Digital Employee Experience Transformation Isn’t Just About Efficiency
For many of us today, work experiences such as applying for a job, requesting new equipment or booking work travel are entirely digital. The evolution toward digital employee experiences has been accelerated both by technology developments and also by the move to more distributed, remote and hybrid work over the last three years.
In 2021, 85% of Chief Information Officers reported working much more closely with their Chief Human Resource counterparts since the start of the pandemic. Employees recognize the value of this alignment, with about two-thirds saying that workplace technology helps them to be productive — but only a third say their current technology exceeds their expectations.
This is great news from the perspective of operational leaders, as it points to more efficiency and consumer-grade employee experiences (finally!). Most digital transformations focus on exactly that: increasing efficiency. Recently, we’ve seen a number of high profile tech CEOs tout “efficiency” and some organizations shift part of HR’s purchasing power to IT. But if organizational leaders aim workplace digitization solely at efficiency, they may miss the bigger target: driving productive employee emotions and behaviors.
Measure Digital Experiences, Even the Small Ones
We’re probably all familiar with the saying “you can’t improve what you don’t measure,” and this is certainly true for digital experiences. Intensive experiences such as the holistic candidate experience, new hire onboarding and leadership development require nuanced measures. However, smaller digital experiences, such as submitting an IT ticket or completing an expense report, should not be overlooked.
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These interactions may appear small, but unattended experiences have a tendency to boil over. In our most recent global employee experience trends study, we found that inefficient processes were the strongest driver of employee burnout. Moreover, the sleekness of digital consumer experiences is driving employees’ expectations ever higher: “I just ordered delivery in less than 2 minutes on my phone; why does it take nearly an hour to finish this expense report?!”
Even small negative experiences, if they happen repeatedly, can be extremely damaging, much like a papercut in the same spot over and over.
Design Digital Experiences for Success, Effort and Emotion
When employees go through an experience at work, they look for predictable, familiar characteristics. One practical framework that has proven useful in both the customer and employee experience arenas is what we call the Success, Effort, and Emotion (SEE) model, which describes the characteristics that people look for in a good experience. For example:
- Success: Were employees able to accomplish what they wanted and/or needed to?
- Effort: How easy or difficult was it for employees to accomplish their goals?
- Emotion: How did the experience make employees feel?
First, this model encourages organizational leaders to view an experience from the employee’s perspective. Take the annual benefits enrollment experience, for example: Yes, this is an important digital “touchpoint,” but to employees, it’s a chance for them to learn about new benefits, make critical tradeoffs (e.g., benefits vs. monthly costs) and ultimately provide for their families.
Second, this model helps organizations to generate design principles for digital experiences. Using the SEE model, we can easily create an initial framework for designing/redesigning the benefits enrollment experience:
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Success: What do employees need and/or want to get out of this experience?
Educate themselves, make accurate decisions and enroll for annual benefits.
Effort: How much time and effort should employees have to put into this experience?
The online tool should be easy to navigate and make differences between plans extremely easy to spot. The total experience should take less than 25 minutes on average.
Emotion: How should the experience make employees feel?
The experience should make them feel confident that they made the right decision for their families and agreeable to using the same tool next year.
Results: What behaviors should this digital experience impact?
Maximum enrollment rate before the deadline.
And finally, the SEE model serves as an evaluative framework for measuring the success of smaller digital experiences.
Embed Personal Prompts and Responses
One of the promises of workplace digitization is increased personalization. Not only does being treated like a unique person make employees feel good, but also it is now a baseline employee demand. We as consumers and employees get frustrated when we’re asked the same question over and over — “I already told you this!” — or are asked to give information the organization already has — ”Don’t you already know this?” Digitization opens up massive potential to make employee experiences more personal.
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For example, an organization can use historical information to make recommendations on benefits. They can measure the time someone spends clicking around on the intranet to infer the user needs help and then provide redirection. The organization can also use productivity, goals and past training information to make developmental recommendations. The possibilities for personalization are endless.
Emotions Are the Key to Successful Digital Transformation
Among the three characteristics of the SEE model, “emotion” is the strongest driver of employee perceptions of an experience. But human emotion sometimes gets the short straw in the workplace. We’ve all heard statements like, “don’t let your feelings get the best of you”. This is sound advice when we really do need to take a step back and use logic. But emotions are powerful drivers of human behavior and in employee experience, and this is precisely what leaders need to do — drive human behavior.
Interestingly, if we consider the evolution and neurobiology of human emotions, we find that emotions serve as a sort of reflex — a reflex that has evolved over thousands of generations and that is based upon an unimaginably large dataset of human experimentation. In other words, there are very good reasons why we react emotionally to experiences.
In the long run, organizational initiatives to digitize the employee experience in sole service of efficiency could fall flat. In my assessment, the goal of digital transformation should be to intentionally drive productive emotions that then influence positive employee behaviors. But there is nothing wrong with doing this quicker and more cost effectively. In fact, employees will be thankful for that. The ultimate promise of workplace technology, however, is that it enables us to make the modern workplace more human.
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