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Nearly every organization accelerated digital transformation during the pandemic. From enabling remote work to migrating to the cloud, organizations rapidly deployed new technologies in as little as a few days, and have no plans of slowing down. 

According to Harvard Business Review, 91 percent of organizations that accelerated digital transformation during the pandemic intend to maintain the same speed or move even faster after the pandemic is over. But maintaining this pace will require some changes — the biggest being an increased focus on employee experiences with workplace technology. 

Employees are at the core of every digital transformation; therefore, it's critical they have seamless access to the right tools and technologies to do their jobs effectively and help accelerate the transformation. However, according to Gartner, only one-third of employees say the technology they use is productive, empowering and easy. 

By prioritizing the digital employee experience (DEX), organizations can successfully maintain digital acceleration and support a new era of hybrid work, in which employees can work from home, in the office and everywhere in between. 

This article discusses the digital employee experience, why it is important, common challenges and five steps for getting started. 

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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, the building may have a modern design that sparks creativity and collaboration, the healthcare benefits may be competitive and employees may have positive relationships with their managers — but what about the employees' digital experience, which accounts for the majority of their day-to-day tasks?

DEX 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 or travelling to on-site client meetings? Often, it's these types of experiences that are overlooked. 

Josh Olson, VMware director of employee experience solutions, uses the example of truck drivers at a manufacturing company. At times, 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 DEX 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.

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

Why is the digital employee experience important?

When organizations deliver a positive DEX, it opens a world of opportunity to empower employees and achieve key business outcomes, including improved employee satisfaction, increased productivity, better collaboration, higher employee retention rates and the ability to attract top talent. This is especially pertinent as organizations adopt hybrid work models and navigate a tightened talent market. According to Cisco, 64 percent of employees agree that the ability to work from anywhere instead of coming into the office directly affects whether they stay at or leave a job.  

But DEX isn't only about enabling a work-from-anywhere model. It's about providing employees with the tools they need when they need them. If employees are constantly flipping through applications to complete tasks, or bogged down by cumbersome log-in processes, they're not being productive — and they're probably not happy about it. 

When organizations can deliver a positive DEX and remove digital friction, employees can be more productive, collaborative and innovative from wherever they work.

Common challenges

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

The first challenge is justifying budget for the DEX. As organizations tighten budgets to recover from the pandemic, it's more important than ever before to understand how investing in the DEX can pay dividends immediately and over the long term by helping achieve high-level key business outcomes.

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 understanding employees and what technology they need to work efficiently. Who are your end users and how do they work? These are important questions that many organizations struggle to answer due to a lack of visibility into individual workflows and insight from line-of-business leaders. 

Five steps for building a better digital employee experience

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

1. Form a DEX team. 

One way to break down silos is by forming a cross-functional team. According to a recent survey, 85 percent of CIOs said they now collaborate with the CHRO more often than they did before the pandemic. While this is a step in the right direction, a cross-functional DEX team should include employees from across the entire organization — not just HR and IT. This will help form a holistic view, allowing the organization to better understand where there are opportunities to empower employees based on job role. 

2. Develop dynamic personas. 

Many organizations think they know what their employees need without ever asking them or understanding their daily workflows. By conducting employee surveys and interviews, and collecting end-user IT data, the DEX team can identify points of digital friction and create dynamic personas, or groupings of end users that share common characteristics, services and/or requirements. These personas can be used as a framework for prioritizing technology improvements and allocating IT resources. 

3. 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 DEX. We recommend the following events, webinars and communities: 

4. Build your business case to secure executive and financial sponsorship. 

By mapping the persona requirements identified in step two to high-level business outcomes, the DEX team can present a compelling value proposition to key stakeholders, including how these digital workspace improvements will reduce total cost of ownership (TCO). This is a critical step for securing funding so the DEX team can move forward with an execution plan.

5. 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, like WWT, can help every step of the way – from planning to implementation to training – so your journey to empowering employees is smooth and seamless. 

Ready to dive deeper?

Access our WWT Research: Digital Workspace Maturity Model report for step-by-step guidance on leveling up your DEX capabilities.