5 Core Components of a Stellar Digital Employee Experience (DEX)
June 1, 2023
As the nature of work evolves and digital tools find their way into nearly every industry, expectations and requirements evolve along with them. A positive Digital Employee Experience (DEX) is no longer just important for remote and office workers; it’s quickly becoming a necessary component of any productive, engaged, and connected workforce.
Here’s the problem, though: change management is exceedingly difficult, and improving the Digital Employee Experience requires a lot of it. As a result, improving DEX isn’t always the first item on the priority queue. Many organizations prioritized the infrastructure for a consumer experience that skillfully integrates digital tools, while the digital experience for employees lagged behind.
As the importance of DEX continues to grow, organizations that keep pace will find it easier to keep employees engaged, while those who don’t may find it more difficult to attract, engage, and retain top talent.
In this guide we’ll dive into the details of DEX, outline some core pillars to focus on, and share some actionable steps to help support improvements in each of those areas.
What is Digital Employee Experience (DEX)?
ComputerWorld defines DEX as a “measure of how effectively employees interact with various technologies in the workplace — and how they feel about those technologies.”
Digital apps are commonplace in our lives, yet workplace experiences often lag behind personal digital interactions. Many people feel far more comfortable with the apps used in their personal lives than with the digital experience they encounter at work. That’s a problem for business leaders who don’t prioritize DEX.
With a substandard digital work experience, employees may struggle no matter where they perform their assigned tasks. They may not be able to easily collaborate with their colleagues or access the tools they need to complete their work.
A Look at Modern Work Trends
The Digital Revolution modernized the business world just as the Industrial Revolution did. When company leaders commit to a better DEX, they accept modern work trends. One of those trends is a move toward a hybrid work model for most industries.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, human resource thought leaders may have wondered if remote work was here to stay. Now we know that it’s not remote work as much as hybrid work. A 2023 Gallup poll reflected the 2020 working landscape when 70% of U.S. employees with remote-capable jobs worked remotely. The poll found that in 2023, the percentage of employees with remote-capable jobs operating entirely remotely dropped to 28%, while those in hybrid work arrangements rose to 52%.
In poll after poll, workers have shown a preference for a hybrid working environment. In fact, two-thirds of job candidates working onsite prefer a hybrid or remote work model. For employees who already enjoy a hybrid or remote work environment, nearly all — 97% — want to keep it that way, according to a Gartner survey.
While the success of any of these models hinges on the Digital Employee Experience, new expectations have been set for fully onsite employees as well.
Investing in DEX
For companies looking to recruit and foster the best talent in the industry, a perspective shift toward better digital tooling is critical. According to Employee Experience Magazine, 80% of company leaders plan to invest in improving the digital employee experience over the next two years. That investment is all about DEX.
Increased diversity within the workplace is also part of this shift. Today’s virtual and traditional offices can have employees from up to five different generations and team members working in countries around the world, as a 2022 Forbes article points out.
Using Apps for Work
Along with customized communications, modern Work From Anywhere (WFA) environments also require additional reliance on software as a service, or SaaS, apps to integrate into the workflow. BetterCloud surveyed 676 information technology professionals in 2020. It found that 70% of companies used SaaS apps, with an expected 85% relying on this technology by 2025.
Organizing all of these apps in a way that makes them easily accessible to every team member in such diverse workforces is at the very heart of a stellar DEX.
Why is a Positive DEX Important?
Digitization, or how a business leverages technology, can improve efficiency, productivity, and customer satisfaction — but only if done correctly.
With digital technology at the core of progress, leaders should consider the digital employee experience and DEX tools as avenues for improving their competitive advantage. For example, a better DEX can:
- Automate simple processes, allowing employees to focus on higher-level tasks
- Reduce travel requirements and time spent in meetings
- Improve feedback and encourage creativity in team members
- Create a sense of ownership in employees
- Foster relationships among team members, managers, and other executives
These results can improve employee morale, satisfaction, and engagement. And that’s just the beginning. Any business leader understands the powerful reverberating effect of engagement can have on
Many Fortune 500 companies, including Colgate-Palmolive, have proved the effectiveness of a stellar DEX. Forbes recently interviewed the company’s chief digital officer, who explained its DEX process. It started with encouraging employees to take skills assessments to identify growth and training opportunities.
As a result of this initiative, Colgate-Palmolive executives were treated to more than 100 ideas to automate tasks from the employees themselves. Internal communications markedly improved, and data collected from this DEX effort helped identify emerging industry trends.
DEX acknowledges and leverages modern tools that make it easier for team members to do their jobs and enjoy their time.
