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Employee experience must become ‘digital first’

Technology is an essential part of the ever-growing world of remote and hybrid working, and absolutely crucial to the employee experience

You may well have heard about the ‘digital first’ and ‘digital fast’ approach to the customer experience and of course, this makes total sense. With people using the online world for everything from shopping through to medical diagnoses, ensuring their online experiences are first-rate is key. However, when it comes to the ‘employee experience’, organisations are often lagging behind, and are instead approaching it with a ‘digital second’ mindset. This has to change.

As it stands, 39 per cent of UK employees are currently working from home in some capacity with UK offices seeing, on average,  32 per cent office attendance. Attendance rates will likely fall even further when The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 comes into force in 2025. Add to this that most deskless workers – who make up 80 per cent of the global workforce – never even go near an office, and organisations are faced with managing a largely remote and often highly dispersed workforce. In fact, it’s commonplace to find employees regularly communicating with their organisations, managers and peers at a distance, perhaps even working for days’ at a time without seeing a single person. And yet their digital experiences are all too often sub-standard. In the worst cases, employees who work remotely are less productive, disengaged and at risk of burnout.

The problem is that – despite the shift in office working patterns and workplace culture -many organisations are still neglecting the digital employee experience (DEX). As such, they simply don’t have the right infrastructure and processes in place to make remote, hybrid and deskless working streamlined, connected and inclusive.

It’s also important to recognise that when talking about lacking the ‘right infrastructure’, this don’t necessarily mean that technology investment has been absent. In some cases, companies have invested heavily in remote working tools, but it’s been done in a piecemeal fashion leading to ‘app overload’, and employees feeling overwhelmed. Being confronted with a plethora of standalone tools and apps to pick and choose from, can create just as many employee frustrations as having a scant IT infrastructure.

Prioritising the DEX is vital, and to achieve this, organisations must first decide what they want their employee experience to ‘look like’ both face-to-face and at a distance. After all, the total employee experience needs to be as joined-up as possible. So, from the recruitment and onboarding processes through to how employees interact with the organisation on a daily basis, and then through to exit, how do you want employees to feel about the organisation, their managers and their co-workers? Do you want employees to feel trusted, empowered and appreciated? Do you want them to feel that they’re doing meaningful work? And do you want employees to recognise opportunities for them to grow and develop? The employee experience you want to achieve, must then be translated into how this looks physically (when in the office for example), culturally and technologically.

Technologically, it’s crucial for employees to have the right tools to do their job wherever and whenever they’re working. A streamlined and intuitive online experience is key which requires a single platform, such as a modern intranet, that is employees’ ‘go to’ for everything. This avoids the frustrations of hunting around different apps for various information, documents and support.  A modern intranet (which must be accessible on all mobile devices) provides the necessary tools for everyday working, while creating a digital heart of the organisation that brings and keeps everyone and everything together.

Having this single, unified platform means that from one digital place, documents can be located and circulated, news can be read, latest policies can be found, help and support can be sought and connections can be made. Linking other business systems to the intranet – such as HR and payroll systems – also means that employees have a ‘one stop shop’ to access everything, from payslips and pension information through to training request forms and employee benefits. And from a company culture point of view, the organisation has a digital home where it can nurture and grow a sense of community so that everyone – regardless of whether they’re working in the office, at home or at another location – can feel a strong sense of purpose and belonging.

Technology is an essential part of the ever-growing world of remote and hybrid working, and absolutely crucial to the employee experience. It’s therefore time for organisations to recognise that the employee experience must become ‘digital first’. After all, a poor relationship with tech creates a poor relationship with work, and the impacts are considerable leading to disengagement, increased sickness absences and high attrition rates.

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