The Path to Digital Freedom: Break Out of Your Productivity Shackles
Technology is advancing, but productivity is plateauing.
The advent of advanced digital tools creates virtually endless opportunities to streamline business operations, provide a superior customer experience, and unleash innovative new business models.
But when we take a look at the numbers, we aren’t seeing this rosy picture.
While employee productivity is still inching up, the rate of growth has slowed dramatically since 2012, according to research from Bersin, Deloitte Consulting. It’s interesting to note that in 2013, 1 billion smartphones were in use. Despite these tools’ extraordinary capabilities, productivity gains are dwindling.
At a time where superhuman capabilities are at our fingertips, why is employee productivity lagging?
This is the question David Mallon, Chief Analyst of Bersin, Deloitte Consulting, and Ofir Bloch, Director of Market Research & Analyst Relations at WalkMe, answered in a recent webinar.
Watch the full webinar here!
Seven forces that are driving the digital workplace
There are seven forces that have the greatest impact on the way people work, David explained:
- Huge volumes of data
- AI, cognitive computing, and robotics
- Automation and its potential to displace human jobs
- Diversity and generational differences
- New demands for career development and employment value
- An explosion of gig job opportunities
Technology encompasses all of these.
“It’s everywhere. It is a tremendous source of value. But it’s also, quite frankly, often just a distraction,” said David. “It overwhelms us — it can get in the way if we’re not careful.”
Despite thoughtfully crafted strategies intended to make technology implementations successful, many companies are not careful when it comes to understanding how these technologies can actually help — or hurt.
Consequently, employees are forced to integrate a wave of platforms and apps into their workflows, often without fully understanding the purpose or how to use them at the optimal level.
Operating in this “overwhelmed” state makes it nearly impossible to increase productivity.
Employee ‘overwhelm’ is stifling your productivity
Webinar attendees said they believe that employee productivity is crucial to their organization and something they are actively addressing, according to a poll.
Lost productivity is one of the most critical symptoms of employee overwhelm. The average enterprise has more than 300 mission-critical apps, meaning employees are tasked to gain proficiency on numerous platforms and systems.
The organization is also overwhelmed. Although people tend to talk about digital transformation as one large-scale endeavor, it’s really the combination of multiple transformations taking place at the same time. Your sales, marketing, finance, and HR department could each be pursuing digital transformations, without any coordination between them.
Here’s the hard math. If you multiply the overwhelmed employee by the multiple transformations and the overwhelmed organization, you end up with a limited value realization, according to Ofir.
Technology alone is not a productivity enabler
“Technology should be the way organizations overcome challenges,” said Ofir, “not the barrier itself.”
Indeed, the capabilities all of these digital tools offer seem to promise higher efficiency, greater innovation, and novel business models. This is what drives companies to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into technology.
But access to software alone does not guarantee higher productivity. Webinar attendees identified three main barriers to making successful use of their tech investments.
- 25.5% pointed to employee resistance to change
- 24.5% said management behavior doesn’t adequately support change
- 20.6% cited a lack of clarity around the need for new digital tools
Each of these obstacles has something in common: the human factor. Whether or not you choose software with your employees’ needs in mind, provide them with enough support, and maintain transparency about the need for the change has little to do with technology and a lot to do with the human users.
How to overcome the productivity paradox
There are three main issues that demand business leaders’ attention in 2019. By focusing on these three things, you will position yourself to overcome the biggest barriers to productivity.
1. Be data-driven
“We’ve got to get to know our workers, the workplace, and the work that they need to accomplish in much more detailed ways,” said David. With better data, it’s possible to identify where problems, challenges, and opportunities exist.
With better data, you can empower your employees to make better decisions faster, and in turn improve business outcomes.
2. Be worker-centric
Business leaders are surprised that employee productivity gains are dwindling. After all, the software they choose to implement is supposed to help their staff work more efficiently.
But while your decision to roll out a new tool, program, or process is intended to fulfill some business objective, “rarely do we step into the shoes of the workers themselves,” said David. Supporting business goals is critical, but the approach you take must add to employees’ ability to create value and support their well-being.
“Are you somehow making [employees’] lives better, or are you adding yet one more process or system to an already overwhelmed workforce and asking them to figure it all out for themselves?” said David.
3. Simplify processes
When in doubt, simplify. If you realize your approach to change is hindering employees instead of empowering them, look for ways to simplify it.
Heeding this advice will serve you well, but it’s easier said than done. In a constantly evolving, tech-saturated business landscape, how can you ensure simplicity across the board?
Safeguard productivity for all with WalkMe
The question of how to keep things simple and stress-free becomes exponentially more important when you’re dealing with an enterprise-wide implementation.
In one WalkMe use case, a retailer was implementing SAP SuccessFactors across its workforce of 220,000 employees dispersed across the country.
The biggest challenge in this endeavor wasn’t ensuring that HR professionals — the ones who would be using the platform most — could gain proficiency. While effective onboarding is critical, the amount of time they will spend on the platform will push HR staff to pick it up faster.
“The challenge is in the 80% of the organization that will only touch the system every once in a while,” said David. “It’s not really relevant to their world or job. The degree to which the system is successful for them doesn’t really affect their value or their ability to generate value.”
Keep things simple with a digital adoption solution
Rolling out an enterprise-wide system will inevitably produce more support tickets. In pursuit of help resources, people have no choice but to slow down their work and their colleagues’. But with a digital adoption strategy, you’ll be prepared to proactively address all of these challenges before they even arise.
“If you think about that before you go live — if you think about or predict where they might have pitfalls or challenges, and you prepare for that with a strong digital adoption strategy, you can really overcome those challenges,” said Ofir.
This retailer chose to implement WalkMe’s ActionBot as part of their digital adoption strategy. The ActionBot is responsible for handling processes like completing transactions and answering basic questions so even first-time users can complete tasks on the platform with ease.
As a result, the company realized a 70% reduction in support tickets.
This improvement makes it easy to see the business imperative for prioritizing digital adoption and ensuring productivity — there are dollar signs attached to this drop. But an equally meaningful benefit of the WalkMe ActionBot is a better employee experience, according to David.
“At the end of the day, by anticipating those problems and placing resources to support them in advance of them tripping over whatever is left over, you’re giving them back just a little bit more sanity,” he said. “That affects engagement, and that ultimately leads to a better result.”