To Improve Customer Experience, Improve the Digital Employee Experience

You heard about a nightmare scenario playing out for peers at other companies and hope it doesn’t affect yours. Trouble tickets are rolling in, and there’s a lack of qualified people to address security alerts and help desk issues right when customer demand, supply shortages, and potential threats are at their peak.

Even with flexible remote work policies, the most seasoned employees in roles such as customer support, data science, business analysis, and DevSecOps move on to greener pastures and leave—just when they finally seemed to figure out how everything works.

Why is an exodus of skilled knowledge workers becoming a recurring pattern in customer-oriented organizations, and what can IT leaders do to improve their digital employee experience (DEX) to convince them to stay?

The great hybrid office migration

A few lucky “born on the web” companies were built on the premise of 100% remote work. The pandemic of 2020 forced the rest of the world to move knowledge workers out of the office into fully or partially remote work models. 

Migratory employees in technology roles appreciated the newfound ability to work from home in sweatpants and avoid the daily commute. Many idealistically vowed never to return to work for an employer that required them to come back to the office.

Employers benefitted too, releasing some of their real estate for savings on facility costs and reducing travel expenses. Less scrupulous bosses took it a step further, capturing additional hours in the workday by implementing draconian attention monitoring tools or letting employees stay on duty beyond typical office hours.

Now that the pandemic has become endemic, some companies are reversing their position on remote work and asking employees to come back into the office, at least some of the time. We’re settling on a hybrid model of digital work. In 2023, 58% of knowledge workers in the United States will continue to be able to work remotely at least one day a week, while 38% will continue as full-time remote workers.

Despite the initial novelty of having pets and kids hilariously interrupting Zoom calls, this new normal of blurring the lines between work and home life has not turned out to be all unicorns and rainbows for digital employees.

Dealing with digital work friction

Employers used to be able to tell teams to stay late in the office to fulfill a rush of customer orders, or be on-call to respond to issues on weekends. The signs of employee burnout were easy to predict even before “the great resignation” of the 2020s. 

CIOs built or bought applications to allow virtual work, which allowed more team members to be available online to respond to requests through remote access, without coming into the office. This was helpful, but unfortunately the burnout rate has only increased for today’s digital worker who may have lost separation between work and home life, and staffing still couldn’t keep up with workload. 

A Gartner HR study recently estimated that 24% of workers would likely shift to a new job in 2022–and this turnover rate is especially true of knowledge workers who must interact daily with the company’s systems. Compared to pre-pandemic employee sentiment, 20% more respondents cited their digital work experienceas a significant contributing factor to job satisfaction.

Even with some arbitrary job cuts happening at larger companies, skilled team members can find work elsewhere if they are frustrated, and unfilled roles in customer service, SecOps, and engineering positions are still common. 

Potential recruits can check any number of salary disclosure sites to figure out what they are worth on the market, and they can also look on Glassdoor to see why employees are dissatisfied working at a company. In a hybrid work world, a bad employee experience is not always about low pay, long hours or “mean bosses” anymore–it’s about digital work friction that inhibits their ability to deliver meaningful value.

Employee expectations of DEX

All employees want to work for employers with fundamentals, like fair compensation, a harassment-free workplace, and work/life balance. In specific, digital employees have a unique set of concerns about the technology environment they must work within, since in many cases it is their only connection to co-workers and customers.

This is why CIOs spend so much of their time researching the digital tools employees use and spinning up new projects to upgrade that experience.

A successful DEX technology suite can positively impact employee sentiment if it delivers for them on three dimensions:

Engagement: Are employees using the company’s suite of productivity tools, issue tracking, collaboration, and system monitoring tools on a daily basis? Individuals want self-service platforms that will work on their target workstation or devices, but they also need education, documentation, and expert support from the organization to maintain successful adoption.

Companies can measure improved engagement through monitoring and visibility into organizational, team, and individual usage patterns, but more importantly, they should offer mechanisms for a positive feedback loop, so employees can register their preferences and concerns about the suite.

Empowerment: Are individuals, teams and regions authorized for just the analytic, management, and problem-solving tools and data they need without unnecessary friction or distractions? Employee empowerment is a continuous struggle for many companies to deliver, as permissions for analytics, user data, work items, and access privileges are usually highly customized to meet overlapping work, customer requirements, and regulatory regimes.  

Empowered employees proactively identify emerging demands and roadblocks, and effectively take action to collaborate with the right team members to find solutions. 

Efficiency: Intelligent automation triages and prioritizes important customer issues for teams, and helps individuals filter through irrelevant alerts from disparate systems and services. Employees progress through tasks with fewer interruptions, spend less time on pointless root cause analysis, and remediate resolutions with automated actions.

All employees want to make progress on goals. The upside of efficiency is almost limitless because as one productivity constraint is removed, another bottleneck will appear upstream or downstream.

Enterprise expectations of DEX

From the CIO’s perspective, DEX is best thought of as an enterprise-wide transformational initiative that increases the value of critical talent over time, rather than as a project that delivers short-term gains.

The customer still comes first. But let’s face it, there are already enough customer-facing performance metrics in the world. 

DEX turns measurement and metrics inward, then captures even more value from the intentional feedback and non-verbal cues provided by employees.

This virtuous cycle of continuous feedback and improvement of the ‘three E’s’ of DEX will fuel engagement, empowerment, and efficiency for employees and executives–and better performance, not just on meeting revenue and cost targets, but in terms of employee satisfaction and higher retention rates.

The Intellyx Take

Work has changed forever. 

From a morale perspective, remote workers might miss something about the camaraderie of an office: the exciting pre-launch demo, an in-person standup, an informal desk visit, or a coffee break to share ideas about a particular issue with colleagues. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make DEX the best it can be, wherever the team is located.

Therefore, every organization will need to define a digital employee experience that engages and empowers employees, making every working minute a more efficient use of time, including taking some well-earned time off to unplug from the digital world.

©2023 Intellyx LLC. At the time of writing, Tanium is an Intellyx subscriber. No AI chatbots were used to write any part of this article.

Digital Transformation