Pandemic is increasingly leading to “Enterprise Friction” and why should organisations

By Manish Sharma

The Covid19-triggered pandemic is forcing many changes within the enterprises. Many businesses went through a “Covid-shock” – and had to evolve their business model, market positioning, supply chains, or human resource management to survive or thrive. To their credit, enterprises and employees quickly adapted to “work-from-home” ensured work and projects were delivered timely.

However, as the pandemic progressed and lingered – employees felt isolated, and the need to support them well became more acute. Imagine onboarding a new employee who works remotely and has never even met anyone from your company in person ever!

Even before the pandemic, workplaces were becoming more complex for employees. In information and knowledge-driven workplaces – employees usually struggle to get the correct information or support at the right time. Most of the employees spend a lot of time “figuring things out” almost every day to carry out their core job. According to multiple studies from IDC and McKinsey – employees waste 20% to 30% of their workday trying to “figure out things.”

We can name this “Enterprise Friction”. Like regular friction (Physics), Enterprise Friction works opposite to the direction in which you want to move your enterprise. It slows down employees’ ability to think and perform. The higher the enterprise friction, the lower is the productivity.

But before we talk about solutions needed to mitigate this problem, let us first try and understand what causes “enterprise friction.”

What causes Enterprise friction:
There are three major issues that can probably cause Enterprise Friction.

First and foremost is lack of employee support. It is hygiene for any organisation to provide an employee with basic HR (human resource) support such as payroll benefits, timely appraisals and tax benefits. However, in the absence of any of these, the employees might start losing motivation to work.

Similarly, other issues could be unavailability of a laptop or desktop, problems with data connectivity or VPN that could cause hinderance or obstruction for a smooth functioning. Many a times it observed that employees do not find it the work desk or chairs comfortable enough and that leads to unproductive hours.

Second type of issue is related to Employee Enabling or Knowledge. Under this segment, the friction is caused when an employee doesn’t receive right kind of support related to his/her work profile. Say for example, seeking support related to a current project but is not aware who to reach out to.

Third is very critical. Not keeping employees updated about a major development related to policy, strategy or product change. In such a scenario, the employee feels lost o unwanted and this could be quite demotivating for the employees.

If an organization provides its employees with the above support, there is less likelihood of the latter facing ‘Enterprise Friction.’ Such organizations will have higher productivity. All these three categories are different but related and have their challenges in the traditional model.

Traditional models that cause Enterprise friction:

Employee support: The current service delivery model for enterprise support is outdated. Most of the time, employees call on the phone and write emails– and wait for issues resolutions for days. Traditional self-service approaches have not worked well, and employee frustration typically manifests as lower E-SAT scores and productivity loss.

Enterprise knowledge management: While most enterprises have document management systems, surprisingly, very few have an enterprise approach to knowledge management. Knowledge is retained in spread-out documents and people’s brains – not easily accessible. Even when employees can locate a record – they cannot be sure if it is current or not!

Change management: How do an enterprise handle communication and compliance of change in a process, policy, application, or strategy? For example – what if you are changing a critical function for your contact centre employees? Sending emails is not enough, and formal training systems are too slow to deploy. Lack of a solution exposes enterprises to risk as employees might not have the proper training for their job.

How to measure enterprise friction?
Enterprises need to measure the level of support provided to the employees. Customers need to calculate the “employee service Index” (ESI), which is an easy way to access how well you enable your employees and directly link to employee productivity. ESI is measured either by deploying a survey to the employees and or measuring some key metrics. It focuses on the following three areas, which correspond to the three drivers of Enterprise friction

1. Employee Service desk metrics
2. Enterprise knowledge management and accessibility
3. Enterprise change management and learning

Enterprise friction is real, and it is critical to understand if leaders want to retain productive employees, they should measure and benchmark ESI – and then find out ways to increase that ESI. In a post-pandemic era, these challenges will further accelerate, and hence organizations should start focusing on “Enterprise Friction” at the earliest.

The author is COO,

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