The digital employee experience encompasses the way employees interact with their organization’s digital tools, technology and processes to accomplish their work.
It falls under the larger umbrella of employee experience, which begins from the moment a prospective employee applies to your organization to when they ultimately leave. The employee experience involves the psychological aspects of the job, such as enjoying one’s work, feeling a sense of inclusion, having an adequate work-life balance and a general state of wellbeing.
What Is the Digital Employee Experience (DEX)?
The digital employee experience is a reflection of how employees interact with their digital environment. DEX encompasses employees’ experiences, observations and feelings around the tools and processes that make up their digital workplace environment.
The digital employee experience is also about what employees observe, feel, learn and undertake while at the workplace, but as it relates to their digital environment.
At its best, the digital employee experience provides an environment that allows for seamless communication and collaboration, workflow and productivity, and self-service HR and IT. But, at its worst, a bad digital employee experience leads to frustration and productivity loss.
Why Is the Digital Employee Experience Important?
The digital employee experience can impact employee retention and productivity, and the broader interest in delivering a good overall employee experience, said Dan Wilson, vice president and research analyst of digital workplace infrastructure and operations for Gartner.
“If someone is so frustrated by the technology they use, they may leave for another company even if they are paid slightly less because it’s a better, frictionless experience and they feel they are getting more things done and contributing more overall,” Wilson told Built In.
A good digital employee experience can also improve the mental health and well-being of employees.
“Digital tools can become either a barrier or means to success.”
“It takes mental power to deal with frustrations and it drains your focus away from the core parts of your job. DEX is important for both employee satisfaction but also the way they can perform work,” said Andrew Brodsky, assistant professor at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. “Digital tools can become either a barrier or means to success.”
The benefits of a well-executed digital employee experience can also extend to a company’s bottom line, Wilson said. A good digital employee experience can translate into an improved customer experience because employees are less apt to feel frustrated due to technology woes and in a better frame of mind to assist customers. This, in turn, can lead to higher sales and profits.
Digital Employee Experience Best Practices
Here are some of the best practices to help you boost your company’s digital employee experience — and employees’ happiness and productivity along with it.
6 Best Practices for a Better Digital Employee Experience
- Identify the problems with the current DEX.
- Use multiple channels of communication.
- Avoid one-size-fits-all digital tools.
- Explain why you’re replacing tools.
- When onboarding, address norms around digital tool use.
- Create an even DEX for all employees.
- Solicit feedback after launching new digital tools.
Identify the Problems With the Current DEX
Start with identifying the root cause of what is degrading the digital experience for employees. Begin by reviewing employee surveys and help-desk reports. Once you have an idea of areas to focus on, interview affected employees on the frequency of the problems happening, types of issues and impact on the business, said Josh Olson, global head of experience solutions software sales for cloud infrastructure company VMware.
This can then serve as guidance for the tools needed. For example, complaints about line-of-business platform performance, which addresses specific business needs, may require business intelligence or analytics tools to determine the source of the problem.
Use Multiple Channels of Communication
Multi-channel communication can help enhance a company’s digital employee experience.
“This is less about tools and more about communications and the human change management processes that are combined into a concept we call employee enablement,” Wilson said.
Employee enablement is the constant practice of providing the materials, tools, information and anything else an employee needs to get a task completed to the best of their ability.
Wilson added that the digital employee experience’s intent is to drive adoption and increase the workforce’s digital dexterity by continuously communicating ways to use and get more from technology.
For example, the digital employee experience can not only be improved through the use of multiple communications channels like email, chat, push notifications, collaboration tools, but also with videos and webinars to address things like tips and tricks, success stories, how-tos, and did-you-know content, Wilson said.
Avoid One-Size-Fits-All Tools
Avoid digital tools that proclaim to be one-size-fits-all solutions, Brodsky advised.
“When you use a one-size-fits-all tool, you often lose the ability for employees to choose what tool fits best for them given the task they need to do,” Brodsky said.
Instead, aim to have a diversity of digital tools available to ensure the best possible experience, he said. “Make sure employees can optimize their own outcomes.”
In order to offer employees a range of tools but still cut costs via consolidation, Brodsky recommends first interviewing employees on which tools they use and how important that tool is to get the task done, keeping in mind how important that task is to the company. The second step calls for eliminating or minimizing the number of tools that fall outside of these criteria.
Explain Why You’re Replacing Tools
When introducing new tools to existing employees, one best practice is to explain why an old tool is being swapped out for a new one, Brodsky said.
For example, if you purchased a new tool that could automate certain procedures that the previous tool could not, you would not only relay this information to employees but also explain how they would benefit. The new automation tool could free up employees to tackle more complex and interesting work, which in turn could motivate them to use the new tool and create buy-in.
When Onboarding, Address Norms Around Digital Tool Use
For new employees, the onboarding process should not just focus on explaining how the company’s digital tools work, but also the organization’s norms around their use, Brodsky said. For example, one company may exclusively use instant messaging to communicate. But a new employee may not realize this and send an email to communicate with co-workers, according to Brodsky.
“New employees often only find out by messing up, which is not a great way to start in an organization,” he added, noting many companies often miss this important step.
Create an Even DEX for All Employees
Whether onboarding new employees or helping existing ones, you should aim to give an even digital employee experience for all employees — whether they’re in the office or remote.
“The DEX experience is not just about what you do for remote employees ... It’s also making sure non-remote and hybrid employees also have a good experience with technologies, as well.”
When it comes to addressing problems in the digital employee experience, a good approach is to evaluate the number of impacted employees and the cost of the impact to help create a priority list of which issues to address first. From there, companies can use digital tools to fix tasks automatically and enable self-service features for those items that can’t be automated, Olson said.
“The DEX experience is not just about what you do for remote employees,” Brodsky said. “It’s also making sure non-remote and hybrid employees also have a good experience with technologies, as well.”
Communication is a prime example, he said. If all remote employees are using instant messaging to communicate and the in-office people are not, it can create a disconnect in terms of information sharing and collaboration between these two sets of employees and create two separate digital employee experiences.
Creating an inclusive digital employee experience, regardless of employees’ locations or the digital tools that they use, requires the intentional action of checking in with your workforce via surveys, one-on-ones or team meetings to make sure the digital employee experiences are on par.
Solicit Feedback After Launching New Digital Tools
One of the most important best practices you can consider is making sure you are open to employee feedback when you launch new digital tools and you understand the user experience, Brodsky said. Often, companies will put a new digital tool out there for their employees to use without seeking comments after it’s done. Instead, organizations should solicit employee feedback on what they like or dislike about the new tool and ways to improve its use, he added.
“This way it would be a continual improvement process instead of a once-and-done process,” Brodsky said.