by Sharon Florentine

Don’t let crappy software drive your employees away

Feb 02, 2018
Enterprise ApplicationsStaff Management

User experience has a much more significant impact on talent acquisition and retention that you’d think.

frustrated man with abstract code background
Credit: Thinkstock

Millennials are the largest generation currently in the U.S. workforce, and will make up 35 percent of the global workforce by 2020. So, if you’re not considering the professional needs of this generation of digital natives, who are used to intuitive, seamless technology that can help enhance their productivity, you’re putting your organization’s future at risk.

Millennials’ threshold for poor user experience is exceedingly low, and technology that is cumbersome and frustrating often drives highly-skilled millennials away from jobs — and entire industries — that are not catering to this need for tech-savvy; just ask the insurance sector, says Brian Berns, CEO of user analytics software company Knoa.

“Millennials are absolutely not willing to put up with this,” says Berns. “Consumer apps are slick, easy to use, intuitive, fast and always available. And so, when millennials look at legacy enterprise tech they’re thinking, ‘No way, no how.’ It’s getting to the point where you’re not just concerned about retention alone; you’re looking at not being able to get good talent through the door in the first place,” he says.

But it’s not just millennials who are turned off by a poor user experience.  According to global enterprise applications company IFS, if it’s been awhile since your company adopted new, cutting-edge technology, you should know it’s probably impacting your ability to retain talent.

While enterprise software usability might seem insignificant, 46 percent of experienced, middle-aged tech workers would consider changing jobs due to a lack of enterprise software usability, according to a recent IFS survey.

Poor usability, poor employee retention

Historically, enterprise software applications used in manufacturing and the supply chain, as well as commonly used ERP and CRM systems, are very transactional; you input data and it spits out an answer, says Rick Veague, CTO at IFS North America. While that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker for many older workers, even Generation X can get frustrated with software that isn’t intuitive and doesn’t operate as smoothly and seamlessly as the consumer applications they’re used to, Veague says. This issue gets even more critical with younger generations.

“The younger generations are more consumer-oriented; they’re digital natives. It’s how they operate and it’s the way they’ve always related to software and solutions,” Veague says. “It’s still quite common to find this proprietary, transactional software at work, and even though you can dress it up and make it look nice, the ease-of-use just isn’t there, and that’s really frustrating because the learning curve can be very high,” he says.

The IFS study shows that the higher the barrier to access, the more difficult a software solution is for users — especially Millennials and those from Gen Z — to do their jobs and advance in their careers, he says. The key for organizations looking to address this issue is to make sure your software is easy to learn, easy to use and has a low barrier to entry, Veague says.

That doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to mean completely junking your entire technology stack and starting over, says Berns. But tracking worker activity and usage will give insight into where issues are cropping up and how those issues are impacting engagement, retention and morale, he says.

“So many companies have zero insight into the effectiveness and the ease-of-use of their software and how that’s impacting their own efficiency and productivity,” says Berns. “It’s not just that, say, Jane is able to complete a transaction or a process in 10 screens, whereas it takes Joe 20; he’s getting error messages and his software keeps crashing. And he doesn’t want to call the help desk because he doesn’t want his supervisor to see that he’s having these issues. He can’t afford to take the time to sit on hold, or to be offline for the time it takes to fix it.”

Many companies launch user experience upgrades to mitigate usability issues, but without a frontline view of where an employee’s pain points actually are, it’s hard to hit on the right solution, says Bogdan Nica, vice president of products and services at Knoa.

“Another problem is that users don’t always know how to describe these pain points. ‘This system is so slow,’ ‘It sucks,’ ‘It’s so hard to use,’ or ‘It’s just awful’ aren’t very specific, and that makes it hard for companies to understand what, exactly, needs fixing,” Nica says.

While enterprise software usability may not seem like a critical issue, it’s inherently linked to your workers’ ability to get their jobs done, says Veague. If they can’t do that, they’ll opt for greener pastures, making usability critical to employee satisfaction, engagement and ultimately, retention. That becomes more devastating as employees’ experience, tenure and seniority increase.

“It’s really critical for your talent from the older demographics, like Boomers and Generation X, because they not only have the technical skills, they’re in leadership and management positions and they are taking their experience and their knowledge with them when they go,” Veague says. “If you can’t give your people the tools they need to do their job, they’re just going to move somewhere that will — and in this job market, they will have lots of options,” Veague says.