Employees across all industries are quitting their jobs and moving on to greener pastures as part of the Great Resignation, which has hit technology teams hard. To attract top tech talent, companies are raising the stakes by offering high salaries, signing bonuses, and other perks. State and local governments find themselves at a disadvantage, unable to fill open positions or retain their experienced tech employees.

MeriTalk recently sat down with Andrew Graf, chief product officer and co-founder of TeamDynamix, to discuss how government can recruit and retain top technology talent by tapping into automation to eliminate the daily grind of mundane tasks that lead to burnout and turnover.

Meritalk: We’ve heard a lot recently about the Great Resignation, where employees are quitting their jobs and moving on to other companies, changing careers, or even leaving the workforce entirely. A recent survey found that 72 percent of employees working in IT roles say they are thinking of quitting their jobs in the next 12 months. Fifty-eight percent said they were suffering from burnout. What’s causing this high rate of employee turnover and burnout on technology teams?

Graf: There are many reasons for high turnover in technology, especially with shifting paradigms and changing work habits with the recent move to more remote work environments. But one of the big reasons we see technology staff moving on is the impact of what I call “toil.” Toil is all the mundane things that tech teams have to do. Think about the IT Service Desk where they are managing a high volume of requests for things like password resets, name changes, onboarding and offboarding new staff across the organization. These are required tasks, but they aren’t fulfilling to most IT professionals, and they take a lot of time. A recent survey by TeamDynamix and Information Week found that over half of all employees spend more than five hours a week, totaling six weeks a year, on mindless work tasks. For many in IT, I think this is probably closer to 10 hours a week.

Most people enjoy being intellectually engaged at work – working on important problems, building new programs, and trying things they haven’t done before. Mundane tasks take away from that more engaging work. Government technology leaders can combat the Great Resignation by addressing the toil that leads to smart IT people spending weeks of their work lives just clicking buttons. By automating those mundane tasks, IT professionals can focus on things that are more intellectually rewarding, which keeps them engaged with the team and the agency, and less likely to move on to greener pastures.

MeriTalk: We also know that tech workers are leaving because of limited opportunities for career progression. What factors limit career progression in technology?

Graf: In that same survey, we have another early finding that that 89% of the participants reference toil, drag, and resource drain as a contributor to attrition. A lot of it comes down to not getting exposure to new things and not feeling intellectually engaged at work. Looking for a new job is reasonable if you are bored at work. Digital transformation presents a lot of opportunities for people to learn new skills and work on more strategic initiatives. But they need time to do those things. Agencies can help by removing the mundane tasks that weigh people down and make people not want to go into work. At TeamDynamix, we worked with an organization that was able to automate roughly 100 processes over the last year. Ninety percent of those tasks were automated by non-developers with our no-code platform. This involves everything from full on/off boarding workflows to Active Directory updates to ticket cleanup.

MeriTalk: Let’s talk about what can be done to better support tech workers. What can agencies do to reduce tech employee resignations and burnout? What role can technology play?

Graf: Incremental changes to the daily grind can make a big difference in retaining team members and avoiding burnout. Simply talk to your team. Ask them what they hate doing, and then find a way to automate it. There’s always low-hanging fruit in technology. Start with the IT Service Desk because so much ends up with this team. Start automating those tasks one at a time and build momentum. Team members will recognize that they are being listened to and are valued. People get really excited about incremental improvements in their work environment. Those improvements remove reasons they want to leave their job and add reasons they want to stay.

MeriTalk: What are some of the key tasks within agency IT Service Desks that can be automated? Besides improving efficiency, what are some of the other benefits of automation?

Graf: One of the biggest pain points for IT shops is employee onboarding and offboarding. Those processes tend to be highly complex, involve lots of departments, and they are labor intensive. They are also error prone, which could lead to security and compliance issues. Integrating and automating onboarding and offboarding tasks can save a significant amount of time and remove a mundane, often thankless task from an IT employee. Other tasks that can be automated include permission changes, name changes, and password resets. Also, any complex process that requires a lot of communication or notification, such as when there is a change to your environment, can be automated. This often reduces calls and questions after the event has happened.

MeriTalk: What are some of the barriers holding agencies back from implementing automation tools? How can agencies overcome those barriers?

Graf: One of the biggest barriers to integration and automation is that technology teams are accustomed to doing things by coding – using scripts and APIs and writing against them directly. This is a shift, and that is a barrier. I’ve never met with a team that doesn’t have an integration backlog that’s over a year deep. They are just trying to stay afloat and changing the way they do things isn’t something they have time to think about. Another barrier is a lack of awareness. People don’t know that there is a better way to do those mundane tasks. Then there is the budget. Small municipalities and public sector organizations may want to automate, but they think it is too expensive. That simply isn’t true anymore. At TeamDynamix, we deliberately built our integration platform and automation tools to be accessible and easy to use without requiring specialized developers and at a low total cost of ownership; the barriers to entry are now gone.

MeriTalk: Can you give me an example of an automation project that improved the workflow for tech teams, giving them more time for other projects?

Graf: TeamDynamix worked with the Oklahoma City government, who lacked a true IT service management (ITSM) platform. They had 100 people providing IT services for more than 5,000 city employees but were using a very basic ticketing application that gave employees limited visibility into the status of their service requests. It did not triage or route tickets and there wasn’t a self-service portal. Employees had to be connected to the city network to create and update service tickets, and services that involved multiple groups within IT had to be manually routed. It was complicated, time consuming, and mundane for those on the desk. The agency implemented the TeamDynamix ITSM platform, which integrated and automated those processes. They now have a self-service portal to meet employees’ IT needs more effectively and the technicians can benefit from automated routing, embedded KB links, mass communication, mass updating, change management, asset tracking, and more.

Onboarding and offboarding employees are other key use cases for automation – but the possibilities are endless. Creating and managing virtual machines is mundane toil that can be automated. Then there are tasks that seem so basic but cause such a headache for tech teams – Active Directory updates, user and group permission changes, password resets. Automating the daily grind could take months of mundane work out of the hands of overworked technology teams.

MeriTalk: How do TeamDynamix solutions differ from other solutions on the market?

Graf: When we set out to develop our solutions, we aim to create something that is easy to use, own, and operate. Whether that is our ITSM platform, our Project Portfolio Management (PPM) platform, or the integration and automation (iPaaS) solution, we take a customer-first approach to really understand their pain points.

We are a no-code platform, which gives customers a low administrative burden. Our platform is easy to implement, and we offer white glove service from our in-house team to get agencies up and running; there is no need for a third party to handle implementation. So many times, in technology, great software gets implemented wrong and then everyone hates it. With TeamDynamix, our team supports the implementation.

Because of our white glove service, low administrative burden, and the fact that we package all the capabilities of an integration and automation platform into one tool, we have a 98 percent customer retention rate.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.