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How COVID-19 made IT experience a board level concern

By Jelmer Berendsen (Enablement Lead, Digital Workplace, ABN AMRO) and Daan Tuijnman (Product Owner, Digital Workplace, ABN AMRO)

For the digital workplace team at ABN AMRO, it wasn't just the COVID-19 crisis itself that was unexpected. If you'd have told us in January 2020 that - within a few months - our tooling and capability would be the subject of direct and regular attention by the board at our company, we would have had trouble believing that, too.

ABN AMRO has long had quite a special focus on employee experience in general. Its philosophy is that a happy, productive workforce will inevitably improve customer experience, and works hard to create this. The outlook definitely extends to employees' experience with technology (‘digital employee experience') which our IT teams take extremely seriously.

To monitor and improve this overall experience and perception of IT among users, the digital workplace team doesn't only leverage hard metrics, but perception data also. Before the COVID-19 crisis, we were using Nexthink Engage (a survey and communication product that allows IT to interact directly with users on their devices without email) to establish this in several areas.

It was this simple but effective approach that allowed us to develop a meaningful dialogue with the people that matter most to IT - the users.

Like so many IT teams worldwide, at the outset of quarantine, we had to transition overnight from partial remote working to working from home for our complete workforce.

Engage was an obviously useful tool in this scenario from an IT perspective: it enabled us to quickly and efficiently survey thousands of users on technical issues. However, it also quickly occurred to us that the same tool could also provide us with a fantastic way of reaching out directly to our colleagues at a time of great uncertainty and stress - to find out how they were doing emotionally as well as technologically. Were they keeping fit and staying sane? How was morale? In short - what was their level of wellbeing?

All these surveys were getting great response rates- 30%, 40% and even 50%+ (with approval rates in the 90%-range). Suddenly we were working closely with HR on employee wellbeing. If on the one hand this was a surprising development (and it was) on the other hand it really made sense. When employees work from home, their ‘workplace' is their tech, their laptop the intermediary between every single interaction with their colleagues, professional and personal.

It wasn't just HR that was interested in our results, either. Our surveying was quickly receiving direct and regular attention from the board. Following the first wave, we were encouraged to implement ongoing regular surveys so as to be able to track general employee wellbeing over time.

It would be easy to see this high-level strategic engagement as a circumstantial one. Yet as in so many areas of technology, here the crisis has accelerated an existing trend, rather than just created one. In this specific instance, while remote work exacerbates the impact of IT of productivity and wellbeing, flexible work was already an established trend before COVID-19 accelerated its emergence. And in general, the more IT focuses on the experience of users, the more it will become a strategic partner to colleagues - all the way up to the board, where employee wellbeing and productivity is such an obvious focus.

While this is certainly a testament to the versatility of Nexthink's tooling, it's probably only fair to stress that they were able to help with a number of strictly IT challenges during this same period also, providing great visibility and proactive functionality across our dispersed user base. But this was an interesting glimpse into something many IT teams and vendors anticipate in the coming years: IT developing into a much closer strategic partner to the wider business, with a significant role to play both in ensuring employee productivity and wellbeing.


About the Author

Jelmer Berendsen, Enablement Lead, Digital Workplace, ABN AMRO

Jelmer Berendsen 

Jelmer Berendsen is a strong believer in the experience factor in IT. He has been at ABN AMRO for almost 4 years, seeking to harness the power of data in order to drive sound business decisions within the digital workplace.


Daan Tuijnman,Product Owner, Digital Workplace, ABN AMRO

daan tuijnman  

Daan Tuijnman is tasked with enhancing ABN AMRO's digital workplace through the transformation of data into actionable insights. He is driven by a constant ambition to improve processes and provide value to the broader business.
Published Wednesday, August 19, 2020 7:38 AM by David Marshall
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