Employee-centred engagement tools vital or businesses risk being left behind

2020 ushered in a new era of work for all of us. Around the globe we have had to embrace remote and hybrid working – learning new ways to collaborate and communicate with our colleagues, customers and counterparts. 

While business collaboration and communication tools have been gathering pace for several years, the Digital Employee Experience (DEX) – an employee’s digital interactions – has become more critical to business survival and success than ever before. 

In fact, a recent Forbes report, The Experience Equation, further confirms this – stating that 89 percent of surveyed executives, at companies that consider themselves revenue-growth leaders, agree that better employee experience (EX) leads directly to better customer experience (CX). The survey indicates that high EX drives high CX and that CX fuels revenue growth. Among executives representing companies that regard themselves as leaders in expanding total sales, 54 percent strongly agree that CX leads to fast revenue growth, compared with 36 percent of executives representing average or below-average companies (ABAs). 

Covid-19 has undoubtedly accelerated many businesses reviewing and upgrading their communications systems and processes, the successful implementation of which depends on harmony between the tech expertise of CIOs and their IT teams, and the human input of HR and Internal Communications (IC) departments. 

However, we, at SocialChorus, recently undertook some research to assess the lie of the land given the current challenges we are all facing. The results were concerning – uncovering a gulf in the motives and actions of these groups that is currently hampering efforts to improve DEX within their organizations. 

One of the most worrying findings was that an overwhelming 88 percent of CIOs claim the buck stops with them in purchasing decisions for collaboration and comms tools. Just 11 percent state it’s a decision for HR/ICs. To make a decision about a tool that directly impacts an organization’s people, without involving the teams responsible for people, seems counter-intuitive.

Listening to HR and IC

Perhaps the starkest example of corporations lacking collaboration around DEX is revealed by just 30 percent of HR/ICs stating they collaborate with IT to deliver successful employee engagement (although, interestingly, 53 percent of CIOs believe this is the case). 

This decision making in isolation is resulting in a DEX divide that will undoubtedly impact the bottom line.

Overall, it seems that many CIOs are working on a ‘pull’ basis when it comes to employee engagement. That is, they are building a system and expecting the employees to come. However, the mentality of “we’ll build it and they will come” is a recipe for disaster. 

Conversely, our research showed that the HR and IC teams exhibited much more of a ‘push’ behavior when it comes to employee engagement – that is, they view engagement in terms of what employees need.

As leaders, now more than ever, it is imperative that we develop a deeper understanding of where our employees are coming from – how they want, and more importantly, need, to receive their communications – in order to deliver a high standard of DEX. 

With that in mind, it is essential that CIOs listen to their colleagues in HR and IC, who have a greater insight into what will work for their employees. Businesses must tailor their tools to their people meet them where they are, and not assume they will just arrive at an information hub.  

Failure to do so, and a persistence to make these decisions in isolation (without considering the human needs of an organization) certainly risks failure – spending on systems that are not fit for purpose and failing to engage employees. And we all know that disengaged employees are not a business’ biggest advocates, not to mention the impact on recruitment and retention. 

At a time when employees are crying out for information about the business they work for, their roles, or simply the need to engage with each other—on their terms, as efficiently as possible— it’s incumbent on these different departments to bridge this divide. The first stage of this process is for departments to work together, and the second is to recognize and overcome these issues.

On a more positive note, our research did show that there are several things that both groups aligned on. For example, there was agreement that the biggest opportunity around employee experience is increased productivity—CIOs (56 percent) and HR/ICs (47 percent). 

What the workforce wants

They also closely align on the concept of engagement equaling improved employee retention: 

  • 50 percent of CIOs suggesting this is the case vs. 42 percent of HR/ICs  
  • and affording leadership the ability to reach all employees (CIOS 41 percent and HR/ICs 37 percent). 

There’s further room for optimism based on the thoughts of both groups about how employee experience can be improved. Enabling two-way communication, through better DEX underpinned by technology, is a popular response among both CIOs (46 percent) and HR/ICs (40 percent).  Meanwhile, almost as many CIOs (41 percent) as HR/ICs (44 percent) agree that investing in mental health and wellbeing support should be a major part of any program. 

Methods may differ across these disciplines, but there is mutual respect, too, and perhaps even a willingness—from CIOs in particular—to learn from their opposite numbers. 

Ultimately, any engagement program must be built around what the workforce wants and needs to be able to do their job better. IT departments, HR, and IC teams all need to work together to provide engaging a Digital Employee Experience (DEX) that works for everyone in the organization.

The opportunity is there for the taking. Those organizations willing to embrace DEX that will not only help to unite disparate workforces but also drive greater value to the bottom line. Only by doing this and developing a best-in-class digital employee experience will organizations not only survive but thrive.

Nicole Alvino, Cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer, SocialChorus

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