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Improving digital employee experience (DEX): 6 virtual retention ideas

November 11, 2022 - 19 min read
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    With the increase in remote and hybrid work, a digital employee experience is more important than ever.

    Technology has enabled employees to work from kitchen islands, dining room tables, and corner coffee shops. Yet in order to attract and retain top talent, organizations need to invest in creating a positive digital experience (DEX). 

    HR and IT professionals know that the employee experience relies on a well-designed digital workspace. Wherever they work, employees require technology that helps them be productive and engaged. 

    At the same time, workplace technology needs to be safe, secure, and inclusive. Your organization’s DEX strategy is a factor in determining employee satisfaction and employee engagement.

    But this is often easier said than done. We’ll take a look at what the digital employee experience is and strategies for improving it. We’ll also talk about the role DEX plays in your future of work strategy — how to overcome some common challenges. 

    What is the digital employee experience?

    First, let’s understand what we mean by the digital employee experience. 

    {featured snippet: What is the digital employee experience?}

    The digital employee experience encompasses every aspect of an employee's interaction with technology. This includes quality, ease of use, and reliability. But it also encompasses inclusivity, accessibility, and other aspects of the end-user experience.

    {end of featured snippet}

    The digital experience plays an ever-growing supporting role in delivering the employee experience. It's a role that spans the entire employee lifecycle. From the moment new hires join, the digital experience introduces itself. This includes touchpoints during the recruitment, employee onboarding, development, and even offboarding stages.

    According to the Academy to Innovate HR, key areas of digital employee experience include:

    • Workflow and productivity tools employees use to do their jobs. This includes things such as project management, analytics, customer service, finance, and marketing. 

    • Communication and collaboration tools (which are often asynchronous communication tools). Some examples include email, instant messaging, and phone calls. It also includes video conferencing, whiteboarding, and internal communications platforms. 

    • Learning and development systems such as training and professional development

    • Human resources and overall talent management systems. These workforce management systems often provide self-service access to various HR-related information. For example, employees can view compensation, benefits and PTO information, performance management, wellness programs, company policies, and more.

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    Examples of digital employee experience

    When you think about your own experiences dealing with technology day-to-day, many examples probably come to mind. Your experience might also depend on your work environment, like if you work from home. You might experience more pain points in a hybrid or remote environment than you would in an in-person office.

    Bottom line: there are plenty of ways you can interact with an organization digitally. At the end of the day, your interactions can help shape your perspective. It can impact employee sentiment and your overall work experience.

    To get an idea of how different employers deliver the digital employee experience, let’s look at one example of each. 

    Example A: Recruitment and onboarding

    From the first time you visited their career website, you could tell this company had its digital act together. It was easy to navigate and find the job opportunities you were interested in. 

    The online application was straightforward and easy to complete. In fact, the entire hiring process was seamless. The company clearly factored the digital aspect into the candidate experience

    Area of opportunity: What a great first impression! This is a digital employee experience that gets you off to a positive start. From the tools introduced during onboarding, you’re excited about what you’re going to accomplish and learn at this company. Let’s hope the rest of your digital experience meets the high expectations set from the beginning. 

    Example B: Employee technical support and self-service

    While on a project deadline, you can’t get access to the company’s knowledge management system. After troubleshooting, you call tech support. 

    Now on hold, you’re searching for an answer in the self-service portal. But you can’t find anything — the navigation and search functionality aren’t great.  After waiting for nearly an hour, the support tech is finally able to help. It was something simple, but inexplicable as to why it was a problem. 

    This is typical, an all-too-common occurrence for you and your colleagues. It’s stressful when you’re not able to follow business processes because of technical hurdles.  Your managers don’t care about your tech problems. They just want the job done. Feeling demoralized, you start to disengage from your work. 

    Area of opportunity. It sounds like technology and support services are damaging productivity and employee morale. Leaders should take the digital experience seriously and ask for feedback from employees. They might also consider hiring additional staff members. 

    digital-employee-experience-man-smiling-in-meeting

    Why is the digital employee experience important?

    Most employees today use technology on the job. Many rely on digital tools to perform nearly every aspect of their work. 

