The Digital Employee Experience (DEX) Blueprint: 46 Tips from Luminary Leaders
February 9, 2024
We’ve had the unique opportunity to partner with, grow with, and learn from outstanding, innovative organizations across a wide range of industries. Our Customer Story series grew from a desire to share some of those learnings, and dive into the details of what makes the digital employee experience and the culture at some of our favorite organizations so extraordinary.
For this resource, we gathered a collection of over 40 quick tips, insights, and pieces of advice from our conversations with intranet admins at the forefront of their profession.
While each organization brings its own culture, needs, goals, and objectives to the digital employee experience, several unifying themes emerged throughout these conversations. Whether their official role was Internal Communications, Information Technology, Senior Leadership, Human Resources and People Ops, or any other, these themes often served as aligning principles.
User-Centric Design and Experience:
We’re surrounded by excellent user experience and user interfaces in our personal lives, yet the digital tools and experiences in the workplace often feel lackluster in comparison.
To build an outstanding digital employee experience, it’s essential to have tools that are just as engaging, delightful, and easy to use as the digital tools people are accustomed to using in their personal lives.
A user-centric experience also takes input from a wide range of stakeholders into consideration. For example, organizations with a large deskless workforce need a stellar mobile app experience. Establishing ongoing feedback loops like polls and surveys, and amplifying employee voices is another key component of building a user-centric experience.
A digital employee experience truly shines when employees aren’t just compelled to use the tools and resources at their disposal—they’re inspired to.
Collaboration and Communication:
Strong communication is critical from the earliest stages of building a digital employee experience. Understanding and communicating the value among the broader employee community, separate departments, senior leaders, and other key stakeholders is a two-way street. Building those partnerships and the
Communicating effectively with vendors can also be a major factor in developing a truly excellent digital experience for employees. The best vendors often have experts ready to guide customers through implementation, and ensure their success. Some have experts in content planning, to ensure employees have a place they can rely on for actionable information, but also a place that draws them in.
Planning and Implementation
Measure twice, cut once—but save a little extra growing room.
Implementing a tool based on today’s use case might leave tomorrow’s use cases without an effective solution. It’s important to choose a tool that aligns with goals and objectives, but both can and do shift. As organizations grow and scale, so do their needs and processes. Building into a robust platform can help avoid the need to migrate later, as the organization matures.
The same goes for content and resources. Know who will produce the content that drives engagement, where that content will live, and how it will be distributed. Collaborative implementation provides an opportunity to identify and empower champions and creators early on.
Culture and Content
Organizational culture can be a difficult thing to define, because it isn’t static. It changes with every new hire, every departure, and every core decision. But culture defines the digital employee experience as much as any piece of technology.
Digital tools provide numerous ways to communicate and reinforce organizational culture—but equally importantly—to help it evolve by channeling the employee community’s influence. Supporting these routes of communication can provide a better reflection of an organization’s diverse voices.
Leadership and Advocacy
Intranets and other digital tools are an excellent way to establish communication channels between organizational leaders and the employee community.
While it’s crucial for members of senior leadership to show top-down support, personal enthusiasm from champions can further strengthen adoption and help foster an authentic sense of community.
Every story deserves a champion, and it turns out, so does every intranet.
46 Expert Tips for Leading an Exceptional Digital Employee Experience
Below, we’re excited to present tips, tricks, insights, and pieces of advice uncovered during our Customer Story series. To learn more about the experts sharing these tips, and the organizations they work with, check out the full story below each list.
Maritza Bocks shared these tips for designing, implementing, and maintaining an extraordinary digital workplace that feels like a true home base:
- I always appreciate and would prioritize a user-friendly interface.
- Branding is important. It should feel like it’s really yours.
- Keep things light and fun overall—people will be drawn to use the platform more frequently, and more likely to use it when they need it most.
- Seek input from a diverse group of important stakeholders.
- Execute on a clear communication plan.
- Keep the well-being of the employee at heart, and continue to make improvements that foster a more collaborative site.
Mickey DeJong had these pieces of advice for delivering an authentic digital experience users will absolutely flock to, time and time again:
- Stay purposeful and mindful of the user experience. We’re always asking, “what makes the most sense for users? How can we go with the flow of current processes, instead of trying to change them?”
- Make sure that culture is the heart of what you’re doing. People want to go onto a platform that’s interesting and creative, and one that celebrates the work they’re doing. If that’s not reflected in the platform, you might struggle to earn buy-in.
- Humility and a service mentality are crucial.
- Build feedback loops. It can be really easy to get into the mentality of “I think this is the best way to do this,” but it might not be the way users will ultimately adopt.
- Having open lines of communication with Haystack’s team, especially for something so central to our organization, and having that backing is super important.
Aaron Callahan shared these tips for finding a solution that fits your organization just as well today as it will in the future:
- If you’re still in the ‘looking’ stage, try some tools out to get a sense for their capabilities, and also a feel for how well they fit your culture.
- It took us too long to address the limitations of the handful of communication tools we’d cobbled together in the past.
- Don’t try hammering a nail with a paintbrush. You need the right tools to create a single source of truth and an interactive virtual office.
- DIY and open-source tools can only get you so far. Investing in a robust platform like Haystack is the way to go.
