IT Leadership: Measuring Employee Experience in a Post-COVID World
January 25, 2021

Nik Koutsoukos
Catchpoint

Share this

I'm an old-school advocate for employee experience. For years, my colleagues and I have urged (and cajoled, and begged) business leaders to take the subject seriously. We've argued that engaged and well-supported workers are the cornerstone of business success — and that nothing kills productivity quicker than when people can't rely on the tools they need to do their jobs. That message has been getting through. It's been gratifying to see more and more C-suites prioritize measuring employee experience in recent years. And then … COVID-19 hit.

You can understand why many employee experience initiatives got put on the back burner. It's hard enough just to keep a business running during a pandemic. But when most of your workforce suddenly shifts to work-from-home, understanding employee experience becomes more important, not less. Not to mention that, for many businesses, large portions of the workforce will continue working remotely long after the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

Bottom line, "work" means something very different than it did a year ago. If we're going to give people the support they need to thrive in this new normal, we need to rethink employee experience: what we measure, how we measure it, and what we can ultimately do about it.

Accelerating Longstanding Trends

For many of the changes we've seen — like huge growth in remote work and digital collaboration — COVID-19 didn't so much create new models as kick pre-existing trends into high gear. The fact is, work has been growing more decentralized, and IT has been steadily losing control of business infrastructure, for years. Just look at the major IT trends of the last decade:

■ Core business applications moving from on-premises data centers to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS)

■ Dominant connectivity models shifting from Ethernet to Wi-Fi

■ Explosive growth in mobile and remote work, often using devices outside IT control

Even if you care about deeply about employee experience, it's much harder to measure than it was back when everybody worked in the office, and all applications and networks and devices were controlled by IT. If employees are having issues, just figuring out where to look becomes much tougher. The challenge grows exponentially when most of your workforce shifts to full-time work-from-home, practically overnight.

At this point, businesses need to put aside the deep metrics about application performance and start from ground zero: Can my remote employees actually do their jobs? How are they feeling? Do they have the bare minimum they need to be productive?

Measuring the Right Things

If you're in human resources — or really, any executive leadership role in your organization — it's important to step back and look at employees holistically. We advocate measuring well-being across five broad categories:

The basics: When companies are scrambling to react to an unexpected crisis, it's easy to get caught by surprise. All of a sudden, you need to ask different kinds of questions:
- Do my employees have the equipment they need?
- Not just a working laptop, but a good monitor and keyboard?
- A comfortable chair?
- A place they can work that's free from noise and distractions?
- A fast and reliable network connection that can support video conferencing?

These aren't the kinds of things most companies have had to worry about before. But they're essential to employee well-being, so they need to be on your radar.

User experience: Assuring a quality digital experience is relatively easy when everyone works in the corporate office. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that we need our employees to be ready to work from anywhere, anytime. You're better off thinking proactively about assuring digital experience, rather than waiting to react to the next big disruption.

What are the core applications that each employee needs to do his or her job? Can they access those tools from home and use them as effectively as in the office? You'll need more granular monitoring tools to find out. It's not enough to know, for example, that a home user can connect to the Internet. Can they access all the apps they need reliably all day long? If not, why?

Connectivity: Traditionally, most businesses treated remote work connectivity as a "best-effort" scenario. When you're remote, you do the best you can. If you need business-class connectivity — guaranteed bandwidth under a service-level agreement (SLA), managed Wi-Fi, state-of-the-art performance monitoring — you come into the office. That's no longer an option for millions of workers.

So, it's more important than ever for IT to be able to look deeply into every user's connection and troubleshoot problems all the way into home networks. For many connectivity issues, the problem lies with the user's home network or local Internet service provider (ISP).

But, even if you can't fix the problem, you can tell users what's wrong and what they can do about it. Sometimes, that might be, "Your ISP is having issues and it could be a while. Focus on offline work for now" That's a lot better than hours of frustrated users and wasted IT effort trying to diagnose a problem they can't solve.

Device: Along those lines, it's more important than ever to understand what's happening on the employee's device. For many problems, the cause is just a lack of memory or CPU power in older hardware. The good news is that those are among the easiest problems for IT to solve. But, if you're not monitoring all the way to the device, it will take a lot longer to zero in on that.

