Technology

The Employee Tech Experience Matters—Here’s How to Upgrade Yours

By / Jul 9, 2021 (Iuliia Alekseeva/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Your organization’s budget might be tight, but focusing on end-user experiences for both hardware and software could help keep employees around.

With employees increasingly working away from a shared office, many of the interactions they have with their employer take place through a laptop.

And if that laptop—or the software that employees must use on it—isn’t up to par, it can diminish the employee experience. A recent study from Workfront found that nearly half of all respondents surveyed said they would leave a company because of issues with technology—and that technology concerns increased during the pandemic.

“Digital workers are more invested than ever—but they feel underappreciated,” the Adobe-owned company states.

So given the competing concerns of systems needing to work for the entire organization and employees expecting an optimal experience, what’s an association to do?

Kaitlin Shinkle, vice president of product strategy for the enterprise device management firm Jamf, says that flexibility must be the guiding policy.

“Organizations must keep their data and resources secure, for example, but these security solutions need to be flexible and built for the technology ecosystem (e.g., Apple OS or Microsoft Windows) that they live on,” she says. “Empower your employees with the right hardware and software they need to get things done, wherever they are, seamlessly and securely.”

A few thoughts on balancing technology realities with employee experience:

Invest in better upgrades now to save money later. Association IT departments must balance machine upgrades with other costs. But while a low-end approach can save money upfront, it may create long-term maintenance and usability issues. Shinkle argues that it’s important to understand that costs extend beyond sticker price. “It’s important to look at the bigger picture or the total cost of ownership when investing in technology,” she says. “Some technology brands have a higher upfront cost, but when you factor in things like lifecycle, trade-in value, and repair cost and time, they actually have a lower total cost.” (She points to research from IBM showing that this was the case with Macs.) So you may be buying something now, but you’re saving money down the line by cutting down on indirect costs. You might even be able to keep a device going well beyond the traditional three-year cycle, though you definitely don’t want to be the Windows 7 laggard.

Consider offering a choice of devices. Graphic designers don’t need the same capabilities as C-suite executives, and your data or video teams might need all the horsepower they can get. So for organizations looking to improve employee experience, offering options might be a good idea—if your organization can afford it. Beyond experience benefits, it can also simplify maintenance through “drop-shipping,” in which personalized, preconfigured devices are sent to users without IT departments even needing to intervene. Maybe you pay more upfront, but you save money in maintenance costs because employees and IT pros aren’t manually configuring every device. “Employees should be able to get a new device and get going without feeling the burden of setup,” Shinkle says. (And if you can’t offer options, at least listen to employee feedback so they’re not stuck with devices they can’t stand.)

Offer end users flexibility in software tools. One challenge that many organizations may face when working with a variety of user preferences is the potential for “shadow IT”—the tendency for employees to introduce tools outside of the IT team’s recommendations. But this issue is often a result of individual users not being given tools that meet their specific needs. As one solution, Shinkle suggests giving users access to a company app or a self-service portal where a variety of software tools are available. “This allows for more flexibility, and employees can choose the best solution for themselves,” she says. This can even come down to basic productivity software: Some users might like Microsoft Office, others might prefer Google Apps. By offering both, knowing they’re generally compatible, you give end users a few options.

Rethink your approach to network access. In the past, a highly secure access, perhaps requiring tools such as a virtual private network, might have been the way to handle accessing resources on a cloud platform, for example. These tools can be annoying to use and can create end-user headaches. But in recent years, an alternative approach has become the preferred option: a concept called zero-trust network access, in which secured network resources are closed off and hidden until verification. “It’s a tighter way to keep a company and its users safe, working on an individual basis to determine whether an access request is trustworthy at a particular moment in time,” Shinkle says.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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