5 Core Components of a Stellar DEX
In the modern work environment, the default employee experience involves DEX regardless of where a team member is physically located. The WFA culture is for professionals working in a deskless environment, within a traditional office space — or both!
First, focus on the five core components of flexibility, accessibility, reliability, collaboration, and delight. These values drive a practical plan implementation. Let’s look at these elements separately, with examples of integrating these values into the digital employee experience.
With DEX, the concept of flexibility goes beyond simply offering teams hybrid work environments. Flexibility entails empowering team members to truly engage in their assigned tasks and projects no matter where they are based. Think of it as technology-driven freedom.
The 2023 Gallup poll mentioned earlier also discussed engagement in connection with flexibility. The survey found that remote and hybrid team members tend to have significantly higher engagement rates than onsite professionals. Engagement dropped dramatically when employees could perform their job from anywhere but were required to come into the office.
The best way to ensure engagement is by using DEX tools that allow team members the flexibility they expect in the post-COVID-19 era. While this requires enhanced trust among management, the results speak for themselves.
The improved engagement demonstrates that this modern workflow is even more effective than traditional, in-office time requirements. There’s no need to make employees punch a clock when they can do better work with a better frame of mind from anywhere.
Forbes highlighted the DEX process of Houston Methodist, a leading hospital in Texas. HR leaders used employee feedback and focus groups to create a centralized self-scheduling system through an app shared throughout the company.
At the same time, internal communication experts implemented a digital portal to improve interaction in the newly enhanced WFA environment. The result? Employees were “highly engaged,” and turnover rates dropped to pre-pandemic levels.
A flexible WFA concept can only work if the employees can easily access the information, people, and space they need to do great work. That’s why the efforts to enhance the digital employee experience must prioritize accessibility to the tools and resources every team member requires.
Think comprehensively when determining which DEX tools can provide a platform for a robust workspace's necessary components. Employees may need communication tools, human resource information, and customer relationship management tools.
Many companies use SaaS apps such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Workplace daily. Employees also need to access their email easily, and they benefit from internal direct communication messaging systems for conversations with fellow team members. These tools, employee newsletters, and customizable groups should be easily accessible so that no vital information falls through the cracks.
Gone are the days when HR executives printed out huge binders of policies for each employee. Today, DEX must include easy access to all HR tools and resources. For example, team members may need to check the policies on paid time off. A secure, confidential online portal allows them to find what they need, whether sick or planning a holiday.
Customer Relationship Management
Many employees with customer-facing positions use SaaS apps such as HubSpot, SalesForce, and Zoho daily. Leaders should make these DEX tools readily available so employees can always be updated on the latest interactions with customers.
Can team members truly rely on your business’ DEX tools to get work done, or are they more frustrating than helpful? Look critically at the digital platform that is used at a company-wide level. Consider sending a survey out to the team. Employee feedback can help determine user-friendly tools that create unnecessary friction in day-to-day operations.
When employees are forced to use digital resources that aren’t reliable, they’re more likely to suffer fatigue and burnout, as discussed in a 2022 Forbes Councils article. These experts recommend focusing on DEX to reexamine the organizational technologies hindering productivity.
Sometimes, the tools are adequate, but the training has lagged. For example, some employees may cynically confuse the digital tools used to gain insights into their engagement with some form of tracking spyware. Always communicate with the team before implementing new tools so everyone understands and appreciates enhanced DEX resources.
If you really want a great DEX, provide a foundation for collaboration among departments and within teams. Modern employees need the ability to connect with a more diverse range of people in more ways.
Some SaaS apps enhance collaboration, such as Slack, Haystack, and Trello. Make these — and any other tools that make sense for your organization — available on the employee dashboard.
Simply put, make it easy for professionals within the organization to reach out. Share information about resources and skills among team members. Short bios of each employee, available digitally to every team member, can facilitate skill sharing and reduce bottlenecks in complex projects.
Imagine the boost in creativity and output a chef and their team would have walking into a kitchen equipped with the latest culinary technology. It can be the same with any office. Modern companies recognize the importance of making a workflow system that’s simply a joy to use. Employees should be delighted with beautifully curated moments, just like they’re used to in their personal lives.
To accomplish this, reduce what Employee Experience Magazine calls “digital noise.” When emails pop up, and chats overlap, all these DEX tools can be more distracting than helpful. Balance real-time communication needs with the reality that multitasking takes a toll on productivity, as explained by the American Psychological Association.
