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A beginner’s guide to designing the digital employee experience

8 min read
A digital employee experience is not just how employees experience workplace technology, but also the way the IT department works with employees. Is yours a two-way street? This guide can help you get started.


Nowadays, the employee experience is synonymous with technology. Whether employees are on-site, at home, or a hybrid of the two, the digital employee experience pulls back the curtain on how enabled and empowered employees are to do their jobs, wherever they’re located.

As such, we’ve taken a closer look at what the digital employee experience is, why it’s important to your employees, ways to get started designing a great digital employee experience, how digitalization affects employee experience, as well as shared some examples of great digital employee experiences so you can understand the concept in action.

Let’s dig in.

What is the digital employee experience?

Digital employee experience is the quality of employees’ touchpoints with the technology they use to do their jobs.

We might look at specific elements of the digital employee experience, such as:

  • Performance of devices and programs: How fast are they? Are they well configured to enable employees to do their work?
  • Reliability of devices and programs: Do applications crash? Do computers slow to a crawl to the point where they need to be restarted frequently? Do work-issued mobile devices connect seamlessly to the company VPN?
  • Mobility: Do work-related tools enable employees to effectively work anywhere?
  • Collaboration: Do programs enable employees to effectively collaborate with their team members? Do they boost productivity? Do they help with business success?

Remember: a digital employee experience is not just how employees experience the technology itself (the applications and devices to which people have access) but also how the IT department works with the business and individual employees to address issues and service requests, deploy new technologies, train employees, and collaborate with employees to understand and deliver on requirements.

Read more: Designing the future of work: 3 steps to improve the digital workspace experience

Why is the digital employee experience important to your people?

By and large, people simply want to get work done, and they want to get it done seamlessly. Employees don’t want to be developing complex workarounds or be dealing with outages or bottlenecks as they attempt to serve their internal or external customers.

A clunky digital employee experience means that people can’t move as quickly and/or efficiently as they would like. When people struggle to make progress, they look outside the company.

How can you get started designing a great digital employee experience?

Like all employee experiences, a good place to start in designing a great digital employee experience is to ask people their opinions on what’s working and what isn’t within their organization. And then take action on those insights.

Here are seven steps to get that process started:

Step 1. Develop personas and define employee journeys for the digital employee experience.

The new employee; the technophile; the technophobe. Different segments will have different ways in which they interact with technology. That’s why it’s important to understand employee personas and understand how they learn and use technology so you can architect an outstanding digital employee experience.

Step 2. Establish a thoughtful, repeatable approach to change management.

With change comes uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes stress. Establishing a consistent approach to change management will help employees to adopt changes to technology and support digital transformation efforts.

Step 3. Incorporate cross-functional teams to optimize workflows.

Consider the implementation of a procurement system. Without sufficient input from multiple functions, including purchasing, legal, and the business, the system can wind up with workflows leaning heavily on one specific function, resulting in bottlenecks, cumbersome processes, and a poor digital employee experience.

Step 4. Design ideal platforms for your target audience.

Design platforms and/or systems with the experience that people want to have in front of mind, rather than basing design on the processes it will support. A design-thinking approach – where employee pain points are identified and the focus is on the job to be done, rather than on the steps in a pre-existing process – is a terrific way to keep humans at the center of the digital employee experience.

Step 5. Establish KPIs that measure what it is that you want to achieve.

When it comes to delivering an outstanding digital employee experience, certainly operational metrics such as downtime, time to deploy, and ticket resolution time are critical. But it’s also important to think about the digital experiences you’re trying to drive via these operational metrics.

You want people to perceive digital technology as reliable, to experience minimal disruption through major deployments, and are happy with their ticket resolution time. Operational metrics measure whether activities are being conducted as planned; experience metrics measure whether employees feel enabled by the services they receive.

Step 6. Encourage decentralized ideation, but centralized vetting and prioritization of ideas.

A study by Accenture of more than 800 organizations found that leading innovators called upon the power of people working in the business to generate and work on ideas, while also using a consistent architecture in how those ideas were ultimately transitioned to projects and products. In one case, with Bosch Group, 1,800 ideas were generated from employees over only six days. The organization centralized and formalized the development of selected ideas, quickly forming global, cross-functional teams of employees released from their regular roles to develop the ideas.

Step 7. Manage IT investments like a venture capital portfolio

A healthy mix of blue-chip investments (high feasibility, high impact, lengthy implementation), quick wins (lower impact but high feasibility and short implementation time), and moon shots (low feasibility, but very high impact).

How does digitalization affect employee experience?

Digitalization – that is, the act of improving business functions by leveraging digital technologies – impacts the employee experience in many ways.

Here are a few:

  • Automation of tedious manual business processes, e.g., transitioning from a legal assistant transcribing phone calls for an attorney to voice recognition technology.
  • Decreased need to travel to in-person meetings through a combination of videoconferencing tools, digital or online whiteboards, and collaborative office productivity tools.
  • Online collection and delivery of customer and employee feedback results to the business. There’s no longer a need to align around a singular data collection effort, the use of digital intercepts and automated lifecycle pulsing can quickly get data in the hands of the leaders who need it.

Examples of great digital employee experiences

Now that you know the importance of designing a great digital employee experience, here are some examples to help you visualize how you can apply what you’ve learned above to your organization.

Great digital employee experiences look like:

  • A wholly implemented single sign-on eliminating the need to log in to multiple sites.
  • A walk-up (virtual or in-person) IT help desk that swiftly responds to and solves issues.
  • A frontline feedback tool that enables employees to provide and vote on suggestions/request features.
  • A well-orchestrated phishing protection program where employees regularly receive “test” phishing emails.
  • A CRM tool that seems like it was specifically designed for the individual user.

You don’t have to get your overall digital employee experience right on the first try. The idea is to ask your employees how their experience is with technology itself, as well as their experience with how your IT department addresses issues and service requests, deploys new digital tools, trains employees, and collaborates with employees to understand and deliver on requirements. Then, take those insights and turn them into actions.

There’s no one size fits all approach to designing a great digital employee experience. But, your employees can tell you the digital employee experience that works best for them.

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