    By extension, customer service quality and overall enterprise performance depend on internal systems. That means these systems need to be fast, reliable, and easy for employees to use. Now that hybrid and remote work are the norms in many companies, the digital employee experience has even broader and deeper impacts.

    The digital employee experience factors into your workplace productivity, employee engagement, and retention. The digital workplace must perform the same role as a physical office in bringing employees together. It needs to facilitate connections as well as enable effective collaboration and virtual teams.

    The benefits of improving your employees’ digital experience

    Digital tools play a central role in delivering a positive employee experience. So, it's no surprise that research indicates it produces positive business outcomes. 

    A joint study by Microsoft and Qualtrics found employees were 121% more likely to feel valued by their company when they had a high-quality digital workplace experience. They also were more productive, engaged, and happier at work.

    Some of the ways a positive digital employee experience can help include:

    Better engagement and retention

    Data tells us that more engaged employees tend to stay longer. This leads to higher retention wherever they work — a remote, hybrid, or in the office. Digital tools support engagement in all kinds of ways. This means enabling open communication and interaction to make it easy for employees to share feedback and ideas.   

    Improved productivity and performance

    Giving employees digital tools that are easy to use and work consistently will boost productivity. Yet plenty of workers struggle daily with clunky hardware and internal systems that are slow and needlessly complex. 

    This can lead to feelings of frustration and futility, ultimately causing employees to disengage. Equipped with the right tools, employees feel motivated and empowered to do great work.

    Easier access to learning and development

    Research indicates that better access to professional development programs represents nearly a third of the overall employee experience model. Investing in learning and development can help engage your workforce.

    At the same time, it also promotes career growth and career development

    BetterUp_Social_Nov2021_Post07-1

    More support for hybrid and remote workers

    Sixty-one percent of HR leaders say that to achieve organizational goals, culture is more important in a hybrid work model than in an on-site work model

    The digital experience is integral to building and maintaining that culture. By equipping employees with easy-to-use digital tools, organizations can help their people do their jobs well. A positive digital experience can also support all types of virtual team building. Ultimately, it's digital tools that can help facilitate meaningful connections between team members. 

    How to create a positive digital employee experience 

    Before investing time and resources into improving the digital workplace, it’s important to define your digital transformation strategy

    Until recently, few companies have been taking a strategic approach to their employees' digital experience. According to Gartner, only 5% of companies had an overall digital employee experience strategy in 2021. But the firm predicts half of IT organizations will have established one by 2025. 

    Here are six areas of the digital workplace to prioritize for improvement:

    1. Make it easy 

    Ease of use should be the goal for any technology, whether it’s employee or customer-facing. Software and user experience design has advanced significantly to be much more intuitive and user-friendly. 

    Your employees are accustomed to more user-friendly designs in the tech they use personally. So, it makes sense that they would expect your organization to deliver the same experience. For example, most information can now be accessed from our mobile devices. People can see real-time metrics and results. 

    How easy – or difficult – is it for employees to use your organization’s technology to do their jobs? How quickly can they get answers on anything? 

    Find out where the gaps are by collecting data from user feedback, surveys, and IT support. Look for areas where improvements will have a major impact on user experience.

    2. Personalize it 

    People interact with technology in different ways. This means it's important to understand how segments of your workforce use the tools. Doing so, it'll help you design a more personalized experience. 

    For many companies, this means mapping out personas or profiles for employee populations. It helps to follow the employee journey to see how they interact with tools. 

    You can construct personas by starting with employee demographics, job functions, aspirations, challenges faced, and preferences. Conducting focus groups and user tests is also an important step.

    The personas and journeys should be just the beginning. To build a truly personalized experience, you’ll want to make it easy for employees to customize your digital tools to meet their specific needs and preferences.

    3. Measure it

    At a minimum, you’ll want to use employee feedback surveys to collect information. More companies are using digital DEX management tools to support continuous improvement. DEX management tools aggregate usage and performance data. Then, they analyze the information and trends to gain insights to help guide strategy and improvement. 

