How Digital Transformation is Changing Employee Expectations

There is no denying that both employees and managers are impacted by the latest corporate tech initiatives. Technologies such digitized project management, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), workflow management, and team collaboration are changing the very nature of work and how employees contribute to an organization. That technological disruption has also reshaped how employees and managers view their roles in organizations, and has the potential to disrupt how projects are staffed.

A recent survey commissioned by Lehi, Utah-based Workfront, a project management software vendor, revealed some interesting insights into how the expectations of the workforce are changing. Workfront’s State of Work 2020 Report revealed how employees think about their value in their respective companies, while also offering data on how those perceptions are impacted based upon location.

For example, 89 percent of respondents believed that their role matters, and 78 percent said that their job represents more than a paycheck. However, 65 percent of employees wished they were rewarded based on results, as opposed to just deliverables. “Those numbers echo our experience in working with many large organizations.” said Alex Shootman, Workfront’s President & CEO. “As companies scale, it becomes easy for people and teams to focus efforts on project milestones, tasks, or individual deliverables while losing sight of strategic objectives.”

Perhaps a little more telling: 91 percent of those surveyed said they were proud of the work they do. It’s an indication that employers are interacting with technologists in ways that give the latter a better understanding of the overall business objectives and how they fit into an organization.

However, managers need to be very aware of what irks most of their reports. For example, tech-centric employees spend, on average, just 40 percent of their work week on the job they were hired to do; most attribute “wasteful meetings, excessive emails, and excessive oversight” as the primary reasons for reduced productivity. Others classified poor work prioritization, and a lack of standard processes for workflow, as likewise damaging to getting things done.

Those observations demonstrate how workers are beginning to focus more on strategic practices and desire to limit non-productive tasks as much as possible. While the purveyors of technology may become part of the solution, it is hard to ignore the fact that poorly executed technology solutions actually contributed to the loss of productivity.

It is those realizations that are impacting the way knowledge workers seek employment. “The hardest part of getting work done is collaboration and communication,” said Paul Tasker, Director of Marketing Technology & Demand Operations for Sage, which builds accounting and finance software. “The speed of technological change that is in turn driving cultural and societal change can be frightening. The expectations of someone joining the workforce today plays into everything from a platform design or UX to the company’s ways of working. Companies that fail to recognize and adapt to this dynamic environment will quickly be left behind.”

How This Transformation Impacts Hiring

That puts the onus of success on both the knowledge worker and the companies they choose to work for. Businesses must strive to make work more strategic if they hope to attract the best talent, while job seekers should consider what factors will lend themselves to success. While the concept of vetting a potential employer may be a strange concept to those seeking employment, low unemployment rates and a shortage of knowledge workers gives job seekers flexibility that they may have not expected.

The survey revealed that 88 percent of workers think that technology is an important part of the employee experience, and 91 percent crave modern technology solutions. What’s more, 87 percent of respondents think that business leaders should reconsider the way they think about technology in the workplace.

Many businesses are striving to meet those expectations, and are finding that modern technology solutions bring more than employee satisfaction to the table. “In our quest to modernize our workflows, we discovered that removing tedious, repetitive tasks from the knowledge workers enhanced productivity, while also allowing those workers to focus on more value-added processes,” Tasker said. “While, we had expectations of achieving that goal, we were surprised how quickly the staff embraced the new technologies and how quickly they leveraged the benefits offered.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to finding a balance that suits the needs of the business, while also attracting the best and the brightest. That means more than just offering a paycheck and traditional benefits. “Corporations will need to drive personal investment in the work by championing innovations that align with corporate goals, and helping employees understand the ‘why’ behind the company,” said Whitnee Hawthorne, Director Strategic Execution, Technology, at JetBlue.

Workflow management systems have brought forth another benefit: more efficient onboarding. “Once we deployed technology that automates processes and centralizes tasks, we quickly discovered how the technology enhanced onboarding,” Tasker said. “New hires were quickly able to learn procedures and systems, because the technology reduced the number of different systems and consolidated many tasks into a single system. New hires were quite happy with our investment in technology and quickly became productive members of the team.”

While technology is only one part of the equation that job seekers should consider, companies that adopt technology for the benefit of the worker and the business tend to be better starting points for those building their career skill-sets. A tightening job market is benefitting technology employees, giving them more options in choosing companies that could prove a good fit for them.