Death By A Thousand Portals: An Argument for Better Employee Accessibility
What do we mean by accessibility?
When we talk about Employee Empowerment here at RevUnit, we use the words “Communication, Engagement, Productivity, Access & Training” to describe our solutions. Arguably the least understood but most important of those five buckets is “Access” or Employee Accessibility.
Access can refer to the availability of many things, including business objectives or employment info like benefits and pay stubs. In general, we’re referring to how easy it is for employees to come in contact with the information they need to perform at their best. When low-access is the norm, employees are disconnected and unengaged:
"Doing your job in an information vacuum is tedious and uninspiring; there’s no reason to look for innovative solutions if you can’t see the larger impact. People can contribute more effectively when they understand how their work fits with the organization’s mission and strategy."
An important element of employee access is available metrics around company performance. Performance improves when people are aware of both the KPI’s of the company and how they and their team measure up. Without this knowledge, work life becomes a series of tasks with no real understanding as to why the tasks exist. Without understanding what matters to the business, employees can’t contribute to improving it. In short, it stifles culture, creativity, and productivity.
What Does Great Employee Accessibility Look Like?
In a high access environment, teams become aligned to company purpose and make micro-decisions better. This is because they understand how their decisions impact metrics they have responsibility for.
Jack Welch of GE explains how workers in an open-book setting “feel a greater sense of ownership and urgency, often sparking improvements in processes and productivity.” Can everyone in your organization explain the metrics their team is held accountable to? Do they know how they’re doing against those expectations on a daily and weekly basis?
The State of Knowledge Management report asked participants “If your organization was sharing knowledge as well as they possibly could, how much would it improve the productivity of your team?” Forty percent (40%) said sharing knowledge well could increase employee productivity by 20 – 30% and a third of respondents said a successful enterprise knowledge initiative had the potential of improving productivity 30 – 50%+.
It should be mentioned most organizations don’t set out to be secretive or exclusive. Often times the gap is not intentional as much as it is a factor of delivery methods. When information comes across in a 30 page printed report accessible only at the single printer in the back office, or when it’s distributed 50 emails deep in a crowded inbox, it tends to be overlooked.
Regardless of the reason, the effect is the same.
Enemies to Access
Too many employees in too many companies are flying blind with little understanding as to how their actions influence the health of their organization.
Clutter is often the greatest enemy of distributing important information. Organizations can dramatically improve comprehension and participation with mission critical info by prioritizing and segmenting content. Segmentation is widely used in customer facing communications as marketing teams focus on delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time. The same intentionality and tooling are needed to be effective when sharing internal information.
When sitting down with a company, you often hear two distinct opinions about the accessibility of critical employee information like PTO requests, referrals for hire, benefits information, pay stubs, handbooks, etc. First, the corporate team proudly reports all the information is available online to employees. In contrast, the employees say the information is hard to find and a hassle when spread across many different systems all with different passwords.
It’s death by a thousand portals.
Employee Friendly Policies & Well-Executed Tech
In the end, the result is the same. Information is hard to get at, which creates inefficiency and frustration. Combatting this problem, companies like Virgin Hotels have taken an employee friendly approach, making the most important information available on a well-designed, mobile friendly platform. Interestingly, more tactical information like cafeteria menus, paystubs, and benefits information increase employee participation and encourage users to take part in the most social elements of the platform.
The question remains, what are the most effective ways of providing employee accessibility to front line employees? The answer, not surprisingly, lies in well-executed technology, particularly mobile technology. The paradigm of providing access to information already exists from the last 9 years of consumer smartphone devices. They include easy to navigate applications, social messaging, push notifications and alerts. These tools can super-charge enterprise employee productivity by providing associates on-demand access to the information that fuels customer service, operations, and employee engagement.