Digital transformation initially focused on gaining a competitive advantage over slower digital adopters.
But the world of work has evolved rapidly in recent years and has become a non-negotiable imperative. More roles involve using software, and with employees often working with different applications, effective software adoption underpins the digital employee experience.
It's about helping your people embrace, use, and maximize new tools and technologies. Digital adoption’s success is measured by the efficiency and quality of the results achieved after an organization adopts digital platforms. When technology is easy to use, employees can work smarter and have a better work experience.
Digital employee experience is how employees interact with the technical tools involved in their daily roles and responsibilities and how these tools make them more engaged and productive.
Digital employee experience is paramount in the modern work environment that’s rapidly changing, and new technologies are being deployed, refined, and adapted at a fast pace. Software (or digital) adoption helps employees accept, adopt, and complement their digital tools at work.
Poor software adoption is a major challenge for many modern businesses and can prevent them from achieving their digital transformation objectives. It invariably hinders a happy and healthy digital employee experience. This can negatively impact employee engagement, morale, and a company's productivity, sales, and bottom line.
Digital adoption challenge
As the world of work evolves and automation replaces “traditional” jobs, new, fully digitally-focused roles emerge faster. You must be ready to fill these roles and maintain a competitive edge.
Start by empowering your employees with the skills and confidence to adopt digital tools. This is an uphill battle for many businesses.
Userlane's State of Digital Adoption research highlights the pervasiveness of poor digital adoption and digital employee experience. Two surveys were commissioned in early 2022. The first surveyed 250 senior decision-makers at companies with 250 to 5,000+ employees across various industries. The second surveyed 1,000 employees from organizations of a similar size.
Both surveys found that while employees and managers recognize the importance of robust digital adoption to their success, employees struggle to use new software. Almost all (96%) of the organizations struggled with poor digital adoption, and only a third (37%) rated the adoption as “excellent.” This showcases that businesses aren’t getting the best returns and are actually losing both time and money in their software adoption efforts.
How digital adoption shapes the digital employee experience
Software adoption is fundamental to the digital employee experience. Userlane research further found that 81% of employees use the software at work every day, while all use it at least once a week.
Additionally, nine in ten (88%) employees agree that a frustration-free software process is key to their satisfaction and productivity at work. Obviously, this is an important aspect of employee engagement and retention, especially in light of the so-called “Great Resignation”.
However, nearly half (44%) of employees said using software is time-consuming and difficult, and a quarter (23%) said it involves too many complex processes. Forty-four percent have put off important tasks because of software issues, a fifth (18%) look for ways to do them manually, and one in ten (10%) flatly refuse to continue using them.
What’s more concerning for employers? About a tenth (8%) of respondents admit they have even considered quitting their job because of software-related issues. This is the epitome of a poor digital employee experience. Software should make employees' work lives easier and happier, not make them quit their jobs out of frustration and bad experiences.
Labor shortages and ever-increasing competition are leading to desperate, cutthroat dogfights to recruit top talent. Employees are now more aware of their marketability as a hard-to-replace, dwindling resource. And as remote work has become the norm, their horizons and opportunities have expanded tremendously.
The digital experience you offer your employees reflects your entire corporate culture. Forcing employees to endure a poor digital experience implies a general lack of interest in providing them with an appropriate, productive, and engaging work environment.
Remember, your competition won't back down. If you don’t improve your software implementation process, your employees will eventually leave you for your competitors with better offerings.
In addition to employee satisfaction, you also need to consider the impact of poor digital adoption on employee productivity. One in three employees (36%) admit they lose at least an hour each week solving software-related issues, with millions of work hours potentially lost globally. And with growing labor shortages and potential recruitment bottlenecks, employers need to keep all employees in their jobs as productive as possible.
Contrary to the “digital divide,” software adoption is a generational challenge. In fact, there’s hardly any difference between different demographics – every employee deserves the same support.
Poor digital adoption prevents digital transformation
If digital adoption is poor, you’ll struggle to achieve your digital transformation goals and not see a strong return on investment (ROI) on purchasing a new software.
