Hybrid working is here to stay. And if it’s taught us anything, it’s that employee experience is more important than ever. As your business continues to adapt to ‘the new normal’, we look at which technologies you can adopt to enhance employee experience and keep your people satisfied, engaged and productive.
What is employee experience and why does it matter?
In a general sense, employee experience relates to the experience workers have within their organisation in comparison with their expectations.
But as working remotely is a reality for so many of us, employee experience has been firmly pushed into the limelight and is now inextricably linked with technology. The need to ensure their people have what they need to work as seamlessly as possible from anywhere has been truly bumped to the top of businesses’ priorities.
What’s the difference between employee engagement and employee experience?
Although they sound similar, employee experience and employee engagement aren’t interchangeable. How engaged employees are with their work boils down to these things:
- Their ability to carry out their work – including being adequately trained and being able to access the tools they need to do their job
- How motivated they feel – which is linked to encouragement, mutual goal-setting, achievements and regular check-ins with their line managers to monitor progress
- A sense of empowerment – making independent decisions, owning projects and having room to innovate can leave people feeling satisfied and confident that they’re making a difference
- Being energised – this encompasses physical, mental and emotional energy, all of which is required for good health, happiness and productivity
The more engaged your employees are, the more positive their daily working lives and overall employee experience will be. And the above factors can be influenced, and more importantly enhanced, by the technologies you implement.
Here are some examples of the technologies your business can’t do without when it comes to enhancing the employee experience.
The digital workplace – your employees’ virtual home
A challenge of hybrid working for businesses is ensuring remote workers feel as engaged and involved as their office-based counterparts, as well as staying connected and informed.
Enter the digital workplace. Starting life as a humble intranet, the cloud has enabled this to evolve into so much more. A modern digital workplace experience, such as that offered by Fresh, takes the idea of an intranet to a whole new level.
They enable employees to collaborate with colleagues, and access company information wherever they are based, acting as:
- A single source of the truth for company content
- An onboarding hub for new employees
- The go to place for latest events and goings on around the organisation
Viva la employee experience
Unveiled in March, this platform responded to the need to enhance employee experience with the introduction of four modules, each focusing on a specific area of need.
Viva Connections – Staying engaged and informed
Viva Connections is big news for digital workspaces as it enables businesses to bring and run them straight out of the Teams interface. The power of having everything in one place can’t be understated for employees. It can shave valuable time off everyday tasks, enable them to find company announcements, documents, the latest news and more within the same platform they use to communicate, hold meetings and work on documents.
Viva Insights – Balancing productivity and wellness
Viva Insights plays a singular role when it comes to employee experience by stepping into the world of wellbeing awareness. Using data and signals from Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Microsoft MyAnalytics and other Microsoft 365 apps and services, it delivers personal insights to your people.
Often these insights come as a surprise to users. It might be that they have been working out-of-hours more than they appreciated or spending an unsustainable amount of time on a specific task. The positive and useful takeaway is that these insights are accompanied with actionable suggestions, making it possible to apply changes that improve the working day.
Viva Topics – Connecting people with data
We all know the challenges and frustrations finding information within a business can bring. Whether it’s a document, a guide, or a contact, fumbling for data that should be readily available can be stressful and time-consuming.
Viva Topics presents an intuitive search function within Teams to quickly source information from Microsoft 365 and SharePoint. It can also use AI to surface content in the form of cards, arranged by the topics it deems most relevant to users. Taking the pain out of finding the information they need to do their jobs is a step in the right direction for employee experience.
Viva Learning – Making learning a natural part of the day
The aim of Viva Learning is simple – to place self-development front and centre on a day-to-day basis. It does this by bringing learning tools and apps into Microsoft Teams, nurturing a culture that values professional and personal development.
Education is possibly the most empowering force at a person’s fingertips. So, making regular, impactful learning available within their everyday environment can only serve to enhance employee experience.
Microsoft Teams – the rising star of the workplace
‘Unpredictable’ is an understatement when it comes to describing recent years. But one thing nobody could have foreseen is how quickly Microsoft Teams turned from a workplace ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘can’t do without’.
