Successfully implementing a digital transformation involves careful consideration of various areas in the business. But one thing that is repeatedly overlooked in this process is the employee experience. We look at why a transformation strategy can be spearheaded by an ’employee-first’ approach.
The pandemic has impacted many aspects of business, but this period has highlighted the pressing need to digitally transform our organizations as quickly as possible. This digital transformation has been a long time coming, but in the wake of the pandemic, those who hadn’t yet put together a strategy quickly discovered how vulnerable they were.
The move to remote working shone a spotlight on these digital shortcomings. Those businesses who hadn’t already prioritized a transformation quickly saw the impact. Software issues, poor communication, and exploitable weak spots in an organization’s cybersecurity were laid bare in the ensuing early months of the pandemic.
Where are we all at in terms of digital transformation?
Pre-2020, most businesses felt a gentle push to plan and progress their digital transformation strategy. By the end of March 2020, this gentle push had turned into a forceful thrust. The leisurely pace had been replaced by a scrambled rush to assemble plans, make decisions and adopt what were, hopefully, the right technologies. Businesses who thought they had months – if not years – to plan suddenly realized they had days and weeks.
“89% of all companies have already adopted a digital-first business strategy or plan to do so.”IDG
With global interruption, complicated buying channels, and changing customer behaviors, it highlighted the role of digital in every business interaction. Within organizations, it demonstrated a permanent future of working: a workplace that needed the flexibility to operate as successfully remotely as it did in-house.
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Most businesses had enough preparation to muddle through the chaotic early months of 2020. Others had no option other than to adapt quickly. Siloed departments, non-existent communication channels, and suitable software were the first red flags for these organizations.
87% of companies think digital will disrupt their industry, but only 44% are prepared for potential digital disruption.Deloitte
In the aftermath of this chaos, businesses are moving forward with a clearer idea of the areas they need to prioritize as they adapt to new ways of working. And these companies are soon learning that when it comes to organizational digital transformation, it needs to take an employee-first approach.
How important is employee experience?
A positive employee experience cannot simply be achieved with a monthly paycheck. Workers derive enjoyment from many different and intangible areas of the business, and one of the organizational challenges is recognizing what these are. Employee experience is integral to every stage of the employee lifecycle. The recruitment process, the quality of the onboarding, the training and development, the rewards and recognition – each stage needs to be analyzed, new software tested, new initiatives trialed.
And it touches on different levels: the physical, sensory, emotional, and rational. Every day, the workforce makes decisions based on how they themselves improve their own experience. For those responsible for this area, learning from employee interactions is an ongoing challenge. Where do employees prefer to work? What makes an employee choose one communication platform over another? How are people finding out the information they need to do their job?
And there is good reason to stay attentive to this area of business. Having a strong focus on employee experience has repeatedly been proven to significantly impact the bottom line. According to research from MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research, when organizations get employee experience right, they can achieve twice the customer satisfaction and innovation and generate 25% higher profits than those that don’t.
So, in terms of financial benefit, employee engagement, staff retention, productivity, and performance, the employee experience is critical to business success.
What impacts the employee experience?
But, what do we mean by employee experience? Simply put, the employee experience is the overall emotional encounter of the employee through every aspect of their journey in an organization. In the same way that businesses focus on the customer experience: the website’s usability, web accessibility, ease of purchase, customizable shopping suggestions, and so on, the value of giving the same level of attention on the employee experience is gradually being realized.
The main drivers for employee experience include:
- Having access to the right tools and tech to fulfill their jobs
- Being given the opportunities for career development and training
- Getting involved in corporate social responsibility initiatives
- The ability to enjoy a fair degree of flexibility in their work
- A workspace that is designed for maximum employee experience
The right tools
Outdated tech is traditionally the scourge of the employee and a leading contributor to a fall in productivity and performance. But to introduce new tech into a business, you need to track adoption. Intergenerational differences and the usual employee resistance can hinder the rollout of such initiatives. This pushback must be factored into any digital transformation strategy.
Training and development
Most employees have aspirations to develop their careers within an organization, to increase their responsibilities, skills set, earning potential. In fact, nearly two-thirds of employees have quit jobs that lack any clear career development opportunities. Give your teams the right tools to skill-up and promote life-long learning, and you grow engagement, trust, and loyalty.
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Corporate social responsibility
Demonstrating that your company cares about more than turning a profit is also increasingly important to employees. How we act has a direct impact on how our staff feels about our organizations and their jobs. According to stats, 55 percent of employees say they would opt to work for a socially responsible company even if the salary was less, while 51 percent will not work for a company without strong CSR commitments.
After many years of flexibility floundering on trust issues, a new way of working is emerging. A by-product of the pandemic, the hybrid workplace offers more opportunities to employees and organizations than ever before. Promoting the working from home model while reshaping the role of the bricks-and-mortar office space, flexibility has now found a framework that works for both sides of the business and offers increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and an improved work-life balance.
