Digital Workspace Digital Workspace Strategy
6 minute read

Rethinking Digital Employee Experience to Align with the Future of Work

The digital employee experience has always been a contributing factor to overall employee engagement and satisfaction, but as organizations look to revise their remote work policies, it must now become a top priority. A superb digital employee experience not only increases employee productivity but prepares organizations for future situations.

“Change is the only constant in life.”

It’s a well-known saying by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and today it couldn’t be more true. Amid the recent outbreak, organizations were forced to suddenly shift to remote working — whether they were prepared to or not — to keep employees safe. In a matter of three weeks, Gallup reported the percentage of employees working from home in the U.S. doubled from 31 percent to 62 percent

There are some obvious changes when moving to an entirely remote workforce — more emails, more video meetings and more kids appearing in those video meetings — but it’s also prompting a change in how organizations view employee flexibility in the long term. In a recent survey, about two-thirds of remote workers said they want to continue to work remotely after the pandemic. This is prompting many organizations to reconsider their remote work policies and improve the digital employee experience to increase productivity at home. 

Human resources (HR) departments – who typically focus on things like pay, health benefits, retirement plans and other traditional employee must-haves – must now expand their duties to advocate for the digital employee experience. 

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What is the digital employee experience?

To be clear, most organizations already focus on employee experience considering traditional components such as physical environment, benefits/incentive offerings and manager/employee relationship building. For instance, does the building have a modern design that sparks creativity and collaboration? Are the healthcare benefits competitive? Do employees have a positive relationship with their managers? 

Less common is an emphasis on the digital aspects of employee experience. The digital employee experience focuses specifically on employees’ interactions with the technology they encounter in their jobs daily — their digital workspace — and ensuring they have the flexibility and convenience to seamlessly access any application, on any device, from any location. For instance, do employees have access to business-critical apps if they are working from home? Eventually when on-site client or supplier meetings are routine, organizations will also need to ensure employees have access while traveling. These are the types of seamless experiences that are often overlooked. 

When organizations optimize digital experiences for employees, it opens a world of opportunity to empower and maximize employee time and productivity. 

Josh Olson, VMware director of employee experience solutions, shared the example of truck drivers at a manufacturing company. HR needs these employees to complete tasks – like benefits enrollment – even though they’re not in a physical office with access to a desktop computer. Without a digital employee experience that allows them to access this information on a mobile device, the drivers have no easy way of getting this done. In fact, they may not even know they need to enroll in anything until they’ve returned to headquarters two weeks later.

“You help HR, because now they have a digital billboard in everybody’s pocket,” Olson said. “That digital workspace can now be used for global communications. They can tell employees about benefits enrollment – like they normally would by posting it in the break room – but, instead, employees can have it on their phones, and HR knows when they have seen it.” 

This is just one example. The digital employee experience will vary from employee to employee as workflows and processes are different for every role in the organization. 

Common challenges

Creating an ideal digital employee experience is not without its challenges, which is why many organizations struggle to deliver it. 

The first challenge is justifying budget for the digital employee experience. As organizations tighten budgets to recover from the pandemic, it's more important than ever before to understand how investing in the digital employee experience can pay dividends immediately and over the long term. By leveraging a unified endpoint management platform, like VMware's Workspace ONE, organizations can save costs by consolidating disaggregate endpoint tools and reducing IT's time spent on managing employees' devices. 

Secondly, organizations must focus on breaking down silos within the organization. HR, IT and relevant departments must collaborate to develop a holistic view of their employees’ digital experience. Each department brings a different perspective to the table that, collectively, helps the organization develop a more comprehensive experience that enables employees to stay engaged, connected and productive.

“A lot of companies think, well, this is an IT thing,” Olson said. “But IT is going to focus on apps and devices. On the other hand, some people think it’s a HR thing. Well, that group is going to focus on workflows and processes. So, it’s both of those departments working together.” 

Another challenge is focusing investments in the right areas. Olson often meets with organizations that are investing solely in their physical building and neglecting the digital experience completely. 

“I work with companies that recognize they have to attract millennials, and they need to do something,” Olson said. “And when I ask what they are doing, they tell me they’re spending $50 million and renovating their building. They’re going to have these amazing discovery centers, an on-site Starbucks, a place to drop off your kids. And that’s great, up until the point where they look at what the employee is doing every day.” 

First steps for building a better digital employee experience

There are several steps organizations can take now to start their journey toward delivering an ideal digital employee experience. 

1. Form a cross-functional digital employee experience committee. 

One way to break down silos is through a cross-functional committee. This committee should serve as the voice for advocating the digital employee experience. While HR and IT should lead the committee, it’s best practice to include employees from across the organization. This will help to form a holistic view, allowing the organization to better understand where there are opportunities to empower employees based on job role. 

2. Attend third-party virtual meetings and events that foster HR and IT collaboration.

Search out and attend virtual events that bring HR and IT professionals together. These meetups can provide a wealth of information and insight into what’s working – and what’s not – for other organizations that are trying to improve their digital employee experience. Here are a few events, webinars and communities to consider:

3. Engage with an established digital workspace partner. 

Achieving a better digital employee experience is not an easy task, so engaging with an established partner is highly recommended. A trusted advisor can help every step of the way – from planning to implementation to training – so your journey to empowering employees is smooth and seamless.