The total cost of ownership (TCO) covers all direct and indirect software adoption costs. Low adoption burns more money and creates inefficiencies. In addition to the relatively low initial license or subscription fee, the lack of ongoing training and performance support results in a high total cost of ownership for new platforms. This prevents organizations from realizing the full potential benefits of using new technology.
Each year, companies worldwide waste an average of $1.4 trillion on transformation projects without real impact on business operations or the bottom line. This figure corresponds to 70% of global investments in digital transformation processes, meaning that almost three-quarters of initiatives are unsuccessful.
A quarter of business leaders (24%) in the Userlane survey said their new software implementations hit desired goals less than half the time due to poor digital adoption and other related factors.
Other key business challenges that often arise from poor digital adoption:
Increased IT costs (38%)
Increased employee queries to the IT team (32%)
Increased training costs (31%)
An overarching problem is tech turnover – companies replacing software with an alternative product because the original doesn’t offer the expected value. Many companies mistakenly associate poor adoption with product flaws, when in many cases, this is simply due to a lack of proper digital adoption.
You can't afford to replace your software with a new one every time it doesn't work. This creates a costly, time-consuming, and disruptive vicious cycle that can adversely affect your day-to-day business operations and long-term goals.
Who is responsible for the digital employee experience?
There is no consensus on who within the organization should be responsible for the digital employee experience and ensuring a smooth and efficient software adoption process.
More than half (53%) of business leaders think the IT team should be at the forefront of digital adoption, compared to a third (37%) who say employees and a quarter (26%) nominate HR teams for the role. This muddled view often hinders the transformation effort. There’s a high risk that no one will take on the job or complete it satisfactorily.
Unclear roles also put undue pressure on IT teams, which are already quite stretched. The IT department or outsourced provider ensures that the applications are available and working properly. They should not have an additional responsibility to provide the right products or their correct use. Instead, the process should be collaborative between IT leaders, HR leaders, departmental team leaders, and employees.
Software training challenge
Training lies at the heart of any efforts to boost software adoption or digital employee experience. More than two-thirds (68%) of companies saw their software training costs increase, with the average UK organization spending £2,086.55 per employee each year.
Effective software implementation is the exception rather than the rule. Many organizations still follow an outdated, “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning and development that doesn't meet the diverse needs of modern employees. Hybrid and remote work also make scaled support and training more difficult.
Each training method has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, instructor-led face-to-face sessions can be easily redesigned, quickly developed, and conducted face-to-face. However, scheduling such meetings is uncoordinated, involves travel expenses, and affects the quality of delivery and reception.
In addition, the costs of hiring an external trainer are often high. Ninety percent of the employees forget what they learn within a week, which makes such a training method unsustainable in the long term.
Online group training involves no travel expenses but doesn’t have the same effect when participants are in the same room. On the other hand, teleconferencing is suitable for large groups in many locations but can incur high equipment costs.
On-the-job training can provide efficient knowledge transfer relevant to the learner's job, again delivered face-to-face. However, trainers can have different competencies, and the low trainee-to-trainer ratio can drive costs.
The biggest challenge for organizations is designing a software training strategy that’s the right mix of different options while being cost-effective and scalable.
The future of software training: Digital adoption platforms (DAPs)
Business leaders are pursuing a range of strategies to increase digital adoption, with one of the most popular (30%) being the launch of a digital adoption platform (DAP). DAPs didn't exist until a few years ago and still involve only a handful of significant players in this field worldwide.
A DAP helps companies make their software more user-friendly for employees. It acts as a layer on top of a web-based software application and embeds interactive guides that provide real-time employee training and help users complete specific processes.
Simply put, a DAP eliminates the cost and hassle of traditional software training and replaces it with independent, continuous learning. The goal is to help companies accelerate digital transformation by quickly onboarding, training, or skilling employees on new software.
Tips for improving the digital employee experience
You can take many actionable steps to improve software adoption and the digital employee experience.
1. Measure your current software TCO
To derive value from your software spend, you must quantify the problem's magnitude internally. The best way to do this is to look at the spend in terms of the total cost of ownership. Just looking at software subscription or implementation costs misses the big picture. You also need to factor in costs associated with training and onboarding.
