Chief People Officer Nexthink
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digital wellbeing
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How HR and IT can collaborate to improve digital wellbeing

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For people professionals to fully support and nurture employee wellbeing, the health impacts of the digital world must be considered. The problem is, without effective collaboration between HR and IT, little progress on digital wellbeing can be made. Here we provide five ways to build a strong partnership and make change happen.

21st Oct 2021
Chief People Officer Nexthink
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HR might be concerned with employee wellbeing but what about their digital wellbeing?

The digital changes things. So does having 15 browser tabs open at the same time—a sin I frequently commit. But the fact that I notice how many tabs I now have open is a result of the growing importance of digital both to the employees’ overall experience and their wellbeing. I now find myself asking questions today as an HR leader that I wouldn’t even fathom a few years ago:

Do employees like their applications? Do they use them? Who determines what software new employees need during onboarding? How can my team gauge whether employees are burnt out from things like ‘Zoom fatigue,’ and how do we intervene at the right moment?

The intricacies that impact one’s digital wellbeing and overall employee wellbeing don’t always fit nicely in one department versus the other

Hearing from many of my peers in HR there aren’t common answers to these questions, and some aren’t even asking them. Why? They have a strained relationship with their IT teams. Here’s my advice to them and any HR pro that wants to improve employee digital wellbeing:

1. Shared goals mean shared success

Today, more than six in 10 working professionals in the U.S. say they experienced burnout in 2020. In a competitive job market ripe with high turnover rates and significant digital distractions, IT and HR cannot afford to pass the buck any longer.

The intricacies that impact one’s digital wellbeing and overall employee wellbeing don’t always fit nicely in one department versus the other. Just like my car after a road trip, things can get messy. 

Ultimately, it comes down to leaders from both worlds coming together and claiming joint responsibility. Identify your key objectives, your timelines, your budget, and resources that you can commit to the project. Not only does this investment from both departments drive accountability, it also eliminates any redundancies. Open communication is the best way to eliminate siloes and inefficiencies.  

So, if you’re not doing it already, schedule monthly or weekly meetings with your colleagues across the aisle - or computer screen. Don’t let radio silence occur between the two groups, stay cognizant and engaged in each other’s main business initiatives and concerns. 

2. Articulate and quantify what an ideal digital employee experience looks like for your organisation

It’s vital that your HR and IT teams have access the same data and dashboards when discussing digital wellbeing. This information should consist of both survey feedback but also hard, technical stats around employee device, application, and network performance data.

HR must work with IT to collect that feedback so they can work toward their digital employee experience goals

What are HR’s goals for survey response rates and feedback? Typically, HR values survey feedback more than IT. HR must work with IT to collect that feedback so they can work toward their digital employee experience goals whether it’s reducing tickets, shifting users to a new service, or improving employee perception of IT. Once you have the channels to collect targeted and highly contextual feedback, you can begin to outline what your ideal world in the future would look like.  

Establishing quantifiable measures with real-time feedback loops enable HR and IT to build transparent roadmaps with clear definitions of success. By speaking the same language and marching toward the same goals, HR and IT have a clear path forward. 

3. Conduct research to determine sources of workplace frustration 

Part of defining what success looks like means you should need to be able to identify and quantify your employees’ workplace frustration. Here are a few research topics that can help:   

  • Collect real-time feedback using pop-up surveys relevant to the employee’s experience. For example, if an employee completes their on-boarding training automated a pop-up survey to collect their feedback right away
  • Create workplace personas based on employee engagement levels and computing needs
  • You can eliminate a design team’s technical frustration, by understanding their unique device requirements before they start their first day
  • Establish ideal metrics for employee application usage, connectivity speed, and focus time (for example, how many digital interruptions, reboots, crashes, etc. impact a user per session?) By establishing a baseline of these metrics, you can track the impact of any measures you place like No Video Meeting Fridays or automatically setting meeting invites to incorporate a break
  • Corroborate qualitative feedback from employees with straight-forward device and digital experience performance data. To understand true digital employee experience, you need to regularly collect employee usage data and their sentiment. Together they highlight areas to prioritize and have the greatest impact

4. Engage employees with smarter outreach

While sending an annual employee survey is better than not sending any surveys, it’s not that much better. Sending one-off surveys to employees via email doesn’t work so well — not for HR or IT. Not only do they see steadily declining response rates, but they also ask employees to recall and provide feedback over a year. 365 days! The data is stale before it hits the report. 

My advice is that you find tools which allow you to send push notifications and onscreen pop-ups regularly to first capture your employees’ attention. More frequent surveys allow you to better identify issues as they occur. *But equally as important, you cannot send too many surveys. You need to respect the context in which you approach users and the language you use.

Ultimately, the more transparent and invested your HR and IT leaders are, the better your employees will feel about their workday

Understand first that you are always interrupting an employee. Your inquiry should be as clear, polite, and concisely worded as possible. And similar to points two and three — be transparent with employees about what HR and IT think is an ideal or less than ideal digital work environment. You don’t need to show employees every calculation that goes into their digital profile, but you can certainly give an abbreviated explanation. That way every party involved is on the same page and feels included and invested in the same goals.

5. Taking ownership reduces stress (for everyone)

I don’t want this to sound like my colleagues and I never encounter tricky, stressful moments at work but they do feel far less frequent than what I’ve heard from my peers and what I continually read in the news. The template above works for us because it’s based on transparency and feedback. Ultimately, the more transparent and invested your HR and IT leaders are, the better your employees will feel about their workday. And if they don’t, you will know because you have asked for their feedback.

It doesn’t take millions of dollars or 100 new hires to turn around a poor work culture—instead it comes down to a few savvy leaders that are willing to leave their egos at the door and do whatever it takes to improve and protect their employee experience. 

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