The modern workplace is made up of two parts: the “what” (tools and location) and the “who” (people). In my role as CTO for Dynamic Workplace Solutions at NTT DATA, I watch market trends and determine how we can leverage the latest technologies to help our customers for the benefit of their employees. Of course, my primary focus is on the technology and tools, but when I talk to business leaders, most of the discussion is not about technology at all. It’s about people and experiences.
Five generations currently exist in the workplace. Millennials are now young executives and mid-level managers, and Gen Zers (those born in the mid-1990s-early 2000s) are also coming onto the scene. The demands of these two work demographics are highly different from Boomers or Gen X. In their consumer lives, everything is digital and natural. Whether it’s hiring a car, getting food delivered, or finding a date, Millennials and Gen Zers expect to be a swipe or click away from getting what they want and need — and they have been immersed in this culture from the start. Knowing this, CIOs must enable their workplace to have the same ease-of-use as the apps these generations (and, honestly, almost all the other generations), now depend upon.
If you feel overwhelmed by this, don’t worry. Here are five points that can help you get there.
Lead with empathy
IT leaders need to be empathetic with their users, and keep in mind it’s little things that drive employee frustration. Historically, employees aren’t considered customers, but they need to be. People in today’s workforce want a lot more personal fulfillment out of their work experience, and if they don’t get it, they will leave the company. And go to your competitor.
Step One starts with empathy, which is also Step One of Design Thinking. Empathy is beyond understanding your customer. It means you are putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Then it’s easy to follow the rest of the Design Thinking process toward successful outcomes.
Align your vision
CIOs need to very clear about their vision, roadmap, and strategy. Again, our end-users must come first, and our job is to make our customer’s employees productive in the most delightful ways. When this happens, everything else follows. Visions must align to achieve this.
I used to think one of the most significant challenges for employers to overcome was technology debt, which is when technology needs to be upgraded and can’t function without a huge capital investment and project hours. However, the longer I’ve observed more progressive companies that move a lot faster, the more I see the issue isn’t technology debt as much as legacy thinking — a stagnant approach that sounds like “We’ve always done it that way,” and “This is going to be hard.” It’s important for a CIO to not allow their company to get stuck in legacy thinking. In truth, if your company is in alignment with your vision and goal, adding tactical engineering to solving the problem is not all that complicated. (I tap into the Strangler Pattern described in The DevOps Handbook by Gene Kim, Jez Humble and Patrick Debois, which is a way of phasing out the old and creating something new.) Quite simply, you must first adjust your thinking to match the vision.
Move from permission to governance / enable choice
Be aware of policies that have good intent from an IT perspective but are not pragmatic to the user. For example, some IT organizations require that employees request software they need to do their jobs. However, instead of frustrating employees by requiring them to ask for permission, why not trust the employee’s request? Then make the process of downloading the software quick and seamless so the employee can get back to focusing on their job. The IT department can then monitor usage and adherence on the backend with no frustration for the employee.
Something else for CIOs to be aware of: According to workplace experts, the people most impacted by IT decisions are not executives, because they tend to get what they want, and Millennials/Gen Z are two times more likely to break IT policy and use whatever app they want to use. It’s the Baby Boomers/Gen Xers who are going to follow the rules and, in turn, risk having a frustrating work experience. These two generations make up a large part of your workforce, and you want them to be happy.
Be pragmatic about change and security
The top trends that I’ve seen in the workplace are that the employee experience is No. 1, and security is No. 2. Simplification and convergence are happening, and CIOs need to embrace it. Gone are the days of having multiple tools for all devices and platforms, as big cloud providers combine tools into single platforms. It’s important for IT departments to embrace and implement new standards rapidly. Security decisions need to consider user impact and cannot be made in a vacuum. And CIOs need to ensure that their drive for strong organizational Change Management is focused on communication. The lone email from IT won't cut it anymore. Communication needs to be effective, and needs to take the burden off the employees to reduce frustration.
Our team here at NTT DATA is helping our clients migrate from legacy thinking to more modern ways of navigating the workforce. We are implementing experience level agreements, with the goal of having the customer and the partner work toward outcomes that influence customer service rather than strictly focusing on technology. Contact us today and we will help you create a roadmap for dynamic workplace solutions for your workplace.