Retraining costs often compete with the software subscription price. Classroom training produces subpar results, as studies have shown that people forget up to 90% of what they learn within a week. This requires frequent checks interrupting work and only temporarily addresses the digital experience issue. Businesses should look at training costs over the past year to determine the ongoing costs of using the software.
Although it's harder to quantify, a lack of confidence in the software also hurts a company's productivity. Errors, duplicate processes, support tickets, and other challenges that result from poor digital adoption all increase a business’ software TCO.
2. Offer different software training options
As discussed earlier, the traditional one-time training approach is ineffective and expensive to supplement with periodic reviews. However, training is a necessity, so companies need a new approach. That's not to say there's no place for classroom training; just that it shouldn't be the only option.
A more effective training model is to combine a variety of methods. This ensures that training options cover a range of circumstances, needs, and learning styles. The most popular training solution is one-to-one support. Companies that can provide this should do so but also account for obvious scaling issues.
The second most popular solution – and a far more scalable one – is to use a DAP. Organizations can easily translate existing written training materials into interactive guides in the DAP and adapt them to the specific needs of different roles or teams. Another key advantage of a DAP is that, unlike the IT team, they’re always readily available to help employees solve software challenges.
You can use DAPs alongside traditional options to support employees with more contextual, real-time, and hands-on training. Enterprise DAPs are also easily scalable and rich in data that provide insights into how and why employees are (or aren't) using their software.
3. Consult, listen to, and communicate with employees
Conduct interviews with employees who use a specific platform or software to learn more about their technical experiences in the workplace. The interviews should aim to determine how easily they find digital applications to work with, their results, frustrations, and how many features they use. The average employee only uses 40% of the functions available, equivalent to renting office space and occupying only two-fifths of it.
To get accurate results, you must also make it clear that the software, not the employee, is being judged. In other words, employees wouldn't be penalized for acknowledging they only use a limited set of features.
Going forward, you should involve employees more in future software purchasing decisions, rather than imposing software from the top down. Collaborating on a solution gives employees a sense of ownership and ensures their insights are not overlooked.
4. Create a software adoption team
The digital adoption challenge is best addressed with input from various key stakeholders and experts within the organization, including HR, IT, functional leaders, and employees. Setting up a task responsible for digital adoption across the organization makes sense.
Software implementation is not a one-off process. You need to continuously review and update your tech stack as both the software and the environment in which employees use it are constantly evolving. This requires extensive monitoring, which can be made far easier by using a product like G2 Track.
An ideal digital adoption team consists of several department representatives and regularly meets. Many organizations that have successfully driven digital adoption place their digital adoption teams under the leadership of a Chief Digital Officer (CDO).
This team manages internal messaging around the software to ensure everyone understands why it’s being introduced, how it impacts day-to-day work, and the full range of features available. This is in contrast to the commonly used model, where software is often chosen by management without explaining “why” to employees.
5. Measure and analyze adoption
The digital adoption team also tracks employee adoption rates using product analysis and interviews to ensure the company fully uses the software it invests in. It measures how often or how long employees use software and how efficiently they can achieve business goals. After all, introducing software is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Together you can conquer heights
Digital employee experience is directly linked to how well employees adopt workplace software. Not only is this key for companies getting the best return on their investments, but also for employee engagement and retention in a candidate-driven job market characterized by severe staff shortages.
Everyone is a stakeholder when it comes to improving the digital employee experience and reducing employee turnover.
Not sure if software adoption is causing the pain point? Explore some simple strategies to reduce employee turnover and improve retention.
Software should help, not hurt
Use digital employee experience management software to monitor and optimize digital platforms in your tech stack.
Hartmut Hahn is CEO and co-founder of Userlane. Founded in 2015 in Munich, Germany, Userlane has quickly become a leading Digital Adoption Platform, delighting employees and customers across the globe with its intuitive and effective solutions.
Software should help, not hurt
Use digital employee experience management software to monitor and optimize digital platforms in your tech stack.