Taking a Product Management Approach to Your Digital Employee Experience Initiative

A while ago we talked about the need to involve the right teams when building your digital workplace strategy. It’s an important topic because including the right people in the planning discussions has a huge impact on the resulting quality of the experiences you provide. You simply can’t implement technology solutions that address the individualized needs of an entire workforce if you don’t understand the goals, fears, and success metrics of the main stakeholder groups (IT, HR and internal comms).

The Nature of Work has Changed – Probably Forever

A lot has changed since we last discussed this topic so we wanted to revisit it - though this time through the lens of adapting to the massive change that’s taken place in the past year.

Covid-19 has forever altered the way work gets done. Physical office spaces will never be the same and distributed workforces have become the norm for many organizations that have realized  offices aren’t a requirement for business success.

For many employees the digital workplace has become the only workplace. Because of that, the need for experiences that are a streamlined, personalized, and contextual is now imperative.

To be clear, it’s still important to make sure that the right people are sitting at the table when making digital workplace decisions. Perspectives from across the organization are needed to create experiences that support employee success and are in alignment with business goals. But given the urgent need to make sure employees are empowered to work effectively wherever they are, we’d now recommend taking a product management approach to implementing a digital employee experience initiative.

What’s a Product Management Approach to DEX?

A product management approach to the digital employee experience starts with assigning formal ownership. Designate a single entity to the initiative who is accountable from inception to completion for understanding both stakeholder and employee needs, identifying the business outcomes, building the business case, establishing metrics, owning the roadmap, and working with the right people across the organization, from UX designers, communicators, IT, etc.

It makes sense – of course there has to be accountability to make any progress. But achieving this can actually be more difficult than it sounds because it flies directly in the face of how technology and the employee experience are typically approached in organizations.

HR might address employee experience by revamping the onboarding process, a decision that makes sense because onboarding is the first impression an organization makes on an employee. It’s got to be good if companies are going to attract and retain top talent. IT, on the other hand, might focus on improving the experience for employees by rolling out a chatbot to streamline service center processes. And  finance might opt to roll out a new mobile expense tool aimed at simplifying the expense submission process.

Finding a single technology to meet all of those perfectly reasonable goals would be impossible, so it stands to reason that each department would just strike out on their own to implement technology aimed at improving the experience in their specific domains. The problem with that approach, however, is that it fails to consider the impact a siloed approach has on the workers themselves.

Formal ownership of the employee experience – ideally someone with responsibility for the digital workplace –would solve this problem. That ownership group could then treat DEX as an official project to be managed rather than an ideal to be implemented. This type of approach would ensure that goals are established, deadlines are met, and progress is made – progress that helps the entire organization operate more efficiently, even during times of unprecedented change.

The process would still involve all the necessary stakeholders we discussed previously, representatives from HR, IT, internal comms, finance, facilities, etc. It might even make sense to create a steering committee. But the formal ownership group would work directly with all stakeholders (including employees – that’s a must) across the enterprise to take the programmatic steps necessary to deliver flexible, engaging experiences. This process should include:

  • Documenting stakeholder priorities to ensure a holistic vision can be achieved

  • Understanding employees’ needs by developing a comprehensive set of personas and conducting a full user journey mapping exercise

  • Building a business case that establishes the necessity for the project

  • Creating a vision and strategy for the initiative that’s aligned with business goals

  • Getting buy-in from senior leadership to ensure long-term support

  • Building user stories and developing a roadmap with clear goals and timelines

  • Collecting user feedback to involve employees in the process and help achieve desirable

With a formalized approach in place, one that relies on a centralized product owner that acts as the glue holding the initiative together, it will be much easier to build a technology foundation that delivers the unified experiences organizations need for long-term success.

For more information on how to deliver digital experiences that can help your organization navigate the return to work and beyond, check out our guide "Navigating the Future of Work."