Can Technology Really Lead to End User Job Satisfaction?Russell Battista Jr. | System Office Chief Information Officer, University System of New Hampshire
Is it really possible to achieve contentment and satisfaction from end users regarding the implementation of your technology and service strategy? Does the technology environment you provide lead to greater job satisfaction amongst your colleagues? These sound like simple questions that could be easily measured, but I think there are other factors to consider when looking at the relationship between end-user job satisfaction and the execution of your technology roadmap.
I would first suggest that a goal of improved job satisfaction starts with enabling all end users to deliver superior service to their customers. Sometimes that requires learning new skills that may not appear to make users happy initially, but if the result of the new skill improves their ability to confidently answer customer inquiries, that will sure go a long way toward improved job satisfaction… not to mention supporting the mission of the institution!
As a technology leader, it is important to fully understand the end user perspective, and engage in a meaningful dialog to map out a sensible implementation plan that lies somewhere on the spectrum between doing nothing and doing everything (I have never found either of those two extremes to be a viable strategy).
In order to maximize the benefit delivered to consumers of your technology platform, I will outline several important considerations. Since this is a short article it is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but the ones listed will facilitate a plan to help ensure your colleagues’ job satisfaction.
Know Your Audience
When I think of the ways technology can help lead to job enjoyment and satisfaction, it is important to distinguish between the various constituencies or consumers of the technology. It is important to make this distinction because their needs are different, so we need to clearly understand their priorities. A high-level summary of those groups are:
Students: They demand technology to give them access to their data on demand, anywhere and anytime from any device. Anything less than complete system availability and access is unacceptable.
Faculty: Their technology needs are primarily focused on teaching and advising content. The drive toward flipped classrooms and online learning, collaboration tools and access to real-time data are paramount.
Academic and Administrative Support Staff: Their customers are students, faculty, and other support staff, so they need modern tools to enable them to answer questions in a timely manner and provide accurate data when needed.
Senior Leadership: Everyone is their customer and all the above groups report into them in some way, so they need to ensure systems are accurate and efficient, classes are meeting expectations, and their respective teams are being supported and enabled to do their jobs effectively leveraging technology.
IT Staff: Yes, they are an important constituency when considering technology strategy. All of the above are their customers so they need the tools (and budget) to create and deploy tools to help everyone get the information they need. They also need strong communication and support from their leadership to ensure they can execute on the technology vision.
Despite differences in perspectives, I believe all constituencies have a common need to access data: secure, personalized, accurate, real-time, on-demand data accessed via mobile device any time of the day. Much of what we do as IT professionals is enabling end users to find answers to their questions that lie somewhere in our data store. Our goal should be to provide these answers in a simple way that is easily understandable so we don’t require end users to find the needle in the haystack.
What Question Are You Really Trying to Answer?
This is one of the more neglected topics out there. We as IT professionals need to take a step back and ask the Why and What questions before we get into the How to implement. These questions must be framed to help understand the opportunity and end goal of the request. Understanding how the request fits into the organizational mission is critical.
This reminds me of a project when I was at Fairfield University where the Academic Advising team outlined a need for a Student Success platform and the Dean of Students was searching for a platform to manage Student Conduct. Each had specific needs but they were willing to collaborate with IT to determine commonality of requirements and whether one platform could be implemented to satisfy both requirements. In the end, we decided together that no one platform could meet both needs so each went in their own direction. I believe both teams did a great job of trying to accommodate each other but this time made sense for each group to have separate platforms. It was a great team effort that ended up with all parties satisfied with the end result.
One may think this was crazy from an IT perspective because we should consolidate platforms—not add more—but I believe we asked the right questions and came up with the right answers. That leads to the next area of consideration…
If there is one area I have learned to appreciate in Higher Ed it’s that relationships are everything. I don’t think you can even begin to understand how technology can lead to end-user job satisfaction unless you get to know your colleagues and spend the time to understand what they go through on a daily basis to get their job done. It humbles me to think of the commitment demonstrated daily from colleagues across the institution to serve their customers whether it be students, faculty, or staff. I have never felt work was a burden or difficult when I have taken the time to fully understand what was needed so I could get to answer the right question. Stephen Covey had it right when he suggested to begin with the end in mind. I try to incorporate that habit into everything I do.
I hope this has provided some insight to help improve your partnership with colleagues and where to focus efforts. I know there are no absolutes when it comes to effective technology deployments and job satisfaction, but knowing your customers and helping them support your institution’s mission and serving their customers should result in greater job satisfaction for all.
Author Perspective: Administrator