While many applications promise to solve the problems of remote workers, the various platforms often don’t integrate. Employees then have to jump between applications and manage seemingly endless notifications. In other words: digital friction.  

“Digital friction is probably the biggest issue for the end user when it comes to digital transformation, employee experience and hybrid work,” said Joey Levi, global VP of pre-sales at LumApps.

For a successful digital transformation, organizations should be strategic in implementation, communication and managing their applications to enable greater capabilities for the future. 

LumApps is a global employee experience platform company and a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s recent Spring Digital Workplace Experience (DWX) Conference. LumApps CMO Chris McLaughlin presented a session during the event titled, "Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration in the New Hybrid Environment." To follow up on this session, SMG spoke with Levi about what it takes to be strategic in digital transformation and the employee experience.

Digital Workplaces Now a Necessity 

Simpler Media Group: Tell me about your background in the digital workplace and how you’ve seen it change over time. 

Joey Levi: I’ve been in the collaboration/digital workplace space for 14 years. In this space, companies have looked to break down silos and capture employees’ knowledge while better aligning employees to the organization's goals. Collaboration was introduced to the employee experience based on consumer use of Facebook and Twitter. Real-time solutions like Slack and Teams were introduced initially in IT groups and somewhat adopted in other departments. During the pandemic, what happened was companies needed to keep the business running, and they started to invest in newer digital experiences that were new to most employees: Teams and Slack, Google Chat and video systems like Zoom. 

The concept of hybrid work is newer because even though people were talking about it before the pandemic, they were forced into it by necessity in 2020. 

In this hybrid world, the digital experiences that make it easier for us to do these real-time communications are probably the most important ones, when it comes to person-to-person interaction and knowledge sharing. But at a broader level for organizations, it’s important for them to have what we call a digital headquarters: an employee experience platform, intranet — whatever you want to call it — the hub where you can communicate to people about changes that are happening and give them a platform to ask questions, collaborate with colleagues and gather information. 

SMG: Why are digital experiences important in a hybrid work environment? 

Levi: The point of view here for the company is really about employee experience. An employee experience is basically all of the touchpoints that an employee has within their organization, especially with technology. Ultimately, we want to borrow the same strategies from customer experience, treating employees like internal customers. So we’re giving them the right information, at the right time, in the right applications, and we’re making sure they have the right knowledge and access to expertise. 

We also think about engaging employees through communication. You would think that today, in 2022, companies would know how to communicate to all of their employees. The problem is that many of them still struggle to reach all the employees or get their attention or make things relevant to them.

The flip side of this digital experience is making sure that you’re fine-tuning it so that it makes sense. There are some technologies that can either automate some of it for you or at least give you enough data points to understand why people aren’t paying attention or how to reach them better within your organization. 

Joey Levi: "You would think that today, in 2022, companies would know how to communicate with all of their employees, but ... many of them still struggle."

Managing Digital Friction

SMG: What challenges are employees facing when going hybrid?

Levi: There are two sides to it because there are the people who own technology and bring technology in, and then there are the people who are meant to actually use the technology. 

One big issue for the owners of the technology is always, why am I not getting engagement? Why are people not paying attention to this? Most likely it’s because you didn’t have a good program or plan for rolling it out. Or even if you did, it isn’t prioritized over other things the employee has to do, i.e., their work and other applications that take their attention.

For the employee, why should I use this new system versus this other system to collaborate? If I have options, then I may never move out of one system into another one. But those are silos of information. Companies think about it, but they don’t have a way to tie these different systems together. 

Learning Opportunities

That digital friction is probably the biggest issue for the end user when it comes to digital transformation, employee experience and hybrid work. I think the flip side for the people who are managing this technology is that they aren't necessarily always organized at a strategic level to help their employees know when to use what. 

SMG: How can you make sure a digital transformation is a success and everyone is on board?

Levi: It starts with alignment across the organization. If you want to be successful, you have to align everyone at a high level. You have to get the authority, the executive backing and then you have to build the right tactical team to execute the project itself. The best approach is to create a steering committee with the right stakeholders. The steering committee represents the authority. They have an important accountability because they will make all strategic decisions of the project. In practice, this will involve high-level monitoring of the project evolution. They have to provide strategic guidance for medium-term and long-term plans and actions. 

There’s an evolution that is constantly going to happen with technology. That steering committee needs to think about how these technologies will affect people in the company and whether they are compatible with the existing stack of technologies. 

Data Necessary for Advanced Capabilities 

SMG: How will new technologies and approaches like AI, IoT and machine learning impact the digital workplace experience as they become more widespread? How do you see them being leveraged in your area? 

Levi: Today, these technologies are available in enterprise services and applications but often they are disjointed or the underlying data layer is not enough to make a difference to an end user. As companies fine-tune these technologies and build data lakes, AI and machine learning will help automate a lot of manual processes and tasks. From the employee experience perspective, a communications team may create a piece of content or a campaign for employees and the system will automate pushing that to the right audience(s).

Once these data layers are established, companies will be able to fine-tune employee audiences — or let the system do it for them — and this data layer means that you have a much better understanding of individual employees and the experience can become much more personalized and relevant. 

We can talk about artificial intelligence, we can talk about machine learning, we can talk about the Internet of Things, but it all starts with this data layer and the insights that you learn about your employees. 

SMG: What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Levi: I work in a digital world, I play video games, I like to watch sci-fi shows, cartoons and horror movies. 

During the pandemic, I got a Peloton. I wasn’t really a cyclist, but it has turned out to be a really great way to focus and get away from all of the world. Both running and cycling have helped me sort of meditate in a way. I like that I can unplug and do something physical.

Watch the spring Digital Workplace Experience event on-demand here.