Bob Morris is the Executive Director of Delivery at ThreeWill. Bob leads the delivery of all services which focus on helping clients leverage Microsoft Cloud technologies to provide innovative business solutions and drive real value through people-focused adoption programs.
“Improve the employee experience” has become the mantra of many organizations these days. One of the key ways to accomplish this may be hiding in plain sight.
Hiding in Plain Sight
The tremendous impact of the pandemic over the past two years continues to reverberate across both large and small organizations globally with a renewed focus on “employee experience”. As the name implies, “Employee Experience” (EX) is the set of experiences employees have as they perform their jobs. These experiences can span a broad spectrum of areas, including things like pay, benefits, physical & psychological safety, work location, space & facilities, tools & equipment, policies, inclusion, growth opportunities, management & leadership, succession, fairness, support for work/life balance, etc.
In my previous blog (Microsoft VIVA Requires a New Technology Perspective), I mentioned that there has been an alignment of multiple factors that greatly amplify the importance of employee experience in today’s business environment, including:
- We live in a service economy now, with over 80% of all jobs being service-related, i.e., “the employee is the product”.
- Demographics are adding tremendous pressures to improve productivity with a shrinking workforce, a rapidly declining unemployment rate, and “the great resignation”.
- Flexible work arrangements, including remote & hybrid work, are the norm.
- Even before the pandemic, employee productivity had been declining despite a variety of new tools and technologies.
- Information overload and employee burnout are at all-time highs.
Why is EX important now? The stark reality is that there is a “war for talent” going on, and organizations (of all sizes) must face a new reality when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees. The “old days” of posting job descriptions and interviewing a pool of candidates to choose the best fit have been replaced by aggressive targeting of candidates followed by interviews where candidates essentially interview the company (asking about the work environment, culture, leadership style, etc. in addition to pay & benefits) and then pick from multiple offers.
The result is that employers are now spending record amounts of money on ways to improve EX to retain employees rather than engaging in the “war for talent”.
Nearly every job in today’s service economy depends on interactions with technology at some level. If employees perceive those interactions (or “digital experiences”) as tedious, time-consuming, or wasteful, they can significantly impact the overall EX. These interactions with technology as employees perform their job functions are known as the “digital employee experience (DEX)”. DEX covers the entire “attract – retain – deploy – develop” employee lifecycle.
Technology is an intrinsic aspect of most areas of overall EX. So, the DEX seems to be “hiding in plain sight” as an essential way to improve EX. However, there are some not-so-obvious considerations to think through before using the “DEX” lever to improve EX in your organization.
Key Considerations for Improving DEX
- First and foremost is reducing the friction of getting things done. Reducing friction sounds obvious, right? But – is it? Do you really know what the pain points are for your employees in their DEX? If the answer is no – ask them!
- When selecting where you want to invest in improving your DEX, you need to use an “EX-centered mindset”. This means asking “how can it help?” instead of “what can it do?” as a guiding principle in selecting technology. This mindset should also include considering the impacts of technology change fatigue on your employees.
- Another often overlooked consideration is technology’s role in “catching signals” from employees. Many organizations now run their technology operations on cloud-based platforms. Some of these platforms (like Microsoft 365) have tools to help employers look for EX signals through employees’ day-to-day use of their tools and incorporate those signals into ongoing strategy and motivate actions for immediate response.
- In their 2016 book, “The Progress Principle”, Teresa Amabile & Steven Kramer note that employee productivity and engagement are two sides of the same coin. In other words, engaged/happy employees are more productive, and more productive employees are happier and have a better EX. So, approaching DEX through improved productivity has a powerful impact on overall EX.
“Rolling the Boulder Up the Hill”
Improving DEX can seem like the proverbial “rolling a boulder up the hill” problem. Despite consistent prolonged efforts to improve DEX, there are unique challenges that can cause these efforts to go off-track and potentially require starting from scratch again, i.e., the “boulder rolls back to the bottom of the hill”. These challenges include:
- Risks with technology choices – The challenge here is finding a platform that can fit both your current and future needs. Understanding your current needs and having a roadmap covering likely future needs is vital.
- Costs – Attempting to address all aspects of your DEX needs upfront could be potentially cost-prohibitive for some smaller organizations. If that’s you, you should identify a technology partner to guide and assist you (I’d humbly suggest ThreeWill! 🙂 ) in making incremental investments that bring you step-by-step closer to fully implementing your overall strategy.
- Stakeholder resistance – It’s common for organizations to encounter stakeholder resistance when executing a DEX improvement program. This resistance spans a broad spectrum from “We’ve always done it that way”! to “I’m too busy!” to “How do you know it will work?” to “How can we be sure the investment of money and time will be worth it?” Ignore this challenge at your own peril. Any DEX improvement efforts that ignore people impacts and resistance will likely fail.
These challenges can be particularly acute for small and medium businesses that cannot afford several “trips up the hill” with the boulder.
Develop Your Brand of DEX Success
So, what does success look like to you, and how can you avoid having the “boulder roll down the hill”? Each organization has its own unique “friction points”, organizational culture, and available budget for DEX improvement efforts.
Use a trusted guide
In general, success starts with using a guide to help you make those initial “baby steps” with DEX initiatives and serve as a trusted partner for the journey ahead. There is a dizzying array of cloud platforms and apps that potentially impact the DEX, and there is no single mix of solutions that applies equally to all organizations. You should work with a partner, like ThreeWill, with deep platform technical expertise, capabilities to address the “people aspects” of technology change, and proven experience in guiding businesses through the journey of implementing incremental DEX improvements cost-effectively.
Start with Why
ThreeWill subscribes to the fundamental belief posited by Simon Sinek in his book “Start With Why” that any important initiatives for organizations should start with the “why”. Starting with “why” helps you define your specific vision of success for your DEX initiatives. It’s essential to tackle your “why” before making decisions on “what” and “how”.
Talk to your employees
As mentioned earlier, you need to talk to your employees to identify real-world friction points that your DEX initiative can address. Understanding this information also helps formulate typical employee personas in your organization that can guide all your incremental investments in the DEX. Typical “friction areas” we’ve encountered with our clients involve communication, collaboration, or coordination/automation. Some examples (just to name a few) include:
- Consistent corporate communications (leadership blogs, corporate news, departmental procedures/reference material, newsletters, etc.)
- Document management (both within teams/departments and across teams/departments)
- Employee onboarding/offboarding
- Team collaboration (documents, conversations, chats, and meetings)
- Employee sentiment (surveys, insights)
- Supporting remote/hybrid employees
- Process automation (approvals, workflows, and any simple but tedious tasks employees currently perform)
- Finding information (documents, people, curated knowledge)
If you made it to the end of this blog – thanks! I hope you found some valuable tips informing you why DEX is vitally important now more than ever and motivating you to start your own DEX journey. For more information about the “how” and “what” of DEX and an in-depth treatment of the DEX journey, take a look at these other blogs from ThreeWill: