What are the biggest obstacles in digitizing employee experience?

Enterprise leaders identify major challenges—and how to overcome them

While many companies have made progress in transitioning to digital working, others lag behind in areas that are critical to keeping employees engaged and productive long-term.

As a global survey by ServiceNow and ESI ThoughtLab shows, digitizing employee experience requires complex elements to come together—tight collaboration between HR and IT, efficient feedback and input channels for employees, and strategic technology investments, to name a few.

What are some of the biggest challenges they face when putting it all together? We asked leaders in HR and enterprise tech what those are and how companies can avoid them.

Poor experience design

Too often, companies forget the key part of digitizing employee experiences: —great design. Typically, they’ll apply process and technology skills to develop self-service applications and workflows. They will look great on flow charts, and the apps may gain initial adoption by pushing employees to use them, but it doesn’t always end well.

When applications are poorly designed, employees either stop using them or end up so confused they do not use them appropriately. When digitizing employee experiences, companies need to apply the same design rigor they would with any important customer interaction. Employees don’t need to love every experience, but every experience should be easy to navigate, easy to understand, and clearly configured to help employees achieve their goals.

Bruce Temkin
Head of the XM Institute at Qualtrics

Not enough employee input

The shift to remote work offers organizations an opportunity to redefine employee experience, but only if they find ways for employees to give authentic feedback first. Without traditional in-person feedback, a lack of communication around how employees feel toward their workplace as they work remotely prevents companies from constantly and consistently improving their experience.

By regularly conducting internal surveys and increasing feedback cycles to learn how employees are faring and how they feel about the company, companies can better adapt to their needs while maintaining their culture.

Amy Reichanadter
Chief people officer, Databricks

Ineffective digital tools

I hear from employees all the time who say that the one-off tools and applications provided by their employers are too complex, specialized, or advanced. They’re often handed this technology with little to no context, guidance, or training. In some companies, you might even have one team on one technology platform and another team on another. That hampers collaboration, productivity, and overall employee experience.

Organizations need to take bold steps, especially with the pressures of COVID-19, to address these digital issues related to workforce collaboration. If they don’t, overall employee experience will suffer.

Dion Hinchcliffe
VP and principal analyst for the Future of Work, Constellation Research

Siloed team structures

To create great employee experiences, it’s important for user experience teams to take a close look at the processes and systems at work that create the most friction, frustration, and tedium for employees. Frequently these are processes and workflows created by siloed teams and systems that create unnecessary complexity and a lack of transparency for the employee trying to complete a task.

To create great experiences for employees, these journeys must be connected across systems, offering employees a single destination to resolve issues or get information, with heightened efficiencies powered by automation and AI, to reduce tedium and frustration, and enable employees to focus the majority of their time on their creative, collaborative and intellectual work.

Amy Lokey
Head of global design, ServiceNow

Biting off more than you can chew

I see two common obstacles when it comes to digitizing and improving employee experience. The first is the tendency to try to be perfect the first time, which can send organizations down a path of never-ending development cycles without really solving anything.

The second is not thinking comprehensively or strategically enough. Companies need to adopt an agile and iterative mindset when redesigning employee experiences. Get the first version of your experience solution out as quickly as possible. Test it. Improve upon it based on feedback. Then repeat the cycle, as necessary.

Also, recognize that attempting to solve employee experience issues in one fell swoop isn’t realistic. You’ll be much better off starting with the most critical pain points and then addressing other projects over time as part of a strategic plan.

Josh Bersin
Industry analyst and founder, Josh Bersin Academy

Over-reliance on journey mapping, under-reliance on data

There’s a big focus within EX on using journey maps, personas, and the like to create digital employee experiences. While there’s a lot to be said for those tools, they aren’t enough. These tools were borrowed from marketing and created before we could understand the digital experience of every employee.

Leading organizations that recognize this are combining some of these tools with the wealth of data they now have available on employees, be it through digital exhaust (created from digital activities) or through surveys and other data gathering mechanisms. This requires your people analytics team and the employee experience team to work hand-in-hand. The end result is an employee experience much more tailored to individuals’ needs, and that can help them succeed in an ever-more digital employee experience.

Stacia Garr
Co-founder and principal analyst, RedThread Research