Applications and services: Businesses need to be able to look outward when measuring employee experience, as well as inward. Yes, you need to know how employees' devices and network connections are performing. But, you should also be keeping tabs on your SaaS applications and cloud services. If, for example, Microsoft Office 365 is having slow performance across the southwestern United States, it sure would be useful for IT to know that before they spend hours trying to diagnose the problem.

Eliminating the Guesswork

The truth is, the list of issues outside IT's control keeps getting longer. But, that makes visibility even more important. When you have hard data about what your people are actually experiencing, you can:

■ Hold your SaaS and Internet providers accountable

■ Empower employees (and reduce their frustration) by quickly diagnosing problems in their own devices and home networks that they can fix themselves

■ Quickly identify problems beyond IT's control, so they can focus their time on tasks where they can make a real difference

We're all still adjusting to the challenges of a post-COVID world. But, when your business relies on a remote workforce every day, just knowing what's happening out there can be hugely beneficial.

Nik Koutsoukos is CMO, Strategy & Product Leader, at Catchpoint
Share this

The Latest

March 02, 2021

The Model T automobile was introduced in 1908 ... Within a few years, competitors arrived on the scene including relic names such as Overland, Maxwell, and names that survived like Buick and Dodge. So, what does this have to do with the hybrid cloud market? From a business perspective — a lot ...

March 01, 2021

DevOps Institute announced the launch of the 2021 SRE Survey in collaboration with Catchpoint and VMware Tanzu. The survey will result in a more in-depth understanding of how SRE teams are organized, how they are measured, and a deep dive into specific automation needs within SRE teams ...

February 25, 2021

Organizations use data to fuel their operations, make smart business decisions, improve customer relationships, and much more. Because so much value can be extracted from data its influence is generally positive, but it can also be detrimental to a business experiencing a serious disruption such as a cyberattack, insider threat, or storage platform-specific hack or bug ...

February 24, 2021

Previously siloed IT teams and technologies are converging as enterprises accelerate their modernization efforts in reaction to COVID-19, according to a study by LogicMonitor ...

February 23, 2021

You surf the internet, don't you? While all of us are at home due to Covid lock-down and accepting a new reality, the majority of the work is happening online. IT managers are looking for tools that can track the user digital experience. Executives are reading a report from Gartner or Forrester about some of the best networking monitoring solutions available on the market. Project managers are using Microsoft Teams online to communicate and ensure team members are meeting deliverables on time. Remote employees everywhere use OWA to check their office mails. No matter what, you can be quite sure that everyone is using their favorite browser and search engine for connecting online and accomplish tasks ...

February 22, 2021

With the right solutions, teams can move themselves out of the shadows of error resolution and into the light of innovation. Observability data, drawn from their systems and imbued with context from AI, lets teams automate the issues holding them back. Contextualized data and insights also give them the language to speak to the incremental, product-led approach and the direction to drive key innovations in customer experience improvement. Communicating value becomes a much easier proposition for DevOps practitioners — and they can take their seat at the company table as contributors to value ...

February 18, 2021

Prediction: Successful organizations will blur (or erase) the line between ITOps and DevOps. DevOps has to coexist with traditional IT operations ... So bring a little DevOps to every aspect of IT operations. You don't even have to call it DevOps ...

February 17, 2021

The use of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions has increased since the start of the pandemic, and this increased use has created challenges for IT teams, according to a survey commissioned by NETSCOUT SYSTEMS ...

February 16, 2021
The AI+ITOPS Podcast just hit the 10K + download mark early this month. Most people listen to entire episodes, and many engage with us by sending a note on LinkedIn, Twitter, a direct email asking questions, clarifications, strategy advice, product selection advice ...
February 11, 2021

Cloud-based innovations like microservices, containers and orchestration let developers code better, faster, but the underlying infrastructure becomes dynamic and ephemeral, and service-level interactions are hard to see. It’s a critical evolution, but the rapid change reduces visibility, predictability and control. Hence, observability ...