Then use the company’s digital tools to create opportunities to enhance the team's lives. Personalize the DEX by encouraging employees to set short-term goals and hold themselves accountable through the company’s digital resources. Forbes recommends that leaders ask employees to assess their workload and level of engagement. This two-way dialogue, augmented by digital tools, can strengthen relationships and make time at work more rewarding overall.
It worked for Fetch, an app that offers rewards for shopping and dining. Forbes interviewed its chief people officer, who explained that Fetch used its DEX to offer virtual volunteering opportunities to help hybrid and in-office employees build connections. Fetch leaders also gave “micro-bonuses” in the form of gift cards to team members nominated by their peers using a digital platform.
Get creative when determining what will work best to bring smiles to the faces of the team. Would a confetti cannon emoji help make the day brighter? DEX tools can create one. Focusing on delight will improve employee engagement, which will help with customer satisfaction and the company’s bottom line.
Steps to Implement with the Best DEX Tools
Once you’ve focused your DEX on the five core components, create a practical improvement plan. Let the core components serve as a foundation to create a value-oriented employee experience. This way, you can help identify — and retain — the best employees in the industry.
Get Top Leaders Involved
Before moving forward with any new initiative, especially one as crucial as DEX, get the support of C-level executives. Even if they’re not involved in implementing the plan, they serve an essential role in guiding the value structure of the organization. If they show their support for all employees in the company, regardless of where they are based, it sends a powerful message of care.
The top managers in the organization can also serve as members of a DEX task force. Although HR managers or the internal communications team may be responsible for researching and suggesting the best DEX tools, the implementation process will be smoother with peer support. See if managers have team members who may enjoy creating a better DEX.
Be sure to include representatives from:
- Internal Communications
- Information Technology
- Human Resources
- Project or Team Management
- Senior Leadership
- Other team members, as appropriate for your business
Set and Track KPIs
In the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Franklin Covey, the second habit is to “start with the end in mind.” So just as a DEX plan should focus on five core components, the committee should begin by determining the measurable objectives of the initiative. These experience metrics will likely differ from the operational metrics tracked for overall company performance. Some may overlap, such as product deployment time or ticket resolution time.
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, could include:
- Implementation of a single sign-on employee dashboard
- Integration of a CRM tool that improves customer satisfaction metrics
- Improvement in pre- and post-deployment employee surveys on specific organizational needs
- Completion of training initiatives for all team members
- Increased communication among project collaborators
- Reduced IT tickets or resolution time
- Increased automation processes or self-service functions, freeing up time for employees to focus on more meaningful work
All goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This is true for setting KPIs beyond DEX plans, but it’s worth mentioning again.
Communicate Regularly with the Team
All digital employee experience plans and DEX tools must be employee-centered. When leaders prioritize the team's needs, the success rate is almost always greater. Start any improvements by checking in with employees themselves. Data collected from a survey can be a good launching pad for the committee.
Ask them about the day-to-day workflow, with as many specifics as possible, to determine what is working and what isn’t. Ask about the different SaaS apps already in use. Find out if employees already have new technology on their wish list. Seek out the digital noise and eliminate it — employees will thank you.
Complete the Integration
A tiered implementation process can be easier for a team to reduce the overload that comes with too much multitasking. Keep training focused when reviewing the changes with the team. A John Hopkins University post-doctoral study showed that people retain lessons better when taught in a focused 40 minutes compared to smaller amounts of time.
Designate roles, responsibilities, and deadlines for the implementation process. Schedule training sessions within working hours and include outside professionals if needed.
The goal is to have as little downtime during the upgrades as possible. Aim to roll out any new DEX tools in weeks, not months. Remind team members who may become frustrated with change that any time spent learning new processes saves time down the road in terms of communication and flexibility. Once an employee dashboard is accessible anywhere through iOS, Android, and mobile web apps, pushback should fade away.
Ask for Feedback
Throughout the entire process of upgrading the DEX, keep communication about the motivation for training and the changes in a procedure ongoing and interactive. Let team members know if a new DEX tool was suggested by a co-worker in the original survey. Remind them how these technological improvements will help everyone’s professional growth.
Once the plan seems complete, ask for feedback again. Send a follow-up survey and ask the committee to analyze the process so far critically. Your tools should work for you, not the other way around, so don't be afraid to alter processes based on what you learn from the team.
A Stellar DEX Modernizes Business
An excellent digital employee experience is a foundational element of any modern business. By investing in a company's DEX, employees can enjoy their working environment and focus on helping the company succeed.
When company executives and team members collaborate to create an employee-centered DEX, even the most diverse teams feel supported. By embracing the best technical resources available in the industry, businesses will be prepared to grow and thrive.