With the tools and technology available, skills shortages and a competitive job market, the time has come for organizations to understand the power of creating a more compelling employee experience. Studies support it  and your employees want it. The good news is that the changes are already happening in many places, offering orgnaizations larger talent pools, as well as, better collaboration and innovation efforts. 

In fact, according to a Sapho survey last month of 160 IT directors and chief information technology directors at companies with more than 1,000 employees, 78 percent of respondents plan to upgrade their organization’s enterprise applications this year. Their goal is to provide employees with better user experiences, improve employee productivity and produce more secure sensitive data. So what can IT leaders do specifically to help improve employee experiences? We caught up with some experts who shared their thoughts on IT's role improving the workplace.

Start with Journey Mapping

Kevin Andrews, Hodges-Mace president and CTO, said focus points for any IT project should start with journey mapping to ensure an optimal experience. 

“The user experience must be personalized and designed to help users navigate decisions and ultimately connect users in meaningful way,” he said

Related Article: How to Get Started With Customer Journey Mapping

Create Apps That Match Product Value

Enterprise applications or systems should be an extension of the value creation that a company's product or services represents, according to Andrews. “In the end, a user should view an IT process as a brilliant end-to-end experience, focused on personalization, simplifications and a meaningful interaction. Most projects fail when they fail to align the UI with the journey and objectives of the users.” 

Focus on Developing Soft Skills Among IT Teams

Greg Layok, senior director of technology at West Monroe Partners, said IT leaders should prioritize "soft" skills like leadership, collaboration and communication among technology and IT professionals. Layok cited a West Monroe Partners' study, that found that 72 percent of line-of-business employees have had to prolong or delay projects due to trouble connecting with their IT department, and 33 percent have missed deadlines altogether because of this. “To address this issue,” Layok said, “organizations need to not only prioritize soft skills during the hiring process for IT professionals, but also throughout tech employees' careers with continuous training.”

IT pros should actively seek out leadership opportunities in the organization, as well as other chances to work alongside those outside their department. “That way they can better understand how other areas of the business operate and, moreover, increase communication across teams. At the same time, this will give other departments more visibility into the IT team's role so they can also better comprehend how to effectively collaborate.”

Empower Employees to Solve Tech Issues on Their Own

Ryan Duguid, senior vice president of technology strategy at Nintex, said line-of-business employees have developed a level of learned helplessness when it comes to their dependence on IT. Not exactly a good thing. According to Nintex's recent study, employees are quick to blame IT and depend solely on them to fix their processes, with 62 percent of employees claiming there are broken IT processes within their organization. “This cycle leads to ineffective and unmotivated employees, The survey also shows that IT can’t keep up, yet no one recognizes this,” Duguid said. 

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: Employee Experience Officers Share Tips on Improving the Workplace

Not Just a Help Desk

Since there is no shortage of tools that can be leveraged to address broken processes, employees can no longer do nothing and blame IT for all tech issues, according to Duguid. “Everyone needs to acknowledge this, and the business strategy of IT should change to address it,” he said.

Instead of serving as a help desk reacting to issues with technology or broken processes, IT should:

  • Allow departments and people to choose the tools that work best for their needs.
  • Provide people and departments with the “glue” to bring all those systems, applications and information silos together.
  • Empower departments and people within the organization to solve their own problems by providing training and governance around their technology.

‘Shadow IT’ Not a Bad Thing

Instead of trying to stop "shadow IT" — a system where information-technology systems and solutions built and used inside organizations without explicit organizational approval — IT teams should instead embrace it because it’s many situations it's helping people get the best tools to do their jobs.

“All these different tools and applications can result in chaos and silos, and that’s where IT comes in. IT should provide the solution that addresses this by allowing information to flow across the silos and by building governance around its deployment. The goal is no longer to fix a broken process but deploying technology and creating a level of confidence in users to fix it themselves while knowing that it’s being done in a safe fashion,” Duguid said.