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The Digital Employee Experience: Why it’s Important for Your Culture

25 September 2020 9 min read

Man Working In Construction Site Smiling And Using Smartphone

A study found that companies that invest in digital systems can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by 70%. 

Investing in a better digital employee experience and you can expect to see significant boosts to productivity, engagement, retention, and wellbeing 

Why is the digital employee experience important? Well, think about it: Can anyone work without technology anymore? We’re all online, and we all rely on technology. Even industries such as construction are depending more on technology to arrange shifts and book holidays. The whole world is now digital. This means the whole workforce is now digital. 

But iyour workplace technology working for you, and your employees? What if it’s slowing them down or stressing them out? What if your digital systems are making it harder for your employees to work to the best of their abilities?  

Elevating the digital employee experience means acting to make tech work as it should. It means eliminating sources of stress and inefficiency, and ensuring that your systems make life easier, not harder. 

What is Digital Employee Experience?

The term “employee experience” refers to everything that an employee might experience as part of their job, from the dress code to the working environment. Head here to read our complete guide to the employee experience, and how to ensure your workplace delivers a positive experience. 

The digital employee experience is a distinct element of the overall employee experience. It refers to the online, connected world: Any time an employee has to use tech as part of their job, that’s the digital employee experience in action. 

You might think that the digital employee experience matters more to some employees than others. Your IT and HR departments, for example, simply cannot function without digital technologies.  

But the more you think about it, the more you’ll realize that everyone in your business depends on digital in some way. Whether it’s to send internal emails, to book annual leave, or even to contact clients via smartphone, we all depend on tech, whether we realize it or not. 

Why the Digital Employee Experience Important

Any business is only as good as its people. And if your people depend on digital technology to get the job done, then it makes sense to ensure that all of your digital systems are working as well as they could be. 

When it comes to many essential processes, it doesn’t make sense to do things “the old-fashioned way”. The old-fashioned way can be tedious, time-consuming, and immensely wasteful and unproductive. Good technology can make life significantly easier by streamlining many of your company’s most vital processes.  

But with bad tech, it can take forever to get anything done. This will create unnecessary stress, and stress in the workplace can bring a host of additional problemsIt could also lead to resentment. After all, who’s responsible for providing employees with the tech they need to get the job done? You are.  

So if you ignore the digital employee experience, it won’t just be your productivity that suffers. You could also see a drop in employee retention, and your company culture could become defined as stress, resentment, and inefficiency. 

The Benefits to Your Organisation and People

Elevating the employee digital experience means your employees will be able to complete many essential processes in minutes or even seconds. This will mean they’ll have more time to dedicate to the sort of value-adding tasks that will help your company grow.  

But the benefits of a good digital employee experience go far beyond increased efficiency and productivity. The digital employee experience is also crucial to boosting employee wellbeing. Exceptional technology can free employees to work in a way that suits them best. It can help foster a healthy work/life balance, and it can even help employees access essential resources to help them stay healthy and happy. 

Outstanding digital employee experience will also enable you to access essential information, data, and insights concerning employee absenteeism and wellbeing. In this way, you’ll be able to spot patterns and act to prevent small issues from escalating into serious problems for your people and your business. 

THREE Key Challenges of Elevating the Digital Employee Experience?

1. Cost and investment

Overhauling your essential systems and processes is never going to come cheap. And yes, the boosts to efficiency and productivity will justify any upfront cost. But that upfront cost may prove prohibitive to many smaller businesses. 

2. Choice of technology

There are many digital systems out there, all claiming to be the best. How can you tell which is right for your company? How can you get a system that truly meets your requirements, rather than a system with more functions than you’ll ever need? Plus, the digital landscape moves so quickly. How can you ensure that the system you invest in will be fit for your purpose in the long-term? 

3. Buy-in from stakeholders

Some of your stakeholders, and even some employees, may be resistant to new technology and systems. They may point out that these systems are untested, and that you’ve no real way of knowing just how they’re going to benefit your business. And if they’re not sure of the benefits, how can you justify the time, energy, and resources you need to invest in them? 

How can you overcome these challenges? Through doing your research and forming a plan. Carry out an audit of all your current systems, and identify any sources of stress, dissatisfaction, and uncertainty. Clearly outline the benefits of any new system you intend to invest in, and outline a concrete plan for implementation.  

Also, avoid off-the-shelf software and systems. Instead, aim to work with service providers who’ll tailor their systems to suit your specific needs, while providing support to ensure smooth implementation. 

THREE ways to elevate the Digital Employee Experience today

In short, look for areas where the digital experience might be making life harder for your team. Then find ways to make things easier.  Let’s take a look at some areas where you might prioritise. 

1. Online and Self-Service Holiday Booking

Everyone needs a break now and then. All work and no play lead to stress and burnout, and stress and burnout are terrible for your people and your business. Plus, unless you encourage employees to take regular breaks, you risk promoting presenteeism, where employees work themselves to exhaustion because they think you expect it.  

As part of elevating the digital employee experience, you could make it as easy as possible for employees to book the leave they need to stay healthy, happy, and focused.  

How do you currently manage your holidays? With paper request forms? If so, you should move away from this ancient system as soon as possible. 

Instead, invest in an absence management system. Employees can access it securely from any device, and they’ll immediately be able to see how much holiday allowance they have remaining. That means no more uncertainty, no more complex calculations, and no more long email exchanges with HR.  

Next, employees can request leave at the touch of a button, by simply selecting the days they wish to take off. Their line manager will immediately get a request, along with automated notices should this leave cause any problems with a staff rota. They can then accept or reject this leave request – again, at the touch of a button. The employee will then immediately get a notification. So a process that might once have taken hours, or even days, will instead take seconds. 

Meanwhile, you’ll gain access to key absence data and insights. This could help you identify factors that might be increasing employee absence, so you can act to reduce absenteeism while boosting employee wellbeing and efficiency. 

2. Supporting Remote and Flexible Working

As strict government lockdowns took hold, remote and flexible working fast became the norm for many businesses in 2020. The crisis proved that employees can remain productive while working from home. It’s likely that, even as the government lifts lockdown restrictions, many employees will wish to continue working from home 

This is one area where it’s easy to quantify the potential benefits of prioritizing your digital employee experience. Vodafone recently conducted a survey of 8,000 employers and employees across the world. They found that of the companies with a flexible working policy: 

  • 58% report a positive impact on their profile 
  • 83% report a rise in productivity 
  • 61% report a boost to profits 

As part of your plan to elevate the digital employee experience, you could aim to make it as easy as possible for employees to work on their own terms. This could involve equipping employees with the tech they need to work remotely – whether that’s laptops, tablets, smartphones, or secure software systems. But you also need to think about certain practical and legal considerations. And for this, you’ll need a flexible working policy. 

3. Adopt Employee Assistance Programmes

Our studies show that 53% of UK companies do not have adequate resources to support employee mental health. As part of your investment in the digital employee experience, you should look for ways to use tech to champion your employees’ mental and physical health and wellbeing.  

An employee assistance program helps your business assess the state of your employees’ health and wellbeing. They offer support to any employees looking for help with personal problems – either at work or at home.  

How can technology support wellbeing in the workplaceIn many waysWearable tech can help your employees stay active. Wellbeing platforms can provide a real-time overview of your employees’ health. Smartphone apps can help your employees access virtual GP servicesAnd we’ve already touched upon how absence management software can help you spot patterns, identify common causes of stress, and offer support where it’s needed and when it’s needed.

absence risk profile

Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
September 25, 2020

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.