Marc Dowd
Marc Dowd (Principal, European Client Advisory)
Tom Schwieters
Tom Schwieters (Vice President)

Once again, we welcomed CIOs from around Europe to our IDC Digital Leadership Community Think Tank on April 28, 2022. As has become customary, there was an active discussion from the many participants who represented diverse industry types and scenarios. The subject was the responsibility that digital leaders have for delivering an improved employee experience, what effect that has on their business and how it is being done.

The discussion, led by Marc Dowd from IDC, started with a look at the many issues companies face in recruiting and retaining staff as the changes to working practices accelerated by the pandemic force organisations and individuals to reassess their priorities. Some of the participants shared their own challenges, such as the need to improve their company brand proposition for candidates, including apprentices.

The need for a defined career path in an organisation was mentioned as a concern — was it essential? More than one attendee agreed that the organisational purpose was becoming far more important to existing staff and potential employees, with the question of culture and how that changes with an increasing number of people working remotely being another key issue.

The Importance of Connection

An important contribution was made by an attendee whose job is focused on employee engagement. They saw great value in improving inclusivity in the organisation, to understand what makes people feel connected and part of a team that’s delivering value, and that this should be considered in the context of remote/office teams but also disabled colleagues and others with barriers to the “standard” ways of working.

The challenge was to identify their perception of the technology experience — while there are always interesting new technologies to be implemented, some of the bigger wins come from removing hurdles from existing processes.

Dowd pointed to IDC research that showed that employees value the access to appropriate technology to perform their duties very highly, with only things like pay, safety and their health coming above that. This is a sign that the working experience, which plays into work-life balance and mental health, is of critical importance to employees.

A community member mentioned that their employer had worked hard to provide the right technology and office locations that people felt good about working from — offices in prime locations that attracted people who want to be in the middle of cities. He also talked about large organisations sometimes being unfairly criticised for company culture, when smaller teams often build and maintain their own individual culture and it is at this level of abstraction that we often need to focus. 

This point was picked up regarding the use of specialised communities in larger organisations, such as women’s groups, which can be very valuable but are not a substitute for proper inclusion in the teams in which people work.

Training for Success

Quite a lot of time was spent discussing the thorny issue of training. We all know of organisations that cut training budgets immediately there is a downturn, even though this is seen as a very important aspect of the employer/employee relationship.

Some people related stories of people in their organisations who actively avoid training, seeing it as an imposition. Others are keen to learn from their colleagues and external sources in their own time and in their normal workday. 

Understanding the motivations of individuals and the impact of training becomes important, since one size doesn’t always fit everyone. Just as we see in the retail environment with personalised experiences being accepted as a key to gaining and retaining customers, the personalised employee experience that addresses the specific motivations of staff was seen as a necessary evolution.

This includes targeted training for employees who may be at risk of becoming “digitally excluded” by the pace of change, and options for different learning options such as online sessions, informal knowledge sharing and classroom-based courses.

Employee Empowerment

As the conversation moved on the group talked about the inexorable advance of “citizen developer” tools such as low or no code systems. These are empowering if people know how to use them. 

Even teaching people how to use search engines more effectively can make a difference if you know your audience well enough, said a CIO on the call. At the other end of the scale, we heard of a programme that matched IT staff with other people from the organisation to develop proof-of-concept apps, so the benefits of collaboration could be understood.

Later in the discussion it became clear that there are some things that you can’t change about particular working environments, but there are mitigations that can be delivered through technology. By understanding the work environments and the various tools that people use to do their jobs, we can remove the barriers to achievement that can push people to look elsewhere, especially given the opportunities to work from a different city or even country from your colleagues.


In this discussion we heard from many contributors, and the experiences, ideas and challenges that were shared in this private forum were enlightening to many. It is clear that employee experience is now a genuine responsibility for digital leaders, although it’s fair to say that this isn’t always formalised or prioritised across a business. We live in a time where people’s access to high-quality technology solutions in their day-to-day lives is often better than at work, where regulatory or security concerns must be weighed up against wider considerations than people’s personal lives. 

However, this sets expectations that digital leaders must manage as best they can.

The IDC CIO Advisory team would like to thank everyone who came to the call for their input. It’s always inspiring to hear from those driving change in their business and taking the tough calls with their management colleagues. We hope this session was valuable and provided many takeaways for you.

Next month, we will discuss the rise of the API enterprise, how we are becoming more interconnected, what the business benefits are and what the challenge is for tech teams in delivering these outcomes. If you already receive invitations to our sessions I hope to see you there. If you would like to join this community, please email Marc Dowd

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