The term workplace experience is on everyone's lips these days – have you noticed? If you are wondering what the hype is all about, you should know that it's actually quite simple! The workplace experience is the sum total of the interactions an employee has with their workplace and includes how welcome they feel, how productive they can be, and how fulfilled they are overall. But the workplace is no longer just physical; it now includes an employee's digital interactions.
What Is the Digital Workplace Experience?
The digital workplace encompasses every interaction employees have with the tools and technologies they use in their work. This includes Wi-Fi, the cloud, and all individual apps. You can also think of it as the digital workplace being “the virtual, digital equivalent of the physical workplace.” Digital tools represent the infrastructure on which the digital workplace thrives, and this can affect everyone: hybrid workforces, remote workforces, and frontline workforces alike.
When it comes to how employees interact with technology, companies need to ask themselves if their technology of choice makes lives easier or harder. Is the network reliable? Are the applications working as intended? Is the software up to date and does everyone have the right credentials and licenses for it? Are they providing the technologies employees need to do their work? If employees struggle, it distracts them from their work – and one distracted person can easily impact all others around them.
The Difference Between Employee Experience and Digital Experience
The employee experience refers to the experiences someone has throughout the lifecycle of their employment with the company. This includes pre-employment communications, the hiring process, onboarding and orientation, training and development, the work environment (physical or digital or both), and even the offboarding process when employment ends.
The digital experience, on the other hand, focuses on how employees interact with the digital workplace and the digital workplace solutions they are expected to use. Some of the employee experiences may also overlap, but the digital experience refers specifically to the employee's relationship with the technologies associated with their work. Do they enjoy or dread them?
Why Is the Digital Workplace So Important to the Employee Experience?
The digital workplace plays a big role in increasing productivity and creating a positive employee experience. Gone are the days when the workplace was simply a physical place. In today's world, the lines between the physical office and the place where work actually takes place are blurred. Employees collaborate, communicate, and innovate in ways never before possible. To do this, they expect technology to be simple, easy to use and fit for purpose.
The kind of technology an organization offers impacts employees’ ability to get their work done. It's no wonder they get frustrated with systems that are antiquated and processes that take too long. Tech that isn’t up to the job causes stress and resentment, slowing employees down or preventing them from working remotely when needed. This is why organizations focused on improving digital work for their employees see significant improvements in performance compared to their competitors.
What Contributes to a Great Digital Workplace Experience?
You can create a great digital workplace using modern digital tools that are easy to use and implement and increase productivity. Ensure proper training and consistency of use in the workplace (teamwork can be difficult when employees use different tools). Create personas of employees to understand what they need and, wherever you can, use personalization and customization to make technology more user-friendly.
Trying to understand if your digital workplace is successful? Listen to your employees. They work with the tools every day and can tell you when they are not right. If you'd rather rely on observation for now, the following signs show that a company has invested in the right digital tools, successfully aligned them with business goals and team workflows, and gotten the entire workforce to adopt and use them:
- Employee engagement is high, and productivity has increased overall
- Mundane tasks have been significantly reduced, leading to greater agility
- Remote workers are connected, informed, productive, and aligned with their teams
- Employees can easily share and find information – on all devices and in all locations
- HR reports that it has become easier to attract and retain top talent
Who Is Responsible for the Digital Workplace Employee Experience?
In many ways, the digital employee experience is a byproduct of the overall digital transformation taking place in an organization. IT plays a critical role in driving digital transformation and is therefore often seen as responsible for delivering a great digital employee experience. However, this requires active leadership from many parts of the organization and direct engagement from all areas. In addition to IT, HR and Facilities, senior managers and internal communications should also be driving the transformation.
At YArooms, we believe that HR, FM, and IT departments can build productive, competitive, and desired hybrid organizations by deepening their collaboration and driving digital transformations. To create smooth, efficient, and interconnected workplace experiences, IT departments need to understand people and their preferences – all insider knowledge that HR and FM managers have. This also helps select the best tools for building delightful employee interactions with the workplace.
Common Issues That Affect the Digital Workplace Experience
Some common issues that complicate employees' use of digital tools in the workplace are:
Not Having the Best Digital Tools for the Job
Employees tend to have an expectation that they will be provided with best practice software that is straightforward, easy to use and makes their lives easier. They don’t want to take minutes to do something they can do in seconds with other software. Cheaper software alternatives are not really cheaper. Especially if your employees have used the better software or tools on a previous job – which, in today’s world, is very much likely.
It Departments Not Updating Software and Systems
Employees need reliable systems that are regularly updated. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving an error message saying the browser they are using is outdated and unsupported – in 2022! Further frustration comes from the way IT controls updates and upgrades. Employees can’t simply fix the problem themselves, as they would with their own computers. They rely on and need to know that they can trust IT to keep everything up to date.
Custom Software That Isn’t Fit-For-Purpose
Sometimes companies skip the part where they consult with employees before getting rid of old digital tools and replacing them with brand new ones... overnight. By doing so, they create stress for employees who can no longer find the information or features they used to rely on. Getting used to new tech takes time, and sudden changes have a significant impact on employees' digital experience. For this reason, new digital tools need to be very well thought out.
