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The critical role of employee technology experience during times of uncertainty

During a recent conversation with an IT leader, they shared how their corporate priorities are evolving in response to the current economic environment. Previously laser focused on financial metrics such as revenue growth and cost management, their most important boardroom discussions are expanding to include topics such as employee experience, applied digital transformation, and the acquisition and retention of key talent.

And what's clear is this: as companies strategize for the future, they have to adapt to the current macroeconomic conditions by taking a broader view and considering new critical analytics, data sources, and insights. 

Indeed, organizations across all industries are working feverishly to adapt to this new challenging environment as they pursue digital and company objectives. For example, just last year, Google launched a “Simplicity Sprint” initiative to better understand from employees how the company can increase efficiency and productivity. Rather than just relying on historical operational data or textbook management theories, Google chose to tap into the power of employee feedback to enhance strategic decisions.

In most organizations, the technology journey of customers and employees has become additive to, or even a complete replacement for what used to be in person interactions. As such, IT professionals play a central role in ensuring companies focus not only on the fundamentals of profitability and cost management, but the technology experiences that its workforce is having every day.

It’s no longer enough to deliver “a” technology solution or even the most affordable technology solution if those technologies create bad experiences.

Today, these teams need to deliver a great company technology stack, drive digital transformation and reduce risk exposure, as well as ensure change management, user adoption, and alignment between technology efforts and business outcomes.

In many respects, technology has become the critical backbone for not just business operations, but also customer and employee experiences - but getting to a point of success isn't simple.

Priorities & challenges for IT leaders today

If you think about just how critical technology has become to the overall employee experience, leaders must not only have a clear understanding of the activities they need to do — but also the potential roadblocks that might (and so often do) appear.

The following priorities and challenges exist within organizations:

Activities Challenges
Cost containment: All spend is under a microscope. IT professionals typically respond by consolidating vendors, pushing for more value from existing technologies, and dedicating additional resources to ensure implementations are successful. IT often operates in a top-down push, focusing on things like cost optimization. However, when decisions are made by just a handful of people on a steering committee, it can result in negative employee experience or productivity impacts that outweigh the cost savings.
Simplification: Organizations are looking to simplify in order to increase agility. IT professionals want to re-architect their organizations to better meet the changing needs of the market and their customers. Technology leaders have to move fast, but also have to avoid risk. Large transformations that were “technically” successful can still be failures if they are not adopted by the end users. It can be easy to cut the wrong things or move fast in the wrong direction, resulting in employee resistance and suboptimal design.
Reprioritizing project urgency: Organizations are assessing what truly matters in order to prioritize the investments that will have the greatest near term impact. Organizations often suffer from misprioritization due to noisy stakeholders. Attempts to reprioritize can backfire by making investments that slow the organization down or that don’t deliver the best returns for the organization.
Rethinking the operating model: Organizations are trying to nail the hybrid work environment. IT professionals are looking for opportunities to help their organizations capitalize on efficiencies from optimizing the workspace & facilities experience. The traditional response is to solve for efficiency, as measured by overhead, occupancy, desk utilization, etc. However, these decisions have implications on the employee experience, productivity, talent acquisition, and talent retention. An incomplete perspective exposes the organization to bad tradeoffs.


The path forward: The Employee Technology Experience (ETX)

You have an important responsibility to deliver value to your company, to your customers, and to your employees, which requires a holistic approach to assessing your technology investments, transformation efforts, and budget management.

The employee technology experience is the combination of all the interactions that an employee has with the technology, tools, and supporting resources on a day-to day-basis. Employees are constantly assessing their technology experiences and evaluating the usability, simplicity, and effectiveness of these tools. When tools are aligned with employee expectations, they drive not only productivity, but engagement, advocacy, and retention.  When these tools are not aligned, they create frustration, negativity, and attrition.


