Will Holland is a Principal Software Engineer at ThreeWill. Will has proven to be adept at understanding a client’s needs and matching them with the appropriate solution. Recently he’s developed a passion for working with .NET, MVC, and cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365.
If you can, rewind your brain to somewhere in the middle of the last decade. Professionally speaking, where were you and your organization?
Here at ThreeWill circa 2015, we were trying to help as many people as we could get their data, intranets, and applications into the cloud.
I recall being personally involved in numerous sales calls as a “technical advisor”. The customer’s focus for most of these calls was all about cost savings. How much money were they going to save by NOT having on-prem hardware that you had to maintain (or fix when it went down at 2 am on a Saturday morning).
It wasn’t a personally rewarding endeavor – I wanted to talk about all the great new features and capabilities we could help take advantage of – but financial ROI is what decision-makers cared about, so I simply accepted it as a means to a (more fun) end.
Now, travel back to the present. As weird as it is to associate anything positive with the COVID-19 pandemic, one silver lining is the change in what those same decision-makers are now focused on; a change that I’ve witnessed first-hand countless times over the past few years.
Rather than simply talking about ROI in financial terms, they’re asking questions about how they can help boost their employee’s experience – and that’s my favorite question to hear.
What is Employee Experience?
The simplest answer to this question is that an employee’s experience is how they feel about being employed by the organization they work for. Every interaction, positive or negative, that a person has while on the job helps to form their opinion.
These interactions can be anything from a conversation with a coworker in the breakroom, the amenities found in that room, or the fact that there is no break room for conversations and coffee. The people. The perks. The tools. Your company culture…they all get fed into how people feel about their place of employment.
We call this feeling an employee’s “engagement level”. How engaged someone is, usually ranked from Disengaged to Highly Engaged, is used to describe how much a person feels that the company they work for – and the work they’re doing – aligns with their personal happiness.
A person who is completely disengaged is one who would likely agree with the statement “I’m just here for the money” and is likely to leave at the first available opportunity. Someone more in the middle might be considering your organization’s career advancement opportunities, and someone at the highest levels of engagement might feel that their work leads them towards the fulfillment of purpose.
The above image (borrowed from my friend Mike Homol’s recent blog post) matches engagement level to something known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you’ve ever googled “Employee Experience”, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a variation of the above before.
To oversimplify, Maslow’s pyramid says that in order for a human being to be truly happy, certain needs must be met. He categorizes these needs into five levels and tells us that before you can address the needs of one level, the levels beneath it must be realized first.
In other words, for you to be happy you’ll need to feel safe (Job, Financial, Health, etc..). However, if you don’t have access to food, water, shelter, or air (our basic needs as a human)…feeling safe is out of reach.
What does this have to do with employee experience? Well, it turns out that the same principles to general happiness can also be applied to our lives as employees. While the exact needs are a bit different, an employee’s needs can be broken down into the same levels. As an example, the basic needs for an employee are things like a clean and safe working environment, access to restrooms, and time set aside for eating.
If you don’t provide those things, you can expect people to quickly look for an exit and those that do stick around aren’t going to be able to be their best selves. It’s hard to be productive when you’re hungry and need “to go” but can’t.
It all boils down to three facts: An engaged employee is happier and more productive. All employees – from the CEO on down – have the same general needs. You cannot increase engagement further than an employee’s needs are being met.
What, then, is a “Digital Employee Experience”
In a way, it’s a subset of an overall EXP, but an increasingly important one that can help reinforce your overall engagement…or hinder it if left ignored.
A lot of organizations will put a lot of emphasis on the physical spaces that their employees occupy. Office plans, décor, amenities, etc.; all of which are important and do have a measurable impact on engagement.
For a lot of employees, now more than ever, most of their daily activities occur in a digital environment as opposed to a physical one. Yet despite this new normal, many organizations are struggling to address the new set of needs and challenges they and their employees face.
Why does it matter?
Because the way work gets done has changed, likely forever, and your organization has to choose to adapt, or risk being left behind.
If you haven’t done so lately, I highly recommend heading over to any one of the top job posting websites and peek at their list of recommended searches and you’ll see some form of “remote” or “work-from-home” option at or near the top of “most searched”.
Whereas before remote positions were somewhat of an oddity, today’s employees have no trouble finding an employer who is all too happy to offer permanent work-from-home positions.
