The need for companies to put their people first has never been greater. The ‘experience’ organisations can now offer their employees – in terms of giving them access to the right digital technologies, applications, culture and support – can now directly impact business growth and attracting and retaining talent.
By Andy Philp, EMEA solutions marketing at VMware
So finds major research, recently conducted with 3,600 employees, HR and IT decision makers in EMEA, which reveals that more than double the number of employees in high or hyper growth companies have the freedom to work from personal devices, compared to underperforming companies, and that two thirds of all employees state the flexibility of digital tools for work influences their decision to accept a position at a company or even apply for a job.
So why aren’t all businesses doing this? And what is the opportunity for the channel?
As ever, it’s often easier to say than do. Creating an optimum digital employee experience means overcoming operational, cultural and technology challenges. Specifically, it means bridging significantly siloed thinking between HR and IT teams, which is compromising the ability of organisations to deliver the digital experience their employees are demanding.
Here’s where partners play a vital role as trusted advisors – they’re invested enough to know the nuances of the business, yet objective enough to drive coordination between different departments within companies. The opportunity for businesses operating in the channel is to challenge their customers to think differently, to help bridge the gaps within organisations to ensure the business performance case for taking a digital-first approach to employees is well understood. So, what steps can they take to do this?
Communicate to collaborate
I’ve sat in workshops with Heads of IT and HR where it’s clear these teams rarely share conversations concerning areas of overlap. This is a widespread phenomenon – 84% of employees in EMEA are calling for HR and IT to work better together, while just 18% think HR and IT collaborate all of the time. The result is a lack of coordination and unclear accountability – that’s between lines of business but also for employees. In fact, half (49%) of employees don’t actually know whether they should approach HR or IT about the digital experience they are having at work.
With such internal confusion, partners have a strong opportunity to drive joined-up communications and connect these departmental silos, to help unshackle IT from being just the tech and distance HR from being seen as just the procedural elements of talent management. By doing so, they can help clarify roles, responsibilities and routes to internal teams better working together. Taking a joined-up approach to this, where IT, HR, the business and employees all have a voice and a role, is essential.
Always think user first, not device first
Too often, we think of mobility and digitally empowered employees as classic office workers, emailing on the move and joining conference calls from the comfort of their homes. It’s so much more than this, and the opportunity for organisations is always thinking ‘user’ first rather than ‘device’ first. Partners can help drive this mindset shift, away from managing laptops and mobile devices towards best supporting the broadest possible needs of users. This could be employees operating in back offices, delivering customer services and sales, or working on retail stores and manufacturing floors. Whatever the specific field, organisations will require guidance to ensure the right technology supports business imperatives – managing all of the apps, all of the use-cases – to free up IT to think differently.
When approaching this, partners can offer value by thinking broad and drawing on existing insights from previous projects, across different organisations and sectors. Consider the trend in art galleries or major exhibition spaces, for example, to develop location-based apps to provide exhibit information to visitors when they are stood close by. By ensuring digital content becomes an aid to learning, exploration and navigation, these galleries can boost engagement with their digitally orientated visitors. This might be a specific scenario but its learnings could be applied further – to the aviation industry, to consider just one example, and providing travellers with proximity-based facilities and services information, not to mention navigation support, on their devices to improve their experiences within big and busy airports.
Prioritise projects at speed; try small and fail fast
Partners also need the foresight to determine which parts of the business should be involved in each project. It’s not that every project, even those relating to the digital employee experience, will require full engagement from both IT and HR teams. But for those that do, push for seamless coordination – despite the friction that might follow.
Onboarding new employees is a prime example, requiring textbook collaboration between HR and IT. The ambition here is a ‘day zero experience’ – where the new employee digitally receives all employment documentation, log-in details, preparatory questions and onboarding information before day one of work. Delivered via a single technology platform that can simply and securely manage any app on any device, this allows the employee to return completed materials, select the workplace device of their choosing, get set-up on the corporate system and familiarise themselves with immediate tasks and training so that, as they walk in the office doors for the very first time, they can simply collect their device and go.
When prioritising such projects, there’s also the need to consider trying small and failing fast. A lot of infrastructure and modernisation programmes tend to be 18 months long – ‘big bang’ plays that are sizeable in scope and complexity to deliver. In today’s world, companies can’t always afford that time – onboarded talent needs to be delivering from day one, for example. So, partners should also help organisations prioritise things at speed; fail-fast, learn quickly, be iterative and adapt for the next challenge / opportunity.
Challenge businesses to think differently
Success in these areas comes down to establishing a new engagement model between IT and HR and, ultimately, end-users. Coordinated and quick decision-making is required, fuelled by an agile technology platform that can scale at the drop of a hat to provide access to information for all the relevant fingertips in a simple and secure fashion.
This is complex territory and requires a great many different parts working together in harmony. The opportunity for partners here should not be underestimated. Challenge customers to think differently; equip them with the right technology behind the scenes to free IT and HR from their traditional silos and foster true collaboration. In doing so, support businesses as they finally focus on putting people first.