Filed under: Digital employee experience
There’s no question that implicitly we all want to provide our staff with digital tools and experiences that are productive and usable. We also know that employee engagement is critical, and that DEX plays a part in fostering that.
But when it comes down to practical matters, how do we tackle DEX in the real world?
In practice, DEX is both meaningful and tangible when it’s addressed from two directions: top down and bottom up. This article will explore both of these approaches.
DEX from the top down
One of the most powerful opportunities comes from articulating an overall DEX vision, indicating what the organisation wants to head towards in terms of the digital experience that will be provided to employees. This can be done in a variety of ways, including:
- Day-in-the-life stories that describe how one (or more) key groups of staff will work in the near future, spelling out their many interactions with the DEX.
- Videos and story boards, which visually show the desired future state.
- Prototypes and interactive mockups, which provide a greater level of detail.
- Journey maps, walking through an extended process or phase, such as onboarding a new employee.
- Vision statements, with supporting detail to articulate the desired digital employee experience.
The common thread through most of these approaches is the use of narrative, whether in words, pictures or videos. Our whitepaper A week in the digital workplace is one example of this, as are the storyboard above that was created to support a description of today’s onboarding experience in many firms.
The DEX vision is powerful in a number of ways.
- Providing senior leadership with a message that they can use to communicate to the whole firm, thereby helping to galvanise support for DEX activities.
- Helping to align activities that were formerly occurring in isolation, by outlining a destination that every project or system should be heading towards.
- Making DEX concrete, showing what it means beyond motherhood statements such as “foster a great experience for all employees”.
- Forming the heart of governance, as part of the “Direction” hex at the centre of the Intranet Operating Model.
DEX from the bottom up
Decisions are made every day by developers, designers, projects, process owners and system owners about what’s delivered to employees. This may be as simple as where the buttons are placed on a form, or which elements should appear on the intranet homepage.
Decisions will also shape what functionality is provided to staff, such as which of the new collaboration tools should be turned on for employees.
This is where a bottom-up approach to DEX can be powerful, by articulating design and usability standards that should be met or followed. This is the realm of classic user experience (UX) methodologies and guidelines, but applied to employees rather than to customers.
An organisational focus on DEX may encourage (or mandate!) the use of UX or human-centred design (HCD) techniques, such as:
- Usability testing to conduct practical experiments with employees to see if a system is easy to use.
- A/B testing to compare the effectiveness of different designs or messages.
- Tree testing, to assess whether a navigation scheme, such as an intranet’s overall information architecture (IA) makes sense to staff.
- Design thinking, to ensure that the overall design process truly engages with the needs of employees, as well as exploring many different potential solutions.
Delivering a great DEX can also be achieved through the use of standards or guidelines, such as:
- Accessibility guidelines, such as WCAG, to ensure employees with with a wide range of challenges and disabilities can use employee-facing solutions.
- Design patterns, that outline standardised and carefully thought out designs for how to tackle everything from what the submit button is called, through to repeatable workflows across systems.
- Broader design guidelines, such as a “global experience language” (see below) that provides a holistic resource for all aspects of design or development.
- Technical standards, such as mandating single sign-on, or responsive web design (RWD) for all applications.
- Formalised design processes that all teams and projects follow, such as one of the UX or HCD methodologies.
The purpose of all these elements is to help the many teams working across the organisation to deliver better solutions at the level of how things should work, and how they should be designed.
Covering both directions to deliver a great digital employee experience
What should be clear from the two sections above, is that you will need to cover both directions in order to deliver the greatest benefits.
From the top down, a clear DEX vision that’s endorsed by senior leadership provides the support and resources to shape a great employee experience.
From the bottom up, using best-practice design and UX methodologies ensures that solutions provide a great DEX, at the level of individual pages or screens. Needless to say, designing and delivering systems in this way costs time and money, which is what makes top-down support so important.
In short, describe and communicate a future direction for DEX, and then deliver systems and sites that work tremendously well for staff!
Want to know more?
Step Two provide expert advice and consultancy to firms wanting to deliver a better digital employee experience. Reach out, and let’s chat.