Even if you offer the same benefit, if your organization is one that’s struggling to meet those new needs and challenges of your remote workers, you’re elevating your risk of losing great people and those that do stay will have a much more difficult time reaching their full potential; and if they can’t reach theirs, you’ll never be able to reach yours.
How does ThreeWill help?
ThreeWill has been in the business of helping organizations use technology to “Work Together Better”, as one of our past taglines said, for its history and that mission hasn’t changed to this day. What has changed, however, is what it takes to be successful in today’s market.
As mentioned, today’s employee has a world full of other opportunities at their fingertips and it’s the job of your organization to give people a reason to stay, be it in a cubicle or on their own couch.
A part of being successful in that is to make sure that you’re enabling your workforce to get their job done regardless of wherever they may be and in a way that is as frustration-free as possible. Microsoft Teams is the premier collaboration tool on the M365 cloud and, in this author’s opinion, anywhere.
However, like a flame, it’s a tool that can be as harmful as it can be helpful if not used properly and with care. You’ll find no shortage of stories of people who have been burned by hastily rolling out software and Teams is no exception.
That’s why we created our Microsoft Teams Deployment service offering, where not only will your users be trained on the features and functionality of the software but we’ll also help you to define what we call your “Contract for Collaboration”, which aims to help educate users on how to use the tool without getting burned.
This contract defines what Teams your organization needs to support your operation and the teams of people that make it happen. It also addresses how members of those Teams will use it to facilitate their duties and stay organized so that all members of the team know where they can find conversations and documents.
Taking care of people’s basic needs is essential, but it will take more than that to keep them feeling like they’re more than just an employee; they can get that anywhere. People want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger and organizations who are successful in connecting with their employees on this level will find their workers happier and more engaged.
With our Intelligent Intranet service offering, we focus on leveraging SharePoint to build an intranet for your organization that helps you connect employees to each other and to your organization through news, such as an employee spotlight, and authoritative information, such as upcoming birthdays or company-sponsored events.
We’ll also take advantage of Viva Connections, assuming you’ve rolled-out Teams already, to surface your new intranet inside of Microsoft Teams so that users can not only stay up-to-date with the latest news and information without ever having to leave Teams, but also be poised to take advantage of the handy new Dashboard feature provided by Viva that can help boost productivity and engagement even further.
Last, but certainly not least, we want to help you look for ways to help empower your people to be their best selves.
There’s actually a handful of different ways that we like to help organizations do this, but I’ll focus on the big three: deploying the Power Platform center of excellence, application modernization, and process automation.
Power Platform Center of Excellence
The Power Platform is an extremely powerful tool that has the potential to turn anyone in your organization into a developer. However, like Teams, it can cause some heartburn for your organization if not managed correctly. Thankfully, Microsoft created the Center of Excellence (CoE) to help do just that and, as your first step, we’ll want to get that installed. Doing so will give your organization insight into who in your organization is leveraging the Power Platform, what they’re building, and how effective their creations are.
You can read more about the CoE by reading this blog by fellow ThreeWill-er Mike Homol: Should My Organization Care About Power Platform Adoption?
Modernize Applications to boost productivity
Once that’s in place, we’ll want to begin looking at ways to help your users leverage the Power Platform to create new (or replace antiquated) apps that help them streamline otherwise frustrating or tedious activities as we did for Cox Enterprises’ corporate tax team.
Automate the boring stuff
And, speaking of tedium, we’ll also want to learn about any business processes, formal or informal, they currently have, that could be turned into automated processes. Microsoft has invested heavily in making automation and artificial intelligence accessible and, as I wrote in my Level Up Your Employee Experience With Process Automation blog post, nothing brings me more joy than freeing up people’s time to focus on things they care about by automating things they don’t enjoy doing (but still need to be done).
Putting it all together
At the end of this journey, not only will everyone in your organization have their basic technology needs met, but they’ll be connected with the people and events around them. They’ll see you and the organization both represented as one that not only helps people survive but also one that helps them thrive. And if you can help your people feel that, you and your organization will thrive in turn.
I’ll also be presenting a free webinar on this subject on June 9th, 2022. Sign up using the link below!
If you’d like to learn more about this journey and how ThreeWill can help guide you along the path, click the button below.