Digital workplace leader interview with Brett Caldon: "The recipe for success is constantly listening to employees and delivering incrementally to continually delight them."

When thinking about improving employee experience, Brett Caldon looks for how to free up staff from tedious, easily automated tasks they’re often caught up in.

“The goal is for employees to be able to pursue the roles and responsibilities that companies hired them for, rather than focusing on the recurring administrative tasks that can slow them down,” he said. “By using more intelligence and extending more AI and machine learning capabilities, we can empower employees to move the business forward.”

Caldon is currently CEO of Workgrid Software, a developer of employee-centric software, which is wholly owned by Liberty Mutual. He co-founded Workgrid in 2017 after the insurance company established the startup as a way to bring the digital workplace technology solutions it had developed internally for Liberty Mutual’s more than 50,000 employees to a wider audience.

Marry Business Models with Innovation

Prior to co-founding Workgrid, Caldon had led the software innovation division at Liberty Mutual with the remit of taking modern practices and agile and design thinking and applying those concepts to improving support for employees and customers.

In taking Workgrid out into a broader market, the biggest lesson Caldon has learned so far has been that “the idea in itself is less than one percent of the journey,” with the main focus on understanding “what it takes to marry business models with innovation to drive a successful product to market.”

Since CMSWire last spoke with Workgrid in April 2018, the company has continued to advance the capabilities of its digital assistant by enabling employees to self-serve frequent or recurring tasks like IT help desk tickets, Caldon said.

Caldon is a speaker at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 17 to 19 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will be giving a session titled, “The Genesis for an Intelligent and Consistent Employee Experience” on June 19. Workgrid is one of the sponsors of the conference.

We spoke with Caldon about the shift to intelligent employee experiences; best practices for reimagining employee experiences; and his thoughts on how to measure digital workplace success.

Work from the Employee Backwards to Simplify Experiences

CMSWire: How do you define “intelligent employee experiences” today? How do you see these experiences evolving as technologies like AI and chatbots become more mature?

Caldon: Employee experience might once have meant an annual meeting with the boss, but today when we talk about digital employee experience, it’s already become very broad. What we need to do is to remove the requirement for institutional knowledge, so employee experience is entirely about intent and context and the ability to get things done.

Just trying to take a day off can mean an employee has to go across three, four, five or six different systems. That process or task should all be orchestrated on the back-end without the employee having to know all those different systems.

The next step is in leveraging the intent-based and contextual data you have about employees, and then use that data better.

CMSWire: How will these advances benefit companies and individual employees?

Caldon: Intelligent employee experiences are beneficial in two ways. First, you can improve your focus on employees and meeting their changing expectations of work. Employees come in with the expectations of consumers outside the workplace, so we need to provide them with the best digital employee experience.

Secondly, a poor employee experience can impact employee engagement. With estimates of employees having to work with well over 100 systems within one year, you want to remove the noise caused by the proliferation of employee systems. The goal is to enable the employee to focus on doing what the company really hired them to do.

CMSWire: What best practices advice would you give organizations to help ensure that they do include employee input throughout the entire process of reimagining employee experience? How should companies get started?

Caldon: Employee input was really a focus for us in taking a disciplined approach when we built out Workgrid. We want the digital assistant to be extensible, so companies can build on top of Workgrid.

My advice would be not to start big, but go after moments that can be real delighters in solving employee experience. Definitely make sure you listen to employees since they know where the pain points are and they will end up defining your future roadmap for employee experience. The recipe for success is constantly listening to employees and delivering incrementally to continually delight them.

For example, we brought all approvals across the enterprise into one spot accessible via mobile devices. Then, when an employee came back from a week of vacation, they didn’t have to pour through email. Instead, they did their required approvals on the train on the way to work.

So, digital workplace improvements are around providing employees with the right tools to enable them to focus on high-value work.

You want to ensure you don’t miss things that can improve life at work for employees. For instance, our employees were asking to see the café menu at their location in advance. If you can see the menu in the morning before you leave home, then you can decide whether or not to bring in lunch.

CMSWire: In your opinion, where are the key gaps today in the employee experiences organizations provide to their staff? What needs to change in the redesigning of employee experiences?

Caldon: It’s not something that’s ever done on purpose by enterprises, but they tend to have implemented systems by functional silos. They’ve adopted a top-down approach where they’ve focused on the needs of a few technical users rather than the needs of all employees and how those systems impact them.

The rise of cloud computing is leading to much more decomposing of those siloed systems, like the old ERP of old, and that decomposition is only going to increase. So, you need instead to work from the employee backwards to make experiences as simple as possible.

What needs to change is how organizations leverage the data they have about employees to provide personalization. Systems today tend to be fairly generic re personas and employee journeys. What you want to do is create a really intelligent experience, which you can make personal to every employee.

Even if you think about pure knowledge management, our focus this year for Workgrid is working on a no-code self-service chatbot to provide information that’s more specific to individual employees.

Going back to that example of the lunch menu. The chatbot will already know which office you’re in, so it will provide you with the correct menu. There’s no need to dig through a bunch of menus from different offices. It may be possible to apply other filters, if the enterprise has that data. For instance, if you’re a vegetarian, the chatbot will only show you vegetarian dishes from the menu.

CMSWire: What are some of the metrics organizations should use to measure positive employee experience and digital workplace success?

Caldon: Adoption is key, and you can measure that. With our approach, you can measure against the system you have in place today and where you’re doing the transactions. You can do surveys to capture your eNPS (employee net promoter score) sentiment and to solicit employee feedback on your digital workplace.

You can also measure the delay in executing a task. So, if you’re putting in a request for access to a system that you need to work, how much time do you lose, when you’re not working.

Then, there’s the abandonment piece. We’ve seen that a lot in organizations’ current intranets, where they’re not getting traction or penetration. They’re using one-size-fits-all, old-style communication tools, when their employees are expecting more in terms of productivity gains.

CMSWire: What are some of the warning signals companies should watch out for which indicate their digital workplaces are not serving their employees well?

Caldon: Look at attrition rates and, based on that information, you can assess how much of an impact your digital workplace is having on your staff. Today, employees move around much more than they ever did in the past so your digital workplace acts as an influencer in employee retention.

You want to try to come up with a value statement from the employees’ perspective about how they want to feel that they have purpose, passion, and potential in their working lives.

CMSWire: On Twitter, you describe yourself as an “avid outdoorsman.” What do you find inspiring in Nature? Do you see parallels between what happens in the natural world and the world of employee experience and the digital workplace?

Caldon: Nature, in and of itself, is inspiring in two ways — in its predictability and, in stark contrast, in its unpredictability where you can never predict what you’re going to see out there.

We as humans have created complexity unfortunately both in the natural world and instituted within our own systems such as the digital workplace, probably needlessly so. The good thing is that, although we’ve created the complexity, we also have the ability to find solutions as well.

Both the natural world and the world of the digital workplace are continuing to evolve and to react to outside influences. Those evolutions are never going to be completely done.

Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience.