The Digital Workplace Employee Experience

Every business has a digital workplace — the only real question is whether the company is actively managing it. Regardless of your preferred definition, most commentators agree that the digital workplace are the devices and services, company provided or employee sourced, that the employee chooses to use to do their job. It’s a hardware, software and productivity suite. At Infocentric, we think of these tools in 4 categories: communication, collaboration, knowledge store and transactional.

But it’s not just about what the digital workplace enables, or indeed, where it empowers employees: our clients also care about how the digital workplace feels to use. We understand that the experience employees have in using the digital workplace is increasingly important.

What do we mean by employee experience?

My preferred model for employee experience is the one ascribed by Jacob Morgan. Morgan’s describes three environments of employee experience: Cultural Environment (values, attitudes, practices, mission), Technology Environment (hardware, software, laptop and mobile) and Physical Environment (Offices, facilities). Employee experience is the summation of all the interactions that an employee has with their company.

The employee experience has been a concern of HR teams for years, focusing primarily on the cultural and physical factors. Positively, it has resulted in investment in employee benefits, wellbeing, offices, flexible working, training and many other focus areas. But with increased digital working, the employee experience is increasingly a technology challenge. Indeed, with many new non-traditional work models, many cultural and physical experiencescould pass many employees by.

Given the amount of time that an employee now interacts with digital workplace systems(estimates are at least one third of working hours), the employee experience is now a critical concern for IT teams.

The digital employee experience mess

Let’s consider this very common scenario: the communications team need an improved intranet to deliver improved internal communications. They write their scope, do their searches, identify a few potential partners and select the preferred option. Build commences and a few months later, the new intranet is delivered.

But the resultant intranet doesn’t align with the people directory systems, nor does it enable cross-publishing to the digital signage system or email digests. As a standalone tool, the new intranet is acceptable but as part of a communications ecosystem, it’s a pretty awful experience for back-end publishers as well as employees. Each tool has different logins, different UI, different UX, different user profiles and we’ve yet to consider the tools that the HR, Finance and IT teams would also wish to introduce.

Why should we care?

The employee experience may seem like a peripheral concern to teams working on the digital workplace but economics of a positive employee experience are compelling:

  • Absenteeism is down 37%
  • Productivity is up 12%
  • 58% more likely to help colleagues
  • 186% more likely to share the good news about your organisation

So building a digital workplace that is aligned with and serves to enhance the overall employee experience will have bottom-line commercial advantages to an organisation.

Strong governance is the key

We need a singular, cohesive employee experience across all the tools that comprise the digital workplace. That requires cohesive envisioning, planning and delivery — and that requires strong governance. Remember, there is a cognitive, financial and productivity cost to this experiential mess.

Define a digital workplace experience vision

Digital workplace teams are used to creating visions for ecosystem they build, but these are mostly cased in language defining the what, when and how but not about the experience of use. The experience vision needs to be defined and sold in.

Collaborative, cross-functional governance membership

With a vision agreed, all parties engaged in delivering aspects of the digital workplace need to adhere. It will not work if communications and HR stick to their siloed processes. The digital workplace is for all employees in all functions and that requires those teams to work together at vision and build stage too.

Look for the hand-offs and differences between systems

The experience within any one tool of the digital workplace is likely pretty good, after all, the vendors have spent considerable effort in making sure that it’s positive. The issues often appear due to the hand-off from one tool to another (user — platform journeys) and the differences between the tools.

Measure experience performance alongside standard metrics

Do you know how people feel about their digital workplace? Define metrics and measure them as part of your key performance indicators. In time, set experiential targets such as percentage of employees who state they’re happy with the digital workplace experience.

How can we fix the experience problem?

An increasing amount of our client time at Infocentric is focused on exactly this fundamental question. There are a few possible routes:

A good, old-fashioned portal

The intranet as a portal concept is an old one. The first intranet I worked on — back in 1996 — was a portal of sorts, with a front end providing access to a bunch of business tools. In 1996, that was pretty sophisticated!

But the idea of a portal to provide that singular experience and hide the massive back-end complexity still has value today.

Chatbots, voicebots, search

At their simplest, bots are a new vision for search: you type in a question and your answer is returned. At the smarter end, they’re able to interrogate data, use APIs and provide intelligent responses beyond that of a search engine. “How many days holiday do I have left?” is such an example.

They do however, provide a singular user experience to access the range of tools underneath, serving to hide the complexity.

API driven services

Another possibility is to reimagine these individual platforms as services, accessible via APIs. This approach means that new employee-centric solutions can be created, combining elements of the underlying technologies, into new solutions.

Summary

A singular, cohesive employee experience can deliver real productivity and engagement rewards but that requires singular, cohesive thinking and execution across an organisation. We’re hugely encouraged by the number of clients who are including employee experience in their governance thinking and we’re hugely excited by the digital workplaces that will evolve as a result.

About the author

Jonathan Phillips is a digital strategy consultant, focusing on communication, collaboration and digital workplace technologies. With 20 years blue chip experience, he is a regular keynote speaker, contributor to the digital community and a recognised global expert. He is a communication advisor to UK government and the University of Bristol, charity chairman, non-exec director and co-founder of Intranetizen.com and associate of Infocentric where he works in the role of Senior Principal.

Are you ready for the future of work?

Talk to us today about your needs for the digital workplace and what you should do to prepare for the future. Infocentric is a team of consultants, UX experts, designers, software developers, solution architects, system integrators and project managers. Together with our expert associates, we have the ability to understand, ideate, design, build, operate and orchestrate almost any digital business initiative from intranet-in-a-box to digital workplace and transformation of the digital employee experience.