Technology at work: the great misunderstanding between businesses and employees

It would appear that employees are losing interest in their company’s IT tools. At the same time, businesses that continue to invest in this area are surprised by the low level of employee adoption and satisfaction.

While researching the subject, I came across a very interesting report by PWC entitled “Our Statuts Of Tech At Work: It’s complicated“.

What does it tell us?

Users don’t feel taken into account

The first thing that strikes me is that, while businesses say they make their technology choices with their users in mind, the feeling among users is that this isn’t the case at all.

What should we think?

My experience is that the end-user is often taken into account when choosing a solution that is often new in the context of a pilot or small-scale deployment. When it comes to global deployment, however, this is something I’ve rarely seen.

The first criteria are, once the functional scope has been validated, the fact that the product is often lying on a shelf or is offered by a vendor with a major presence in the company, and finally the price (which often comes down to the same thing).

Secondly, I’ve already heard “it’s nice, they’ll like it” from a decision-maker barely able to use his own tools. If that’s the only criterion…

Another thing: how can we take the user into account when, most of the time, we don’t know what he actually does on a day-to-day basis?

There are groups of test users, but they often only have brief contact with the tool, not in a real working context, and can’t see all the little details that cause problems in more intensive use.

There’s also a bias in the choice of technology: decision-makers consider a tool as such, whereas the employee doesn’t think in terms of a tool, but in terms of a workflow. How does it integrate with the other tools they use, will they have to re-enter data several times, etc.?

A tool can be the best in every respect, but become a friction point in the employee’s workflow.

Finally, sometimes tools are changed without changing working methods or processes, which not only prevents them from reaching their full potential, but even creates a regression compared to the old, less modern tool.

This is a notable feature of collaborative tools: they enable new ways of working, but if they are used in the old way, they pose a problem of adoption without bringing any benefits. The best example of this is perhaps Teams, which has remarkable potential, but which only becomes apparent if you really change the way you work. For many users, however, it’s just a videoconferencing solution, and for them to realize its potential they need not only to make the effort, but also to get everyone around them to do so. If one person tries to use it to its full potential, but his colleagues don’t, he’ll be out of step, it’ll cause him problems on a daily basis and he’ll back off.

In short, there is no correlation between the quality and ergonomics of a given tool and the complexity of the IT experience in a multi-tool working environment.

Little time to acquire digital skills

One criticism I often hear is that employees don’t make the effort. I don’t agree, and the report shows it: they are willing to take the time to improve their digital skills.

They’re even willing to spend an average of 15 hours a month on it! But only 50% are satisfied with the resources available to them to do so, and what’s more, they don’t have the time to do it on their own time.

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022 (the report dates from 2018), more than half (54%) of employees will need significant training, with more than a third (35%) requiring at least six months’ effort. Has this finally happened? I doubt it.

It won’t happen by chance or on their own time.

Employees still like human contact

Employees rely on technology to simplify their lives, but not for everything. Companies may have gone too far with self-service.

They value digital mainly for administrative tasks.

Which reminds me of another study on expectations about robots.

29% of employees don’t want us to change their tools

A final point of interest: what motivates employees to adopt new tools?

For 34%, it’s curiosity and the desire to be more efficient and collaborative; for 37%, it’s a way of changing status and advancing their career.

But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that for 29%, what counts is doing their job in an environment they know, so any change in technology will be seen as a source of disorder and a problem. It’s not that they’re totally closed-minded, but neither efficiency nor their status is important to them: they just want to do their job undisturbed, and we’ll have to find a motivating lever for each of them, if one exists.

Conclusion

As is often the case, people are not opposed to change, but to the way in which you want them to change.

They don’t reject technology in the workplace, but feel that they’re not being given what they need, that they’re not being trained enough, and that the use cases covered are not the right ones.

Bertrand DUPERRIN
Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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