The Role of Workplace Technology in Creating Engaging Employee Experiences

Providing an exceptional employee experience is an increasing area of focus and investment in companies today, and for good reason.

Research shows that the employee experience drives how employees feel about their work and how much effort they put into their job, and it has been linked to organizational outcomes such as satisfaction, retention, and returns on assets and sales.*

While many factors may contribute, research suggests that approximately 30 percent of employees’ ultimate experience stems from their organization’s use of technology. On one hand, technology can enhance employees’ lives by enabling them to be more productive, build better relationships with co-workers, and have more flexibility and control over when and where they work. On the other, technology may distract employees from their work, make them feel isolated, and limit their ability to disconnect and recover outside of work.

To learn more about the impact of technology on the employee experience, the SAP SuccessFactors Research team conducted qualitative interviews with employees from customer organizations around the globe. We explored topics such as the influence of technology on employee wellbeing, engagement, sense of appreciation and value, productivity, and overall experience of human resources (HR) processes.

While this research is still in progress, preliminary findings reveal three key insights into how technology can contribute to an exceptional employee experience.

Employees want tools that help them perform the work they find meaningful, and that save them from performing the work they do not. We asked employees to describe the tasks and activities they enjoy most in their jobs and that drive them to want to go to work each day. Employees discussed “meaningful work” as work that involves:

  • Driving something forward, e.g. a project
  • Collaboration, or working hand in hand with colleagues to achieve a common goal
  • Contributing to a solution and seeing the results of their efforts

Not surprisingly, when asked to reflect on examples of how technology has helped them in their work lives, employees mentioned tools designed to support these activities — for productivity, like Microsoft 365, and for collaboration, such as Microsoft Teams and Skype — especially for employees who travel consistently or who work remotely.

However, when sharing examples of the most valuable technologies they use, employees also mentioned tools that enabled them to perform meaningful work by eliminating the need to perform operational, administrative type tasks. For instance, employees provided examples such as:

  • An app that shows which parking garage has spaces available in the morning when driving to work
  • An app that allows employees to order lunch ahead of time, saving them from having to wait in line
  • SAP Concur solutions: One employee stated that since using SAP Concur software, their time spent submitting travel expenses was reduced by at least a third.
  • Tools that identify patterns based on previous behaviors and proactively make suggestions: One employee mentioned a navigation app that automatically suggests a driving route based on previous behaviors, i.e., a user frequently drives from point A to point B on this data and time. Another stated, “I love if I have to go into the system to do a task, and the system pre-recognizes how I typically act and takes over certain steps for me so I’m able to do what I need to do faster. The quicker things go in the system the better, because these are typically things I […] do not want to do.”

Fewer Separate and Disparate Systems

Employees shared that needing to go through several separate systems to accomplish a single task or to find the information they need was incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. In fact, some research has shown that employees spend up to 30 percent of the workday just searching for information that may be stored in disparate systems and databases.

“There are some things I want to do in literally 20 seconds,” one employee stated. “I don’t want to have to ask myself whether I need to go to the HR portal or the IT portal or the facility portal. I don’t care who solves my problem, I just want it solved.”

Better Self-Service Solutions, with Human Support

For too long, companies’ HR technology solutions — and self-service solutions in particular — have been designed with HR and support functions as opposed to end-users, i.e., employees, in mind. As a result, employees are often forced to use outdated, non-intuitive, and poorly designed self-service solutions on a daily basis.

As one interviewed employee described, “I was trying to book a flight and kept getting an error message, but the message wouldn’t say what was wrong. What should have taken me five minutes ended up taking more than three hours. And when I finally got through to someone on the phone, they couldn’t tell me what was wrong either. It was unbelievably frustrating”.

The consequences of a frustrating experience with technology go well beyond wasted time and can have pervasive negative effects on employees’ psychological and physical well-being. Research has shown that frustrating technology experiences can lead to a loss of self-efficacy and a sense of rage, affect mood and interactions with others, lower both levels of job satisfaction and quality of work, undermine productivity, and even increase blood pressure and muscle tension.**

Previous research reports that the most important element to self-service solutions is that the option of speaking to a person if needed is always available, and without significant effort or the need for endless repetition.***

Technology’s Impact on Moments That Matter – Not Always Positive

Whether it is first joining a company, celebrating a promotion, caring for a sick loved one, or welcoming a new child into their family, career- and personally-defining moments are critical opportunities to show employees they are appreciated and valued. Yet often the technology experience associated with these moments sends the opposite message.

For example, as one interviewed employee shared with us, “I was super excited when I found this job. But having to hand-enter my resume information into the system multiple times didn’t leave me with a great first impression of the company.”

In fact, according to a recent survey of Generation Z candidates and employees, 54 percent said they would not complete an application if the company’s recruiting methods were outdated. Twenty-six percent agreed that a lack of technology throughout the hiring process would deter them from accepting a job.

As companies continue to focus on and invest in the employee experience, it will be critical that they consider the technology solutions employees provided to employees as part of this investment. Outdated, difficult-to-use technology solutions that have not been designed with employees in mind will put organizations at a major disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining talent in today’s experience economy.

At the end of the day, one of our interviewed customers says it best: “When we launch new HR services, we don’t just want to have users. We want to have fans.”


Lauren Bidwell is a research scientist in Human Capital Management Research for SAP SuccessFactors at SAP.

*The Financial Impact of a Positive Employee Experience; A Beginner’s Guide to Employee Experience
**
Ceaparu et al. (2004); Lazar et al. (2006); Norman (2004); Scheirer et al. (2002); Murrell & Sprinkle (1993)
*** Howard & Worboys (2003)