Kathy Krumpe of Future State shares her experiences at a Digital Workplace Experience workshop
Kathy Krumpe of Future State shares her experiences at a Digital Workplace Experience workshop PHOTO: Jeff Callen

CHICAGO — Ted Sapountzis, VP of marketing at Redwood City, Calif.-based employee communication and engagement software provider Simpplr presented the Digital Workplace Experience workshop “Advice from the Trenches: The Blueprint for a Successful Digital Workplace Launch.” 

The Monday morning workshop packed in an entire digital workplace project timeline with real workplace advice in the form of two client case studies.

The State of Employee Engagement

Sapountzis opened with a sobering statistic about the state of employee engagement. A recent Gallup poll found only 30 percent of US employees are engaged at work. Four of the workplace trends contribute to this lack of engagement:

  1. the multiple generations in a single work environment who were raised with completely different technologies, 
  2. an increasingly distributed workforce made up of remote and freelance positions, 
  3. the growing need for workplace communication to adapt to mobile and 
  4. employee frustration with the information explosion and the multiple apps needed to handle it. 

Camila Souza, customer success manager at Simpplr, broke down the path to success for any company looking to battle these disengagement trends. To illustrate practical tips for successfully launching a digital workplace Souza invited two clients, Veronica Ruano Gruen of Splunk Inc. and Kathy Krumpe of Future State, to weave their experiences into each step.

Here’s the path they shared to create an engaged digital workplace.

6 Steps to an Engaged Digital Workplace

1. Build Your Case

'Define' and 'align' were the two major takeaways. What is the vision for your digital workplace? Common outcome goals are to connect employees, help employees find information and promote the company culture.

A critical step that too many underestimate is aligning leadership and stakeholders. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are ready to launch an amazing portal just to find out that one department didn’t know about it and chose a different method for communication, and another department won’t have its main need met with the current design.

Lastly, identify the metrics to measure success. Analyzing employee adoption and engagement will provide insights that can be translated into action steps for improving or maintaining usage. If this seems daunting, consider a basic metric such as the awareness goal Splunk set of ensuring that within one month of launch all employees would know about the portal.

2. Build the Foundation

Your project plan should include the realistic goals of all teams and departments. Krumpe, COO at digital experience consultancy Future State which has 100 employees worldwide, explained the benefits of creating a master plan. Separate plans across departments result in silos that lead to future issues in the design and architecture. Establish and enforce accountability across teams. The Future State team clarified roles using the RACI method, and Krumpe recommended using some kind of tool for role definitions.

While you are still researching tools and building out scope, involve your legal and IT teams. Addressing risks early will prevent obstacles down the road relating to security requirements and other company rules.

Information architecture is a core element to building a foundation and requires repeating this simple mantra: make it intuitive, simple, and concise. Krumpe's best advice was to, “try to break through from your departmental hierarchy.” 

A perfect example is when deciding where to link to the company stock plan, ask yourself, “Does the employee care if the stock plan is owned by the HR department or the Finance department?” The answer, of course, is no. The employee just wants to find the stock plan form. 

The Future State team scheduled mapping sessions with departments, identified the top five employee feature requests, and tried to plan a structure that navigated to this information within three clicks.

3. Design the Experience

You’ve completed your mapping sessions, you have all the departments’ goals in mind, and you’re forging ahead to launch. But how will you launch? All at once or in phases? 

Don't leave it to IT to answer this question. Remember your metrics for success, like adoption and engagement rates? Now is the time to strategize how to meet those goals. Both Future State and Splunk chose a staged launch for various reasons.

Splunk, a data analytics software company with more than 2,800 employees worldwide had a small team dedicated to the digital workplace project. With bandwidth in mind it made sense to roll out the portal to small groups and gain feedback before the entire company wide launch. Future State considered bandwidth, but also planned for high adoption by building an awareness strategy. Through transparent team rollouts the entire company gained interest in this new tool and how it would affect their productivity. This set them up for success in meeting adoption goals.

4. Prepare for Launch

This stage is when you create momentum within your company prior to launch. Tap into all your customer marketing experience for your internal teams. Your employees are now customers so tailor your messages to create buzz. Send emails targeted to specific teams or management levels. Teasers are extremely effective. Try including screenshots as you make more progress in building the site.

Splunk gamified the digital workplace roll out to increase engagement by announcing a portal naming contest. Employees submitted names and the winning name, Pony Portal, embeds the company culture in its digital workplace by bringing in the company's mascot and engages new employees who will inevitably ask for the story behind the name.

Focus energy on senior management onboarding, as they are examples to the rest of the company. Don’t be surprised if they need more hand holding than the everyday user due to busy schedules and conflicting priorities. Their buy-in will trickle down so it is worth the effort put in ahead of time. After launch continue encouraging visible leadership participation to increase the adoption rate.

Future State went a step past senior management onboarding and identified champions. These early adopters were granted early training and access to the portal to test and provide feedback. Champions’ pride and excitement helped create additional buzz leading up to launch.

5. Launch

It’s the big day so make it memorable. Plan a celebration and follow Splunk’s lead in gamifying the launch. They created a scavenger hunt tied to raffle prizes. Employees completed all the essential functions such as logging in, creating their profile, setting their timezone and choosing their notification preferences. Early adopters won prizes and the scavenger hunt continued for a month to ensure the majority of employees completed account setup. This creative method successfully enforced user registration.

Another clever tactic Ruano Gruen shared was to phase out communications previously performed through email and move them into the portal. Splunk employees were accustomed to their weekly lunch menu emailed on Mondays. By embedding the menu within the portal, it motivated employees to login routinely to view the menu. Emails were reduced and engagement spiked.

Ruano Gruen emphasized the importance of offering multiple ways to learn how and why to use a digital workplace. Everyone absorbs new information differently so consider visual tools, one-on-one sessions, and office hours in addition to standard tutorials.

6. Nurture

Splunk and Future State both stressed the importance of refreshing digital workplace content in order to maintain engagement. They continually monitor usage and maintain strategies to keep the space relevant. They both had a fear of the ‘Why Bother’ attitude that could creep up if the portal didn’t remain engaging.

Before you worry about how you will staff a team of portal content authors, both companies shared some of their methods for providing organic and dynamic workplace content. Future State features a Rockstar Feed where positive messages are shared across the company. New employees are welcomed, teams are congratulated for successful projects, and individuals are thanked for their achievements. The feed is thriving and keeps the company culture alive.

Splunk encourages conversation by allowing microsites. Company groups acted on their own to create microsites for women in tech and veterans. The groups are extremely active and bring a whole new level of connection between employees.

Future State also uncovered a common denominator for the many generations represented in their workforce: a love for cat photos. This discovery led to a feed where employees company wide share the day’s best cat photos, as well as other furry friends.

The path to a successful digital workplace isn’t necessarily easy, but with savvy advice and thoughtful planning it is certainly attainable.