The Positive (and Negative!) Potential Impact IT Can Have on the Staff ExperienceVi Bergquist | Chief Information Officer, St. Cloud Technical and Community College
Employers can improve the employee experience, and in turn engagement, by ensuring that staff members’ interaction with the technology they use in their daily work is positive and productive. Employee user experience with administrative and bureaucratic technology should be a strategic priority for senior institutional leaders because we can help to create connected and engaged staff members by delivering a great user experience for them. When employees are engaged in the workplace we see increased customer satisfaction and improved quality of work on the part of the employee. Unmotivated, disengaged employees have increased absenteeism and a high turnover rate. Happy, engaged staff can be a secret weapon for standing out in a crowded field of colleges and universities. Studies show that happy employees make happy customers and that means better service to our students.
Unfortunately poorly designed technology can contribute to a negative staff experience, especially if the technology suffers from a non-intuitive or poorly planned user interface. Employees can get extremely frustrated by bad software design and rightfully so. Imagine dealing with this frustration all day long at work, every day. If employees have negative experiences with technology it can create the perception that the institution doesn’t care about staff. The employee may be thinking, if the institution cared about me they would provide better tools for me to do my job.
One of the primary goals of using technology is to make employees’ jobs easier. If our administrative technology is not living up to that goal it may be time to consider making some changes.
How Technology Contributes to a Great Staff Experience
A strong staff experience with administrative and bureaucratic technology starts with an intuitive, easy-to-learn and easy-to-use software interface. Staff should be able to learn the technology easily so that they are well versed in the user interface and able to do their jobs efficiently. If staff has to use multiple types of software to do their jobs they should be able to learn them quickly and be provided with good training so they are able to operate the technology with confidence. If staff members work with too many different software platforms it can make an employee feel overwhelmed. Institutions should strive for simplicity, such as purchasing integrated software systems, so employees only need to learn one interface to perform multiple tasks.
Staff should be able to use the software to access the information they need quickly. The support services provided with the technology should be first-rate and there should be a very good self-service component so that if the employee wants to solve an issue by themselves there are good resources to do so.
As the saying goes, “great design is transparent.” The design should make staff feel as if the software is familiar and that already know how to use it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the technology were so well designed that it did not have to come with a manual? The goal is to make technology as easy to use as entering a search on Google or using your smart phone. Imagine the savings that could be made on training, support and staff turnover. Having a strong staff experience will help to create the conditions necessary to enable to college or university to attract and retain terrific employees.
The Potential Negative Impact of Poorly Designed Technology
Staff know when they have a well or poorly designed system and they talk to each other about it. They share their frustrations with each other about systems that are not serving the institution well. An inadequate system can be poisonous to staff morale and sends a message to staff that their time is not valuable.
Poorly designed technology consumes lots of extra institutional resources such as wasted staff time and could ultimately hurt enrollment at an institution. The capacity of the institution is diminished because staff simply cannot be as efficient.
Inadequate administrative and bureaucratic systems can also cause people to become resistant to any type of change in the institution because they come to distrust change if it has impacted them negatively in the past. This in turn can make it difficult to execute strategic plans which often require dramatic changes of staff.
The Role of Senior Leadership in Driving a Positive Staff Experience Through IT
CIOs must listen to staff and find out about their daily experience using the technology. If staff are having struggles that negatively impact their experiences CIOs must try to find out the reason why. Insights on staff technology issues can be gained in multiple ways such as surveys, usability studies, employee interviews and tracking software. The CIO can bring insights on staff experience to the attention of institutional leadership and advocate for any needed changes to support a positive staff technology experience.
The CIO should do their utmost to simplify technology systems. When you must use multiple systems, the CIO should help to ensure that integrations are as seamless as possible. If, for instance, your employees have to do double entry of data because the integration of two systems is less than optimal, the CIO should look for a way to address this situation. This type of duplication of efforts costs the staff and the workplace in many ways such as added labor costs, more potential for data entry error, and staff dissatisfaction. CIOs should work with staff to ferret out areas of wasted effort and remove unnecessary processes.
It can be prudent to invest in integrated software that strikes a balance between ease of use and the feature set needed to do the job. Integrated software allows the employee to manage many duties from one interface so they don’t have to switch from one application to another.
In short, CIOs should strive to build a highly productive environment where employees are engaged and able to do their jobs with ease.
Actionable Advice: How to Know Whether Your Tech Is Making a Positive or Negative Impact
You should start by talking to staff about their experience with a particular tool. The staff who are daily users of the tool will be the best source of information about how a tool is performing. You should also take a look at the results you are getting by using the tool. Examine any data that might be useful. You should have some key performance indicators that are measureable about the effectiveness of a piece of technology.
It’s important to take action if you discover that a tool is not serving the institution well. You may be able to work with the vendor to make changes or you may have to do something more dramatic such as changing to an entirely new system. If you built the system in house keep revising and testing the system until you get it right. The time you invest will be worth it. When administrative and bureaucratic technology is operating in a way that staff are satisfied with you will have a stronger institution overall.