Report

Uncovering ROI: The hidden link between technology change and employee experience

Is employee frustration with technology harming engagement and ROI? More than one in three U.S. employees are frustrated with their technology at work every day, according to new research from Eagle Hill Consulting. Moreover, less than half say that their organization places high importance on deploying technologies intended to make their jobs easier. Instead, one in five employees thinks that technology makes their job harder. 

Frustration with technology at work is a symptom of a larger problem

Technology change is inevitable. It is a mandate that all organizations must undertake. In fact, business IT spending in the United States in 2021 is projected to total $3.8 trillion, according to Gartner. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated and underscored technology changes and transformation that continue to pressure organizations.

Despite massive investments in and the constant stream of technological advances, companies struggle to achieve the productivity, efficiency, and customer experience improvements they hope to realize. Added to this, nearly half (41%) of the workforce say that they perform at least some of their job via telework, making these investments even more essential. This is why addressing employee frustration with technology is so critical (Figure 1). Simply implementing the best technology does not always lead to the best outcomes. 

Eagle Hill’s survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees across industries indicates that this frustration correlates to employee measures that impact employee experience and customer experience. These impacts can negatively affect productivity, efficiency, quality, and retention—all of which drive business outcomes. This frustration can also become entrenched in employees’ minds. One bad experience can poison people’s attitudes toward and experience of future technological change. This further erodes ROI over time as organizations continue evolving their technology infrastructure.

Figure 1: Employees find technology frustrating—and that it makes their work harder

For your day-to-day work experiences, does technology generally:

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting Employee Experience Survey 2021

Employee experience

Employee experience is closely linked to user experience in the digital age. Case in point: Employees who are not satisfied with their overall experience at work have a more negative view of technology. Just over half (53%) are frustrated with it. They are half as likely to think their organization cares that they have the right technology to do their job well. They are three times more likely to disagree that technology at their organization helps them to be productive.  

In addition, employees who are not satisfied with their overall work experience are over three-and-a-half times more likely to say their organization places little or no importance on providing technology to help make jobs easier. Lastly, dissatisfied employees are twice as likely to think they lack the skills to succeed in a technologically advanced workplace (Figure 2). 

35% of all employees are frustrated with their organization’s technology generally—and 44% say that technology either does nothing to enable them to be happy in their job or makes work harder. 

Figure 2: Workers dissatisfied with their overall employee experience are more dissatisfied with technology at work

Doing the job well
My organization cares about providing
technology to do the job well

Being productive
Technology at my work helps
employee productivity

Making work easier
My organizations places little or no importance
on providing technologies to make work easier

Having the right skills
I believe I have the skills to succeed in a
technologically advanced workplace

Source: Eagle Hill Consulting Employee Experience Survey 2021

Customer experience

The research also suggests that employees’ challenges with technology impact the customer experience. One-third of all employees say that technology at work either does not help or makes it harder for them to serve internal and external customers. Additionally, 37% of employees maintain that technology either has no effect or makes it more challenging to collaborate with colleagues. This comes at a time when virtual collaboration is key to how employees engage with each other and foundational to service delivery in the post-pandemic world. These findings have enormous implications for organizations’ customer service strategies.

How can organizations serve customers well when there are significant gaps in the employee technology experience? And how can they enlist the whole workforce in sustaining a customer-centric mission—a prime source of competitiveness—when they struggle to adopt and integrate new technologies? 

1/3 of employees say that technology at work either does not help them or makes it harder to serve customers—both internal and external.

How to lead technology change and improve ROI: Change the culture

These insights affirm that technology change ROI is not merely about the technology. Maximum returns hinge on how well employees embrace technology and incorporate it daily to work more efficiently and effectively. In essence, technology change is about changing people’s ingrained behaviors to deliver more value. 

While leading technology adoption methods—such as user-centricity, training, and communication—are well-understood concepts and have been used for years, complex organizations often find them challenging to implement effectively. This is especially difficult for organizations with legacy technology infrastructures and organizational silos. Technology change initiatives are often isolated, temporary, and disconnected events. These approaches miss the “how” of successful implementation—continuously preparing people, managing their perceptions, empowering them to work smarter and do more satisfying work. 

Organizations should take a more holistic approach to technology change adoption. This includes the fundamentals of communication, learning, and development as well as stakeholder and leadership engagement. Most importantly, the approach must codify technology change into the culture, simplify how the organization works, and drive adoption and outcomes from cross-functional collaboration. Instead of initiating one-off change initiatives, organizations should embed technology change behaviors into the company culture, well beyond the go-live events. They can start with these principles: 

Technology adoption is often temporary and continues to challenge leaders looking to gain a competitive edge in the market.

Make technology change everyone’s responsibility. Technology should be viewed as a relationship that IT does not fully own. This is key to enabling a cross-functional, interconnected approach that centers both on the technology and the people using it. This means creating a culture of technology beyond IT. The workforce outside of IT must “own” their relationship with technology. End users, supervisors, and teams must be engaged, knowledgeable, and accountable for the specific actions they must take to adopt new technologies successfully. 

Ensure that every C-suite leader owns the transformation. Technology change is the purview of all C-suite leaders, not just the CIO, because digital is foundational to how every function works. The brand promise, employee experience, customer service, finance—everything the company does every day—is tied to technology. As such, leaders at the highest levels must act as agents of transformation when it comes to their responsibilities, skills, and accountability for technology change. This will require a mindset shift for leaders and a reimagining of their roles.

Evolve performance measures to reward connectors. Organizations traditionally measure individual contributions. But in technology change initiatives, connecting and collaborating are desired behaviors to be acknowledged. To encourage employees to embrace these behaviors, organizations should reward cross-team problem solvers, connectors, and educators. These incentives do not have to be complicated, but they are vital to sustaining the new behaviors. People who can bridge organizational silos should be at the forefront of leading the change.

Create feedback loops to align tech change with people’s needs. Organizations should seek to incorporate employee input and feedback to identify what technology would be most helpful to increase productivity and success. Companies should also ensure that continuous feedback structures exist to solicit feedback and act on it as appropriate. The experience of providing feedback should be transparent, not intimidating or complicated. After all, having direct input into designing the technology can increase the technology’s likelihood of being adopted.

Continue to make a case for change with purpose and vision. Leadership should build the case for employees around technology change again and again. Employees should not be disconnected from IT decision-making and planning. They should know the why, what, and how of changes before, during, and after launch. In addition to understanding the impacts on their everyday activities, they should know the connection to the broader organizational strategy and purpose. This way, the big functional picture does not get lost in trying to achieve the short-term milestones.

With technology change an integral—and unavoidable—part of doing business today, it’s time for organizations to improve their technology change ROI to enhance their business ROI. 

Methodology

The Eagle Hill Consulting Employee Experience Survey 2021 was conducted online by Ipsos in January 2021. The survey included 1,003 respondents from a random sample of employees across the United States. The survey polled respondents on employee experience aspects, including technology, diversity, employee engagement, and customer service.