July 27, 2019

Report Explores How Companies Are Managing the Employee Experience, and the Role of Technology in Shaping It

"Employees who are engaged in their work are more innovative and self-starting, research suggests, but 85% of workers globally are disengaged," according to a report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU). "This has prompted employers to consider the working experience they create for employees and how to make it as engaging and productive as possible."

Sponsored by Citrix, an American software company, The experience of work: the role of technology in productivity and engagement explores how companies are managing the employee experience, and the role of technology in shaping it. The EIU surveyed 1,145 senior executives including IT, HR and other business leaders. This research report presents the key findings, including insights for IT executives on how to maximize their contribution to the employee experience.

Listed below are the report's key findings:
Responsibility for improving the employee experience is often blurred. Shaping the employee experience tends to be a shared responsibility among multiple senior executives. This can, however, often signal a lack of leadership clarity and lead to a vacuum. The risk of this is apparent in the survey, as little more than one third of C-suite respondents strongly agree that they take full responsibility for it across the organization. Only a few more say they take full responsibility for it even within their own teams. As companies mature digitally, C-level executives, including the CIO, take on more of a leadership role in this area.
Access to information breeds engagement and empowerment. Having ready access to the data and insights they need to do their jobs, wherever they are located, does more to influence employee engagement and productivity, and ultimately their overall experience, than other technology factors. For many companies, that translates into "mobile first" policies and efforts to perfect their use of collaboration tools, the digitization of onboarding, training and other employee-development activities, and efforts to recreate the consumer experience at work to the extent possible.
IT and HR may not be natural partners, but bridges are being built. In the survey, the two functions appear to feel they have a joint stake in improving the employee experience. For example, similar numbers of IT and HR respondents say they feel personally responsible for this within their team or more widely. At high performers and digitally more mature organizations, a large proportion of both IT and HR executives say the objective is part of the strategy of their function. To overcome the lack of understanding that hampers collaboration, many firms are taking practical measures such as employing specialists with knowledge of both disciplines and developing common metrics.
Companies struggle to measure improvement in the employee experience. Although virtually all companies in the survey measure employee engagement and productivity, and most are striving to devise suitable metrics to capture improvements in the employee experience, not many are as yet registering success. Less than one-third, for example, "strongly" confirm that they can quantify such improvements in financial terms. A higher proportion of high performers, however, are able to do this.
The EIU importantly explains: "The more engaged employees are in their work, previous research suggests, the likelier it is that they will contribute to the success of an organization. They will be more productive than less engaged colleagues, as well as more innovative and self-starting—critical attributes when business models and the competitive environment are changing rapidly."

Furthermore, "In recent years a consensus has formed around the idea that, rather than one or two individual factors, it is the totality of an employee's involvement with the organization—the 'employee experience'—that ultimately influences their contribution to success."

The report adds: "Today, the employee experience is firmly on the senior management agenda of the vast majority of firms" and "nothing influences the employee experience more than the quality of the organization's leadership. But technology is also an important contributor, and especially so at firms whose employees are, according to respondents, more engaged and more productive than their rivals (termed 'high performers' in this report). The same is true at organizations that are further along in their digital transformation than others (termed 'digitally more mature' organizations). Perceived improvement in the employee experience has also been greater at these groups than in the rest of the sample."

According to The EIU, "The clear conclusion is that business leaders have several technology levers they can pull to brighten their employees' journey through the organization, from the time they are recruited to their departure and even later. The challenges to doing this well are numerous, above all getting IT and HR to collaborate effectively toward this end, but companies featured in this report are finding ways to meet them."

How should companies manage the employee experience and what is the role of technology in shaping it?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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