    For instance, DEX management software may measure and evaluate:

    • How fast the network is running during peak hours

    • Which technologies are underperforming and provide guidance on how to improve them

    • How effective employees’ mobile apps and devices are in helping them perform everyday tasks

    • How easy it is for employees to use your collaboration platforms

    4. Enable collaboration

    Provide collaboration tools that create opportunities to collaborate effectively

    Encouraging employees to share ideas should be a priority in designing a better digital experience. As workplaces transition to a hybrid-remote model, many leaders are concerned they’ll see a drop in collaboration and innovation.

    Employee engagement surveys can gather feedback from respondents on engagement levels. But these surveys can also gauge team members’ sense of belonging, job satisfaction, and overall experience. 

    Think of how your portfolio of tools enables collaboration and team alignment. Video conferencing, file sharing, and project management tools all help teams connect easily. For example, do you allow employees to record meetings? Can you help encourage good Zoom etiquette to break down barriers between time zones? In what ways can you use tools to better balance the work-life balance scale? 

    digital-employee-experience-woman-working-on-laptop

    5. Democratize communications

    Robust, two-way internal communications are central to creating a positive employee experience. Democratizing communication helps to improve employee relations and achieve organizational goals. 

    When approached with care and built with flexible digital tools, internal communications can help streamline operations, bolster culture, deepen engagement, and empower employer branding

    While earlier employee intranet and communication platforms tended to have limited features, that’s changing rapidly. Organizations can now more easily deploy a flexible platform that functions as a modern social intranet. 

    Organizations can use these digital platforms to establish community forums, collect ideas and feedback, and conduct surveys. All of these tools help give employees a voice and make sure their opinions are valued.

    6. Improve training and support 

    Organizations need to make training available and easy to access. One of the most impactful ways to create a positive digital experience is to provide the training and support that employees need. 

    When rolling out a new digital tool, employers also need to promote it. A lack of awareness and training are often the cause of low digital adoption and poor experience.

    Sometimes, organizations already have digital tools and training. But they may lack the technical resources to support them. In this case, they may be able to improve the digital experience simply by providing better resources for technical support. 

    What’s the response time for getting live technical support? Are issues getting resolved on the first call? Companies can work with their IT teams to dig into the support data. If needed, they can provide additional resources to help enable widespread support. 

    Challenges of investing in digital employee experience

    There are many reasons organizations struggle with optimizing their digital employee experience. For example, change and the sheer complexity of employee needs are fast-evolving. 

    But more companies are recognizing that improving the digital experience is essential for success. Let’s down the potential barriers into three main areas: 

    Taking on a technical scale and complexity

    As organizations grow and scale, so does your digital ecosystem. This depends on a variety of factors, like size, industry, expectations, and more. 

    In many cases, employees use a myriad of digital tools to do their jobs. Enlist IT leaders to help ensure that you’re investing in compatible technologies. 

    Managing cultural change

    Forrester research indicates that organizations must take a cross-functional approach to the digital experience. This means involving stakeholders across IT, HR, facilities, and other departments to plan and implement improvements to the digital employee experience. 

    Otherwise, you may end up with disconnected silos that don’t work well together. This can create barriers to collaboration across the organization that ultimately impact your culture. In addition, be wary of pushing too much change at once. Employees already suffer from change fatigue, especially when it comes to tech. 

    Gaining leadership buy-in

    Implementing new technology is expensive. Many organizations may have already made big investments in failed solutions that didn’t live up to their promises. In addition, internal digital tools must compete with external-facing projects. 

    To win financial buy-in for certain improvements, show the direct correlation that the systems work. Focus on the value of employee engagement and retention.

    There’s no denying that there’s a lot that goes into optimizing the digital employee experience. It’s not going to happen all at once, and it shouldn’t. But by developing a strong strategy that’s well informed by employee feedback and preferences, you can make steady progress. In the long run, it'll help you improve your digital workplace and virtual retention for the future. 

    Investing in your tools means investing in your people 

    Regardless of where you are in your digital experience journey, behind every tool is a human. 

    Our companies may run with the help of technology. But at the end of the day, the way your people interact with technology (and change) makes a huge difference. That’s why building necessary coaching skills is so important, especially in this hybrid and remote world. 

    BetterUp can help. Your employees will receive personalized support to help navigate change and build resiliency. And together, we can better equip our workforce for whatever the future holds.

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    Published November 11, 2022

    Madeline Miles

    Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.

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