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A Strategic Framework for Digital Employee Experience

September 09, 2021 Employee Experience
James Robertson
By James Robertson

As focus is shifting to the hybrid workplace, there's a growing recognition that businesses need to put more effort into delivering productive digital experiences for the workforce. Digital employee experience (DEX) is relatively new as a concept, which can make it challenging to know where to start.

What elements do you need? What are your organization's strengths and what gaps need to be filled to ensure DEX is both successful and sustainable? I’ve been working with a range of organizations to answer these questions and what's become apparent is another level of detail around digital employee experience is needed to really bring it to life.

To that end, I’ve developed and released a “DEX Enterprise Framework,” a model that gives organizations a complete picture of how to shape and sustain great digital employee experiences.

DEX enterprise framework

The 6 Elements of the Digital Employee Experience Framework

The DEX Enterprise Framework consists of six elements:

Leadership

DEX initiatives need an overall vision guiding them, backed up by a practical and pragmatic strategy. With so many stakeholders involved in shaping DEX, strong governance is also key, to ensure alignment between parallel projects.

Leaders themselves play an important role, not just championing the importance of DEX, but modeling desired behaviors. Longer-standing business leaders may find this a challenge and may need to change their behavior.

Culture

Digital employee experience is all about putting humans at the center of digital designs and decisions and elevating the experience they have beyond merely the provided functionality. This will require a high degree of engagement and direct involvement of all major employee cohorts.

Work practices will also need to further shift, going beyond the rapid shifts seen during the pandemic to embed more mature digital behaviors. This also makes digital dexterity (formerly known as digital literacy) a key consideration.

Related Article: Improving Digital Literacy Is 'Simple'

Capability

Organizations will need to commit further resources to digital employee experience to make a meaningful difference, similar to the establishment of CX teams nearly a decade ago.

More broadly, they'll need to incorporate DEX into standard methodologies, such as agile development, and will need human-centered design skills.

Technology

As shown in the recent DEX survey, this is perhaps the strongest element for many organizations, with technology readiness rated much higher than people and process aspects. As a result of the pandemic, businesses have deployed rich modern platforms, providing employees with a set of digital capabilities that finally meets — or surpasses — what’s available for consumers.

But this isn't enough. Modern practices, such as product management, are needed for the enterprise tools, not just consumer-facing systems. And further work is needed to integrate tools to deliver a coherent experience.

Related Article: What Is the State of Digital Employee Experience in 2021?

Environment

Digital work doesn’t happen in isolation. As starkly shown during the pandemic, we all need the tools to be productive when outside the office, for some or all of the time. This means providing employees with the most effective devices, and equipping offices with equipment that seamlessly connects with digital platforms.

It’s here that digital employee experience overlaps with the shift towards hybrid workplaces. DEX is a key enabler that richly connects people when they’re not face-to-face, and fosters a cohesive culture even when our offices may be only sparsely populated.

Lived Experiences

This is where the rubber hits the road, as they say. All the frameworks in the world don’t mean anything unless the day-to-day digital experiences of our whole workforce meets expectations.

This means taking the time to research the real-world experiences for key employee cohorts, particularly field and front-line staff. Solutions must then be designed, delivered and constantly refined to then enhance the digital experiences of these workers.

Using the DEX Framework

The DEX Enterprise Framework provides a powerful at-a-glance view that shows the scope of digital employee experience, in a way that connects with IT and business leaders. As such, it can provide a banner for projects and initiatives to rally underneath, bringing together activities previously conducted in isolation.

Each of the elements has a level of detail sitting below that enables organizations to conduct self-assessments of their DEX maturity. This is particularly valuable in identifying gaps to address in order to get the most out of work already done.

The framework can also be used to compare views of DEX between divisions of the same firm. This surfaces any differences in understanding, opinions, priorities and lived experiences. (Just because one division believes a great DEX has been delivered for the whole workforce doesn’t automatically make it so!)

More broadly, the DEX Enterprise Framework enables benchmarking of digital employee experience maturity between organizations, with the goal of providing a catalyst for sharing of knowledge between firms, and thus progressing the delivery of DEX for all.

It is my hope that this framework — and its iterations to come — will help broaden the exploration of digital employee experiences, and help to bring together a common set of ambitions to deliver great outcomes for all employees.

About the Author

James Robertson is the originator of the global movement towards digital employee experience (DEX). Twenty years in this space, he’s one of the leading thinkers on intranets and digital workplaces. He’s the author of the books “Essential Intranets: Inspiring Sites that Deliver Business Value” and “Designing Intranets: Creating Sites that Work.”

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