There’s an app for nearly everything. With seemingly endless options for digital workplace experience platforms, apps for training, mental health, etc., it can be easy for organizations to sign on to too many of these options, only to face little to no adoption and see no ROI. 

Does this sound familiar? 

According to Simpplr's Chief Product Officer Sujay Rao, managing a digital workplace experience transformation means having a holistic approach to both the platform creation and rolling it out to the organization. 

“Without good change management initiatives and tracking and measurement, I can guarantee that digital transformation is going to end up in a failure,” Rao said. 

Redwood City, Calif.-based modern intranet software firm Simpplr is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s virtual Digital Workplace Experience (DWX) Conference. To follow up on their session regarding employee experience in the digital workplace, SMG spoke with Rao about how to successfully transition digital workplace experience platforms and improve employee experience. 

Thinking Holistically About Apps, Communication and More

Simpler Media Group: What makes an ideal digital workplace experience? How does that differ from what most organizations are doing? 

Sujay Rao: It’s actually an experience that helps create a strong culture with inspiring leaders, engaged employees, and ultimately leading to successful business outcomes. Where I think this differs organization to organization is that most companies don’t look at it holistically. And it really comes down to a few things:

Number one, an ideal digital workplace experience ought to have the right kind of communications and engagement experience for everybody involved. Leaders need to have the ability to push down their messaging and their objectives. And there’s a lot of great innovation that happens at the employee level. It needs to bubble up.

The second area there is going to be putting together the right kind of productivity experience for everybody involved. There’s a plethora of workplace apps. How do you make sure that all of the collaboration that is happening in other tools is part of this overall productivity experience? 

Last, but not least — let’s not fool ourselves — most employees will stay if they’re given the right growth and development opportunities. There are great learning apps, coaching and mentoring apps, career mobility apps, and talent mobility apps in the ecosystem. 

Sujay Rao: " Without good change management initiatives and tracking and measurement, I can guarantee that digital transformation is going to end up in a failure."

Identifying Intent Is Half the Battle 

SMG: What are the barriers to the ideal digital experience?

Rao: There’s this push and pull. The push is what the company wants. The pull is what the employees want. 

As an example, the push could be productivity. The pull could be well-being. Without figuring out what the company needs to focus on, you might just end up spending a lot of time spinning a lot of wheels and putting something in place, only to realize that there’s less adoption.

Then what then happens is that the second barrier now comes into play, which is that you now end up with this problem of having way too many tools and apps. The intent could have been great that I’m going to introduce these new tools, and what happens is that many times, employees don’t even know these exist.

On the flip side, for HR and IT personnel, they have this nightmare of managing all of these apps. The biggest barrier is that most of these apps are siloed and don’t talk to each other. And if these apps are not talking to each other, it just sets the wrong tone. That’s when the CFO and the finance team are going to step in. And many times, well-meaning initiatives just end up becoming dead on arrival.

SMG: How does an investment in employees’ digital experiences affect an organization?

Rao: It all bubbles up to this: You’re going to have a better culture, you’re going to have happier employees. All of that comes down to improved employee satisfaction scores, improved employee retention scores, improved hiring scores. And exactly the opposite happens if these things don’t go well. If the investment is not made in the right areas, you’re going to see all of these scores go south. 

Learning Opportunities

The Ins and Outs of Change Management 

SMG: How can you make sure new technology implementation is a success? How do you make sure everyone involved is on board?

Rao: I think the biggest risk that companies go through is they’re not paying enough attention to change management. Without good change management initiatives and tracking and measurement, I can guarantee that digital transformation is going to end up in a failure.

Change management has a lot of stakeholders. Everybody needs to be brought on board. You have to make sure you have your IT personnel, line managers, departmental heads, all employees need to be brought on board. HR, finance, and all the other support functions have to be brought on board because it’s affecting each one of them in their own domains. 

You have to have the right kind of communications planning and change management planning. Not all change is equal for all people. Identify the audiences that are likely to see the most impact and the ones who will see the least impact. The ones that see the most impact, you probably want to have a dedicated or a separate communications strategy for them.

You can’t have big-bang launches for these digital transformations. Make sure you test out the change in a small group and learn from that, and then roll it out. If you roll it out to the entire company and it doesn’t go well, it becomes really hard to course correct. 

You have to think about the employee sentiment in the company. Many times, employees just quit because they were not consulted, they thought the system was working well, somebody else brought in a new solution, didn’t take their feedback or inputs, and now, it has become harder for employees to get the job done, leading to dissatisfaction, and people leave.

Another idea: I’m sure you’ve seen the people who are passionate, who can influence people, who are knowledgeable. You want to make sure you have those influencers as part of your digital transformation strategy. 

This is all coming down to employee behavior. That requires that you celebrate early wins. If you see a team start to pick up on the new change, and they feel happy about it, you want to celebrate it and let others know. It’s that virtuous cycle of being able to drive momentum, identifying the right champions, then giving them kudos and celebrating them.

SMG: What are you watching or reading these days?

Rao: The book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins is all about what is it that makes companies great, and yet there are other companies doing similar things and are only good. The great companies make sure they are spending enough time influencing employee behavior, they’re over-communicating. That’s how you get from good to great. 

In terms of movies? There’s no priority there. Whatever it is that my kids want to watch. We just watched "How to Train Your Dragon 2" recently. It’s a good way to escape from reality.

Watch Matt Aaronson of Simpplr's Digital Workplace Experience session on demand here.