Key Takeaways

  • There’s a gap between what the C-suite thinks about technology use at work and what employees actually experience.
  • Overcoming this gap is critical to ensuring technology doesn’t end up being an under-utilised, costly burden on staff.
  • Considering staff motivation, understanding how tech is used, and encouraging a continual learning mindset will help ensure employees embrace technology at work.

That there’s often a disconnect between what management believes and what employees experience hardly comes as a surprise to many. But when it comes to technology, overcoming these differences is critical to ensuring that the investment companies make in rolling out new innovations is not only adopted en masse, but actually delivers on its promise of lifting productivity and profitability.

According to a new survey from PwC US, Our status with tech at work: It’s complicated, 90% of C-suite executives surveyed reported that their company paid attention to the needs of its people when deciding on new technology. However, when the same question was put to the employees themselves, they weren’t as confident: only 53% felt that was true.

Experience
matters

Part of the reason for this chasm is in the experience. New technology always brings with it learning curves, but when technology doesn’t work the way it is intended, it’s usually up to the staff to wade through the difficulties in using it in order to get on with the tasks at hand – unlike much of the C-suite that can delegate this work.

This experience gap matters. Without a sound understanding of the difficulties facing employees, the employee experience can suffer, and that in turn can affect a company’s bottom line – after all, the employee experience enables the customer experience, and customers are prepared to pay up to 16% more for receiving superior experience.

But it’s not easy: the rate of technology coming to market seems to be rapidly increasing, and companies in response are deploying not only a continuous stream of new applications, but increasingly complex technology such as artificial intelligence and robotics process automation. While companies must keep up with the latest productivity-boosting tools, it means employees too must constantly learn new skills.

Engage with
employees

The best way to achieve the desired results from these investments is to first look to the people that will be most impacted by them. Indeed, employees themselves have identified a way of bridging the experience gap: include them in the process. Technology has moved from being a functional tool to something that they have a relationship with.

With that in mind, the report outlines four ways that the C-suite can get more buy-in from employees with tech at work:

 

1. Consider what motivates people to adopt new tech

When looking at which new technology to implement, decision-makers must factor in both the promise of what it can deliver and what it is that will motivate employees to adopt it. In other words, it’s less about job titles and more about attitudes and behaviours.

The workforce overall is positive about what technology can enable, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t concerned about the implications for their role. For example, when asked if artificial intelligence is making the world a better place, 88% of C-suite respondents agreed, compared to just 48% of staff. Understanding why this gap exists is pivotal when considering the right technology solutions and ensuring that these worries are addressed before tech is introduced.

 

2. Understand what it’s like to do the job

Data analytics is providing more insight into creating efficiencies in the way we work, but it’s also critical that decision-makers understand the work itself from the perspective of the employee. The best way to do this is by defining work personas in the most important job processes and gathering feedback from people on what it’s actually like to do that work.

Understanding day-to-day routines and processes can help illuminate how a technology will actually improve the way the work is being done, rather than resulting in an implementation that becomes just another costly overhead. For example, think about one of the most common location staff are when completing a particular task. Are they at home, at work, with a customer? These circumstances can help determine the technology that is best going to suit the requirements. As processes evolve, keeping a continual feedback channel open is imperative.

 

3. Involve employees early in the process

If employees are most affected by the implementation of new technology, why not have them more involved in the decision-making process? Start by bringing people across a variety of levels and departments together who can play a role in planning, selecting and designing the tools. Consider giving others a voice through focus groups, feedback mechanisms and surveys that will help engage more employees and fuel their interest in the tech itself.

Identifying informal leaders may also help drive the cultural change that is often needed in the digital transformation process. These employees will have a ground-level view of what staff want and expect from technology, and can help inform the decision-making in the framework of the cultural reality. They themselves can demonstrate the cultural and behavioural changes which will then be mirrored and more widely embraced by the employee base.

 

4. Adopt a continual learning mindset

As we’ve established, technology is constantly evolving. But rather than staff being focused on traditional training models such as completing courses, they should be encouraged to adopt a continual learning mindset, and give them opportunities to to explore new mindsets, behaviours, relationships and ways of working. Communicating why this is important not only to the organisation but to them personally is the first step. Supporting them through regular coaching and feedback will help provide a development focus as well as build learning into a function of their role.

Companies that support their workforce in becoming digitally savvy will in turn help change the focus of the C-suite from the transformative potential of technologies towards a focus on changing the way people within the organisation work. This may involve outside-the-box thinking when it comes to learning, such as microlearning or short online courses, as well as incentivising learning beyond simply paying people to undergo training, such as special recognition or opportunities to expose staff to new ways of thinking.

The majority of staff say they do their work because they want to learn new things, and this motivation should be key in helping close the gap between C-suite decision making and employee experience. This in turn will help set up the company for success by creating a new workplace culture around the continual evolution of technology, while reducing the risk that invested technologies become white elephants.

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For further insights, visit the Consumer Intelligence Series: Our status with tech at work website to download the full report.