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PHOTO: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out earlier this year, organizations large and small jumped on the employee experience bandwagon. Many companies that suddenly sent workers home had to start taking employee experience seriously and look at ways to keep them engaged with their organization.

Assessing Technology's Role in Employee Experience

While the urgency may be new, enterprise leaders have been trying to improve employee experience for a long time. Increasingly, technology plays a central role in those efforts. In October 2018, New York City-based PwC surveyed12,000 workers to find out to what degree organizations and their leaders were meeting worker needs and wants in the workplace. 

The findings, published in a report titled "Our Status With Tech At Work: It’s Complicated," showed that 90% of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology. Only about half (53%) of staff say the same. Leaders think they are choosing tech to get great work from employees, the report reads, but there is a major disconnect.

The report also pinpointed several things workers want more of. They want digital skills. Workers value a human touch but they also like digital assistants. Culture plays an increasingly important role, too. The 2020 Job Seeker Nation Report, published by recruitment software company Jobvite, shows that company culture more than anything else drives competitive advantage. Other findings include:

  • 81% of workers think company culture is important in their decision to apply for a job.
  • 38% of respondents said they would pre-emptively reject potential employers due to publicly available reviews.

The report also showed many companies experienced challenges in creating a positive experience for employees and job candidates during the screening, interviewing and onboarding process as they adapted to remote work. Some evolving practices include:

  • 84% of talent acquisition teams are adapting their processes to work remotely.
  • 46% of respondents are doing more social posting to advertise jobs to recruit new talent, including on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
  • 58% of respondents are using social channels to promote their employer brand and connect with talent.

Related Article: How Your IT Team Can Design Better Employee Experiences

Minor Issues, Major Stress

As the workforce shifted home in 2020, technology's role became even more central to how work gets done. Issues that were previously minor became major headaches. According to research from Denmark-based EPOS, a provider of sound for voice and audio-driven digital workplace apps, 95% of the workforce said their concentration and efficiency at work has suffered due to audio setbacks. This has resulted in 35% reporting feelings of frustration, irritation and annoyance. Even more concerning for enterprise leaders, EPOS found that 25% of end-users experience stress and 15% of respondents even feel embarrassed or less confident because of poor employee experiences.

Bad audio experiences cause harm not just to an individual’s wellbeing but to organizations as well, said Jesper Kock, vice president of research and development at EPOS. The American Institute of Stress estimated that job stress costs U.S. industries more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and medical, legal and insurance costs.

Technology has not helped either. The proliferation of technology to accommodate new ways of working has resulted in a significant increase in the number of telephone calls and virtual meetings. This switch to virtual led to an increase in the number of daily micro-frustrations experienced by many workers.

“Universally, businesses have a duty of care to their employees, particularly while remote working to ensure they are not overextending themselves. There is a need to cascade employee well-being from the top down,” Kock said.

Business leaders must act as champions for workplace policies and investments that dismantle daily stressors, whether they are created by technology-induced pain points, lack of work-life balance or concerns about job security.

Related Article: 10 Ways to Create Positive Employee Experiences for Remote Workers

Streamline Communications

There is one type of technology that is key in improving employee experiences. Technology that streamlines communication is an essential addition to improve the employee experience, said Yaniv Masjedi, chief marketing officer at Scottsdale, Az.-based Nextiva. When employees can communicate with their team without any problems it helps promote collaboration while reducing the chances of stress.

Masjedi recommended Google Meet, which has undergone several transformations in recent months. Recently, Google made Google Meet premium video meetings free and available to everyone as the company looks to curtail the growing enterprise appeal of Zoom.

The unique thing about Google's software, Masjedi said, is that developers created it with a business set-up in mind. Because of that, everything is cloud-powered for a more secure and reliable experience. The Google Suite price point is also already considerably less than its main competitor, Microsoft 365.

Related Article: How Companies Can Engage Employees with Internal Podcasts

Focus on Efficiency

Enterprise leaders also need to examine their workplace tools to streamline them and provide employees a single place where they can work rather than having to jump from one platform to another. The most recent example of this is Gmail, which Google is in the process of turning into a single place to work by enabling workers to access all their other systems and content from their inbox.

“Take a closer look at the workplace tools your business uses," said Iain Scholnick, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Braidio. "Jumping from one platform where collaboration is taking place to another where knowledge assets are hosted does not make for an optimal experience.”

To enhance employee experience, enterprise leaders need to explore tools that integrate across third-party applications and knowledge repositories to create efficiencies and open the employee experience. They also need to examine the processes those tools are designed to serve. Eliminating steps can help drive better engagement, also creating happiness and fulfillment. Even a 5% improvement in productivity can save millions of dollars in a large organization.

The Rise of Digital Assistants

One other element workers are turning to more frequently to meet business targets and goals is digital assistants.

With all the talk around the future of work, we are seeing the start of a shift within the enterprise to embrace and adapt to the modern workforce, said Jon Knisely, principal for automation and process excellence at San Francisco-based FortressIQ. Automation is a key element of this shift. Robotic process automation and the use of digital assistants are being driven from the bottom-up instead of the top-down.

The drive to empower the citizen developer is something that Microsoft, a recent entrant into the automation space, is placing a big bet on. By enabling users to easily create a bot to take on specific job tasks – without knowledge of coding or the need for time-intensive documentation – will put the responsibility and management directly into the hands of the workforce. This is a long-term investment in employee experience, Knisely said.

"Automation will allow anyone, no matter what department or role they have at the company, to easily automate a tedious task or portion of their job without engaging IT," he said. 

Imagine if sales executives could spend less time updating CRM systems, sales operations could auto-generate pipeline reports, and product managers could consolidate and group customer feature requests from various channels. Imagine the finance and accounting department could eliminate copying and pasting of PO numbers into multiple systems and if call center employees could auto-fill customer ticket information. There are nearly countless other examples that could make life easier for employees.

“Putting the power of this technology into the hands of your workforce allows them to make data-driven decisions more quickly, increasing overall corporate performance as well as job satisfaction," Knisely said.