Often dubbed the Swiss army knife of enterprise apps, the speed at which Teams evolved from a simple communication tool to a multifunctional workplace hub is nothing short of astonishing.
And much of this is down to the nimble and forward-thinking approach of Microsoft. While many businesses were still implementing Teams, Microsoft was already rolling out improvements such as the ability to create personalised backgrounds, pull meeting attendance reports and merge physical and virtual meetings with Teams Rooms.
Being always one step ahead has ensured that employee experience remains top of the list for Microsoft and its users. This exactly why Teams has come out the other side of the pandemic as the enduring go-to collaboration tool for most businesses today.
Yammer – professional social media
In the rush to ensure workloads are managed and projects delivered, it’s easy to forget that being socially connected is vital for a thriving workforce, especially for remote workers.
Those based in a physical office have ample opportunity to socialise at work – whether over a Monday morning chat at the kettle, an impromptu after-work drink or trying a new lunch spot with teammates. While this can’t be emulated exactly in a world of hybrid working, it’s possible to retain all-important social connections in a remote environment.
Yammer is one way of doing this. Yes, Yammer can be used company-wide in a formal context, for announcements, news and notices. But it can be much more than that. Functionality such as giving kudos to colleagues through graphics, chatting, creating polls and sharing photos means Yammer can be a great contributor to enhancing the employee experience.
Bringing accessibility and inclusion into the fold
Implementing a raft of technologies without considering whether everyone can use them equally would be a major oversight. Thankfully, this increased focus on employee experience over the last year has brought something equally as important into the spotlight – inclusion and accessibility.
As so many organisations rely on the Microsoft suite of products to function, it’s good news for businesses that the tech giant has introduced a completely free course, Accessibility Fundamentals, to highlight the often invisible struggles people with disabilities face in the workplace on a daily basis.
Further to raising awareness, there are a host of inbuilt features in Microsoft programmes that can contribute to improving accessibility, inclusion and therefore, overall employee experience for your workforce. Some examples include:
- Transcribing video calls in Teams – every video call can now be converted into a script which appears in real-time and is also downloadable afterwards
- Dictating emails and documents – rather than typing emails, Outlook users can choose a ‘dictate’ option to verbally capture and send their messages
- Colour blindness filters – Windows accessibility settings include the option to select themes that have been specially designed to assist users with specific types of colour blindness, including deuteranopia, protanopia and tritanopia
Planning for change
When implementing new technologies such as Microsoft 365, it’s crucial that you have a robust strategy in place. In order to plan for change, leaders should first have an awareness of current employee practices within the business. To truly drive employee experience through change management, there needs to be a good understanding of how this change will affect your end users – and this should have a significant impact on your change management strategy.
The importance of user research in change and adoption
When adopting a hybrid working model, it is essential to keep staff in mind at all stages of change – business change is only 20% about the technology, 80% of it is about your people.
Carrying out user research allows business to better understand the needs and motivations of their staff. In turn, leaders can use this research to picture how end users might react to the change – which can subsequently be used to influence your user adoption strategy.
User research can include interviewing employees across the organisation to gain their insights and creating user personas based on these interviews which represent key trends in the business. Data-driven insights, not opinion-driven insights, from the user research should then form your adoption strategy.
Driving user adoption in your business
Planning for and implementing new systems in your business are only the first steps of successful change management. Once a new model is in place, it is important to focus on end-user adoption – your peoples’ take-up of the new system.
While many employees may welcome a new model, there may be some pockets of staff resistance. This can be caused by a lack of understanding as to why the change is taking place, or even a fear of getting to grips with new technology. It’s critical that businesses educate their employees on the reasons behind the changes, and the benefits of adopting the new system. The key to this is a clear communication plan which gives employees key insights at all stages of change management, and there should also be a strategy to provide ongoing support to staff post-adoption.
Continue the employee experience conversation
Employee experience enhancements have come a long way in a short time, but there’s so much more to come. Take your place in the conversation, discover what’s ahead for 2022 and how this fits into the bigger picture of digital transformation. Catch up on our Digital Revolution 2.0 - register here.