After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees across the U.S. are sharing that they want more purpose at work, beyond their day-to-day tasks, to feel connected in a remote workplace.
“Particularly now because they’re remote and in many cases isolated, we want people to be able to engage with other employees around things that they’re interested in,” said Chris McLaughlin, CMO at LumApps.
Finding what motivates people, though, is individual. With a strong strategy, clear goals and the ability to map out journeys, organizations can better enable their staff.
LumApps is a global employee experience platform company and a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s recent Winter Digital Workplace Experience (DWX) Conference. To follow up on its session, SMG spoke with Chris about the importance of a dynamic, individualized employee experience.
Staying Connected in a Dispersed Workplace
Simpler Media Group: Why is employee experience technology especially important these days?
Chris McLaughlin: Everyone realizes that remote and hybrid work is going to be with us moving forward, and that’s a combination of the current situation with the pandemic, as well as the fact that employees have strongly expressed preference for having more flexibility in terms of their working location, their working hours, things of that nature.
Secondarily, a lot of employees are rethinking their relationship with their employers and what goes into that. Thinking about your employee experience from the standpoint of really better engaging, better enabling employees becomes really important.
The last thing we have to recognize is that we have a new generation of workers who are looking for something very different in their work and day-to-day activities. It’s increasingly important to give employees purpose as part of their role. That could be diversity, equity, and inclusion, sustainability, or another social initiative, but we need to give them an ability to connect with their employer — and other employees — on a different level than just day-to-day work and tasks.
Creating Individualized Experiences Starts With Understanding the Employee
SMG: What makes an ideal digital employee experience? How does that differ from what most organizations are doing?
McLaughlin: The ideal employee experience is, obviously, employee-centric. That goes beyond just being personalized, but truly individualized.
When we originally started thinking about employee experience — or if we roll back the clock and talk about intranets — it was really about curated knowledge sharing and one-way communication, from the employer to its employees. When we think about the modern intranet today, it has to be so much more.
We not only need to support top-down communications and knowledge sharing, but we also need to support employee-to-employee knowledge sharing and connections, foster a sense of culture and community, and provide seamless access to any number of different business apps. As a result, the employee experience has to become more personalized, more unique to each employee, and really the only way to do this is to become more data-driven. The reason for this is two-fold:
One, to individualize an employee experience, we need to start with an understanding of the employee, and that begins with having detailed data about that employee. And two, as we engage with the employee, and they respond to the different communications and different journeys that we put in front of them, we need to take into account that response. In short, we need to continuously shape the employee experience around what we know about the employee.
Behind all of this, you have to think about things like data layers and journey orchestration and being able to put things together in the context of what you are asking an employee to do. For example, if I’m onboarding a new employee, I may have one journey, but I’ve got a bunch of little activities that make up that journey that all relate to the context of bringing a new employee on board.
The last thing is purpose. Particularly now because they’re remote and in many cases isolated, we want people to be able to engage with other employees around things that they’re interested in. So, what we are really trying to do, is to bring that in-office, water-cooler experience to an entirely digital environment.
SMG: How can those gaps be filled with technology?
McLaughlin: If you’re going to deliver that individualized employee experience, you’ve got to start with data and a foundational understanding of data about the employee. I think it’s much, much more than just survey results and other things like that that a lot of traditional intranet technologies like to talk about.
From a technology standpoint, you’ve got to think about how you're architecting that experience. Some of that is top-down: mission, purpose, history. How do I incorporate the unique elements of my organization and my brand into that experience and give employees a sense of belonging?
Then, as we talk about communities and opportunities for employees to engage, we’ve also got to think about that bottom-up experience and how to democratize how employees and managers can personalize things and how we can give employees a voice in that process.
But, fundamentally, what our customers are really asking us for is one place where they can gather their employees, deliver a highly personalized experience, and enable them to easily and seamlessly take action on different communications and information. They want to eliminate the context-switching, confusion, and lack of connection that is common in today’s digital workplaces.
SMG: How can organizations craft flexible experiences that grow with employee needs?
McLaughlin: A lot of times, people think about profiles as this static thing. You can’t just take a snapshot and assume that you’ve done a good job of tailoring an employee experience.
You’ve got to think about it as being dynamic, something that changes over time. And therefore, how you personalize and individualize that employee experience, what journeys you provide to them, what data drives all that changes over time. You need to allow for that or your employee experience will become as stale as the data that drives it.
Identify Specific Goals and Measurements of Success — With or Without Technology
SMG: What advice do you have for organizations that want to overhaul their digital workplace experience but aren’t sure where to begin? How should they measure success?
McLaughlin: My answer, even though I’m a technology vendor, is not going to be technology. You have to begin with an employee experience strategy. That doesn’t have to be a massive document. What it really boils down to is what do you want to accomplish? What are the outcomes that you’re trying to drive with your employees? Where do you believe your experience is deficient today? What perceived problems are you trying to solve?
If you have an understanding of what outcomes you’re trying to drive with your employees, then you can start thinking about how to: one, enable those outcomes; and, two, how to measure your results. Of course, your measurements are going to be different depending on what goals you have as an organization.
Once you know what you want to do and you know how you want to measure success, then set simple goals and milestones — and realistic ones to begin with. We usually advise customers to start simple, really focus on areas where they can get key wins and immediate impact. Then, scale their efforts from there.
SMG: In an increasingly connected world, do you have any hobbies you use to unplug and unwind?
McLaughlin: The big one for me is I like to get away from my desk, get over to the gym, and I love to play basketball. It’s one of those activities and sports where I completely unplug. I can’t think about work, I have to just think about playing. It clears the mind, gets me up and moving, so it’s that perfect combination for me.