How to improve the digital employee experience
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
Employee experience (or, “EX”) includes several contributing factors. According to the widely-accepted model attributable to Jacob Morgan, the three primary factors are: the physical, the cultural and the technological. The biggest impact that can be made today—especially from the perspective of HR services—is to focus on the technological, or digital, factors.
In the past few years, EX has become a bit of a buzzword, but it’s not something new. Just by virtue of the fact that there is a company, there are employees, and there is naturally some degree of exchange between them—the experience exists. Moreover, if an HR team, or an organization as a whole, is not focused on designing for the EX, the experience that exists today is probably not as positive and impactful an experience as it could be.
Why does the digital employee experience matter?
The digital side of EX has the power to enhance overall engagement. It’s not the only element, but it does go a long way into producing a point-in-time feeling which can leave a lasting impression. The physical takes time to build and make a lasting impact, and the cultural takes even longer. But the digital, transactional experiences can make their mark pretty quickly.
The overwhelming culture of life today is about self-serving and information on-demand. Need information? Google it. Not sure how to accomplish a task? Find a YouTube video. There’s almost no time barrier to successful consumption of information. Too often, in the workplace, processes and tasks are designed with long runways and multiple steps to help make them feel human or personal… but from an EX perspective, all those processes become are time-consuming and cumbersome. If an employee doesn’t have to wait for information they need at home, why should they have to wait at work?
Determine your EX goals
When looking to make employee experience a priority, the first step is to determine related organizational goals. What drives your current approach to EX? What is it you’re trying to accomplish today—as a business, and as an HR team? And how can those goals cascade down to designing a positive employee experience?
Sometimes it can be difficult and not easily or directly aligned, but the goals are always there. Think about your organization’s stated business objectives. Maybe scalability? Efficiency? Growth? Cost savings? Now find the path to cascade these down to HR or determine which ones are HR-driven. For example, internationalization, competing for talent, or building operational efficiency.
Next, build your business case by thinking of the metrics you will track and how they will impact employee experience within the business. Leaders love numbers and will want to see how the solution or recommended change can be tracked and measured for success.
At the end of the day, HR is a cost center, not a profit center, so budgets are tight. But the case is certainly there. Initiatives focused on employee experience have the opportunity to provide a ripple effect, saving money through increased engagement, reduced turnover, and efficiency gains for the team!
Plan your approach to EX
To determine where you can impact the employee experience, it’s critical to map out the employee journey at your organization. How can you anticipate what employees might need? Most importantly, look at your annual calendar of events. When are your performance cycles? Benefits enrollment? Other programs that provide that engagement point between the organization and employees?
HR tends to think primarily in terms of programs or tasks that they manage. Instead, try to think of the employee experience journey as a collection of those engagement points. Where are they, how do we make them more impactful, more seamless, more consistent? This is key to delivering a digital experience without dehumanizing it.
After mapping the employee journey and determining where you want to be, perform a gap analysis in order to identify what needs to change. Also be sure to consider multiple channels and methods of engagement. Self-service is paramount, but it’s not the only type of service—and it might not be for everyone or appropriate in all circumstances. Take into account the diversity of your workforce and be sure to include opportunities to engage all employees.
When possible, try to infuse design thinking into your team. Now that you have that journey mapped, spend some time brainstorming solutions to the gaps or problems you’ve defined. Then, test and iterate until you’re happy with where you are—and how the results map to your goal metrics!
Put your plan into action
Don’t just identify a problem and walk away; think about how to address it. Decide what direction you want to take EX at your organization and then find the right enabling technologies. Be specific; think about about which part of the journey you are trying to impact. If you don’t know what you’re trying to do, then any system will fit the bill, resulting in a generic experience that won’t ultimately support your employees.
A few thoughts:
- Design specific requirements, attributable to specific engagement points.
- Instead of one-size-fits-all enterprise solutions, consider technology that caters to the goals of your organization and of your engagement points.
- Be thoughtful about your company culture. Make sure vendors know your values and can address how their solution fits.
- Review the needs of your entire workforce: full-time versus part-time; mature versus early career; office versus field. Consider all points of experience.
Measure the success of your EX
Look back to the metrics identified as part of the goal-setting process. When your organization is going through an RFP or selection process, only consider those tools that enable you to track the data you need to measure and assess.
Make sure every engagement point in the journey gets tracked by some metric or KPI to show the trends and to test your hypotheses. Are you having an impact? Are processes more streamlined, but still taking longer? Perhaps people are less engaged by the process because it doesn’t feel designed for them. Review your design and include humanizing elements. Have you developed content for your knowledge base or portal, but people are still submitting questions? Maybe your content is too dense or inaccessible by the audience. Write it for an audience and test it with a few non-HR readers.
When drawing insights from data, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Look at how long it takes an employee to complete a process. How soon an employee engages after a process kicks off indicates how willing or excited they are.
- Adoption indicates how often and effectively they use the tools. High adoption and utilization mean it has become second nature as part of your culture.
- Return to design thinking. You’ve tested your hypothesis, now it may be time to iterate, pivot, or dig deeper. The work is never done!
Want to learn even more about designing a digital employee experience? Sign up for Digital EX Week, a free online crash course packed with quick video lessons from Ryan and other HR industry leaders:
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About Ryan Higginson-Scott
Ryan Higginson-Scott is an accomplished innovator in the world of global people operations. With nearly 20 years experience across all HR functions, he has led diverse and award-winning teams in a broad set of industries - including higher education, corporate retail, high tech, biotech/pharma, and hospitality - always focused on enabling a powerful and rewarding employee experience. Balancing the need for process, policy and compliance, with the goals of sustainable growth and agile operational efficiency, Ryan is an advocate for continuous, data-driven feedback, and iteration on all fronts. He has shared his experience through guest contribution to well-known HR blogs and podcasts, and leads employment-related workshops with several area non-profits. He is a believer in HR disruption and a vocal proponent of any technology that seeks to reconsider not only the how, but also the why behind the way we operate in HR. Today, Ryan lives in the Boston area and leads Global HR Operations at Fuze, Inc.