Why is this so hard?

Woman wearing headphones using a laptop.
(Image credit: Shutterstock: fizkes)

The gap between our physical and digital workspace is now thinner than ever. Most of us appreciate the option and convenience of the ability to work from home, but it’s also amplified a big problem: the growing mismatch between our personal and work IT experiences. With record numbers of people leaving their jobs, poor employee experiences with corporate IT systems shouldn’t be one of them. Yet here we are.

About the author

Simon Johnson, General Manager, UK & Ireland at Freshworks.

The irony is that while technology was originally designed to make our lives easier and more productive, over time, it’s steadily become either outdated or complex to the point where it’s now a significant source of employee frustration and disengagement. The pandemic didn’t trigger this problem, but rather acutely amplified what we’ve known all along – that the IT applications we use in our personal life are way easier and more engaging than those in our work life.

Enterprise business applications

Most enterprise business applications were designed first and foremost for company requirements. In other words, for the people writing the checks, rather than employees using them. Over the past decade, IT vendors have added growing layers of complexity to corporate systems in an effort to sell more software licenses and drive more consultancy billing hours installing them.

This is particularly apparent in CRM and IT Service Management systems. Legacy SaaS is a perfect example. First-generation SaaS was good for its time. Twenty years ago, it freed organizations from their restrictive client-server relationships. But it was never designed with end-users in mind. It imposes the burden of high total cost of ownership and long time to value, is bloated with feature complexity and isn’t appropriate for every size of business.

While most of these legacy SaaS vendors have all now become software giants in their own right, their growth in size and profits over the past two decades has failed to keep pace with rising customer service levels. Their products are aimed at the enterprise business buyers not customer service agents solving the problems. As employees, our tolerance levels are growing thin. Employee expectations for smart, easy-to-use technology are on the rise. 

A recent survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, sponsored by Freshworks, found that 91% of almost 400 survey respondents say employees have higher expectations for technology to be easy to use than they had a decade ago, and 73% agree that younger workers have higher expectations than older workers.

Many workers now expect to be employed in an environment where technology plays a vital role in their ability to get work done. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed say employees increasingly expect technology to take over on the most repetitive aspects of their work.

Addressing employee experience reaches far beyond the issue of employee retention. Research shows companies with happy employees out-perform competitors by 20%, are 12% more productive, 65% more energetic and take 10 times fewer sick days. Likewise, happy salespeople drive 37% more sales.

Addressing employee experience

Employee experience of IT applications is much more than a post purchase afterthought. According to Deloitte, happy employees typically care more about your company, are driven to help you succeed and feel more invested. Happiness also leads to higher engagement so happy employees are also more present, pay more attention to customer needs, and are more aware of your organization’s processes and systems. Happy employees are also more loyal, innovative and healthier. Many of these same benefits extend to happy customers.

The same survey found that 82% say employees’ happiness on the job is significantly impacted by how well their workplace technology performs, and 77% say good employees will look for a new employer if their current job does not provide the tools, technology, or information they need to do their job well. It’s one of the main reasons why next generation SaaS vendors are adopting more of a B2C mindset with their software by introducing easy, modern, right-sized options for companies of all sizes. Easy, delightful employee experiences make for more engaged employees and higher performing businesses.

When it comes to profitability and employee engagement, it is impossible over the long run to sacrifice one for the other. As companies globally navigate the ripple effect of the pandemic in how they retain talent, it’s worth remembering that technology is now having a make or break role in employee engagement.

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Simon Johnson

Simon Johnson is the VP of Sales and General Manager for UKI at Freshworks Inc. Simon has over 17 years of experience leading business teams at fast-growing technology companies.