“Loyalty matters. Doing good for your employee is doing good for your business.”— Fouad ElNaggar

When looking at the ongoing evolution of the digital workplace, Fouad ElNaggar calls out three capabilities as vital to improving employee experience: the intelligent organizing, guiding and automating of work.

“For too long, we’ve accepted a generic approach to enterprise software which is all about making it easier to manage for IT,” he said. “What you’re seeing with machine learning and AI is that it’s easier to make things personalized without changing how you manage back-end infrastructure.”

ElNaggar is currently vice president, product management at Citrix. He joined Citrix following its November 2018 acquisition of Sapho, the employee engagement portal company he co-founded in 2014 and where he was CEO. Prior to Sapho, ElNaggar was a venture capitalist and an online media executive, with roles including chief strategy officer at CBS Interactive.

‘Intelligent Automation’

EINagger said Sapho and Citrix shared “100 percent alignment” in their visions for the future of work and how to drive a better employee experience for all workers, from CEOs to hourly contractors.

“We need intelligent automation to make things better,” he said. “This is what brought us together — Citrix had the organization piece — and we, Sapho, had the guidance piece.” Sapho as a brand name “is now done,” and the focus has shifted to enhancing Citrix’s Workspace software to deliver a “purpose-built employee experience.”

What organizations are looking for are “personalized experiences for their employees which help drive employee engagement, productivity, retention and loyalty,” according to ElNaggar.

Citrix is one of the sponsors of CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 17 to June 19 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. ElNaggar will also be speaking at the event.

We spoke with ElNaggar about the current gaps in employee experience, where the technology is heading next, and the concept of employee lifetime value.

Consider the Impact of Employee Lifetime Value

CMSWire: In your opinion, what factors are companies forgetting to take into account when thinking about redesigning employee experiences?

ElNaggar: I think there are three main things that people are not really thinking about but which are really ruining the employee experience.

1. There are too many apps. The typical person works on 42 apps. The average digital workplace looks like an archaeological dig. So, if you go down three layers, you’ll find the equivalent of an ancient Roman chariot wheel, a green-screen mainframe app, that’s still running something like networking access rights. Then, with all the point solutions from the cloud, it’s becoming really difficult to keep hold of and to keep up with all those apps.

2. The apps are too complicated. Millennials and Gen Z are already half of the workforce, and when they think about apps, they think about Instagram. The app just works — that’s what they think software should be. You shouldn’t have to take a two-hour class to learn how to file your expenses.

3. There are too many interruptions. So, it’s not only that we have too many apps. Each one of them thinks they should be Facebook and will try to engage you and pull you into their app.

If someone is trying to contact me, they will first send me a Slack response. If I don’t see it, they’ll shoot me an email. If I don’t see that, then they’ll text message me and/or call my phone. All of those interruptions stop the flow of work, which is often when you’re producing your best-quality work.

CMSWire: Why aren’t organizations considering these gaps in the employee experiences that they’re providing to their staff?

ElNaggar: For too long, when you thought about technology in the workplace, it’s been very IT-centric rather than employee-centric. It was all about just wanting to roll out an app and say it was ‘Mission Accomplished.’

We’re now entering a world of human-centered design. So, let’s think about the last mile and incorporate what the end user experience is going to be in our workflow.

We are seeing a shift within IT departments. They may be upset by low NPS scores. They may also be coming under pressure from their execs, who say, ‘How come my apps at home are great, and our business apps aren’t?' People are thinking in more employee experience terms and how to close the current gaps.

CMSWire: What examples would you give of organizations who already offer stellar employee experiences?

ElNaggar: We’re in the bottom of the first inning of movement around employee experience. It’s really early in the game. I’m not going to call out specific customers.

Most people are starting to go down the path of addressing hardware. So, they make sure that the guest Wi-Fi works; that digital sign-in is possible; that they have a good video conferencing system, and that staff are not working on old computers. That is or should be all table stakes.

We’ve not seen people starting to attack the app problem. If your employer gives you an eight-year-old laptop and then you try to log into the portal and it doesn’t work, that kind of experience doesn’t inspire loyalty. You look at it and say, ‘Is my company investing in me?’ In work, you want to have a sense of purpose. When you’re giving your company your best, you’re investing in them.

However, employees end up spending as much as 54 percent of their time in busywork — like approving time-off and purchase orders — rather than the job they were brought in to do. You want to get that kind of work off your plate and automated so that the employee experience can help you to be innovative.

CMSWire: How can great employee experiences positively impact an organization, for instance, in driving employee loyalty and retention?

ElNaggar: Loyalty will show up on the balance sheet. At present, there are more job openings than job seekers. On average, millennials are leaving jobs within two years. If you’re not creating a great employee experience, are people going to stay? Absolutely not.

Think about Employee Lifetime Value (ELTV), the EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization] generated for employees. This is something that I’ll talk a lot about at the Digital Workplace Experience conference.

A company invests in its employees to hire, onboard and train them. It’s not like an employee is working at 100 percent capacity when they join your organization. You invest in all that only to have the individual then cycle out of your company within two to three years. Imagine what the ELTV was and what it could’ve been.

Loyalty matters. Doing good for your employee is doing good for your business.

CMSWire: What might the employee of tomorrow look like in terms of who they work for and when and how they work?

ElNaggar: Employees want to feel secure. I do worry that everyone falls in love with the gig economy, so the ‘I could have 10 different companies I’m working for.’ But that concept flies in the nature of what humans want in terms of security.

That said, even if you’re working for one employer, your work will be radically different. Employees are going to want to work when, how and where they want.

If you provide your employees with better collaboration tools, then why can’t you work from home or from Hawaii or, when you’re at the office, sit in your cube or move around in the cool, hip areas? We need to be thoughtful and consider what the workspace is going to look like.

It’s going to be amazing. You will work when, where and how you like, but we have to solve discovery for people.

CMSWire: What more can organizations do within the digital workplace to enable employees to continually update and expand their existing skillsets?

ElNaggar: In terms of skillsets, there will be a big movement to micro-learning. Those typical two-hour training sessions will go the way of the dodo. Instead, the focus will be how can we have skill tracks like a role-playing game. So, if I can spend two minutes and learn something new, can we drop that into our feed?

At center of our Workspace is a feed that’s bringing you tasks and helping you to make decisions — so there could also be a two-minute training session which would, for example, make you better at calendaring meetings.

CMSWire: What is your favorite game to play, and why do you like it so much? What collaboration lessons does the game teach which also apply to business?

ElNaggar: I love softball. I play a lot of it and I force my employers to start up teams so I can play it! Softball gives me a chance to pretend I’m an athlete. It’s a beautiful sport. I like the leisurely pace it’s played at and the camaraderie. I do always try to play at the highest level.

Like all sports, softball teaches you incredibly important lessons, which are not just for the game, they’re for life and for business. First, you can only be as strong as your weakest player. So, the impetus is for you to get the best players and to then support them. Next, you have to have a game plan or a cohesive strategy in place in order to win. Then, have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re not going to be the best version of yourself.

If work is miserable, it’s going to be hard to be your best. For actively disengaged employees, there’s one thing you can be sure about — they’re not having fun at work. If you’re winning at work, you will be the best version of yourself always.

Learn more about the Digital Workplace Experience.