Digital Employee Experience Explained: A Definitive Guide for HR

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Digital employee experience is becoming a progressively larger and more integral part of the overall employee experience, especially with the expansion of remote and hybrid work environment options. Let’s explore the main benefits and challenges of digital employee experience and how HR can reinforce one that supports the business success of your organization.

What is digital employee experience?

Employees of essentially every industry must use technology to do their jobs. Digital employee experience (DEX) is a reflection of how effectively people interact with their workplace digital tools, which allows them to be engaged, proficient, and productive.

DEX includes interfacing with technologies for:

  • Workflow and productivity (project management, analytics, customer relations)
  • Communication and collaboration (email, instant messaging, phone calls, video conferencing)
  • Learning (official trainings and professional development)
  • HR systems (self-service access to policies, compensation, PTO, and performance management information, etc.)

People are accustomed to counting on seamless technology in their personal lives, and they expect the same level of digital ease in their workspace. If employees find it taxing to access information or complete daily tasks with the provided tools, it can negatively influence their rapport with your organization.

How satisfied employees are with the full spectrum of their dealings with their employer, such as meaningful work, inclusive environment, or growth opportunities, is considered employee experience (EX). DEX is a subset of this.

Just as in the rest of the employee experience, HR’s role is instrumental in shaping a great DEX. As an HR professional, you have the opportunity to connect with employees and align with other business functions. Since you have exposure to everyone’s views, you’re able to identify and promote where and how digital tools can make a difference in business outcomes.

Why invest in digital employee experience?

Improving digital employee experience empowers your employees and benefits your organization. When employees’ digital interactions make their tasks simpler, they are more satisfied and productive to better support achieving business goals.

The benefits of a good DEX include:

Enabling the (post) pandemic workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic initiated an undeniable need for digital tools to equip employees to work from home. Companies that had never embraced a remote or hybrid workforce are facing that it’s here to stay.

People now expect flexible and remote work options but still want to feel connected and valued. A solid DEX is necessary to reinforce this.

Digital Employee Experience Gaining Importance

According to Sift, digital employee experience is gaining importance in the post-COVID workplace and in shaping the overall employee experience.

Improved overall employee experience

As mentioned above, DEX impacts the overall EX and can support employee engagement. Staff who have access to useful digital tools are more likely to stay with the company. This boosts your retention rate.

What’s more, satisfied employees who offer word-of-mouth recommendations that your company is a great place to work can boost your reputation as an employer of choice.

Don’t forget that digital interactions must be available to all employees. For example, tools that can only be used on a desktop computer located in the office will alienate employees who spend their day on the road or in a manufacturing assembly line capacity. A DEX that offers access to resources employees need via mobile devices ensures that no one feels excluded or encumbered.

Enhanced productivity

Many factors influence your employees’ productivity, but certainly, having sufficient tools to perform their jobs is one critical aspect.

Without technology that simplifies and streamlines tasks at their disposal, employees must devote time and energy trying to navigate inadequate systems or create their own ways of completing daily tasks. This causes frustration and slows down their output.

Providing easy-to-use technology brings efficiency to your employees’ day, resulting in more work getting done. For instance, a Dutch shipping company Anthony Veder Group implemented an online dashboard for managing its vessels to replace a paper-based process. Employees can now see everything they need in real-time on one screen, saving a considerable amount of time.

Higher profitability

Happy employees are more productive, and productive employees ultimately help your business make more money. In fact, an analysis done by Fortune showed that companies with employees who enjoy working for them show a stronger financial performance.

Enhancing your DEX will contribute to an engaged workforce with a positive impact on your bottom line.

Better customer experience

J.W. Marriott, the founder of hospitality giant Marriott International, has said, “Take care of associates, and they’ll take care of your customers.”

Research shows that employee experience and customer experience are interlinked, so companies with great EX outperform their competitors. When employees feel empowered and valued, they are more inclined to believe in your brand. Then their encounters with customers are bound to, directly and indirectly, reflect an optimistic attitude. This leaves customers with a more satisfying interaction and favorable view of your company.

Common challenges of prioritizing digital employee experience

Implementing the optimal DEX isn’t an easy process. Being aware upfront of the obstacles you’ll face can help you prepare for it.

The challenges associated with addressing an organization’s DEX include:

Cost

Creating a good DEX requires a significant financial investment, and it also demands time and effort. In order to obtain the necessary budget and resources, you will have to justify how the upfront investment will result in short and long-term payoffs.

Stakeholder buy-in

You may need to overcome the natural resistance to stray from the legacy of how things have always been done. Convincing leadership that digital transformation is necessary enough to approve the budget is one hurdle. You may also have to do some selling to employees initially until they learn how to use the technology effectively enough to make their work easier.

Building the right tech stack

You need to select suitable technology that will support both your employees and organizational goals. The tools and systems must also integrate to streamline, not complicate, your employees’ digital experience.

Change management

Multiple changes and shifts will accompany digital implementation. Not only will employees need to be trained, but workflows and business processes will have to be modified. This organizational transformation will require careful planning and adaptability.

9 best practices for boosting your digital employee experience

Each organization will have its own path to unlocking a great digital employee experience, and there are many components you’ll need to focus on.

Consider the following best practices as you plan for and proceed with the digital transformation at your organization:

1. Start with the endgame in mind

Put your employees’ best interests ahead of technology. Digital tools are there to serve the employees, not the other way around. To put it differently, successful digital platforms should address employees’ pain points. They focus on a satisfying user experience and not just on the steps of the work process it supports.

