR programs to achieve the greatest positive impact to team members, Marilyn Tyfting, SVP and chief corporate officer of Las Vegas-based TELUS International, said. She said that questions such as:
- Through which recruitment channels do we find the best performing and most engaged team members?
- What benefits are most valued and correlate to better team member retention?
- What learning programs have the greatest impact on team performance?
These are all now being answered by analytics which is changing how human resource teams are deploying programs and initiatives. “Training and development remain an essential element of companies becoming and remaining competitive over the long-term,” she said. “Thanks to more sophisticated data and analytics programs, performance evaluations and related training and development has evolved tremendously over the years.”
At one time you might sit down with your leader or coach once a week to hear what you were doing well and where you needed to improve. Today, team members are receiving immediate feedback thanks to machine learning and data analytics that can use performance data to give almost real time hints, insights and coaching — customized to each individual team member.
Tim Christensen, vice president of product and engineering at San Francisco-based SocialChorus said that the need to improve the employee experience and retain top talent has never been more critical. Yet technology, in some ways, has made it more difficult because companies have too many tools to communicate with employees. Instead of focusing on the important job of informing and aligning employees, communicators are overwhelmed with simply trying to keep the channels filled or putting content into many different places — intranets, company newsletters, digital signage and others. “Just as email replaced the paper memo in the desk-based workforce almost three decades ago, mobile and cloud computing are replacing cascade communications organizations need to personalize the experience for every employee and target content to specific groups or teams in order to drive engagement and response,” he said.