28 Jul Cutting edge EX: how technology is bringing a new dimension to Employee Experience
Co-authored with Neil Griffiths, Modern Workplace and Security Practice Lead at Eighty20 Solutions
As the digitally-driven ‘switching economy’ goes from strength to strength, no one could deny the value of investments in technology to improve customer experience. But with remote working putting employee engagement and retention at risk, the time is ripe for tech to come to the rescue and enhance employee experience like never before.
How we experience the world has changed drastically in the last 18 months. Far more often, screens are the window we have on our social lives and workplaces and this has huge implications for what we value in any given encounter. Many companies are still struggling to seize the opportunities this creates in how they design and deliver customer experience (CX). Others have been well prepared and are gobbling up market share with ever more frictionless, intuitive and value-laden customer journeys and experiences.
This step-change in quality of experience – and the divide between those leading and those being left behind – is also playing out for employees. And at a time when the war for talent is escalating, and more employees are taking up the hybrid and remote working options, companies also stand to lose their competitive advantage through limited investment or lack of strategic effort on their employee experience (EX).
The EX payoff: innovation, customer satisfaction and productivity
Businesses all over the world, and in Australia are now paying close attention to this potential risk. They’re waking up to the fact that EX and CX are intrinsically linked, and the current shortage of talent is exposing those who have given EX little attention. They’re now looking for ways to get that energy and connectedness, innovation and productivity that comes from a workforce who are given much more than the tools to do their work and a set of goals to achieve.
When employees feel they belong, are valued and have opportunities to enrich their own skillset and contribute to a shared purpose, they can be a force to be reckoned with in business success. According to Deloitte, employees who have the best processes and tools available to support next level EX, organisations can expect twice the level of innovation and customer satisfaction. Plus their profits have the potential to be around 2.5 higher than their competitors.
When employees spend less time trying to work out how to do their job, and more time doing, organisations are twice as innovative and can double customer satisfaction. Their profits are also 2.5 times more likely to be higher than their competitors.
Deloitte, The rise of employee experience: Bringing employees to the forefront of designing work, April 2021
That’s an impressive payoff, but it could just be the beginning of the growing divide in results between businesses that nail EX and those that don’t. With so much focus on the importance of digital transformation to differentiate and improve CX, digitisation of EX has been largely overlooked. It’s been seen as something that’s mostly about people and interactions, with some businesses stepping up their agile approach to create a high performance model for individuals and teams. Far less attention was paid to the technology that supports the employee experience, until a pandemic came along and changed everything.
Even without the shift en masse to remote working for so many companies and employees, there was always going to be demand from a new generation to connect more with their organisation and each other through technology. Not only do millennials have more buying power than any other generation right now, they’ll make up the 75% of the workforce in Australia by 2025. As digital natives they’re primed to make use of technology in every aspect of their working lives, to communicate, learn and solve problems. Employers need to act on this if they’re to attract from this talent pool and empower them to be at their most productive and innovative.
Millennials value workplaces that are collaborative, achievement-oriented, highly creative, positive, diverse, fun, flexible and that provide continuous feedback.
PwC Digital Pulse, Why attracting and retaining the top Millennial talent is key to future success, July 2020
As we guide our Eighty20 clients through Power Platform adoption, we’ve been seeing how effective the right technology can be in smoothing the path to better EX. We’ve worked with HR teams to implement a personalised and seamless onboarding experience with processes and checklists created using PowerApps. Device ordering, account access and more can all be taken care of in an automated workflow, saving time and effort for internal services and delivering everything new hires need to perform from day one.
For new starters and all other employees, Power Apps can also help solve all sorts of glitches and queries that would typically be handled by IT or HR. With Q&A technology, bots developed in Power Apps can address the majority of issues and questions about passwords and access, leave requests and balances. Another advantage for these internal services teams is that they get an opportunity to upskill through these Power Apps projects. At Eighty20 we pride ourselves on empowering employees to learn from best practice and then go on to use the Power Platform to solve all sorts of process and delivery issues.
This can be particularly important for businesses waiting on budget for an enterprise-wide upgrade to their technology. As a solution that integrates with existing apps such as Teams and Outlook, Power Apps presents as a fast, low risk and cost-effective option for introducing technology solutions. Affordable in terms of both licensing and internal resources, it’s an approach that can bring incremental technology efficiencies to EX that won’t become obsolete when a major IT infrastructure project gets underway.
On the flip side of the productivity boost companies can expect from digitisation of EX, is the danger of burnout we’ve seen as many employees have switched to remote working. When home is also the office, and with no colleagues in the same physical space, there’s a real risk of employees focussing a little too much on their work. This year’s Microsoft Work Trends Index report found the average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours since the pandemic began. And, apart from business leaders, more than 50% of every other category of employee reported that they’re struggling or surviving rather than thriving.
Microsoft have acted quickly on this nugget of workforce intelligence, partnering with Headspace as one of several third party apps integrated with their brand new Viva suite of EX tools. Instead of relying on their own sense of fatigue or loss of focus to signal that it’s time for a break, employees get a prompt from Headspace along with activities to defuse stress and restore focus. This is one of many features and tools in the Viva Insights module which is all about productivity and wellbeing. For the employees, this means access to a dashboard supporting the personal work patterns and routines that will keep them productive without taking a toll on energy levels and mental health.
Taking an ecosystem approach
Teams will be the familiar window on all the Viva modules that make up this new employee experience platform (EXP). And this is where the beauty of the platform play emerges. There may be apps and tools companies and their employees already use to support some functions they’ll find in Viva. But these are often fragmented technologies that interrupt the flow of work, adding to friction and frustration and taking away from focus and productivity. With Teams as the access point for all the current Viva modules – Connections, Insights, Topics and Learning – employees have an ecosystem they never need to leave as they go about their core activities and easily switch to value-add experiences as part of their working day.
Take Viva Learning for example. In recent research from Wiley Education Services the majority of employers (41%) said they believe tech skills need to be refreshed every one to two years. With the speed at which organisations need to keep reskilling their teams, finding practical ways to bring learning into the work routine makes a lot of sense. By giving employees access to microlearning resources from third parties like LinkedIn Learning and Coursera as well as proprietary learning materials, organisations can foster a continuous learning culture and invest in their competitive advantage.
You need to improve the digital IQ of your workforces, along with relevant softer skills. These skills are even more critical in a post–COVID-19 environment. They are, in fact, the decisive factor in increasing productivity on a sustainable basis, which is proving to be one of the key factors in an organisation’s long-term success.
PwC, Productivity 2021 and beyond: Five pillars for a better workforce, February 2021
Viva EXP currently offers four modules with more to come. As a sort of personalised, intranet on steroids that can learn from the behaviour of employees, teams and the organisation as whole, it really is designed to make it easier for everyone to do their jobs. This is particularly the case for remote and hybrid teams, where one size no longer fits all for the routines and resources that help people get the most from their working hours.
While Viva does present as a sort of magic, out-of-the-box solution for levelling up EX, companies will need robust foundations to take advantage of these integrated tools. They also need strategies for adoption of new and existing technologies. The Viva Topics module for knowledge sharing, for example, relies on having your Sharepoint resources in order. And while Viva does leverage AI to help you deliver the best of native and third party content for learning and engagement you’ll need a knowledge management plan and team that can bring the human element it takes to handpick content for cultural fit, and organisational goals and priorities as they change.
While this step up in technology can take a big load off IT, HR and Internal Communications teams, they still have an essential role to play in helping companies take full advantage of this new brave world of the EX ecosystem.