You want an employee experience that reflects your organization’s brand values. You need an employee experience that drives positive results for both your employees and your customers. Building an employee experience that meets all your goals can seem daunting at first, but starting with the right steps in the beginning makes the path clear and road smoother.
First, a definition: we agree with Forbes that employee experience is the “sum of interactions employees have with the organization and with their colleagues.” These interactions happen in conference rooms, in hallways, around the water-cooler, and, increasingly, online. When the interactions happen online, we call that the “digital employee experience.” One key aspect (among many) of the digital employee experience is the set of digital tools that each employee uses to do their work – their “digital workplace.”
You have a digital workplace. But is it the one you want?
Even while the concepts of employee experience and digital workplace are gaining traction every day, many organizations are stuck with a loose constellation of legacy systems, outdated structures, and untested technologies. As they survey the disconnected set of tools they use for document storage, internal communications, customer interactions, HR functions, etc., it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Therefore, when it comes time to revisit their digital workplace, too many organizations rush that process looking for the quick fix or settling for the “it’s better than what we have now” solution. What that leaves them with is something that may seem like an improvement at first but really is just papering over the cracks.
An employee experience that seamlessly integrates all facets of the digital workplace provides tremendous benefits to the organization…but it takes time. For example, more investment in time and resources to the planning phase of implementing or revitalizing an intranet portal—a phase we refer to as the “discovery process”— can improve employee satisfaction, increase efficiency, and drive greater productivity.
For better results, start with your users’ needs.
That said, doing the discovery process right does not mean it has to be a long, drawn-out painful affair or an enormous drain on resources. Some activities in discovery are vital to the success of the project. Others are the “nice to haves.” We’ve led many organizations through this process and see these moves as worthy investments when it comes to delivering an optimal employee experience:
- Begin by listening to as many voices as you can – One key factor to success is gathering the right mix of stakeholders, content owners, technical experts, and decision makers to work on the project. You may not need everyone all the time but getting the right people to the table is vital.
- Decide what you are trying to achieve before you decide what you want – Most project owners get caught up in the features of an intranet. Try to keep your team focused on what end users need to do their jobs well.
- Allow for lots of time for wireframing and discussing the details – This phase is not given nearly enough credit (and time). Finishing wireframes and documenting the required functionality is an important step in connecting what users see and how the site operates.
- Don’t forget IA – Information architecture is how to organize and structure your content so users can easily find what they are looking for. The goal is to always be providing content that is both relevant and useful.
- Start small and iterate quickly – While there may be reasons to do everything at once, many successful projects start with a smaller pilot and grow based on user experiences and feedback.
Slow down to go fast (and save money)
Have you ever had the experience of ordering something in a restaurant and…when it arrives, you realize it’s not really what you wanted? That’s fine for a daily special but not the sort of thing you can shrug off when you’re investing in an enterprise digital workplace. You want to be sure.
Designing the optimal employee experience is not just about getting what you think you “want.” When a thoughtful, methodical discovery process is followed, you find opportunities for both money-saving efficiency and providing greater value for the same dollar. For example, during actual discovery processes with our customers, we’ve discovered that:
- Creating a set of standardized section and page templates for one client would save their tech team hours of work down the road.
- Demonstrating how widgets could be adjusted for one department’s specific purposes reduced the need for custom development.
- Revisiting priorities during the design process led one team to avoid a costly change in development costs.
- Identifying opportunities for the field staff to communicate with the home office in new ways helped shift corporate culture away from picking up the phone for every small request to more self-service.
Reflecting your people’s best work
The best solutions tend to be ones that solve the real challenges clients face. If done right, a good discovery process, powered by design thinking, leads to not just a better digital workplace build—because it reflects input and guidance from many people – it is the path to the employee experience you want and need. It’s the meal you’re happy you ordered because it is exactly what you wanted.