Start the digital transformation journey by gathering feedback from employees to understand the pros and cons of their current daily experience. Also, study any relevant analytics at your disposal and use surveys, focus groups, or interviews for staff from each department. What is working for them with the tools they already have and what isn’t? What would empower them to work more efficiently?

Technology is supposed to make employees’ lives easier. Any digital initiative that doesn’t prioritize a positive impact on the employee experience will fail to achieve its intended purpose.

2. Define what you want to achieve

You need to create a vision for the direction of your DEX and how it fits within the broader EX at your organization. This starts with the right questions to establish what the goals are:

  • How will DEX support your business goals?
  • What digital tools are needed?
  • What type of technology do you want to implement? (Add self-service functions, automate processes, improve asynchronous communication, etc.)
  • What type of training will employees need to be able to use the tools?
  • How will the changes that affect workflow be handled?
  • What are the indicators of success, and how will they be measured?

Your organization will need to make many decisions to deliver a sound DEX, so a clear roadmap will help you evaluate options and challenges as they occur throughout the process.

Why Employee Experience Matters

Research by Gartner shows how employee experience, a blend of digital, cultural, and physical experience, impacts employee engagement, which, in turn, influences business outcomes.

3. Communicate your vision

A new DEX requires the investment of both financial and human resources, as well as interdepartmental coordination, so you will need to get buy-in at all levels. Even the most thoughtfully constructed DEX strategy can fail when there is cynicism and a lack of support throughout the organization.

Starting with support from senior leadership can speed up decision-making throughout the process. You also need transparent communication down to the grassroots level to ensure the success of your DEX.

Come up with an “elevator pitch” of one clear, concise sentence that sums up your DEX strategy. Getting this narrative spread throughout the company can familiarize everyone with the concept and get them talking about it.

Being clear about the benefits of DEX for employees and what it will accomplish for the company will build consensus. If there is communication and collaboration to update everyone at each stage of the process, they will understand what is changing, why it’s changing, and ultimately, how the change impacts them.

4. Assemble a cross-functional team

A holistic view of your workforce provides a better understanding of where opportunities exist to empower employees through digital tools. For this reason, a cross-functional team of individuals who offer different perspectives should take ownership of executing the DEX improvement strategy in an effective and timely manner.

The team can include HR as the lead, internal communications to promote the process, IT to implement the tools, and key employees to test the tools and advocate for the digital experience throughout the company.

A cohesive team can align competing priorities and bring results that improve DEX instead of leaving gaps that are obvious to your employees. Indeed, 89% of employees think that “IT and HR could work better together to improve the digital employee experience.

5. Research and choose the technology

Introducing new technology affects workflow as everyone adapts to it. In other words, you need to make sure that the tools you’re implementing serve their purpose and are worth the time and money invested.

A digital workplace that enables efficiency but isn’t too complicated is ideal. Compare several alternatives and definitely do demos and trials before making the final decision. Protecting your employee’s data is crucial, so inquire vendors about how they approach data privacy and security.

It is equally important to look for options that allow customization and personalization to suit the needs of various teams. Additionally, your tools should integrate with each other to provide a seamless user experience.

Coordinating the research and selection of the technology doesn’t have to be up to HR alone, but you should certainly be involved.

6. Don’t expect to transform everything at once

Trying to rush digital innovation can cause confusion and resistance. You can balance efficiency with preserving DEX by breaking changes down into smaller portions.

Don’t implement all the new tools at once; just start with one. Go project by project with ample support and a degree of flexibility. This allows you to learn as you go through your employee’s real-life use of the tools.

7. Provide sufficient training

You should set up your employees for success from the start. Support them during training with technical assistance and an environment where making mistakes is acceptable and asking for help is welcomed. It will speed up the technology adoption process. Without proper training, there’s a risk that your employees won’t be able to navigate the new system and end up discouraged.

Here are some ideas to consider for supplying your employees with the kind of training that supports DEX:

  • Choose an appropriate training format. Find which methods have functioned well in the past and provide choices for varying technical skill levels. It may work well to train one person from each team who can manage and customize the training for their fellow team members.
  • Have well-organized rollout methods with realistic deadlines. Help employees understand precisely what you expect of them while giving them enough time to adapt to the new way of doing things.
  • Prioritize training. Promote the new skills and help to do their job that employees will reap from new technology. You should also provide time to train. Don’t expect them to do it in their own time in addition to their workload.
  • Incentivize training. Find rewards that you know will motivate your employees to complete the training. For example, you can offer prizes, time off, or free meals.

8. Measure digital employee experience

The best way to determine the success of your DEX strategy is by getting your employees’ honest feedback. If employees are having difficulties, strive to understand them and don’t make excuses. You will be able to identify the problems that employees believe need to be addressed most, and they will appreciate the steps taken to make improvements.

Again, you can use pulse surveys, interviews, and other feedback methods to measure your DEX.

Determine what your baseline is and benchmark your data. Measure this regularly, so you can identify:

  • Which areas of the digital investment work
  • If any areas underperform, and why
  • What adjustments to DEX strategy you need to make
  • When you can deliver improvements

9. Work on improvements

Your data will help you not only see the pain points but to identify what you can enhance or fine-tune. Of course, DEX is a process that goes well beyond the implementation phase. So don’t focus only on creating the experience but also managing and improving your digital workplace.

Technology is bound to continue evolving, so you will need to progress and shape your DEX on an ongoing basis.

Summing it up

When technology supports and empowers people to do their jobs, it has a strong positive impact on their employee experience and your business. HR’s role is indispensable in delivering an employee-centric DEX that prompts an engaged and productive workforce. In the long run, such a workforce is ready to help your organization achieve its goals.

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