Strategic employee communications that lead
Fortune 500 companies through transformation

Use these 5 E’s to ensure a thriving, digital employee experience

Illustration of a woman smiling on computer and employees conversing in front of a building

How to address workforce culture shifts with sustainable change transformations

Are you upgrading your employee experience to replace old ways of working with new ones? A line from this Upwork commercial provides the perfect inspiration: “It’s all made up. These old ideas – working in an office, 9-to-5… if it’s all made up then what’s stopping you from making up something better?!”

Many companies are plugging into the promise of a new, digital employee experience (DEX) to improve how work gets done. And the technology options to make it happen are exploding.

It’s easy to understand why the DEX space is hot. Workforce dynamics are changing on the fly: remote, hybrid, contract and gig talent expectations are reshaping the landscape. Traditional business structures and operating models are being reinvented andsenior leadership is struggling to keep up.

Employee-first mindset

As a change and communications leader, I see a ton of opportunities for companies to build an “employee-first” strategy that harmonizes business goals and people experience.

It doesn’t come easy, however.

Josh Bersin, HR industry analyst and thought leader, says 2023 is the year “to automate a lot of HR junk work and transform how you operate.” 

Through my change lens, I see Five E’s that will help build an authentic, sustainable, digital employee experience (DEX) to generate, what I like to call, organizational change power.

The 5 E's

1. Empowered Employees

New empowerment comes from the investments that committed companies are making in attracting, retaining and growing team members. Most employers don’t have it right yet, so they need to listen to, and amplify, employee voices to improve how to get work done. 

Employees want more flexibility on when, where and how they contribute. Health and well-being are at the top of the list. And since talented folks have more employment options than ever, many have decided they don’t want “just a job”; they want to do meaningful work and go to the office only when it makes sense.

Employees can own their experience by adopting a “See Something / Say Something” mindset and call out silly, slow and complex ways of working. 

2. Equipped Managers

Eighty percent of employees say they’d work harder if they felt their efforts were being recognized. Yet with the demands that middle managers face, prioritizing personalized support can be difficult. 

From managing global, remote, and asynchronous teams to balancing trends like “Bare-Minimum Mondays,” “Cyberloafing,” and “Rage Applying” – it’s no wonder managers need more skills and tools to be effective.

DEX tools can help by:

  • Providing automated and personalized reminders for items like work anniversaries, accomplishment milestones and birthdays
  • Delivering red-flag data-driven insights such as too many OT hours, workload burn-out and weak sentiment scores

DEX technology stood upand managed by a reimagined team of experts can help.

3. Energized Employee Experience Director

This is one of the coolest new jobs out there. Think of it as a silo-busting, data-empowered, voice-amplifying change champion whose main goal is to disrupt outdated ways of working and replace them with authentic, new employee experiences that align with – and drive – business success. 

It’s not a fantasy. It’s the role innovative organizations realize they need and are investing in. Virgin Media has a National Employee Voice Lead with more than 300 “voice reps” nationwide elected by employees for a four-year tenure. Employee Experience (EX) Director opportunities are stacking up on job boards and the rise of the Chief Remote Officer is in flight.

People leading people in these roles can harness the wealth of the quantitative employee data that companies already have to launch new tools that glean qualitative feedback from employees. Armed with a true picture of employee reality, they can be an advisor and consultant to HR, IT, Finance and other senior leadership members to implement, communicate, measure and manage seamless experiences that make teams feel valued and significant.

Scaling a “hyper-personalized” employee experience is what people expect and EX leaders can deliver it. 

4. Elevated HR Teams

HR teams are taking up the challenge to elevate their game: 61% of HR leaders say they’re now considered strategic partners to the business, helping “to move DEX out of the ‘nice-to-have’ category and into ‘business critical.'”

Not only do people and business strategies need to be aligned, but they need to exist as a single strategy. The meshing of the two is where the magic happens.

As the heartbeat of any organization’s employee experience, HR can make the broad business case for an employee-first strategy tied to the company’s revenue and growth goals. Then they can lead the cross-functional, collaborative process to define and activate “micro touchpoints” embedded in four vital employee-experience categories:  Recruiting, onboarding, growth and exit.

5. Engaged Leaders

Gallup pegs employee engagement at 32% in 2022, with 18% of employees actively disengaged.

According to Darren Murph, GitLab’s Chief Remote Officer, “Distributed work can unlock talent and productivity, but only with intentionality from business leaders.”

This is where things get interesting. Many leaders still want control of their company, culture, teams and operational models. But there’s also no way to control and dictate a one-size-fits-all employee experience. The only path to success is for leaders to listen, guide, support, co-create, pilot, evaluate, celebrate, then rinse and repeat over and over again with their teams. Leaders can’t  ignore this critical piece. They must  step up and demonstrate the genuine engagement  their people are waiting for.

So how can leaders advocate and engage their employees? Here are some ideas:  

  • Crowd-sourcing entrepreneurial ideas and best practices
  • Extending participation in decision-making 
  • Encouraging experimentation 
  • “Walking the talk” and showing up where they’re needed most – only 17% of front-line workers say their employee experience is positive! 
  • Loosening their obsession with global efficiency and considering personal intimacy – try visiting sites with two team members instead of 200 
  • Regularly sharing their voice in new DEX channels when it matters most – not everyone has the same core hours 
  • Featuring people and tangible, fresh success stories of the company’s employee-first strategy during Town Halls and live chats 
  • Always allowing for open discussion during team meetings 

This approach will feel different for many leaders. But that’s what it takes to build a thriving employee experience fine-tuned to their people and organization.

“It’s not about the office; it’s about belonging.”

A McKinsey team wrote a frank article about company culture, communication, connectivity and cohesion. Even if employees never step foot in an office again, they want to feel like they’re a part of your workplace culture.

Creating that type of rich, virtual environment is new territory for all of us. 

Those committed to letting go, trusting the team they’ve already built and applying the 5 E’s will see success. 

When everyone’s bought into and involved in the process, there’s no failing, only co-creating solutions together that we can’t see on our own today.

Need help strategizing and executing successful change transformations to get your employees on board and engaged? Book a call with our experts.

About the Author

John NielsonClient Lead

“Think like a marketer. Act like a change agent.” It’s John’s mantra when working to accelerate the digital change journeys of Fortune 500 organizations for the past 20 years. Expect his deep expertise in developing and deploying organizational change-management strategy & readiness activities, building and writing communication campaigns, and managing sponsors, teams & projects to educate, align, and engage all stakeholders in critical business initiatives. John also brings a fresh energy that inspires everyone to have a little fun along the way and make change stick. Proven. Creative. Gritty. Count on John for digital change leadership that sparks business transformation.

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