people in a glass enclosed meeting room in an office
PHOTO: Mario Gogh

Your employees are the most critical factor in the success of your business. But your company knows this already. It’s why your managers have received training on servant-leadership, and why you have an engagement program. It’s why your recruiting and interviewing processes have been honed razor-sharp to get the best possible people. It’s why your company bought a nice coffee-maker, snack corner or game room. Your company <3 its employees.

Except sometimes companies have a blind spot when it comes to the digital workplace experience — trumped by cost, control and calculation. It means that you invest big in getting the best people, but then when it comes to their tools suddenly it makes sense to prioritize things other than how efficient, effective and happy they are.

Hopefully at this point you are thinking, “well, my company values their employee’s experience with their digital workplace.” As an informal litmus test for that, ask yourself if you have heard any of the following key phrases when your company discusses employee IT.  

1. 'We’ll Just Provide Some Training or More Documentation'

This is the big one to listen for, because what is really being said is, “we know this is unintuitive.”

Keep in mind your employees won’t be comparing your tools to those of other companies: they will be comparing them to things they use in their personal lives. Modern televisions, for example, are basically computers. They have apps, firmware and connect to Wi-Fi. Yet despite all they do, no one expects to take hours of training or read a manual to use them. This is because ease of use is considered a competitive necessity, and designers are hired to make them as intuitive as possible. Of course, installing and setting up TVs sometimes remains an issue, which is why people often hire someone to do that part.

Your IT department should have the role of the TV installer: set things up so the user can have a fighting chance of just walking up and using it. This will make your employees more immediately productive and let them know you value them and their time. While process and skill training are a part of any employee’s development, once a process has been mastered, the barrier to using a tool instantiating that process should be minimal.

Related Article: Providing Flexibility in Workplace Tools Doesn't Mean It's a Free-For-All

2. 'This New Platform Is Really Going to Cut Costs'

Nothing wrong with cutting costs (on the contrary — it’s half of the profit balance sheet). Nor does spending more always ensure success. The problem here is that comments like the one above only focus on overt costs. A solution might cost less to license than an easier-to-use alternative, but what if your high-skill employees make the same easy mistakes over and over (even after all that training you provided)? What if extra clicks are slowing them down, or they constantly have to tie up other valuable employees’ time with tips on how to use the tool? What if they hate the tool, and they need more frequent breaks to stave off headaches?

So, nothing wrong with the statement above, but it needs to be followed by “… by making our employees more productive and happier.” Make sure you’ve taken the time to understand all the costs before making such declarations.

Related Article: Employee Engagement Is Not the End Game

3. 'That’s Fine for Employees – We’d Want to Review it More if it Were Going Out to Customers'

Without a doubt, your customers are your biggest priority. But given your employees are the primary interface to your customers, how much less should their experience be valued? When you are sending your employees an email (e.g., announcing a new tool), you are literally communicating with them on several levels. There is the actual content of the message, but the length (is it rambling?), quality (is it clear? Are there spelling errors?), and other factors are sending messages of their own.

You might have communications experts who review everything that goes out to customers — are they also reviewing your mass employee communications? 

Related Article: Internal Communications Returns to Its Marketing Roots

4. 'This Will Really Improve Up-the-Chain Reporting and Business Controls'

This one actually shows you ARE thinking about your users — just maybe not ALL of your users. This is similar to the cost point above. Business metrics are vital, but make sure you understand the related cost. If the new approach requires people fill out 25 additional fields or requires redundant entry across systems, is the juice worth the squeeze?

Consider the Consequences of Your Company’s Tool Decisions

These are only a few of the phrases which might indicate employee experiences need more focus — I’d love to hear more examples from you. The bottom line is that companies need to do a better job at the employee experience when making tool and IT decisions. Just remember that your tools can be a major determining factor in how much your employees get done in a day and how much frustration they experience. 

Think about the most inefficient tool you ever had to use at work. Which would you have preferred — a better replacement for the tool you use daily or a new pool table at the end of the hall? If you voted for the former, is it such a stretch to see that a lack of focus on your employees' experience is costing your company productivity, business and possibly undercutting employee retention?

The first step is to realize there is a problem and start working to solve it. In future articles we’ll consider how to measure employee experience and the simple design priorities you can follow to make things better.

Until then, keep listening for those tell-tale phrases.