Sunday, 1st August 2021

Rethinking the relationship between IT and productivity

James Maude, product strategy lead at digital adoption solution specialist, AppLearn, outlines why IT leaders should focus on employee experience in order to thrive in a post-Covid world.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has entirely transformed IT strategies for businesses around the world.

With many organisations shifting from an entirely office-based workforce to one that is predominantly working from home, employees across many sectors have had to get used to new ways of working and a whole suite of cloud-based tools – often overnight, in order to continue with their day-to-day roles.

The past few months have also seen many businesses re-examine their finances. As Covid-19 began to spread across the world, many organisations immediately turned to their outgoing spend to look at where savings could be made.

These two factors equate to a pivotal time for IT teams. This is the perfect opportunity for organisations and IT leaders to re-examine their approach to technology, ways of working, and the impact that this can have on the happiness of their workforce.

How has Covid-19 changed the way we work? Research shows that happy employees are 12% more productive than average workers. It’s now commonly recognised by boards that investing in employee experience and wellbeing can have a positive impact on financial performance.

This is even more crucial now that more organisations are relying on home working, where they are more likely to feel isolated and will be more dependent on technology to work, connect and communicate.

And it’s not just wellbeing that can be affected. It’s often the case that this technology isn’t set up to enable productivity. Research by McKinsey found that on average, knowledge workers spend nearly 20% of their working week looking for information or help on tasks – an issue that’s compounded while at home, where employees can’t simply ask someone for help in person.

This issue – the need to jump between different apps or windows – is known as context switching. Research has shown that knowledge workers spend up to an hour of work daily simply navigating between apps, and that 56% find searching for

information in different apps disruptive. Over time, these small interruptions can add up to a significant impact on an organisation’s financial performance – and lead to lowered motivation amongst employees.

Even the way that organisations provide IT support can increase or decrease rates of context switching. For example, having to call an IT support desk can add yet another step in an already complex search for information. If organisations can minimise the need for users to context switch, they can maximise their productivity.

How can your IT strategy improve the employee experience?

Historically, businesses have taken a customer-first approach to investing in user experience – prioritising external customer service and communication over the internal employee experience.

However, most employees are also users of this consumer technology, and expect the same smooth transitions and automation when using their work devices or software. When their digital experience is seamless, employees can focus on their role without interruption.

This is where Enterprise Service Management (ESM) principles can help. This model shapes how organisations operate internally, and means that organisations will have an ability to manage multiple processes from a single application. With a one-stop shop for employee issues, the time spent searching for information or switching between applications is greatly reduced. ESM principles can help to free up time for both IT teams and employees in other teams, and enable greater efficiency across an organisation.

To immediately improve the employee experience, IT teams can also assess the applications they use and take steps to reduce context-switching. For example, having one centralised support portal can help workers to maintain focus. Measuring and understanding tasks that employees commonly struggle with can also help you to understand where to streamline the applications or processes you have in place.

Ultimately, if employee experience is prioritised – whether that’s through implementing ESM principles or simply reassessing the number of applications your business uses – organisations will benefit from less time spent on responding to IT support tickets, increased cost-savings and happier employees.

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