Despite an increased emphasis on cost savings, you cannot neglect your responsibility in supporting innovation, culture, and experience. Technology leaders must evaluate a range of dimensions rather than just looking at a single metric, such as cost, to avoid undesired outcomes. For example, swapping a high-cost technology (e.g. your ERP or core HR solution) with a low-cost competitor may reduce your cost metric, but ultimately reduce productivity, increase related costs, and create employee dissatisfaction.

To foster a more holistic view of the employee technology experience, leading organizations are breaking down silos that historically existed between different LOBs (e.g. CIOs not coordinating with HR, HR not coordinating with Marketing, etc.).

We see this happening as the connection between CHROs and CIOs gets tighter. CIOs are more interested than ever in acquiring and keeping top talent, which historically fell exclusively at the feet of the CHRO. Now these two key executive resources are joining forces to manage employee burnout and facilitate the acquisition and retention of top talent. This broadens the scope of implications they consider in their decision making.

If you’re wondering how to do this consistently and at scale, just remember, “Ask and ye shall receive.” By including the voice of your employees, you can improve execution and better assess the impact of your decisions. Chipotle’s chief people officer shared how “the way to drive transformation, and what speaks to leaders, is data… the insights we get help us build the business case for how we continue to invest in people.” The frontlines often have the best nuggets of ideas, are willing to share, and will continue to share when they see their input making a difference.

Specific applications of ETX

Listening to your employees is a great way to ensure all challenges are surfaced and the best ideas are heard across teams — from the frontlines to management.

But unfortunately, listening alone isn’t enough.

Understanding and acting on the voice of the employee is a critical but often overlooked step in large transformations. Allow us to share a few areas and examples where this will significantly increase your likelihood of transforming your business:

1. Remove roadblocks to productivity

Outdated tech insults employee intelligence, tests their patience, and instills feelings that their happiness and success isn’t worth the time and expense of a tech upgrade—all feelings which push them to look for a more satisfying position that does”

Ask your employees whether they have the tools and technologies to optimize their experience at work. The answers you receive will help you remove barriers to productivity and allow employees to get their work done faster. It will also drive employee engagement and retention (e.g. 61% higher intent to stay when technology is enabling productivity), inform purchasing & contracting decisions, and help you see where the employee experience is suffering.


Customer Example

Challenge Solution Impact
Microsoft needed to understand the impact that IT professionals have on employees’ at-work experience and performance. They ran a study to assess technology performance and its impact on the employee experience. They found that a better technology experience resulted in 15% higher employee engagement, 59% higher productivity, and a 121% higher rating of their employer.

2. Accelerate time to value on large projects and transformations

Listen to employees, stakeholders, and project team members at critical milestones throughout your implementations. It can be hard to move fast with large projects, but taking time to listen allows you to extract value from new investments as quickly as possible. This will help you overcome hurdles to realizing value, as well as identify risks early, increase your confidence in moving forward quickly, and improve your likelihood of success.


Customer Example

Challenge Solution Impact
SAPs Chief Customer Officer needed a scalable way to proactively and anonymously learn from implementations to identify and resolve risks before they become issues. Launched a survey to capture feedback on 4 key points during project lifecycle and routed to steering committees for action. Customers are enabled to address risks prior to resulting in a loss of people, time, and money, while driving on time launches and better experiences.


"Having insights from all constituents on how projects are going in every phase is vital to creating great outcomes. Qualtrics allows us to consolidate viewpoints from the project team, business stakeholders, and implementation partners. Leveraging the feedback in steering committees and project governance allows customers to act and make critical adjustments that contribute to a program’s success."

Kevin Hester, Leader of SAP, Chief Customer Officer

3. Generate internal alignment and support for your initiatives

Ask your employees how well they understand and support your business transformation strategy. With less forgiveness for mistakes, it’s critical to make the right decisions and to deliver successful implementations and rollouts. The data you will receive from your employees will also help you to identify whether there is risk of resistance or low adoption, and where you can focus your efforts to resolve these issues.


