Time is a luxury that IT workers don’t often have – and that’s particularly true after the massive upheaval all of our businesses have experienced since the pandemic.

Ever since the working model changed overnight and digital transformation accelerated to warp speed, IT teams have had to implement new initiatives quickly in order to keep up.

But how can they know that these initiatives have been successful? How can they measure the impact that they’re having on employee experience, when the way employees work has fundamentally changed?

Like many other organizations around the world, our team at Tech Mahindra has learned plenty about what measuring IT success means in light of these massive changes. One of those lessons is this: the traditional Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that IT teams have used for years to determine success are insufficient.

The tried-and-true performance metrics of yesterday only hold value when combined with more realistic and actionable indicators of employees’ actual experiences – the kind of metrics that make up XLAs.

The value of XLAs for the digital workplace is only increasing.

For those new to the concept, Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) represent a set of metrics that aim to measure employee experience across the organization. These metrics, gathered in real-time as employees interact with IT services, provide IT teams with a much more holistic understanding of every aspect of employees’ technology experiences.

XLAs have been gaining traction in the technology space for some time now. But in the aftermath of widespread remote work, they’ve evolved from a rarity to a necessity for today’s most forward-thinking IT departments.

Organizations are spending millions on new technology focused on self-service, automation, and other solutions designed to make employees as productive as possible regardless of working environment. Despite the intention behind these investments – helping employees – they come with side-effects that put employee experience at risk if left untracked and unmanaged.

With so many solutions being deployed rapidly and often simultaneously, not all employees possess the digital dexterity to keep up. While SLAs are effective at measuring IT service delivery performance, they rely on surface-level KPIs that don’t paint the full picture of how successful these initiatives actually are.

In other words, IT runs the risk of leaving these struggling or dissatisfied employees behind. This outdated framework creates what we call the “watermelon effect” – green on the outside, red on the inside – as IT is hitting on all of KPIs while beneath the surface, employees grow disgruntled.

XLAs enable IT departments to avoid this pitfall with metrics designed to proactively explore and improve employee experience in real-time.

Rather than collect occasional employee feedback, or declare victory after meeting SLA thresholds, they’re able to capture, analyze and visualize data points related to adoption, device performance, and other key indicators of employees’ actual day-to-day and moment-to-moment experiences.

XLAs redefine the way modern IT service is delivered.

Of course, adopting XLAs is a more elaborate process than simply focusing on a new set of metrics.

It relies on ongoing gathering and management of detailed employee experience data – and thus necessitates a reconfiguration of the structure and strategic philosophy of an IT department. But XLAs deliver benefits that extend far beyond what is possible with a traditional SLA framework:

Make improvements in real-time.

SLAs are reactive in nature – particularly when it comes to KPIs that are clear lag indicators. Take for example the customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys that IT teams deploy after incidents are resolved. Not only are these surveys optional and often misleading; there’s also a time-gap between when results are received and when corrective responses are implemented.

With the visibility that fuels an XLA framework, IT teams are measuring and reporting on every employee touchpoint in real-time. They’re able to visualize lead indicators rather than lag indicators – meaning they can proactively address poor user experiences without waiting for employees to voice their complaints.

Enable an agile workplace.

The insights that IT teams glean from experience metrics allow them to match the rapid speed of digital transformation. As remote and hybrid workforces continue to evolve, there will be more pressure on IT to execute new initiatives without hurting employee experience.

By gathering the “voice of the customer” throughout this process, both through visibility into XLA metrics and targeted engagement, IT leaders will be able to lead faster and more agile transformation initiatives that don’t leave any employees behind.

Place employees at the center of IT.

Ultimately, the shift towards an XLA framework is about reframing what successful IT looks like. Whereas SLA metrics emphasize IT’s efficiency in delivering service, every XLA metric serves the purpose of uncovering and improving employee experience.

As workplace technology becomes more complex, understanding digital experiences through an employee-centric framework will become more vital to every organization’s IT strategy.

SLAs aren’t obsolete; they still provide value when it comes to measuring performance. But XLAs provide support teams with a roadmap to a future of innovation, transformation, and – most importantly – more engaged, productive, and satisfied employees.