IT can be a partner to improve employee experience for the better

By Brian Veloso, head of sales and client development, SMB & national accounts, SAP Concur


The standard for a great workplace isn’t what it used to be. 

Over the past few years, “employee experience” has entered the lexicon of business leaders from all over the world. A recent report from IDC about the future of work estimated that by 2021, at least 60 per cent of global 2000 companies (the world’s largest public firms) will actively monitor and manage the employee experience. More than that, they’ll use it as a key differentiator.

For many, it starts with the surface-level. Ping pong tables, free lunches, drinks carts – all those fun benefits we think of when we think of great culture. 

But while those perks definitely boost morale, the truth is, those perks don’t help employees get their day-to-day tasks done or provide workplace flexibility. Time consuming tasks such as collecting receipts, filling out spreadsheets and filing expense reports are where the real opportunity for improvement lies.

Not only is IT not immune from the employee experience conversation, but along with the finance department, business transformation and business leadership, it can actually play a role in driving it. This year’s Canadian CIO Census Report found that along with security and innovation, employee experience is among the top issues on the minds of the tech team’s top leadership. They recognize that their strategic role is shifting and their responsibility for changing the culture is growing.

Employees are demanding the same flexibility, mobility and personalization that they experience in their personal lives at work. Employees are used to ordering a ride or lunch in a few taps – and they expect that when it comes work, they can experience that same kind of ease and convenience, too. 

That includes tasks like submitting expenses or booking travel. 

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of manual tasks that prevent that from happening, like filing expense reports, getting invoices approved or making travel arrangements. Booking a flight through Google can, in some cases, be a five-click task. Try doing the same for business travel, though, and it can be a nightmare. Whether working with outdated software or travel booking agents in other cities, work travel can go from exciting to an experience to dread, quickly. 

It’s here that IT can lead the transformation. What if the same employees who are used to ordering Ubers or tracking their lunch right to do the door could do those things when travelling for work – plus then expense it with only a few more taps from their phones? 

It’s possible. Investing in spend management tools that use AI can fundamentally change how employees perceive these kinds of tasks. When employees can snap a photo of a receipt and file an expense report right from their phone (and get paid faster), it’s a game changer. 

Upfront infrastructure and labour-related costs often stop digital transformation in its tracks, but these solutions can get up and running within months. Cloud-based systems managed by a trustworthy partner mean concerns about uptime, data security and maintenance don’t have to rest on IT’s shoulders. Plus, imagine the time saved from eliminating employees’ printing problems alone. 

IT will always be a critical function, but by driving the conversation around cloud apps for basic employee functions, you can also build your value internally, too. Through championing cloud-based tools, IT can play an active role in helping improve transparency, accuracy and compliance – all priceless improvements for finance. 

When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, your HR team will be sure to thank you, too. As the war for talent heats up across industries, these solutions also make a huge difference in terms of competitive edge. The user experiences you can provide – and time you can save employees to put towards more engaging work – can make all the difference between a valued worker staying put or considering working at a more forward-thinking company down the street. 

Ping pong tables? Not so much.  

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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