Fernando Jardim Santos knows how frustrating it can be for employees who spend more time than they should on manual, repetitive tasks. In his first job as a recruitment assistant and marketing assistant for a healthcare recruiting company, he spent long hours scanning documents, converting them into PDF files, manually saving them according to strict naming conventions, and then sending them off to his colleague for further processing. Nowadays, he says it’s fun to imagine what his job would have been like with just a few simple, automated workflows.

“My life would have been so much easier. I would have been much more productive. And I would surely have been more engaged,” said Santos, senior product marketing manager at OutSystems. “While there’s been a significant evolution, many employees continue to be challenged with manual and redundant tasks, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.” 

At OutSystems, improving the way people work is what they strive for. A low-code development platform provider based in Boston, the company is a sponsor of Reworked's recent virtual Digital Workplace Experience (DWX) Conference. Santos presented the session, “Conquering the New Age of Work Through Tailored Digital Experiences.” We spoke with him about some of the frustrations today’s employees face in the workplace and what employers can do to keep them more engaged and productive.

Staying Ahead With Agile Responses and Unique Experiences

Simpler Media Group: With persistent job switching, new ways of working and overall uncertainty about the future, the employment landscape continues to change rapidly. Please describe how you see the current employment landscape, and talk to us about some of the major trends and issues organizations should pay attention to.

Fernando Jardim Santos: With the Great Resignation, and ongoing adjustments due to COVID-19, we’re seeing dramatic changes in the labor landscape. For organizations to be successful, they need strong strategies and systems for talent attraction and retention. The key here is being able to adjust quickly. At OutSystems, we help companies anticipate these changes and provide software development technology that allows them to swiftly respond to new market trends. We know that the companies that are better prepared to adapt their working models — including where they place their workforces and how they promote team collaboration — are the ones that will come out of this disruption on top. Businesses that still impose full onsite models are going to have a hard time retaining their top talent.

SMG: Your bio states your mission is to 'help businesses harness the full potential of tailor-made software in boosting Employee Engagement and Workplace Innovation.' Can you explain what is made possible for the world of work by moving toward and achieving this mission?

Santos: How many times have you been forced to change the way you work due to software limitations? Or put another way: How often do you feel that the software you use should work differently so you can be more engaged and productive? Software should adapt to the needs of the user, to different business models and even to different company cultures. It shouldn't be the other way around.

Business and IT leaders shouldn’t be forced by one-size-fits-all approaches. They shouldn't have to pay huge fees to customize software or wait months or even years to change how their business operates. At OutSystems, we believe that by analyzing workplace-related processes and providing differentiated employee experiences, we can help employees become more engaged and productive.

Filling the Need With Custom Solutions

SMG: During your session, you discussed how to improve the workplace experience through tailored digital interactions. Can you describe these interactions, and which challenges they’re designed to solve?

Santos: The challenges our customers face span the full employee lifecycle: from tracking the best talent to streamlining the hiring process, including managing employee onboarding applications. Many people aren’t aware that about half of all senior new hires leave a company within 18 months. This can be attributed to poor onboarding experiences. So, there’s a big opportunity to show employees that you value them during the onboarding process.

Organizations can also improve the employee experience through better office management, performance management and even alumni management, providing a portal to keep track of talent that might want to return to the company one day. The idea is for HR and IT to come together and find out what employees need, and then quickly develop a custom software solution to fill that need. This can help organizations deliver more satisfying, engaging experiences and keep their competitive edge. Because our platform uses visual development rather than traditional coding, companies can get a head start. 

Fernando Jardim Santos: “There’s a big opportunity to show employees that you value them during the onboarding process.”

SMG: Speaking of visual development, can you talk about how have the events of the past few years have pushed low-code solutions into the spotlight?

Santos: As a 20-year-old company that disrupted this market long ago, I can tell you that low-code has been around for a long time, and recent events have only reinforced just how valuable it is to a company’s success, and even their survival. Our developer community, made up of more than 400,000 professionals around the world, is testament to this. We believe we’re a major part of the solution for the challenges today’s companies are facing. Although the pandemic caught a lot of people off guard, customers who were already using our platform were able to adapt more easily.

For example, we have a customer that operates the largest non-government hospital ship in the world. Using our solution, they built a full-fledged recruitment solution that allowed them to double their annual recruitment capacity. They also had a 20% gain in time to hire and they reduced their applicant review preparation time by 92%. We’re talking about serious productivity gains using apps that are built not only for today, but for the future.

Learning Opportunities

Know What Employees Want and Deliver Without Delay

SMG: To help our readers connect the ideas you’ve shared with how they can impact their own workplace, can you give us an example of an organization that is successfully providing these tailored experiences, and what kind of results they’ve seen?

Santos: Employers must pay attention to what people want. For example, one of our customers, a well-known global software provider, needed to bring back a portion of their workforce. They needed to do it safely, making sure they were complying with all health regulations. But above all, they wanted a tool that would make it easier for their employees to come back to the office, and one that employees would be motivated to use. With the help of our platform and four recent graduates from their software development team, they rolled out a safety app to facilitate access to their offices in just under six weeks.

This wouldn’t have been possible with an off-the-shelf solution that had to connect to their internal systems, or even using a traditional software development approach. To me, that’s caring for the well-being of employees — providing a purpose-built tool for them to access the office safely and reunite with their peers, with fewer worries.

SMG: What are your best recommendations for organizations that want to become top employers?

Santos: Organizations need to be aware of any signs of employee discomfort or unhappiness, and really understand the expectations of their workforce. That means asking yourself: Can this group of employees work fully remote, or should we implement a hybrid model? Does this other group really have to be onsite all the time? These are going to be important considerations, especially during this adjustment period that we're still going through.

Companies will also need to make sure that the business has the means to work in an agile way. This means being able to deploy a new tool that employees might need, or modify some key workflow in response to disruption. Most importantly, because every business is unique, it means not being constrained by something that's designed to serve every business in the same way.

SMG: What excites you most about the future of the digital workplace?

Santos: Even though we’ve transformed customers in 87 different countries around the world, there's still so much opportunity to create more engaged workforces and to make people happier at work. There’s a lot more to discover and improve in the workplace, and I’m excited to be a part of that.

Register to watch the Digital Workplace Experience Winter Event on demand here.