By: John Bonoff
If you feel like you’ve seen the phrase “employee experience” a lot lately, you are not alone. For the last several years, an employee-centric mode of business has been promoted as a competitive advantage by McKinsey, Gallup, and many others. One author named 2017 as the year of the employee experience, as did another who said the same about 2018, then another who made the proclamation for 2019, and another in regard to 2020. Clearly, the trend isn’t going away, in fact the opposite seems to be the case; creating a work environment that fosters positive experiences for both employees and customers is a challenge that constantly evolves, just as quickly as we can construct a digital workplace to solve for it.
Every year brings new obstacles for creating a positive employee experience, and the last twelve months were certainly no exception. Most companies had to take on a surplus of digital tools and processes while grappling with a loss of proximity and human connection. Through the onslaught of ups and downs, businesses have started to find a balance between productivity and employee satisfaction, but the only guarantee in our increasingly digital landscape is more change. To continue delivering experiences that help employees do their best work, you will need a strategy that addresses today’s digital workplace, as well as tomorrow’s. Use this short list to get started.
Strengthen your technology lineup
A good place to start when strengthening your digital workplace are the technologies employees use to talk and work with one another every day. Do different teams and departments have vastly different usage habits for your meeting or chat software? Would education or training around internal communication tools benefit them? One application, like Slack or MS Teams, for instance, may not be serving one team as well as another, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced or supplemented. Thoroughly fleshing out the different ways a tool can be used will go a long way in establishing an efficient tech stack. In the words of Matt Cain, VP Analyst at Gartner, “…the pandemic rapidly elevated many digital workplace technologies from nice-to-have to must-have status.” Ensure that your most essential technologies support your organization as a whole, then work up from there. Constructing a winning tech stack will be equal parts auditing current tools against the habits and preferences of your employees, and exploring new options like cloud services, AI, and content. Balance both to create a more connected, effective digital workforce.
Double down on security
A year of intense digital transformation has altered the face of industries like telecom, manufacturing, and banking, to name a few. For companies trying to adapt in these sectors, choosing the technology that best supports remote work is just the tip of the iceberg. With a distributed workforce who tend to use third-party applications and personal devices in a work capacity, security and privacy are primary concerns. “Traditional security methods that rely on established perimeters, password authentication, and manual permission management are now obsolete,” says Forbes’ Sébastien Ricard in his article, The Importance of Digital Workplace Security. In addition, our societal demands for company transparency and data protection are constant.
So how can you keep up? Some of Ricard’s suggestions include replacing simple password requirements with more complex authentication systems, preventing data loss by instituting several layers of security, and vetting all employee applications by verifying every device, user, and network without exception. To ensure that employees stay informed about any security messaging or updates, consider leveraging automation features in your communications. With so many additional access points and channels for communication in our digital age, there should be an equal amount of security to go with them. Online security should be thorough, and even redundant, to prevent a breach of customer or employee information. This fortification will help to create a sustainable, safe experience for remote workers.
Grow your digital culture
While perfecting your digital workplace does mean tech, tech, and more tech, productivity needs to be balanced with intuitive daily operations. In other words, we have to make the digital feel human. One way to ensure that employees don’t get bogged down in a digital world is to use technology to reinforce company culture wherever possible. From your use of employee communication software to make onboarding more personal, to the ways you might leverage your HRIS to recognize individual employees, each tool or piece of tech you invest in should be vetted for the possible ways it can impact company culture. On the flip side, setting clear expectations for employee connectedness throughout the work week will help promote a more positive digital culture, and avoid employee burnout. “This growing problem of burnout and being constantly ‘tethered’ to work by mobile devices, email, or other digital formats results in lost productivity and high turnover for companies,” reports Deloitte. Even in a “work from anywhere” culture, make sure that employees are spending time outside their digital work world, and that while they are inside, your technology serves their shared experience as much as possible.
Establish personas and metrics
As we covered above, the right technology may look different from one employee group to the next. Parsing out the different needs these groups may have and addressing gaps in tech adoption is a critical step in building a connected enterprise. You’ll also want to consider how the technology needs and habits of employees may be similar across departments, and potentially revise employee personas when it comes to technology. Take, for example, the persona model developed by BNY Mellon, which defines attributes like technology adoption and mobile use, content creation, consumption and sharing, and organizational knowledge. Establishing accurate personas can help you find the right technology, and the additional data can help optimize the employee experience.
Finally, in addition to identifying employee tech habits and personas, make sure to check back in after changes to IT and HR programs have been made. You’ll need to define success metrics as you continue to make updates, whether it be employee surveys, engagement, or measuring the usage of a new application. Establishing metrics will not only help you understand your ROI, but help point you in the right direction as you continue to perfect your digital workplace.
Over the last year, we saw and experienced a hard shift toward digitalization, and now is the time to recalibrate these changes for your employee population. It is an ongoing process of optimizing workflows, implementing new tools, fortifying security and privacy, enriching culture, and understanding employee needs that continue to evolve. In this time of continuous change, a strong digital workplace is the key to a motivated, productive workforce. Create your digital workplace strategy to make 2021 the year of the employee experience at your organization.