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We Hire Modern Workforces, But Enable Them Like It’s 1995

by Amy Patterson
on February 28, 2018

Remember when you could get 100 hours of internet access from a cereal box? Or when you finally bought that fancy new stereo with the 5-disc changer? To avoid getting lost, you could even print Mapquest directions to your final destination, or Ask Jeeves what to do when you got there. Ahh the 90’s. What a time to be alive.

Over the last 20 years, consumer technology has evolved rapidly. Few people would still reach for their Discman to play music, or store their monthly schedules in their PalmPilots. But at work, we’re somehow still managing, engaging, and developing employees with the same technology that we’ve used for the last 2 decades. While we’ve made progress in how we develop products, market our services, and serve our customers, we’re still painfully lagging when it comes to embracing better ways to help people develop their strengths, motivate their teams, collaborate with colleagues, and do their best work. More than half of employees now say they don’t have the right technology to do their jobs.

For executives, managers, HR, and talent teams, it’s time to take a critical look at how we’re enabling employee success. We can start by modernizing our approach to these all-too-common missed opportunities to help employees connect with each other, utilize their skills, and thrive in your organization.

Org charts aren’t helping anyone get to know their team.

Your org chart is likely testing the limits of someone’s PowerPoint skills, and depths of their patience. Since PowerPoint’s launch in 1990, organizations have been using it to create slide after slide of inaccurate and lackluster information on reporting structures and internal teams. These presentations are tedious to create and maintain, and are rarely worth the time and effort it takes to get them ready for the next company meeting or new hire orientation. Organizations simply change too quickly, and people are too complex for these dinosaur decks to do your organization any justice. Instead of managing a manual org chart to visualize company structure, consider using updated technology to integrate with employee data you already have in existing HRIS and talent management systems to help leaders get to know their direct reports, allow managers to recognize milestones, let employees easily find their peers, and ensure executives get to know new hires quickly.

Siloed employee data still isn’t helping those who need it most.

Web-based HR systems started to gain traction in organizations in the late 1990s, and for the first time, allowed more people to access people data within an organization. Distributed and remote teams were finally able to access employee insights and track performance in a platform they could access from anywhere, provided they had a computer (mobile HR apps started to launch about 15 years later). Even with new internal technology, HR teams and executives still primarily control access to organizational data, while most frontline managers and rank-and-file employees lack any chance to learn about their leaders and colleagues in a meaningful way. Insights about how how people want to develop, how they prefer to be recognized, and how they can best apply their talents within the organization still aren’t available to the people who need the information the most. It’s time to reconsider how, when, and where you’ll store and access your most important employee data. Top organizations are already implementing platforms to make finding employee skills, strengths, and experience easier, making sure the right people are paired with the right projects, and ultimately improving the way that teams collaborate and deliver on strategic opportunities.

Intranets aren’t creating value for anyone.

Intranets started to appear widely in organizations around 1994, and many have not changed much since then. Hidden behind firewalls or only accessible via VPN on a desktop web browser, many companies all but ensured that their employees wouldn’t (or couldn’t) use available internal resources. Usability issues and outdated information still plague most internal systems, and updating content usually falls somewhere near the bottom of someone’s mile-long to-do list. Fast-forward to 2018, and more leaders and employees want an internal platform that automatically captures important resources, celebrates employee milestones, and makes it easier to recognize teammates. Modern teams seek to integrate existing systems to surface disparate data, making sure everyone has access to exactly what they need, from any device, whenever they need it. Instead of trying to retrofit an intranet to fit the needs of your modern organization, it might be time to re-think your internal technology to ensure employees have the user experiences they’ve come to expect as modern consumers.

Employee directories fail to connect teams.

Microsoft Excel made it possible to create a sortable internal directory about 25 years ago, but for today’s teams, these simple contact lists continue to be a headache. In today’s work environments, employees constantly change locations, phone numbers, departments, and roles, making it all but impossible for a few unlucky administrators to try to capture the right information in a simple, searchable spreadsheet. Directories are often one-dimensional, and rarely include someone’s skills or expertise that could help move the needle on a critical initiative. For remote employees, mismanaged directories often create barriers to reaching the right people to help them move projects forward and get more done. Ditch the ancient practice of trying to keep everyone’s phone number updated in a single file, and instead, allow employees to store not only contact information, but personality data, favorite coffee orders, personal interests, and work histories in a searchable, mobile platform. By making sure your employees can find exactly who they’re looking for, and how they can best work together, you’ll break down barriers to collaboration and productivity and help connect your employees with the internal resources they need to get more done.

While it might be fun to party like it’s 1999, it’s not a great idea continue to work that way. Employees expect a modern employee experience that mirrors their consumer experience. Organizations that commit to improving employee experiences by improving their technology see improvements not only in productivity, but in overall job satisfaction, employee retention, and profitability. If your organization is ready to step into the 21st century when it comes to creating a better way to work, let’s stay in touch.

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