Customer Example

Challenge Solution Impact
Global pharma company was implementing a technology transformation in over 100 markets with over 350 implementation team members. Needed a way to balance global and local challenges while identifying risks early. Set up real-time listening and alerts to notify leaders when project confidence dropped below a certain threshold. Used open-text analysis to uncover what needs to be fixed and ideas to resolve issues. Data insights informed local demos and walkthroughs, which boosted project confidence, adoption, and success.

4. Improve the internal support and employee interactions

Understand how your organization's support teams and services are perceived by employees. Organizations often over-rotate on meeting SLA’s, while missing the experience that employees have. When you look at both experiential data and operational metrics, you have a full picture.


Customer Example

Challenge Solution Impact
A fortune 100 manufacturer transitioned to a service ownership model and was in need of more continuous and detailed insights into how employees felt about their technology and service experiences. They set up frequent and specific listening mechanisms that also provided the ability to process unstructured and open feedback across services, tools, and applications. Over 50 action plans have been created with specific groups to improve service, boosting workforce productivity, and employees now report a 91% satisfaction rate with internal services.

5. Identify where you can streamline and save

Ask your employees whether certain technologies are making an impact for them. Gather this data to uncover opportunities to eliminate existing tech that isn’t making an impact, like shadow IT and shelfware. This can help you identify technologies to deprioritize or retire. It can also help you identify the technologies and partners to double down on.


Customer Example

Challenge Solution Impact
In a healthcare organization with over a hundred thousand employees and a wide spectrum of technology sophistication and expectation, IT struggled to prioritize which end-user technology issues on which to focus efforts. They conducted an IT assessment to identify experience gaps, and combined this with operational data to identify high, negative-impact technologies. They delivered prioritized device refreshes that resulted in 30% gains in technology productivity, reduced security risk exposure, and eliminated costs from supporting outdated devices.

6. Optimize policy changes

Policy changes like Travel & Entertainment or Office vs. Remote vs. Hybrid work models are nuanced. The solution that cuts the most costs often isn’t the optimal strategy. Listen to what your employees say and consider the impact of policy changes on their experience. This can be an easy way to understand and quantify the voice of the end user, inform strategic decision making, and roll out changes and enablement in the right way.


Customer Example

Challenge Solution Impact
Large bank was determining how to manage in office vs. remote work across 8 different markets. They increased employee listening and found that ¾ of employees wanted to work from home at least half of the time. They designed a solution where 84% of the workforce is able to have flexible working situations, supporting the employee experience, productivity, and retention.

Listening is critical and helps drive business success

Allow us to provide an extreme example of where companies go wrong by not listening to their employees’ perspectives on technology. NOKIA owned roughly half of the smartphone market in 2007, which dropped to 3% by 2013. Following the decline, interviews with top and middle managers showed a culture that impeded employees from voicing challenges and concerns, which could have helped NOKIA provide better technologies and adapt to competitive changes in the market. “Information did not flow upwards,” with employees instead remaining silent or providing optimistic, filtered information (link).

Listening to employees is not optional for technology leaders. It is critical to include their voice in order to remove roadblocks to productivity, accelerate time to value on large projects, generate support for technology initiatives, improve interactions with employees, streamline spend, and optimize policy changes.

While there are many quick wins to be had here, delivering on all of these dimensions is a journey. To help you take the next steps, we recommend the following:

Matt Burgon

Matt Burgon is the Global Solution Strategy Consultant for Qualtrics Employee Technology Experience. He joined Qualtrics in 2019 with 15 years in human resources technology and consulting. When not consulting with customers on how to develop, improve, and engage their teams, Matt supports works as an adjunct professor teaching human resources information systems. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Utah and his Graduate degree (M.B.A.) from the University of Houston.

Topher Mitchell

Topher is the creator of Qualtrics’ Value Advisory function, which has helped over 1,000 XM professionals to link their programs to financial outcomes. Currently leading the Center of Value, he pioneers reliable methods for securing budget, tracking value, and quantifying impact of experience-related investments. With a passion for education, Topher frequently delivers workshops and training sessions on the subject.

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