Don't let a bad tech stack hurt employee retention, use these tips to improve worker IT satisfaction

Research shows that companies with poor tech tools risk losing employees. Here are 5 ways to improve IT satisfaction in the new, post-pandemic world.

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A bad tech stack can make it difficult for companies to succeed against competitors in everything from customer engagement and sales to production and innovation. But, outdated, annoying or confusing technology can also harm your organization's ability to attract and retain top talent, which will be increasingly difficult and important as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and the labor market tightens.

To be sure, it will be several years before the U.S. and global economies return to pre-COVID levels. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the U.S. won't hit pre-pandemic employment levels until 2024. But given that major enterprise IT shifts can also take years, now is the time to evaluate your tech stack and ensure your organization has the right tools for a digital workforce that's geographically dispersed, discerning when it comes to technology and willing to walk if an employer's technology hinders their success.

Don't believe me?

According the State of Software Happiness Report 2019 from G2:

  • 52% of workers said they have "become dissatisfied at work due to missing or mismatched software"
  • 24% of respondents said they have "considered looking for a new job" because they "didn't have the right software"
  • 13% of employees said they have actually left a job because of the software their employer required them to use
  • 95% of workers said they would be "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with better software tools
  • 86% of respondents said they would be "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with more software tools

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to close offices and most office workers to become telecommuters, technology became and even more important factor in employee job satisfaction. According to Adobe Workfront's State of Work 2021 report, released last week:

  • 32% of workers said they had left a job because the employer's technology "was a barrier to their ability to do good work." This was up from 22% pre-COVID.
  • 49% of U.S. workers said they are "likely to leave their current job if they're unhappy or frustrated with the technology they use at work."
  • 12 point increase in the number of people "who report turning down a job because the tech was out of date or hard to use" between February and March 2020 to November and December 2020
  •  7 point increase in the number of people "who reported applying for a job because they heard a company's employees use great technology" between February and March 2020 to November and December 2020

Check out Dallon Adams' article on ZDNet sibling site TechRepublic for more insights from the Workfront report on how Gen Xers are thriving in the world of remote work with millennials are struggling.

SEE: 3 essential hiring kits for key developer jobs (TechRepublic) | 4 essential hiring kits for recruiting engineers and IT specialists (TechRepublic) | 5 helpful hiring kits for landing top tech talent (TechRepublic) | 4 kits to help fast track your hiring process (TechRepublic)

5 ways companies can improve employee IT satisfaction

So, as companies race to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to meet the needs of their customers in the new normal, they should also re-examine the hardware and software their employees are using. Here are few tips for building a tech stack that can help promote employee success, boost productivity, and build good will for IT.

  1. Make sure existing tools meet user needs and work as expected: Before you roll out new hardware and software, start with what you already have. Conduct a user satisfaction survey to find out if your current tech stack is meeting employee needs. A TechRepublic 2014 enterprise application software report found that only 26% of respondents were "very satisfied" with their software. IT can also use service desk call logs or reporting tools within their IT service management solution to detect applications and hardware that create regular pain points for end users.
  2. Give employees access to "new" technology: According to the Workfront report, employees are more interested in having access to "new" technology now compared to before the pandemic. The report showed a 5 point increase in the number of respondents who said that "old technology is making it harder to take on more work." I know budget is always a consideration with any IT purchase, but if your staff is still using 7-year-old computers, it's time to rethink your IT budget.
  3. Offer employees choice as a rule not an exception: Another data point from the Workfront report was that employees "expect their employers to trust and empower them to know how to achieve the right outcomes." When I first started my IT career, there were Windows shops and then there was everything else. But today, and honestly for the last decade, modern device management tools and cloud services make it easier than ever to manage multiple operating systems, applications, and hardware platforms. With few exceptions, IT shouldn't lock employees into (or more importantly out of) tools they believe will help them achieve company goals. I'm not suggesting you should run 5 different finance or CRM systems, but, there's no reason not to support multiple productivity suites. If accounting needs Excel, sales wants PowerPoint, and everyone else wants Google Docs...fine. Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace can coexist. And if you're thinking, "But Bill, we'll get a price break if we use a single software platform." Those initial low-price deals often expire in a few years (like an introductory interest rate on a credit card) and then you're back to paying market rates. The same goes for hardware. If Legal wants Windows laptops, the Sales staff wants MacBooks, and your devs want Windows workstations make it happen. Sure, you can have a "standard" machine and drive image that you give to 80% of staff, but don't just be the department of "no" when someone makes a legitimate business request.
  4. Support flexible/remote working environments: Even as COVID vaccines reach more workers, employees return to offices and public venues reopen, the nature of work has been forever changed by the pandemic. More people will work remotely than before COVID, and IT will need to switch from reactively supporting telecommuters to proactively empowering them. This means giving people have access to the hardware (monitors, keyboards, mice, trackpads, cables, external storage devices, etc.), software, and cloud services they need to work effectively from their home.
  5. Balance security with ease of use: If you make a security measure too onerous for people, they'll find a way around it. This fact holds true for physical and cybersecurity. There's no doubt in today's world of constant cyberattacks everyone organization and individual needs to use strong security tools and follow best practices, there's a fine line between doing security and overdoing security. For example, IBM released research in 2020 that shows simply deploying lots and lots os security tools doesn't lead to stronger security. "The enterprise is slowly improving its response to cybersecurity incidents, but in the same breath, it is still investing in too many tools that can actually reduce the effectiveness of defense," wrote Charlie Osborne for ZDNet's Zero Day in her article on the report. For practical tips on balancing security and user accessibility, check out Scott Matteson's list of cybersecurity do's and don'ts.

When done together, these steps can go a long way to build a tech stack that fosters employee satisfaction with IT and the company as a whole, which as research shows is important for hiring and keeping top talent.

SEE: IT physical security policy (Tech Pro Research) | Remote work makes cybersecurity a top worry for CEOs (ZDNet) | Cybersecurity teams are struggling with burnout, but the attacks keep coming (ZDNet) | Security awareness and training policy (Tech Pro Research) | Top 100+ tips for telecommuters and managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

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The Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. Since we run a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.

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