Cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer SocialChorus
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Improving the digital employee experience

Have you considered what your organisation’s digital employee experience looks like? It’s vital for HR, internal communications and IT teams to collaborate effectively to make sure that employees working remotely aren’t left out in the cold.

18th Feb 2021
Cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer SocialChorus
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woman remote working on a laptop at home looking stressed
iStock/Rocky89

The pandemic has forced us all to embrace remote and hybrid working, learning new ways to collaborate and communicate with our colleagues in the process. As a result, the digital employee experience (DEX) has become more critical to business survival and success than ever before.

IT departments, HR, and IC teams all need to work together to provide engaging a digital employee experience that works for everyone in the organisation.

This has undoubtedly accelerated the need for many businesses to review and upgrade their communications systems and processes. The successful implementation of this depends, however, on harmony between the technology expertise of CIOs and their IT teams, and the human input of HR and internal communications (IC) departments.

Unfortunately, recent research by SocialChorus has uncovered a gulf in the motives and actions of these groups that is hampering their efforts to improve the digital employee experience within their organisations.

One of the most worrying findings was that an overwhelming 88% of CIOs claimed the buck stops with them in purchasing decisions for collaboration and communications tools. Just 11% said it was a decision for HR/ICs. To make a decision about a tool that directly impacts an organisation’s people without involving the teams responsible for people is at best counterintuitive and, at worst, downright destructive.

The push/pull divide

Perhaps the starkest example of corporations lacking collaboration around DEX was revealed by just 30% of HR/ICs stating they collaborate with IT to deliver successful employee engagement (although, interestingly, 53% of CIOs believe this is the case). The fact that this kind of decision-making is happening in silos means there is a divide that will undoubtedly impact the bottom line.

Overall, it seems that many CIOs are working on a ‘pull’ basis when it comes to employee engagement, i.e. they are building a system and expecting the employees to come to it. Relying on the ‘if we build it, they will come’ approach is a recipe for disaster, however.

Conversely, our research showed that the HR and IC teams rely on more of a ‘push’ method when it comes to employee engagement, i.e. they view engagement in terms of what employees need.

Certainly, there is a desire among HR and IC teams for DEX to align with employee concerns, rather than the technical aspects of roll-out observed by CIOs. This is perhaps unsurprising when well over half of HR/ICs (57%) state they are under more pressure, since remote working became the norm in the pandemic, to develop a cohesive approach to employee engagement.

Employee experience hub link

A difference in perception

The research conducted also showed some concerning figures in terms of how HR and internal communication functions felt they were perceived among senior leaders, believing that only 31% of CEOs, and 22% of CIOs, felt that their buy-in was crucial. Similarly, the perception was that 37% of CEOs and 27% of CIOs ‘believed’ in internal communications.

Undoubtedly there is much to be done to bridge this DEX divide. Of course, this is a movement that needs to be driven from the top, and CIOs must be integral in leading this charge and engaging HR and IC from the outset.

It is also imperative, however, that HR and IC take the time to deepen and broaden their understanding of all areas of the organisation. Gartner’s Understanding Internal Partnerships for Improving the Employee Experience report encapsulated this, saying:

“As HR leaders apply a more expansive view of the employee experience to their work, the internal stakeholder relationships they are prioritising will also likely need to shift, taking HR leaders more frequently outside of HR”.

In order to support any top down drive to improve DEX, it is essential that HR and IC teams strive to get more buy-in from the C-suite at the very start of any employee engagement discussion.

At a time when employees are crying out for information about the business they work for and their roles and need to engage with each other on their terms, as efficiently as possible, it’s incumbent on these different departments to bridge this divide. The first stage of this is for departments to work together, and the second is to recognise and overcome these issues.

Common ground

On a more positive note, our research did show that there are several things that both groups aligned on. For example, there was agreement that the biggest opportunity around employee experience is increased productivity – CIOs (56%) and HR/ICs (47%).

They also closely align on the concept of engagement equalling improved employee retention, with 50% of CIOs suggesting this is the case versus 42% of HR/ICs. Affording leadership the ability to reach all employees is also an area on which both camps broadly agreed (CIOs 41% and HR/ICs 37%).

There’s further room for optimism based on the thoughts of both groups about how employee experience can be improved. Enabling two-way communication, through better DEX underpinned by technology, was a popular response among both CIOs (46%) and HR/ICs (40%). Meanwhile, almost as many CIOs (41%) as HR/ICs (44%) agreed that investing in mental health and wellbeing support should be a major part of any programme.

Ultimately, any engagement programme must be built around what the workforce wants and needs in order to be able to do their job better. IT departments, HR, and IC teams all need to work together to provide engaging a digital employee experience that works for everyone in the organisation.

The opportunity is there for the taking. Organisations that are willing to invest in improving their DEX will not only unite disparate workforces but also drive greater value to the bottom line. Only by doing this and developing a best-in-class digital employee experience will organisations not only survive, but also thrive.

Interested in this topic? Read How to bridge digital internal communications skills gaps.

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