“Digital employee experience” may have a techy ring to it, and does put forth new ways of working that are now essential to today’s technology-driven and very dispersed work environments. But in many ways, tried-and-true principals of empathy, fairness and teamwork apply as much to today’s workplaces as before — perhaps even more so.
A recent study of 537 executives, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of VMware, finds 75% of executives have made employee experience a higher or top priority over the past two years. There are business advantages: 80% see it as a way to increase employee productivity, while 75% hope for better retention of talent.
There’s been a crisis of disconnection all across workplaces as a result of the pandemic and ensuing “Great Resignation,” relates Jill Popelka, president of SAP SuccessFactors and author of the best-selling book, Experience, Inc.: Why Companies That Uncover Purpose, Create Connection, and Celebrate Their People Will Triumph. In a recent discussion with tech industry analyst Vinnie Mirchandani (an author in his own right), Popelka notes that in the wake of Covid, people working remotely have been disconnected from the human connections that ensure well-rounded employee experience.
Here’s where the digital employee experience is key, as technology is a useful tool for promoting greater connections across the workplace, Popelka emphasizes. “Collaboration platforms have really proliferated over the last few years. As a business leader, you need to understand what employees want and need. How do you get that information? Technology can help you achieve that.”
Popelka urges the “humane” use of technology to provide for this experience. “Be intentional with your use of technology,” she says. “Don’t just implement technology for technology’s sake. Know why you’re implementing that technology, and know the value it’s going to bring to your employees. Think about that actively and then track it.”
The Forrester-VMware study focused on some of the technology approaches enabling more superior employee experience. Seventy-nine percent of executives say they are interested in employee self-service tools, for example. In addition, 65% see streamlined procurement and management is a significant opportunity, and are interested in unified management across all devices on which employees may elect to work.
In addition, the Forrester-VMware survey finds, two-thirds of executives seek to develop more holistic digital employee experience solutions that can offer successful delivery, monitoring, analysis, and remediation capabilities.
A key element of superior employee experience is the learning and training component. “Over the course of time, any business needs to evolve and change to keep up with market trends,” says Popelka. “In order to do that they need to reskill their teams. They need to give employees the opportunity to change career paths. learn something new, do something new that contributes to the new focus of the business.”
The opportunities that arise through entrepreneurship and startups also poses a challenge for organizations seeking to attract and retain people. In his discussion with Popelka, There’s an emerging concept called “microcapitalism,” Mirchandani says, in which people leaving their organizations are opting to start their own ventures, versus going to a competitor. “GoDaddy announced a spike in new websites, and Etsy and Shopify announced a lot of new merchants,” he illustrates. “How can corporations compete against that entrepreneurial energy?”
Larger employers provide something that startups and entrepreneurial ventures are unable to provide, Popelka says. “Within any large corporation you have teams and tribes and groups of people. They provide that spirit of innovation, that sense of community, that sense of belonging,” she adds. In addition, larger organizations enable a concept called “storm home,” or an almost family-like community in which employees can seek safety, comfort, and even normalcy from difficult times in their lives. “Companies who empower this, who allow their managers and their leaders to get this right will be able to compete just as effectively in this world against the startups.”