Katie Schoon had some keen insights on reducing friction and earning engagement from a busy, distracted audience.
- Make it as easy as possible for your colleagues to get into.
- Give lots of examples, make sure it’s preloaded with lots of awesome content.
- In the workforce today, we’re all being pulled in a million different directions. Take some time to host trainings, showcase features, and share ways people can customize their experience.
- Any legwork you can cut out for yourself and your team will benefit everyone.
Rex Mann provided some excellent tips on earning sustained buy-in from leadership, departmental peers, and the employee community:
- Make it a team effort. Get people excited and involved from the beginning to the end of the process, rather than just dropping a new tool on them. Get feedback from everyone, and follow it. Otherwise you can end up with resistance.
- Make it fun. Making it more than just a repository for information really helps. Running a tutoring center for years, I learned the power of dressing information up. Engaging content makes a big difference. Going through a bunch of documents, you might get fatigued before you find what you’re looking for. Things like image banners, and animated GIFs really do make a difference.
- Find good partners. As a team passionate about customers, it’s important to see that in the vendors you choose to work with as well. Be conscious of the vibes you’re getting during those initial demos and conversations.
Tony Kihl shared some practical, actionable advice on implementation, user empathy, and cultural alignment.
- Having a solid project plan in place is essential.
- It’s all about the voice of your employees. Don’t create something you think they need or will like. Create something they tell you they need and will elevate their experience.
- When creating the digital environment, put yourself in your employees shoes and create something that is easy to navigate and understand.
- It should bring them closer to your culture, allow for opportunities for connection, and it should be something they look forward to going to each and every day.
Kayla Bonnin knows how to engage her audience, whether it’s the executive team, or the broader employee community. She shared these priceless tips:
- Get leadership excited and onboard. They’ll be your biggest ally.
- You need to be excited because your excitement will be contagious. We did a roadshow for MyBridge during the rollout. Our excitement transferred to other people, so even before we launched, everyone was excited about the possibilities. When it did launch, people were looking forward to logging in and using it because we’d built that moment.
Paul LoPresto zeroed in on the importance of bringing cultural values like authenticity, appreciation and gratitude to the forefront:
- Practice gratitude. Some companies say it, but we live it. It might be just a quick five-minute thank you about something small, but that has a reverberating impact.
- A lot of companies have their core values, but nobody knows what they are. I think the team at Lead does a really good job of practicing and communicating those values—making sure everyone understands what our ethos is, and really lives it. Not only from when you’re hired, but daily—reinforcing gratitude. Create a forum for it.
- Don’t overthink it. When we first started the process, I was still new. It was a great opportunity to take stock and see what we did and didn’t have in place.
Vlad Radulescu, Jason Harlander, and Jeff Tompkins teamed up to bring us these great pieces of advice on internal champions, implementation, and post-launch engagement:
- You need to have champions, and sometimes these are different people.
- You need someone to drive the implementation like Vlad did, bringing everything together and making sure you hit your target launch date.
- After launch, you also need an internal champion to evangelize the platform and help make sure all the information is organized and easily digestible. Haystack does a lot of that for you, but it’s really helpful to have templates to standardize the look and feel of your messaging.
Katie Burkhart provided some essential guidance for delivering a solution that not only meets, but exceeds the expectations of the user base:
- Set your objectives first. Know what you’re trying to solve, why you’re trying to solve it, and exactly how a specific tool could help you get there. The more specific you can be, the better.
- Earn Employee buy-in: base objectives on employee feedback and communicate how the initiative is a response to (and aligned with) the team’s feedback. Clearly illustrate the ways this will support them and meet the needs they’re expressing.
- Earn Leadership buy-in: from the earliest stages, it’s essential to have the enthusiastic support of senior leadership. They’re not only key decision makers; they’re also culture leaders whose visible support can be a powerful example for others to follow.
Ben Hall shared some excellent advice for boosting engagement and empowering champions across different roles and functions.
- Don’t force it; make it fun. Anything people are forced into, they’ll typically bristle at. You don’t want your intranet to be one more job or task people have to do throughout the day—they have enough to do already.
- Little things like the name game can be surprisingly popular.
- Choose the right champions. If you ask someone to be champion and they’re apprehensive, find someone else. Offer to help them every step of the way, but if there’s someone else on their team they think might be a better champion, work with that person. The best champion for a department isn’t always just the most senior member—it could be someone who reports to them.
- Look for someone who’s maybe a little more extroverted to begin with, who can add engaging content that breaks the monotony of the workday instead of adding to it. You need your champion’s buy-in, or you’ll always find yourself checking in, asking them to participate, or doing it yourself.
Melissa Toribio and Natalie Fernandez shared these priceless rollout and implementation tips that will support long-term engagement and success:
- Setting the intent ahead of time, as to what purpose the resources will serve, is key.
- Earn buy-in from stakeholders whose impact aligns with that intent is essential.
- Create a preliminary project plan or visual roadmap for how you want to layer the system.
- Learn from the success of other teams.
More Tips and Insights Incoming
This is a living document. As we meet with more luminary leaders, we’ll keep adding to this list of tips, advice, and insights. We get to work with some of the coolest companies in the world, and always have a new story coming, so check back in later for more tips!