How Digital Employee Experience impacts your business
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Posted by Pauline Rehri

People who entered the workforce after 2000 will not remember the moment, so clearly etched in the minds of a slightly older generation, when people stopped talking on the phone and began to communicate primarily over email. This was an early step toward what is now known as the digital workplace. We’re digital employees now, using increasingly powerful software to work remotely and engage in complex interactions with systems, data and each other. Seeking greater employee productivity and related benefits, many organizations are now focusing on improving the digital employee experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend significantly.

What is digital employee experience?

Simply put, digital employee experience is about how well employees experience the digital workplace. For this to make sense, though, it’s worth taking a moment to delve into the digital workplace itself. For starters, there is no one definition of a digital workplace. It’s more of a spectrum of workplaces that utilize digital technology to one degree or another. What they all have in common, though, is the goal of using digital technology to enable people to work productively, either alone or in teams, without having to be physically co-located.

Typically cloud-hosted and browser-based, a digital workplace is a software setup that provides employees with access to the applications and data they need to take care of business from anywhere on any device. The digital workplace can co-exist with the physical office. However, the essence of the digital workspace is that you no longer need everyone sitting in an office in order to collaborate or access critical business systems. It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to use the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and have a meeting with your colleagues, you all had to go to the same floor of the same building. How quaint it all seems now.

Instead, with a digital workplace, employees get anywhere/any device access to collaboration tools and project management software, along with remote access to any enterprise application or data source they need. They can get to document repositories, databases, and more. A digital employee team can be geographically distributed. It’s not uncommon now for 10 people in 10 cities around the world to meet by video conferences, collaborate using project tools and participate in business process workflows.

In some cases, the digital workplace is a single software interface that unifies all sorts of other applications. It could be a portal that enables an employee to collaborate, send and receive messages, send and perform task assignments and more—all in a single browser window—without having to sign into multiple applications and toggle between them.

The question, however, is how does the experience feel to the employee himself or herself? The convenience of getting business done from the living room at 2 AM is great. But, it may not be what’s best for the business. This is why digital employee experience matters.

What are the benefits of a good digital employee experience?

A good digital employee experience should translate into positive business outcomes. This occurs across several dimensions. At a minimum, the workplace is simply becoming more digital, a change that every company will have to adopt to some extent. It’s what a new generation of employees expects. Customers also expect to experience the effects of a digital workplace, e.g., calling a home-based employee but having no doubt that they have access to any data or application needed to satisfy their needs.

Digital employee experience also affects the success of Digital Transformation (DX) initiatives. Although these projects vary greatly, they almost all involve using technology to redefine the relationship between a company and its customers. This might mean establishing an omnichannel sales and marketing process, where customers can engage seamlessly with a brand over the phone, online, on a mobile app and in-store kiosks. Making such an advanced construct work will require a great deal of digital capability on the part of employees who support it. A digital workplace is assumed to be the back office of a company that’s doing DX.

Increased employee productivity is another benefit of a good digital employee experience. When people can get their work done through easy online collaboration from any location on any device, productivity increases. In practical terms, digital employee experience translates into productivity gains when employees can process more orders and support more customers with the same time and resources. Combined with better customer experience, this drives more revenue.

Proper digital employee experience also contributes to decreased operating costs. This comes about in the form of reduced facilities cost and less travel. Fewer obstacles to communication and processing of operational workflows generally leads to lower operating costs, as well. Innovation and time to market improve when digital employees enjoy their work experiences. Smoother collaborative processes facilitate product development. Not having to travel to operational facilities or travel to meet with collaborators speeds up the pace of creativity and innovation.

Another area where digital employee experience is starting to get attention is the realm of talent attraction and retention. An effective digital workplace results in strong employee engagement. This leads to retention, but it also helps attract new talent to the organization. Generational differences may surface around the issue. Older employees might not get the importance of digital connections and corporate social networks. For more recent entrants to the workforce, these are “must have” deal-breakers. They simply expect to be able to get work done using a mobile app while away from the office. It wouldn’t occur to them that there’s any other way to work.

Positive outcomes are not guaranteed, of course. If not well executed, a digital workplace can have the opposite result. The differences between good and bad digital employee experience can be subtle, but still significant. For example, if it’s hard for people to locate data they need to support customers, such as contract files or support agreements, then the remote nature of digital work becomes a drag on productivity.

How is digital employee experience measured?

Given the potential impact of digital employee experience, it’s wise to develop an overall digital employee experience strategy. The strategy needs to encompass vision and planning, as well as execution and measurement of digital workplace results. How will you know if you’re doing a good job? Some of the evidence may be anecdotal, but still relevant. It is possible to measure digital employee experience, though. It might be obvious, like if you implement an organization-wide digital workplace and then quickly see big gains in productivity and revenue growth.

Things usually aren’t so easy, however. You will probably have to undertake some focused internal research. For example, you might want to do a survey of employees that measures their level of digital workplace engagement, e.g., how much they use digital workplace tools. Then, in the same survey, measure their morale and level of happiness about digital collaboration and remote work. With this approach, you should be able to get a sense of how you’re doing on digital employee experience and what you might need to do to improve it.

The digital workplace is here to stay. There may be swings of the pendulum back to more site-based work, but it’s clear that employees will be working and collaborating through digital tools for the duration. As all of your competitors move in this same direction, the pressure will mount to get better at digital employee experience by investing in digital workplace technology. Your digital employee experience strategy will need to evolve over time to ensure continued success in this new mode of work.

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