(Bad) Processes kill productivity and employee experience

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When I talk about employee experience there’s a couple of points I like to make clear :

• It’s not about comfort and well-being but productivity.

• Employee experience is not (only) about what happens around work but about the content and nature of work.

• when people are asked to become more effective the focus is often put on their individual effectiveness (self-organization), collective effectiveness (collaboration) but rarely on the interface between the employee and the enterprise, as if it was seen as a necessary pain or if people consider that everything is the employee’s fault and the organization was not responsible for anything.

Yet…

Complex administrative processes kill productivity

In Europe, basic administrative tasks (print or send a document by email) are seen as the most time-wasting (by 96% employees) even if 75% find them useless. They also consider tasks like looking for lost documents (65%) or onboarding new employees (62%) as uselessly complex.

These numbers come from an Adobe study titled “Document drain – How Back-Office Processes are Shredding Productivity

If we dig further :

• European employees spend one day a week doing back-office processes.

• most of these processes take more time than forecasted (most of all purchase order issuance, filling forms and onboarding new employees).

As I often say, beyond productivity, it’s a matter of employee engagement. Because of these uselessly time-wasting and complex processes, employees work late and on week-eds. It’s a pity when it’s about tasks that are core to their job but it’s a shame when it’s for back-office processes.

Employees are asked to sprint with a ball and chain.

Moreover, and without any surprise, the study says that these processes are not ony bad for productivity, that they demotivate employees, but that, ultimately, they have a bad impact on customer experience.

As surprising as it may be, in 2017 businesses are highly focused on delivering a fluid and seamless customer experience and don’t pay any attention to their employee experience. And when they do they focus on what they consider being the employee’s responsibility (injunction to collaborate more, to organize better) without realizing that their internal processes account for most of the problem..

Digital Transformation : making things simple

As I already wrote : digital transformation is all about simplification. If everyone seems to get it on the customer side, day after day, everything is made to make the employee’s life more complex.

To fix this problem, the study suggest that businesses should focus on digitization and electronic signature. Obvious…since Adobe provides such solutions. I have no doubt that, with similar insights, IBM or Microsoft would say collaboration and others process re-engineering. So let’s try to rise up.

I don’t think technology can help much to solve the problem of complicated organization (people too often mistake complexity for complication while it’s not the same thing). Of course, digitization will help but won’t solve everything. If a process is complicated by design, technology won’t help. We need to focus on the root cause and the way rules and processes are designed.

I also anticipate that many people will say that processes are necessary. And I agree. But we should not address the wrong issue : if control / validation / compliance may be necessary what matters is how it’s implemented and how it could be made lighter, how many steps can be skipped etc. I don’t even mention the many cases when employees have to enter the same data two or three times. Moreover the study does not say that processes are the problem but that their weight is often disproportionate regarding to their goal. What does not mean the same.

Simplify before you digitize

What to keep from the study ?

That it’s high time to do for the employee the same effort that’s been done for the client and that’s organization are to blame for their employee’s unproductivity. Processes have always been designed for those who run them, not for those who undergo them. More focus on the internal customer would be great.

On the other hand, thinking that it’s only a matter of digital transformation is a little bit hasty if digital transformation means relying on technology to speed up and simplify operations. Technology will do nothing but magnifying the existing, for the better or the worse, and, in this case, it will be for the worse. Digitizing dysfunctional processes will only put more pressure on people and slow down things. It’s about transformation first, about reframing the organization and re-engineering processes. It’s better to have agile and streamlined processes with little technology than having a technology layer put on complicated processes.

By the way, if organizational complicatedness is a matter that means something to you, I suggest you this post on managing complexity without becoming complicated.