“Some IT organizations still don’t consider employees their customers.”
That’s Claus Jensen, chief innovation officer and leader of research and development at Teladoc Health, a virtual healthcare company that has helped redefine the patient-doctor experience. Jensen recently lamented this fact while discussing the millions of workers who have helped enable massive digital transformation in nearly every industry.
To enable these transformations, enterprise IT teams have been laser-focused on delivering seamless experiences for customers. But for their employees (who are IT’s in-house customers), not so much.
“In a nutshell, that’s the problem,” says Jensen, whose company has 2,000 employees and provides remote medical care for patients in more than 130 countries, and who previously served as head of technology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and CVS Health-Aetna.
“It’s not that IT doesn’t have the tools to create the right kind of experience for the people who work for the company,” says Jensen. “It’s that employee experience isn’t always prioritized.”
That’s a business-critical mistake. Organizations with above-average customer and employee experience perform better than their competitors in three key business areas, according to a 2020 report from Qualtrics XM Institute on the topic: revenue growth, profitability, and employee retention.
If IT can better meet its internal users’ expectations, and provide them with the experience they want, those workers, in return, are apt to provide a better customer experience, which leads to better customer engagement and business outcomes.
As employers redefine the way people work (whether it be a fully remote or hybrid workplace), IT teams are helping lead the way. As they do so, Jensen suggests they follow these four tactics to improve the employee experiences and drive business outcomes.
Capitalize on endpoint data
Devices and endpoints should always be part of the employee experience conversation. An endpoint management platform lets IT teams manage all of an organization’s endpoint devices—from laptops and PCs to virtual machines in the cloud that help deliver shared software tools—from a single control point.
“If you don’t have secure endpoints that you can update in real time, people will get frustrated and become less productive.”
This provides much-needed visibility into every endpoint, including software and operating systems, security configuration updates, and software patching. Visibility is an essential tool to not only ensure operational efficiency but also to provide a positive employee experience. Laptops, desktops, and tablets that perform slowly or simply don’t work, for example, are surefire ways to erode job satisfaction.
“If you don’t have secure endpoints that you can update in real time, people will get frustrated and become less productive,” Jensen says. “These things have to work, and the more frictionless and invisible they become, the better the experience.”
Some IT organizations have tested the waters of automating simple support and device management tasks, according to a March 2021 Gartner report on digital employee experience (DEX) management. But most have yet to automate digital workplace experiences.
Integrating endpoint management, virtual desktop infrastructure, analytics, and machine learning to enable self-healing and self-tuning systems will deliver a richer user experience and improve the productivity of the workforce, the report says.
With automation, IT organizations can work to reduce digital friction—or the unnecessary effort an employee has to exert to use data or technology for work—making way for a delightful employee experience. Organizations with no digital friction have 20% more highly engaged workers compared to organizations with high digital friction, according to Gartner.
Apply design thinking to hybrid work
It’s a truism that the pandemic changed everything. But not without witnessing some major missteps. During the past 18 months, IT organizations experienced three phases. The first was the acute phase: making sure the basics of enabling remote work—like deploying laptops and PCs, ensuring connectivity, deploying digital collaboration tools, and securing their networks from cyberattacks—were in place for stuck-at-home employees.
When we talk about customer experience, we talk about journey maps and personas. There’s no reason we can’t do this with the internal audience.”
The second was the integration phase: identifying inefficiencies among systems, processes, and tools. For example, says Jensen, in the second half of 2020, Teladoc undertook its yearly planning and budgeting meeting remotely. “We couldn’t be together in a room,” says Jensen. “Not having a whiteboard and having to brainstorm on an audio-video connection isn’t as easy as you think. So now we had to start thinking about what other compensating tools and capabilities we could stand up to instill a more integrated process across the organization.”
Nearly every company is now in what Jensen calls phase three: the new normal. That requires adapting design thinking—the same approach used to improve customer experience—to the employee experience. It’s an iterative process: IT redefines worker problems and identifies and creates alternative solutions that might not be immediately apparent.
“When we talk about customer experience, we talk about journey maps and personas,” says Jensen. “There’s no reason why this can’t be done with the internal audience.”
IT groups, he adds, are just not accustomed to applying the same professional design strategies to the internal customer, the employee. “That,” he says, “has to change. We have to consciously and continuously align design thinking to internal experiences. Everything we build and deploy for employees will have to live up to the expectations of hybrid work.”
Solicit input to deliver a delightful experience
Improving the IT experience doesn’t happen in a vacuum. IT organizations should never assume they know what employees need or want, Jensen says. Instead, they must find people within the organization who can represent the voice of the target audience and involve them from the start.
Cover the basics, and the integration, and determine what your workers think a great job experience might look like. The goal, says Jensen, is to engage people, to talk not about the functional specifications of a tool or platform or a new piece of software, but about the experience it delivers.
“We’ve known for decades how to drive functional specifications,” says Jensen. “Now we live in an age where functionality and experience go hand in hand. It’s not one or the other. It’s the two combined that make the differentiating experience.”
He adds, “It’s not just about whether the solution you build is effective. It’s about whether the experience it delivers is “delightful.” When you see the experience in the lens of delightful, that’s how you get places.”
Explore Intelligent Solutions
To better understand an organization’s customers, IT typically uses tools like predictive models, artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and sentiment analysis. These tools should be applied in-house as well. Jensen says they can provide valuable insights into how employees use systems and tools and what their pain points may be.
“You can generate insight into where workers are spending their time and what productivity tools they’re using,” says Jensen. “You can find out what’s working, what isn’t, and look for opportunities for process optimization based on operational data.”
For instance, AI and automation can be used to streamline certain manual tasks, increasing productivity, reducing costs, and boosting employee job satisfaction. Says Jensen: “Gaining insights that lead you to these solutions helps you in your day-to-day work—from integration to the experience you’re delivering.”
“We owe it to the people who work at the institutions we serve to give them the same kind of experience we give to our customers,” adds Jensen. “We’re long past the point where it’s acceptable to give internal people an inferior experience compared to what they see in all the other areas of their life. That just isn’t how you can attract the right kind of talent, and it’s not how you can keep it. If you truly consider the people who work at your organization to be your most important resource, then you have to give them experiences that make them want to stay.”