Improving employee experience | Deloitte US has been saved
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Authored by John Brownridge, Sarah Fitzgerald and ServiceNow’s Jeff Gore
We’ve long lived in a digital age, yet the last two years have ignited a rapid acceleration and expansion of digital work. As organizations raced to adapt to an almost exclusively remote or hybrid world, technology was often implemented piecemeal without thoughtful design for the employee experience.
Now, we’re seeing the impact: Siloed tools and redundant tech are dampening worker enthusiasm, limiting productivity, and impeding business outcomes. Even as the harshest realities of the pandemic lessen, employees are left increasingly demoralized by years of social isolation and digital despondency.
In a 2022 Gallup poll, only 21% of employees reported being engaged at work, and just 33% of employees said they were thriving in their overall wellbeing. The poll also found that most employees don’t find their work meaningful and do not feel hopeful about their careers. As a result, many have opted to leave their employers.
With millions of workers profoundly unsatisfied with their day-to-day work, engaging employees in the new digital workplace might be the single most pressing issue in modern business. The good news is that there are actionable ways to address it. But to move forward in the right direction—and arrive at a solution that suits your organization—it’s essential to first fully understand the problem.
Frequent tech adoption may be part of the problem
With each workplace issue that arises, a host of new technology solutions promise to address it. But continually adopting new platforms and products may be causing more harm than good. Stacking technology on top of technology leaves organizations with a messy tangle of digital tools and platforms. Because an employee’s experience depends upon how well they can navigate the digital ecosystem, disjointed and siloed solutions leave them feeling frustrated and disengaged as they hunt for the resources that can help them do their jobs.
In traditional office environments where employees all work from a single location, this is less likely to be a concern. For example, if someone needs IT support, they simply walk to a help desk. To encourage cross-team collaboration, workstations are grouped together. But this thoughtful space planning simply is not happening with technology the way that it should be. Instead of mapping out an entire experience, organizations are adding technical capabilities unevenly. Back in 2019, it would be like placing employees’ desks in the hallway or setting up a breakroom without tables and chairs.
In other words, we have put more thought into the physical spaces we occupy than we have the digital ones. Yet digital spaces are our workspaces. Today, organizations must find a way to provide a unified, seamless experience that meets the needs of many different and dispersed employees.
Embracing a human-centered approach to experience design
To build a human-centered digital workplace, organizations must first define the holistic employee experience. Consider these key questions:
The answers here paint the picture of your worker experience. Stack your future aspirations for workplace experience atop this current state, and you’ll have a strong foundation to inform how you design your workplace.
Solving for the experience problem
To elevate the workplace experience and create an environment in which employees thrive, consider the following high-impact approaches:
1. Take executive ownership
First and foremost, talent engagement, productivity, and retention are executive-level priorities for any organization, regardless of the macroeconomic climate. It’s essential that the executive ranks of an organization work together across the business to solve for employee experience. And while ownership of the problem rests on leadership, the solutions should be drawn from the ground up.
2. View the workplace through the employee lens
Digital workplaces must be designed around the entire employee experience, from the simplest everyday moments to less frequent and more complex events. Worker needs should be the driving force behind your design—and you should continually gauge their experience in an effort to improve it. As you take action accordingly, keep in mind that solving for employee needs is a substantial and continuous undertaking, so it may be beneficial to prioritize efforts according to projected impact and attribute ownership to each initiative to make positive changes more palatable and actionable.
The more visibility you have into how employees are engaging and what their needs are, the more proactive you can be when it comes to providing solutions.
3. Establish an experience Center of Excellence (COE)
Most organizations currently approach experience design in a siloed way. HR thinks about how employees experience HR, while IT is concerned with how employees experience IT. But when employees need help, they don’t always know where that help should come from. For example, if an employee needs to submit a request to HR, that single interaction might also require support from IT, legal services, and the finance unit. An experience COE helps ensure that question gets to the right teams for a more comprehensive solution.
When building from silos, you can miss important steps, which creates a disjointed experience for workers. But by establishing experience design methods that account for the holistic employee experience, you’re better equipped to solve the experience problem across your company.
4. Practice a product mindset
Similarly to the siloed approach, organizations often consider the experience problem with a project mindset: Different departments plan and launch their own short-term projects independent of what the rest of the organization is doing. What’s needed here is a product mindset, which focuses on customers and outcomes in effort to deliver longer-term value.
With the product mindset, not only are experiences designed in a more holistic way across an organization, but there are more opportunities to improve the product through gradual and continuous optimization driven by customer (user) feedback and insights.
Better experience, better business
Solving the employee experience problem helps you increase worker satisfaction and eliminate inefficiencies across the organization. That’s great for workers and great for business. As you embrace a user-driven, employee-centric model, you can design a workplace that improves worker productivity, streamlines your operations, and helps reduce costly employee churn—ultimately leading to higher ROI.
Building the future with an employee-first workplace
At its ideal, the digital workplace can drive enormous value for your organization. But to unlock that potential, you need to design scalable experiences with humans at the center. By taking action to solve the employee experience problem today, you move toward a more profitable and resilient tomorrow.