Your employees are at the heart of your customers experience, and more and more that experience will drive future interactions and revenue. It’s not just the customer service reps, cashiers, or other physical and digital touchpoints that your customers have interactions with that matter. It’s also the operations that happen behind the scenes that enable all of those touchpoints. So, when it comes to building digital tools for your employees, creating an exceptional employee experience should be at the top of your list.
Over the course of our history, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to create world-class digital tools and solutions for employees. If you are considering building or rebuilding an employee-facing digital solution consider these tips.
1. Start Without Constraints
Resist the natural tendency to start the first conversation or first step by going immediately to what already exists today. While this may seem like the most practical place to start, it sets the tone and the stage for everything that is to come. What you have today, does not have to be the starting place for where you want to go. Give yourself the opportunity to figure out what it should or could be and then work from that place to reconcile it with whatever realities and constraints you might have. If you begin with what you already have, you tend to end up with something more similar than different to what you already have. Pulling away from “what is” sets you up for success further into the process.
2. Experience First (Make The User Experience First And THEN Explore How To Support)
In order to create that new vision from step one, make sure you place enough emphasis on end users and what they are trying to get done for your organization and customers. The saying “pixels are cheaper than code” definitely applies here. Start with designing the experience that will help you realize all of the efficiency, performance and satisfaction you are looking to bring you your company and employees. User Experience (UX) or Experience Design (XD) professionals are well versed in learning what your users (employees) need and crafting a solution that aligns the various parts of the business with their day-to-day goals. Design the experience first then figure out what technology you will need to create it.
3. Forget The Past
One of the most challenging things to overcome in any company is to let go of the saying “that’s just the way we do it.” Many companies don’t even realize that they might be in their own way by holding on to legacy processes and procedures that have been around for some time. Honestly, this might be the hardest thing to implement as it takes letting go of the known and comfortable and opening up to new, fresh approaches.
One thing you can do is to continuously ask “why?” This iterative technique can be an effective tool in getting to the real underlying needs. It’s effectiveness lies in the fact that most problems do not have a single root cause. The more you dig in and unpack an existing policy, procedure, or process, the more you will find that much of what is in place right now might have been put there for reasons that no longer apply. Challenging the status quo and pulling in end users who are most impacted by these policies and procedures can remove barriers and create new opportunities.
4. Bring The Team and Users Along (Include The Users)
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to go off and try and build an employee experience in a vacuum. Fostering collaboration, gathering feedback, and iterating your way forward is the best way to fully enroll and garner excitement among the people that are going to use this experience day in and day out. In addition to looking inward for direction (your employees), there can also be great benefits to gaining the perspective of an outside lens. Either way, it’s the best means of truly understanding what the challenges are that you will need to solve. Let real users, along with people that have been through this time and again, weigh in on the path forward. The result will certainly be worth the time and effort it takes.
5. Build a Product Not a Project
Digital tools and solutions are so prevalent in our world because they can act as a force-multiplier to realize benefits that can’t be found other places. However there is a certain amount of investment you will have to make to build them. How you approach funding them can have a significant impact on their success. You will need to find ways to frame these discussions in terms of product vs. project. The problem with project framing is that you have to manage to exactly what you outline at the beginning, instead of building, iterating, and changing as you go. This should not be looked at as a thing with a beginning and an end. Your employees will learn and grow along with this product and will offer feedback for future improvements. Project-based thinking tends to generate waterfall-based planning and budgeting which robs teams’ ability to get real answers to what the best solution is. How you frame this internally could make or break it. Remember, software is never really done. Think through the ongoing financial needs up front. Success can begin here just as much as with any of the other best practices covered today.
We know from experience that these practices work best when combined together, but we also know that it can be overwhelming and stifle even the most expert of teams. Every organization and situation is different, and depending on your business, some of these best practices can be harder to get buy-in for than others.
Remember, you’ve got to start somewhere. And implementing any one or even a small handful of these best practices will be well worth the effort. We promise, you are not alone in your challenges. However, creating an exceptional digital experience for your employees will have an impact beyond just those employees through to your customers and your bottom line.