Having recovered from the initial shock of implementing remote working almost overnight during the pandemic, many big UK employers – from banks to travel companies – are announcing remote and hybrid working policies are here to stay. There’s even been talk of future government legislation to make working from home a default option. However, while businesses contemplate the benefits of hybrid working – from the cost savings of reducing office space, to greater employee satisfaction – they also need to guarantee a great IT experience both inside and outside the office.
The growing number of digital natives in the workforce meant that a great IT experience was already becoming more important, but the pandemic has added impetus.
Businesses need to step IT up
The sad reality is that many organizations have not been giving employees the IT experience they need. A year into the pandemic, research showed almost half of employees hadn’t been able to use video conferencing systems, or weren’t given access to all the work systems needed to do their job. Almost a third hadn’t even been given a work laptop or desk computer to use from home.
This lack of support for employees could do serious damage to an organization, as they risk seeing their best talent walk out of the door. People no longer expect to have a ‘job for life’, and with honest, candid views readily available on employer review sites such as Glassdoor, businesses that provide a poor IT experience will find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain staff in the remote and hybrid working era.
Three key focus areas for consumer-like workplace IT
Many CIOs are already well aware of this growing problem and want to take positive action. Our research shows that 83 percent of senior IT decision-makers recognize that ways of working have been permanently transformed by the pandemic, and more than half (57 percent) want to invest more in the skills and technology needed to support a remote workforce. IT departments know it’s important for corporate IT to resemble consumer experiences, and that taking action is crucial. This means ensuring applications are as easy to use as possible, and that employees have everything they need in one place. With that in mind, there are three areas where IT is closing the gap between employee expectations and the realities of workplace IT.
Laying firm foundations
Providing a great remote working experience becomes a lot easier if you have a solid base to build on. Our last Insight Technology Index showed that most IT leaders had either updated their operating systems or migrated to cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365, to avoid leaving employees to battle aging systems that might not even support all the apps they want to use. The benefits of ensuring operating systems are fully up to date go beyond the employee experience itself. For instance, older operating systems also introduce security risks as patches are no longer produced and vendor support comes to an end.
Empower employees, rather than boxing them in
A one-size-fits-all approach to IT isn’t a realistic option when employees are working from a variety of locations, usually using many different types of devices. Already, more than three-quarters of enterprises allow employees to choose which kind of device they would prefer to use, while 80 percent also allow employees to use whatever operating system they want. At the same time, the IT department needs to maintain some control over the applications and technology employees use. The growth in software-as-a-service has made corporate app stores an excellent alternative for organizations. Essentially the IT department acts as a curator – creating an environment that gives employees direct access to corporate applications, and ensuring it contains everything an employee might need to work effectively.
Ensure buy-in with a change management strategy
Even digital natives may have found it hard to keep up with all the changes to workplace IT ushered in by the pandemic – from adopting new video conferencing platforms, to adapting to new layers of security. IT departments that clearly communicate with their teammates throughout the organization will help them make the most out of new technologies. For instance, this should include the benefits new technology will provide; best practices and training so employees aren’t left floundering when new technology goes live; and reaching out for feedback post-implementation to answer any queries, help with any issues, and guide further additions to suit employees’ needs. Identifying different personas within the workforce will help ensure everyone can be given the right message.
Time is of the essence
With remote and hybrid working still in its relative infancy for a lot of organizations, any implementation will be an ongoing project, rather than a one-off initiative. Two-thirds of organizations are working on projects specifically designed to improve employee experience; closing the gap between employee expectations and workplace IT will help ensure those projects are a success.
Hybrid and remote working has shifted from a future-gazing theory to everyday practice for a lot of organizations, and recruiters are now using it as a key selling point. Regardless of where employees are based, their expectations around IT in the workplace will continue to rise, so businesses really have no choice. They need to act and win over the hearts and minds of employees, or risk watching talent walk out of the door.
Alex Guillen, Technology Strategist, Insight