The Rise of a New Role: Digital Employee Experience

A company’s priorities often reflect its name, organizational structure, nomenclature and job titles.

The launch of Salesforce.com two decades ago, for example, highlighted the company’s focus on improving sales professionals’ lives. From there, businesses across industries quickly began not only to embrace the company’s platform but also to elevate the importance of a good sales process by introducing new customer relationship management roles.

A similar thing has been happening with a different discipline recently, as companies extend their global reaches faster than ever and local job markets tighten.

A quick LinkedIn search reveals an emerging role: vice presidents, directors and managers of digital employee experience (or employee digital experience). Responsible for empowering employees, they’re being tasked with transforming the way work gets done at some of the world’s most well-known brands, including Nike, Mastercard and Nissan.

New positions are emerging

 

550,821 people results for digital employee experience

 

Yet few companies have dedicated teams

 

1,784 company results for digital employee experience

 

While interest in the topic is growing

 

44,173 content results about digital employee experience

 

What Is the Digital Employee Experience?

The digital employee experience encapsulates all the technology-related tools and processes professionals need do their jobs at work, at home and, really, anywhere tasks get done. Its effectiveness is measured by employee empowerment and productivity (unlike employee engagement, which measures employees’ involvement, enthusiasm and commitment to their work and workplace).

Recently James Robertson, a leading thinker in the intranet space, wrote “Digital employee experience is where the action will be” because “within many businesses, the potential gains are still great and largely unexploited.” He added that digital employee experience “encompasses how employees work, what tools they’re provided, and the culture they exist within.”

There’s little doubt empowering employees makes good business sense. A Forbes Insights global survey showed empowering employees—giving them greater access to the apps they prefer and need to do their jobs—helps companies migrate from hierarchical, top-down, “command-and-control” cultures to businesses powered by employee initiative and management trust. The companies identified as leaders in the survey had more productive employees, and their gains, in aggregate, positively impacted overall company performance.

Digital employee experience was found to be linked to organizations’ competitive position, company growth, and employee sentiment, in a more recent survey by Vanson Bourne in collaboration with VMware. For example, more competitive respondents rate their organization and the greater the annual revenue growth level of the company, the more likely they have a good digital employee experience and the better the employee’s digital experience, respectively.

Why Are Companies Talking About Employee Experience Now?

Amazon’s rapid rise confirmed the value of personalized, on-demand experiences via a digital platform. Today, businesses want to deliver these experiences to their own customers to deepen engagement, improve user satisfaction and build brand loyalty. Many undergoing this digital transformation realize their best advantage is their own employees.

Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group

Customers often interact with brands through their employees. So these companies can only guarantee as good a customer experience as frontline workers are capable of delivering.

64% of job seekers say that a poor candidate experience would make them less likely to purchase goods and services from the employer.

The Future of Recruiting, Future Workplace and CareerArc

Companies also need to consider the way they interact with potential employees. U.S. job seekers admit their experiences as candidates for new jobs influence their opinions of those brands as consumers.

That’s why companies now are turning their attention to every employee experience—in person and on screen, from recruiting through retirement.

What Do Digital Employee Experience Leaders Do?

As champions, strategists and practitioners, digital employee experience team members are responsible for discovering and rolling out roadmaps of productivity opportunities for their workforces. Employee technology efficiency and effectiveness are the goal of leaders serving in this role because when they are successful all employees can perform their jobs better and the company is seen as both a technology and talent management leader when recruiting others.

Roberson also wrote, “Whatever title they have, the people in these new roles are identifying projects that can improve the digital employee experience. They are also putting their hands up to ‘own’ platforms and solutions that previously had ambiguous or no real ownership.”

“The tools and experiences you provide employees tell them how much you value their work,” says Brian Link. He spent five years enabling and unlocking the potential of internal end-user communities and associates (a.k.a. employees) at both a Fortune 100 retailer and Fortune 500 financial services provider before joining VMware as a director of product management in R&D. “And the catalyst when employment rates are low is really the fight for talent,” he adds.

Employees want choice, Link says. They want to know, “Where’s my voice, and how do the company’s values align to where I want to be?”

As the nature of an office changes to a workspace — with customized workstyles supported by digital tools — and companies overcome barriers outside of traditional buildings, employees start using things that inspire them to connect, which Link believes, can lead to a whole different level of culture and aspirational thinking.

Who Oversees the Digital Employee Experience?

Interestingly, the position straddles the responsibilities of two existing organizations that have traditionally operated separately:

  • Information Technology (IT): responsible for the technology — the systems, devices and apps used at work
  • Human Resources (HR): responsible for workplace culture — including employee hiring, onboarding, retention and ongoing relations

Looking at backgrounds, those taking on digital employee experience roles have typically worked in either IT or HR. A typical path to success remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: it takes coordination to boost a company’s employee-centric view.

For businesses to be successful moving forward, collaboration between IT and HR is necessary when it comes to human-centered initiatives, such as design thinking, that accelerate the adoption of digital workspace strategies that empower employees to do their best. “IT-HR synergy is critical because every conversation is about experience,” says Link.

Even if companies have supported remote employees for years, flexibility has been a sticking point with earlier technologies that have been tethered by hardware or networks. A digital workspace fundamentally changes the equation, accommodating nearly every expectation of flexibility and workstyle across devices, locations, and applications.

IT and HR must come together to bridge gaps in digital employee experiences, says Link. “People have a choice in terms of where they want to work. Companies need to show up early in a meaningful way and provide just as good of an experience for career workers as gig workers.”

The value of digital employee experience was on full display during a recent online forum, featuring IT and HR professionals. Watch the video to learn more.

Employee Experience Online Event

IT and HR can and should work together to accelerate digital workspace strategies that empower employees.