Gartner: 5 employee preferences application leaders must address in 2022

Hybrid working has created a divide among workers, with digital proficiency, preferences and demands varying more than ever. Gavin Tay, research vice president at Gartner, outlines five key digital worker preferences which application leaders can use to address these challenges and improve the employee experience.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic it was thought that forced remote working would bring about a technological level playing field for workers. However, Gartner’s 2021 Digital Worker Experience survey showed this not to be universally the case, with just over half of workers considering themselves proficient, demonstrating a clear divide between workers.

In parallel, the offer of working remotely or flexibly has failed to attract or retain top talent at organisations. Most employers can offer identical conditions in the context of hybrid working, resulting in identical stress, burnout, and disappointment. Owing to the resulting consensus of displeasure, workers are demanding that employers deliver an equitable employee experience and upgrade digital proficiency.

Application leaders can achieve such an employee experience by addressing the following five employee preferences to better support their workforce.

  1. Ensure digital proficiency

Very few organisations actively promoted digital dexterity until the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, workforces haven’t unanimously displayed an ambition or ability to work with technology. To encourage greater digital dexterity, they must actively provide workers with the tools they need. Gartner’s 2021 Digital Worker Experience survey finds that workers who are satisfied with their work applications are twice as inclined to stay with their current organisation as those who are dissatisfied.

Unfortunately, IT departments have been characterised on delivering applications that are similar, but not identical to tools workers prefer to use, leading employees to shy away from them and avoid greater digital proficiency. To address this, begin every digital tool inventory or technology consideration by carrying out a robust evaluation of how well the tool will address the varying needs of a global hybrid workplace, and support employee digital dexterity.

  1. Drive employee productivity based on schedule preference and location

Productivity has become a controversial metric in the hybrid workplace and a desire of management to use monitoring solutions to keep track of workers’ productivity has led to concern among employees of privacy intrusion and distrust.

To ensure an improved worker experience, allow workers the freedom to work from a variety of locations. In addition, consider improving hybrid workforce productivity by balancing technology and flexibility with new work patterns, preferences, requirements, and limitations to enable employees to perform at their best.

  1. Implement new work tools to support hybrid models

Today, workers use a combination of consumer, business internal and external content, collaboration, social networking, and meeting technologies to get work done. In a hybrid workplace, these same applications and services remain critical tools to perform both contextualised and collaborative work.  

To address this, support hybrid workforce productivity, collaboration, and engagement by investing in new work hub technologies like meeting solutions, collaborative work management and workstream collaboration tools. Furthermore, promote the use of real-time messaging tools that are suited to an identified set of workplace scenarios, remote, in-person etc.

  1. Accommodate a variety of meeting formats

During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers have had little choice but to pivot toward turning their homes into their workplace. That same place may have also become child or elder care facilities, schools, and quarantine centres, as COVID-19 evolved. As a result, for some, working at home has become a boon and, for others, an inconvenience – with the office representing a place to socialise and build camaraderie away from home.

To accommodate these working preferences, align meeting technology with your organisation’s needs and culture by applying best practices. This means redesigning smart office spaces for in-person and hybrid meetings to enable high-quality audio and video from anywhere – like, for example, installing collaborative digital whiteboarding tools, or upgrading existing meeting equipment.

  1. Evolve IT support toward improving digital dexterity

IT often has a bad reputation within an organisation, generally attributed to its forceful implementation of technologies into the workflow. This is especially true in cases where the IT support team is never fully able to resolve issues arising from the use of those technologies. IT must advance from playing this mundane support role to becoming an advocate for worker digital dexterity.

Unlock virtual support agent solutions by optimising IT service management (ITSM) practices, ensuring the availability of quality data from which to learn, predict and react. Improving employees’ digital dexterity by evolving the IT service desk’s capabilities is also key, to ensure an equitable employee experience, facilitating enhanced collaboration, peer support and improved productivity.

Gavin Tay is a research vice president and Gartner Fellow. His research focuses on global digital workplace strategies, the future of work, hybrid work and the New Work Hub.