By Darren Fields

CIO and CHRO apparently do not view digital transformation as a shared project.

Progress has a habit of leaving people behind. Working conditions are very different today than those of the first industrial revolution. During that period of high unemployment, employee experience came last and productivity first. In contrast, today’s low unemployment rate and significant skills gaps are driving a minimum desired standard that employers must meet to ensure they are getting their fair share of the best talent.

To date, much of the focus has been around company culture, salaries, management experience and job security. Many companies have turned to innovative approaches to introduce benefits and perks to their organisation – from Netflix’s ‘no official working hours’ arrangement and BrewDog’s ‘pawternity leave’ policy, to Google’s ‘decompression capsules’ for employees to take onsite afternoon naps. But is this enough to drive organisations to the future of work?

It’s easy to see why businesses are offering unusual employee benefits to stand out from the competition. After all, engaged employees are more likely to stay with an organisation, perform 20 per cent better than their colleagues and act as advocates of the business. Additionally, the economic impact of employees’ engagement levels is enormous, with research concluding that highly engaged business units are 21 per cent more profitable. But is there a simpler solution, and could technology solve the employee engagement crisis?

Well implemented tech leads to improved engagement

A new Citrix-sponsored report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) suggests that UK business leaders view technology to be among the top three most important factors contributing to employee experience. Historically, technology has been a tool to get the most out of employees, but with a rising war for talent, businesses are recognising that their view of employee experience must extend beyond a focus on productivity yield.

Having the ability to work and be productive anytime, anywhere, and from any device has become the new raison d’être for many forward-thinking businesses. When the workplace is set up correctly, technology has the ability to be an enabler that helps organisations get the best out of their people.  To achieve this, workplace technologies need to streamline access to information and applications, removing the “noise” and distractions from the work day, and empower employees with the right insights and apps to do their very best work. Such unified access and AI/ML-guided work can help employees speed and scale innovation in dramatic ways.

In my view, the next phase of employee experience will be centred around giving people the right tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability. In today’s world, this change will require the IT team and HR department to work together. Close departmental collaboration will become the key to achieving a modern digital workspace. 

Here’s why:

  • A productive workforce requires businesses to measure people on their output, rather than their input. As a result, people are now more accountable for outcomes than ever.
  • A productive workforce requires businesses to measure people on their output, rather than their input. As a result, people are now more accountable for outcomes than ever.
  • Younger generations have no time for inadequate technology. They have high expectations of their organisation’s IT performance and want to focus on what they can achieve.

The business case for collaboration

Despite this clear link between correctly implemented technology and employee engagement, 27 per cent of UK business leaders do not believe their CIO and CHRO view digital transformation as a shared project. In fact, only 24 per cent strongly agree that they employ experts with experience in both HR and IT to bridge the two departments. The primary barriers to more effective collaboration were identified as a lack of budget, a lack of time and a lack of mutual understanding.

The bottom line? Attracting and retaining talent is more important than ever, and technology plays an increasingly significant role. As a result, it is more important than ever for HR and IT join forces to make the leap to a modern digital workspace.

This must be led from the top down, and the respective leaders of each function may need to expand their knowledge. In fact, most individuals at C-suite level envisage the IT leader of the future as an expert in human factors such as engagement and wellbeing (83 per cent). Likewise, they would like HR leaders to have expertise in emerging technologies such as AI and analytics (69 per cent). To align the two departments, the majority of executives also believe there is a need for a senior leadership position with responsibility for the human impact of technology.

In the meantime, HR professionals need to become more involved in discussions with their organisation’s technology providers to better understand how these digital tools work and their impact on staff. Meanwhile, the IT team needs to provide not just a great technology product, but an end-to-end service. Tapping into HR expertise will help them to obtain that understanding. Additionally, the enterprise-wide adoption of ‘BizDevOps’ – a set of practices originally developed for IT teams and now applied more widely to foster close collaboration between business functions – could help to facilitate the IT and HR interaction needed to improve the employee experience.

Looking ahead

Heightened demand for labour could leave many employers struggling to recruit talent in an increasingly competitive environment. As the war for talent intensifies, business leaders cannot afford to be seen as simply paying lip service to what is a growing employee demand. Doing so increases the risk of employee dissatisfaction – as well as all the hiring, retention and bottom line issues that result from a discontented workforce.

Many companies recognise a role for technology in shaping the employee experience – but making sure technology has a positive impact requires coordination amongst different functions. IT and HR must therefore build stronger relationships and establish clear lines of ownership around the employee experience. The technology available today and employees’ clear expectations around experience mean there are no excuses for failing to set staff up for success.

About the Author:
Darren Fields, regional vice president, UK & Ireland, Citrix

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