Inefficient Systems and Processes
In some companies, outdated technologies slow people down. In others, people still rely heavily on paper-based systems and processes. And then there are companies that use the right tools, but do not use them properly. Take email, for example. Email overload is a modern problem that affects employees' experience in the digital workplace. Or systems that are hard to navigate and even harder to search. People just want to find information quickly and easily.
Not Being Set Up Properly from the Start
According to a study by Glassdoor, 89% of employees who have gone through effective onboarding feel strongly integrated into their company culture. Unfortunately, many companies fail to set their employees up for success from day one. Sometimes employees don't even have a computer on their first day, let alone access to the systems they need to do their jobs. No need to swamp new hires with tons of information on their first day, but the basics should be there.
Unfortunately, many organizations do not recognize the problem. As a result, they have no plans for change, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction in the workforce.
Digital Workplace Best Practices
To create a great digital workplace, your strategy must be employee-centric. If your technology doesn’t improve the way your employees work, it doesn’t matter how user-friendly it is. Best practices for successful digital transformation include understanding your employees' needs, aligning them with your vision, identifying gaps in your current technology, and creating a roadmap to help define the transformation.
Focus on What Your Workforce Needs
Most companies focus on the customer journey – but your employees are the driving force when it comes to creating a positive customer journey. That's why your vision for digital transformation should be based on your employees' needs. To understand what your employees need, ask for feedback on their experience with technology adoption, assess challenges and learn how your technology is really used.
- Are employees using so many tools that they spend more time sorting through them than getting their work done?
- Do the tools meet the different communication needs of employees (think department, function, region)?
- Are the tools isolated or do they work together to create a seamless experience?
Get Feedback from Staff
It goes without saying, but you can’t fix problems you don’t know about. Feedback from employees can help you identify the weak spots in your digital workplace and figure out what improvements can be made to better meet their expectations. Don’t just change systems without consulting employees. Ask for their perspective and find out which technologies and processes they value most – and which they do not.
Align Your Vision
After gathering employee feedback, it's time to engage leadership. Organizational change starts at the top. By involving key executives, you ensure everyone is on board with digital transformation and how it fits into business processes. Stakeholders contribute to the transformation by encouraging employees to adopt new tools. Once you have aligned your vision with the entire organization, it’s easier to bring out the new tech.
Assess Your Current Comms Tech Stack
You need to know what tools you already have, what technology is most commonly used, and how your employees are using it. Once identified the positives, you can set about identifying the gaps in your stack. This could be a mobile app, multilingual capabilities, or centralization of internal communications. This way, you can find solutions to the current needs, but also the type of new tools you should be implementing.
Look at Ways to Streamline Your Digital Tools
One of the biggest barriers to a seamless digital experience is isolated technology. If systems are not integrated, employees have to work with too many different tools every day. There are opportunities (e.g., a single platform) to streamline and simplify functionality to make employees' lives easier.
Don’t Change Too Much at Once
Implementing new systems can overwhelm people, especially since not everyone has the same knowledge or ability to quickly learn new software. A gradual transition allows you to make the changes in a way that is more comfortable for everyone. Plus, it doesn’t disrupt existing workflows as much!
Develop a Roadmap
Now that you have gathered feedback from your staff, gotten stakeholders on board, and assessed your current tech, you’re ready to develop a roadmap. Create a timeline, determine when each phase will begin and who will be involved, and determine your ROI (this will allow stakeholders to track your success). The end point should be a digital transformation that gives employees a positive digital workplace experience.
How to Measure Digital Workplace Experience?
There are several ways to measure whether the digital workplace experience you provide is successful, using qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are obviously subjective and can not be easily quantified, but combined with other types of data you have available, you can get a clearer picture of what your employees' digital experience looks like. Here is what you can do to determine it:
Determine the Digital Employee Experience Baseline
When you establish a baseline, you can accurately measures success and determine how satisfied your employees are with the digital experience. There are several types of data you can collect for this:
- IT data: look at how long it takes your employees to log into devices, track system crashes, web browser crashes, connectivity issues, antivirus issues, etc.
- HR data: look at recruitment and retention statistics. Are employees leaving your company quickly? What happens in the exit interviews?
- Direct feedback: pulse surveys, in-person consultations, focus groups where you can determine common employees' pain points.
Benchmark Your Data
In your benchmarking process, you can decide whether you want to collect the data annually or more frequently (quarterly, perhaps) depending on the best practice for measuring digital employee experience in your industry.
Recognize the Improvements That Need to Be Made
Once you have collected the data in your benchmarking, you can compare it to the baseline data to determine if the changes you’ve made have been successful. If there’s still room for improvement, you can look at enhancing and refining your digital experience even more.
Look at the Findings from the Employees’ Point of View
Management can sometimes disengage from employees and focus on other things, which is why a mutual effort of various teams (such as HR, IT and Facilities) is needed. Ask and listen to what your employees tell you, and imagine what it might be like to experience those frustrations while trying to get your work done.
Devise a Strategy for Improvements
Once you have the data you need, you can outline the changes you want to make to improve the digital workplace experience at your company. Your strategy should take into account the issues employees are facing, the steps you can take to address them, and when you will implement improvements.
One of the keys to the success of your business is to ensure that your employees are informed, connected and engaged at all times, and the digital workplace brings it all together. A great digital workplace leads to a great digital employee experience, and companies are keen to invest in it. The only question that remains is… Are you on board?