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Amid labor shortages, hybrid work models, and worries about an economic recession, the employee experience has taken on heightened importance, according to 2023 predictions by Forrester.
Technology has a significant role to play. The right tools and systems can nurture creativity, exploration, and collaboration, which, in turn, can improve productivity, efficiency, and overall workforce engagement.
“All business leaders hope their employees feel empowered by technology,” said Peter Nichol (@PeterBNichol), chief technology officer of OROCA Innovations. “It’s also a goal within arm’s reach.”
So, what are the technology trends IT and business leaders should focus on to empower their employees?
That was the question we put to the CIO Experts Network — a community of IT professionals, industry analysts, and other influencers. Here are three strategies based on their responses.
Look at the total experience
Many organizations are digitizing processes and buying solutions to improve collaboration, innovation, and productivity. The experts say to ramp up these activities.
“Great technology empowers employees to make better business decisions and have more informed conversations,” said Kieran Gilmurray (@KieranGilmurray), CEO of Digital Automation and Robotics Limited. “This results in much happier employees who feel empowered and are more likely to deliver profitable business outcomes.”
However, it’s critical to first understand the whole picture, said a few experts:
“Building employee engagement, interaction, and participation requires an integrated employee experience. Getting the employee experience right is essential, because the total employee experience creates a superior customer experience. Empowering employees can be simplified to technology that allows employees to be more proactive and make good decisions in their work.” — Peter Nichol
“The top two reasons for pursuing digital initiatives are: improving employee productivity and enhancing customer experiences. Focusing on a total experience will create business value for both employees and customers, resulting in more resilient business outcomes.” – Enrique Carrillo (@ecarrillo), senior vice president, Strategic Growth – Diverse Manufacturing, Consumer Products, Retails, and Telecom, WNS
Looking at the whole picture may require a shift in mindset about how work gets done, said Michael Bertha (LinkedIn: Michael Bertha), vice president at Metis Strategy. He suggested looking toward product-based IT operating models, which have shifted IT teams away from large, homogeneous groupings.
“Product-based models recast employees into small, cross-functional teams organized around streams of value, like contract-to-bill,” he said. “These product teams work as if they’re managing a commercial product, autonomously strategizing and road-mapping and deciding how best to use the stream of funds dedicated to them to improve the customer experience.”
This shift toward autonomy may create uncertainty among some employees, so Bertha advised organizations to “be prepared to invest in skill development.”
Empower employees with data
Several factors are instrumental in building a successful total employee experience. One of them is data.
The experts offered ways to view your data strategy and understand how it empowers your employees:
“Enable greater data literacy with access to data, the ability to develop dashboards, and a culture that encourages collaborating on insights. Self-service BI tools, cloud data lakes, data catalogs, DataOps automation, data governance policies, fast networks, and high-powered end user computing capabilities are some of the technical backbones to support these capabilities.” – Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), president of StarCIO and author of Digital Trailblazer
“The most empowering technology trends that will become increasingly important for employees are those related to the instantaneous access to data insights, especially on mobile devices.” – Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO and founder, HealthTech Decisions Lab
“The traditional ‘occasional’ access to systems will move to full-time, 24 x 7 access, and that requires a complementary full-time data support organization. Companies that fail to understand the new ‘always on’ [nature of work] will have reduced productivity and often unhappy employees — and potentially unhappy customers as well.” — Jack Gold (@jckgld), president and principal analyst, J. Gold Associates, LLC
Also, look at data within the context of content for insight-driven communications, suggested Sridhar Iyengar (@iSridhar), managing director of Zoho Europe. That means “balancing traditional skills like writing, storytelling, and media engagement with expertise in new areas like social purpose, risk management, creative, and content marketing — underpinned by a communications technology stack that provides data science, actionable insights, and measurable outcomes.”
Provide engaging, immersive experiences
Another factor that shapes the total employee experience is technology functionality. For example, do the tools you provide engage workers? Does their digital workspace include capabilities that help them immerse themselves, focus, and enhance their performance?
Start with refreshing the basics and ensuring that their everyday technologies make work frictionless. For example, “seamless installations of collaboration, connectivity, and productivity technologies are the pillars of world-class employee empowerment,” said Nichol.
Next, deploy solutions with enhanced capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. “For example, robotic process automation will use intelligent algorithms to alleviate the need for professionals to do repetitive clerical tasks,” said Cutitta.
And then explore how tools can provide a deeper level of engagement, improve the absorption of knowledge, and strengthen communications, said the experts:
“Generative AI is a trend to focus on if you’re in a content- or documentation-heavy business. The early generation of these tools shows potential for generating customer correspondence and even standard operating procedures as AI advances.” – Will Kelly (@willkelly), writer and product marketer focused on DevOps and the cloud
“Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies can provide immersive training and learning experiences, helping employees to gain new skills and knowledge. They can also enable new ways for employees to interact with customers and clients, improving the customer experience.” – Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), chief strategy officer, GeekHive.com
“By 2028 the use of extended reality technology, including AR/VR tools, will increase by 40%, creating a new breed of digital worker and reducing operator/field worker errors by 30%.” – Sridhar Iyengar
Final words of advice
At the end of the day, “to empower employees, business leaders need to provide exceptional IT,” said Gilmurray.
And don’t forget to measure the employee experience to make sure it’s working. Lean on “AI and in particular natural-language processing for sentiment analysis,” said Joanne Friedman (@joannefriedman), CEO, Connektedminds.
Discover how an intelligent platform empowers employees for greater business value. Visit OpenText for more information.