Why Is the C-Suite Overlooking Digital Employee Experience as a Strategic Priority?
We often hear that "employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers." As it turns out, they also leave technology. Especially when that technology causes frustration and gets in the way of accomplishing goals.
Digital employee experience (DEX) is the combined experience employees have when they interact with a workplace technology. In plain English, it's how employees feel about their intranet, CRM, learning tools, HR tools and various other business applications.
When this experience is good, things get done fast. Employees feel productive, accomplished and happy with their job. When the experience is bad, employees waste time trying to figure out the latest technology, their tasks pile up, they get frustrated, feel unproductive and start hating their jobs.
In 2020, 32% of workers who quit their jobs believed that technology "was a barrier to their ability to do good work." This was up from 22% pre-pandemic, according to Workfront's The 2021 State of Work report.
With that in mind and with more and more companies moving to remote or hybrid work, you’d expect DEX would be a top priority for company leaders.
Our data shows otherwise.
This summer, my firm Origami Software conducted a survey with 200 companies that are either in the process of improving their DEX or are preparing the business case to do so. The responses came from organizations in North America, Europe and Oceania ranging in size from 100 to 100,000 employees. Here is what we found: A full 80% of respondents felt leaders at the highest level in their company do not see improving DEX as a strategic priority. Why is this?
We looked at the data for answers.
DEX Business Cases Miss Critical Data
One of the key characteristics of any business case is to provide the value and benefits of doing a project. And what conveys a better picture than measurable, actionable data?
Our survey found only 18% of responding companies consistently measure the ease of use of workplace technology. And this can make a sizable impact on the potential success of your new business case.
Let's say you're proposing a new intranet project and your key success measure is improved ease of use and search. How can you convey the improvement to these metrics if you haven't measured the current ease of use?
Ultimately, business cases that lack enough solid evidence can raise doubts and concerns about risk in leaders' minds. Busy leaders juggle multiple priorities and often choose to allocate budget to projects with less risk.
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Building the Business Case for DEX Improvements: Leaders Want Data
We wanted to learn about leader attitudes towards projects that do collect solid metrics. It turns out, companies that regularly measure technology ease-of-use are twice as likely to build leadership support for their DEX initiatives. More importantly, companies that do not collect solid metrics are twice as likely to have leaders not interested or even resistant towards the project.
The evidence for digital employee experience is overwhelming, so what are the best ways to measure it?
What Do You Measure?
If you're replacing a software application to gain specific benefits, you need to measure how those benefits will be quantified.
For example, let’s take a project where you’re setting up a new company intranet. In our experience, IT teams in these cases focus mostly on staying on budget and providing a pleasant intranet experience for their users. The business teams care about the ease of use, accurate search and adoption.
This means we need to measure four KPIs:
- Ease of use (often includes search performance)
- Look and feel
Some of these metrics are pretty easy to measure, such as budget and even look and feel. But how do you measure something as nebulous as ease of use? Intranet pages may look pretty user-friendly at first sight, but when you can't find a document or a template, ease of use goes out the window.
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DEX moves to the next level when it comes to measuring such metrics.
Related Article: A Strategic Framework for Digital Employee Experience
How Do You Measure?
A good way to start this process is by hosting a design workshop with key stakeholders to help everyone understand what we’re aiming to measure and how. This is also where you can get an initial opinion on the ease of use from key stakeholders.
It’s hard to host more than 15 or so participants in a single workshop, so you can't ask the entire company how easy something is for them to use. At the same time, how do you know that the rest of the company employees will agree with the 15 you interview?
There is a relatively simple solution to measuring ease of use:
- Time spent on task
- Task accuracy
If you were asked to find an employee handbook on your new intranet and it took 30 seconds to find it, that could show the ease of navigation design or search. If you couldn't find it or discovered the wrong link, that measures accuracy.
Of course, you could use a survey to automate this data collection on a large scale.
How Do You Choose Which Tasks to Measure?
Determining what tasks to measure is the next big decision. Naturally, you will want to opt for the most popular tasks, rather than asking your users dozens of questions.
You might already know which tasks are the most popular. For example, over time, we collected a list of the most popular 16 things users need to find on their intranet. An alternative is to use add-ons on your intranet that reveal the most popular links and buttons employees click as well as the most frequently visited pages.
Can't Measure, Now What?
You might think, "Our intranet is so old it doesn't have any of these fancy analytics to add to our business case."
That's a business case on its own!
Digital Employee Experience Makes Its Own Case
DEX doesn't have to start as a massive project. Perhaps you need a smaller project to justify a larger upgrade. Leaders are much more supportive of a project that aims to measure, so your first step might be to implement a proof-of-concept project that measures ease of use. Then you can use results to build a solid business case.
In the end, digital employee experience makes the case for itself. Every company wants productive, engaged and satisfied employees who can successfully use the appropriate technology. If your organization is looking to bolster employee experience and productivity by making DEX a strategic priority, take the next step to build a solid business case.
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About the Author
Yaroslav is the founder of OrigamiConnect, a rapidly growing intranet-in-a-box product.
He's also an eight time Microsoft MVP, speaker at worldwide tech events such as Microsoft Ignite, and the author of several SharePoint books.