A customized workspace
Customizing your employees’ workspace is no longer a matter of providing games consoles in break out area and ergonomic chairs at desks. Business leaders are in the middle of reimagining what a post-pandemic workspace looks like. Hybrid working is the most obvious option for businesses going forward, whereby the employee customizes their own space, either at remotely or within the office to suit their unique style of working.
How does employee experience influence digital transformation?
First and foremost, it’s your employees who are driving your digital transformation. With a huge variance in their needs, wants, requirements, and ambitions, it is your workforce who should already be heavily influencing the direction of your digitalization strategy. After all, these are the people who tell you what works and what doesn’t in your business. This guidance is central to the entire employee experience.
As Dr. Steve Hunt, Chief Expert, Technology & Work at SAP says, “Employee experience management tells us the ‘why’ behind the perceptions employees have about the moments that matter to them and allows employers to get inside the heads of employees, turn on the sound, and understand what is working and not working for them.”
And what connects employee experience to digitalization is change. Digital transformation is all about change – and, conversely, people are pivotal to change. As organizations implement digitalization, your people are adapting to new ways of working, brand new tools are being used, and new habits are being formed. This is a vital aspect of digital transformation, doing it in such a way that you are able to respond to habits within the business and alter behaviors successfully and seamlessly.
How to use employee experience to succeed in your digital transformation
If you want to see how closely tuned the relationship between your employee experience and digital tools is, just implement the wrong tech. You will see the impact very quickly. However, besides boosting productivity and performance, the right tech and tools can also be an enabler for new behaviors and cultural change.
Therefore, making choices on what employee experience software to implement shouldn’t simply consider how it can affect productivity. You should also explore how it can foster collaboration and business agility in a consistent, consumer-like experience.
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These days, your employees – particularly Millennials and Gen Zs – expect a consumer-grade tech experience. They are used to the plug-in-and-play ease of the products they buy for their homes. Anything less than this will cause frustrations, resentment, and confusion. Which, of course, affects the customer experience. Consumer-grade is fast, easy-to-use, and intuitive, allowing the workforce to access one source of truth to increase your competitive advantage, drive productivity, and improves customer service.
Executives say the top benefits of digital transformation are improved operational efficiency (40%), faster time to market (36%) and the ability to meet customer expectations (35%).PTC
But before you can even begin to do work out what tech stack is best for business, you need to implement a people-first approach in your organization. This can be achieved by:
Creating the right culture. Build an employee-first workplace environment that is well-bedded within the organization. Senior leaders have the responsibility to build a culture of trust and empowerment, and employees should feel they are listened to and valued.
Investigating what your organization needs. Having an in-depth understanding of what your employees need and expect. Use personas to build profiles of the various demographics within your organization to work out what gaps need to be filled in your business.
Knowing the relationship between digitalization and employees. Have a clear understanding of the detrimental impact of implementing technology without considering its effect on the employee experience. The relationship between new tech and employees should be fundamental to every digitalization strategy.
Be prepared for resistance. It’s inevitable that a percentage of your workforce won’t want to change their way of working. In many cases, distrust, misgivings, and simple indifference mean employees will avoid new tech for as long as possible. Expect employee resistance and implement an effective change management program to minimize pushback. Enable your workforce to understand the benefits and strengths of the incoming tech.
Employ data to track performance. You can’t make a judgment call on what tech is the right tech until you start tracking its success in practice. Use analytics to monitor the adoption and use of new tools and software, ensuring the user experience is positive.
Encourage stakeholder support. Select ‘cheerleaders’ within your organization to drive and promote the use of different technologies within the various departments. These individuals are key to influencing teams to adopt new ways of working by highlighting the benefits and gains.
By focusing on your people, a well thought out digital transformation can lead to a better employee experience. And this strategy will benefit organizations going forward: as they become more dispersed through the hybrid workplace, as they seek to become more competitive in their market, and as they navigate the recovery process, post-COVID.
Digitally mature companies are 23% more profitable than their less mature peers.MIT
This is a time for several departments within the business to come together. IT should meet with HR and Internal Comms to devise a digital transformation protocol that covers all areas of planning a new tech roll out.
If there can be lessons from COVID’s impact on business, it is to understand that sometimes, a slow measured response isn’t always in the organization’s best interests. Often, technological development outpaces the rate of roll out. It is then critical to analyze the speed at which we were forced to move from the initial piloting of software to scaling out during the pandemic.
Once we realize how quickly we can make these bold moves with an employee-first mindset, we can see the undeniable implications it has on profit, revenue, and opportunities. In this fast-changing world, it seems we may have no other choice than to quicken the speed and response to our people, to progress, and to digital transformation pressures.