What factors make up our experience at work?
Before COVID-19 sent office workers home, there were three elements of our basic employee experience: The physical experience (our desk, our view, the existence and quality of break room snacks), the digital experience (our computer and all the tools we use on it), and the cultural experience (how we relate to the people around us and how we are treated).
Now that most of us are working from home, our employer’s ability to impact the physical experience is greatly diminished (though some organizations are making an effort). This puts digital and cultural experiences front and center, and with our new WFH reality these experiences are becoming more important and more interconnected.
So, if we think about the “employee experience” during COVID-19 as largely a product of our culture and digital experience, what group in our organizations is responsible for this experience?
Traditionally, HR owns culture. And IT controls digital.
A 2019 survey found that we think HR “owns” employee experience. But IT makes the overwhelming majority of decisions about digital workplace technology.
Do you see the inherent problem here? We have two, often disconnected, groups, orchestrating one very important employee experience that is suddenly completely digital. We need to combine those spheres so that HR and IT can work together. The end goal: to create a digital workplace where we all feel connected.
Analyst Jason Averbook puts it this way:
Workforce experience becomes much more important when we are supporting a distributed workforce; in fact, “making work better by making work about people” might have been the great aha moment we had during the pandemic of 2020. Digital transformation was never about technology; it’s about designing work for people.
How can we rethink our corporate structures, connect silos, and start collaborating with our counterparts in HR and IT to build the employee experience we all need?
HR, meet IT
Step one is simple: If HR and IT leaders aren’t already having regular conversations, it’s time to team up. Especially when employees are working remotely, HR and IT decisions are fundamentally intertwined. “Employee Experience” and “Digital Workplace” are now so intertwined as to become one and the same. If you’re part of one of these groups, you need to start comparing notes and aligning strategies yesterday. (Right now is good too!)
Set a clear vision
HR and IT departments come from very different perspectives about what matters, how to work, and even what is important. These differing views come from different perspectives and expertise, both of which are valid and critical to creating a productive employee experience in a distributed setting.
But these differences can create challenges when trying to collaborate with each other. So as you begin to come together, it’s critical to create a clear, shared vision for the employee experience you want to create.
Ask questions like:
- What are the business goals our employee experience supports?
- What are our most important values? Does our employee experience live up to those values?
- What do we need to empower employees to meet our goals and live by our values?
It’s important to ask these questions, because you’ll likely find out that answers from HR and IT are different. Find shared answers to these questions as a baseline for future culture and tech decisions.
Here’s an example of how you might answer these questions:
- Business goals: Deliver an industry-leading customer experience that drives customer loyalty.
- Values: Putting customers first; moving mountains to solve customer problems; transparency; collaboration.
- Employees need to be empowered to: Connect, collaborate, access information, take problems up the chain quickly, and make decisions to support customer success.
In this example, HR and IT can work together to create a customer-first culture, empowered by tech that helps employees work together to solve customer problems.
When everyone understands the goals and values, it becomes easier to find ways to create an experience to make those goals and values come to life.