The digital workplace is not a technology platform. While many technology solutions will contribute to the delivery of the digital workplace, it’s the employee experience that must drive the vision and strategy.
As outlined in our digital workplace definition, a great digital workplace delivers simplicity, productivity and usability. It works as a seamless whole, regardless of its breadth and depth of functionality.
Putting the employee experience at the heart of the digital workplace is a challenge for organisations, but it also provides a practical pathway to delivering valuable outcomes.
First customers, now the workforce
The concept of the customer experience (CX) is now a part of mainstream thinking in most businesses and government agencies. This brings a holistic view to the end-to-end interactions between customers and the organisation.
It goes beyond basic usability and findability, to encompass:
- deeply understanding customer needs (often communicated as personas)
- establishing rich analytics to drive decision-making
- reshaping entire experiences, not just tweaking existing interfaces
- finding opportunities to deliver new or better services
- strategic alignment with product development and organisational strategy
The time is now right to apply similar methodologies, targeting the workforce, not just customers.
Use the employee experience to reshape how we work
There are no shortage of opportunities to improve how organisations operate. Legacy systems and paper-based activities still abound. Hours of every day are wasted working around broken processes or struggling to find the information that’s needed. All of this adds up to a measurable impact on the bottom line, and the success of the business.
The challenge is that many of these issues ‘fall between the chairs’ of existing responsibilities. As in the customer-facing space, there is a need to look at the holistic picture of how things work, not just the individual elements.
For these reasons, the same robust approach should be brought to the employee experience as is used in the customer experience space.
To make the most progress, and to see the greatest benefits, address five aspects.
- Target high value areas of the workforce
- Take a data-driven approach
- Establish an EX ‘tiger team’
- Deliver solutions, not just designs
- Align EX with CX
1. Target high value areas of the workforce
The truth is that not all staff are equally important, and neither are all business processes. While it’s natural for centrally placed teams to focus on ‘common’ activities that touch all staff, these may not be the most fruitful targets.
Instead of applying resources to improving back-office functions such as HR, seek out the high value areas of the workforce. These are almost always at the front line, such as customer service staff, field engineers, sales staff, etc.
This shifts the role of the central team from platform owners to solutions providers, enabling them to tackle directly the biggest employee experience issues.
2. Take a data-driven approach
The starting point for every employee experience must be to conduct robust field research, and to tell the stories of problems and needs. (Personas can be an effective way of doing this, as are journey maps.) This is, however, not sufficient to drive strong enough business cases to enable real change.
Employee experience projects must take a lead from customer experience initiatives, and adopt a data-driven approach. This must go beyond simply measuring basic usability (eg how long does it take to find information on the intranet) to measure real business impact and issues.
For example, one of our clients made a change in the organisation-wide ERP solution. This had a big impact on the sales teams, greatly increasing the time needed to gather necessary reports before going to prospective customers.
In this instance, the head of the sales division estimated that each sales person was missing out on one sale per week, at an average cost of $5,000 per sale. This added up to a large yearly figure, and was a clear driver for improving the employee experience for this segment of the workforce.
3. Establish an EX ‘tiger team’
Employee experience teams must be resourced to a level similar to CX teams. Many organisations have met this need in CX teams by taking a ‘blended team’ approach that mixes permanent in-house staff with a pool of external contractors and consultants. A similar approach should be considered for EX groups.
In practice, employee experience may not be tackled by a stand-alone team. Instead, it may be a function within an existing team, complementing existing intranet and digital workplace activities. Depending on the focus of EX initiatives, this function may be equally well situated within IT as within internal communications, the traditional owners of the intranet.
4. Deliver solutions, not just designs
To see real change, employee experience projects must deliver concrete solutions, not just wireframes and design concepts. This will require EX teams to have access to both web and development skills, ideally following an agile methodology.
Continuing the example of the sales team outlined above, a solution may consist of a new web tool that overlays the ERP platform. This would make use of APIs and web hooks to draw together the information required by the salespeople, slashing wasted time and improving sales effectiveness.
5. Align EX with CX
Methodologies such as ‘service design’ emphasise that customer interactions include both outward-facing and internal interactions. Yet in practice, many CX teams are weak on the enterprise knowledge and skills needed to change internal processes. This leads to an almost exclusive focus on customer-facing elements, limiting the degree of change that can be achieved.
A well-resourced EX function can work hand-in-hand with the CX team, coordinating activities and projects. This provides win-win outcomes: customer-oriented transformations are more complete, because they address internal blockers; workforce-oriented initiatives have a greater alignment with customer outcomes, strengthening the business case for change.
Growing a new field
Customer experience started gradually and piecemeal as a discipline, not with a bang. Once it reached a tipping point, it then gained wide recognition and adoption.
Employee experience is still in its early stages as a discipline and methodology, but the rewards are great. Now is the time to take the opportunity to grow this capability, and to use it to transform the way organisations operate.