With a global pandemic in full force, the digital workplace is often the only workplace employees have. That means the need for streamlined, personalized, and contextual experiences is now imperative, both for employee success as well as for the business.
But where do you start?
Covid-19 may well have changed the way we work forever, but thankfully the starting point for an effective digital workplace is the same as it’s always been -- a relentless focus on employees. Solving their pain points, giving them the intelligent tools they need and helping them simplify their work day.
In our work with a variety of customers who’ve made admirable progress improving their digital workplace, we’ve identified 4 key strategies that will help you deliver no-fail employee experience for your workforce:
Let’s take a look at these in a little more depth….
Focusing on employees is the most important thing you can do to create effective, resilient digital experiences that can withstand changes like the ones we’re seeing today.
The journey to an employee-centric digital workplace starts with making sure you understand what employees need and what matters to them most as they do their jobs. Creating personas and conducting journey mapping exercises is a great way to compile these kinds of insights so you can identify the areas you need to focus on for improvement.
That information will serve as the foundation for making small, incremental improvements to the moments that really matter to employees, whether that’s a better method of communication, an easier way to find information, simplified access to core enterprise systems, etc. Remember, this isn’t about delivering services, it’s about creating experiences that meet employees’ needs. The focus should be on simplifying their overall work day by eliminating frustration points associated with routine tasks.
Next, you should strive to eliminate the silos that historically drive all business decisions.
There’s no doubt that each department within your organization does a great job at implementing solutions that meet their specific needs. But unless there’s an overarching employee experience strategy that guides those decisions, employees will have a very fragmented experience trying to work with all of those disparate technologies.
Take this common scenario for example - HR decides to implement measures to improve the employee experience by revamping the onboarding process. It’s a great decision because onboarding is one of the first opportunities a business has to create a positive interaction. Separately, however, IT chooses to focus on the employee experience by rolling out a chatbot for its service center and finance rolls out a new mobile expense tool to make submitting expenses easier.
All of those initiatives are good improvements, but if they require employees to deal with an increasing number of systems that all offer a different user experiences, the overall employee experience is going to be fragmented and frustrating.
The bottom line is, a great employee experience simply cannot be created in a vacuum. It must be considered holistically across the business, and this is best accomplished by assigning formal ownership for the initiative, whether it’s an employee experience officer, innovation director or even product owner.
It will still be necessary to have multiple stakeholders or even a steering committee for the project, but the formal ownership can work directly with the right stakeholders, employees, and other teams across the enterprise to ensure the employee experience and digital workplace vision is delivered and represented equally across all stakeholders.
This ownership team (combined with a product management approach to the project) will become the glue that binds together the separate parts of the employee experience to create a more holistic digital workplace.
Creating a powerful employee experience is never a “one and done” initiative. It’s a process of continual improvement that requires ongoing assessment and refinement to meet the changing needs of employees and the work they’re doing. The choices you make about technology can aid in this process however, making it easier to adapt to ongoing change.
Here are some “do’s and don’ts” to think about as you evaluate your technology options:
Microapps are a great option for simplifying the work day for employees because they integrate with your existing systems to abstract only the information employees need to know or take action on. This insulates workers from the complexity of core enterprise systems and eliminates a lot of common frustrations. Microapps can also work together to form an experience layer, giving employees a seamless, simplified front door to the digital workplace that helps them be effective whenever its convenient for them.
Reconsider putting all your employee experience eggs into the basket of your large enterprise systems, such as your HCM, ITSM, etc. You’d think that this would be a great idea because it enables you to essentially kill two birds with one stone, but the benefits of this approach are far outweighed by the risks. Coupling the employee experience with core systems of record will ultimately inhibit your ability to switch out back-end systems based on the needs of the organization and that’s bad for the employee experience.
Don’t be afraid to think big and think broadly. Choose a flexible and extensible employee experience platform that enables you to take control of the user experience to customize and modernize the interactions employees have with your enterprise systems - without having to replace the underlying applications.
Make changes gradually. Expecting employees to shift their way of working in dramatic ways is a recipe for disaster. Adopt an agile methodology and an iterative approach that seeks to make continuous gradual improvements over the long-term.
I mentioned this earlier, but delivering the kind of intelligent, personalized and contextual digital experiences your employees expect and deserve isn’t a one and done initiative. It’s a process of gradual improvement that needs continuous nurturing if it’s going to have positive, long-term impact.
So check in with employees often. Involve them in the process. Ask them how they’re doing, find out what they need and then when you take steps to address their feedback, communicate with them to let them know you did. Effective communication is a two-way street so the more employees feel they’re being heard, the more they’ll be willing to tell you what they need to be happy and productive. It’s a positive feedback loop that will pay dividends for many years to come.
As organizations worldwide struggle to navigate all the workplace changes that are taking place, it’s helpful to know that we’re all facing the same challenges and that there are things we can learn from one another throughout this process.
Here are some of the key takeaways you can apply to your own transformation:
Be employee centric - Design an employee experience that’s focused specifically on the needs of employees and not just specific departments. Involve employees throughout the process and solicit frequent feedback to ensure you’re hitting the mark.
Don’t boil the ocean - Huge change is hard to adjust to and even harder to deliver. Set a plan to deliver incremental change and find high-volume, high-impact opportunities to focus on so you can delight employees and build good will.
Plan for the long-term - This is a journey. Your digital workplace transformation doesn’t have an end date. You need to build on a platform using an approach that allows you to continue to develop your digital workplace to meet the changing needs of your organization.
For more information on how to enact long-lasting digital transformation in your organization, check out the on-demand version of the session I did with Beth, “4 Strategies for a No-Fail Employee Experience.”