The shift to digital business has caused many organizations to rapidly adopt technology to meet customer and marketplace demands. But all too often, the typical workplace relies on a monolithic, one-size-fits-all, IT-centric approach that at best offers a digital façade. This "digital outside" approach presents an outer coat of digitalized user and customer experiences but may mask a homogenous core that ignores the unique requirements of the people making the business run.
The most important asset of nearly any business is not a physical resource like real estate or technology. It's the people -- the employees a company hires and invests in. This realization is essential to an effective approach to developing a modern digital workplace.
Recognizing the importance of individuals enables an organization to become digital on the inside. "Digital inside" workplaces harmoniously combine facilities, productivity tools, HR intelligence and IT priorities in an environment designed around nanopersonalization.
Avoid missteps in digital transformation
Digital transformation is the intensive change of business and organizational activities, processes and competencies, and models to improve the way we conduct businesses. The main objective is process optimization. Some companies fail to figure out a business strategy and how proposed technology will affect employees and customers before they invest.
When employees perceive that digital transformation could threaten their jobs, they may consciously or unconsciously resist the changes. It is critical for leaders to recognize those fears and to emphasize that the digital transformation process is an opportunity for employees to upgrade their expertise to suit the marketplace of the future. In addition, when evaluating and selecting new technology, businesses must include a diagnostic phase with in-depth input from employees as well as customers to help avoid unintended consequences.
For example, one of the big four commercial banks in Ireland ran a survey to understand customers when it observed a decline in customer satisfaction. The survey results inspired the bank to digitize several customer-facing applications, but customer satisfaction scores did not improve as expected. The bank struggled to understand the root cause. After a great deal of analysis, it realized that customer service teams were juggling multiple access passwords for front-end and back-end applications while they tried to troubleshoot the new digital applications. There was lack of a system in place to measure efficiency of the workforce and its relationship to customer satisfaction.
Measuring employee experience
The first step toward being digital inside is assessment. An unvarnished introspective effort allows companies to understand the current digital resources available to individuals. It also examines shortcomings and the gaps that must be filled to help people be more productive and effective.
A kaleidoscopic assessment of technical and functional reality combines real-time data collection about the work environment and in-person interviews with a significant sample of users representing different personas, locations and geographies. These elements are combined to create a benchmark score for employee experience.
The impact can be impressive. A Sweden-based luxury vehicle company used this approach to determine the impact of smart wearables to improve support. Resolution time at truck outlets decreased by more than 60%, and costs for escalated support dropped by 30%.
Using digital workplace software that proactively monitors and analyzes user productivity, a California-based semiconductor company measured its worker experience index. The reporting revealed details about everything from logon time to application performance for more than 20,000 users. The company was then able to proactively handle problems with user application and device performance, resulting in greater productivity and empowering employees to better serve customers.
Identifying personas allows personalization
Why does focusing on employee experience work? To illustrate the difference in outcomes between treating employee personas as homogenous elements as opposed to nanopersonalization, consider sales staff. A sales staff might consist of one group of individuals who do cold calling to find prospects. Other sales staff might take those qualified leads and do the work of meeting with potential customers, giving demos and closing deals. Differentiation is important when you consider the technical needs of those two groups, which are, in fact, quite different.
The needs of a pharmaceutical sales representative are even more specific when considered against the backdrop of a general sales persona. These individuals are tasked with going into the field and meeting with some of the busiest, time-constrained people in the world -- doctors. Pharmaceutical salespeople might have no more than five minutes to pitch a medication or a complex piece of surgical equipment.
Now consider what happens when a large business lumps all its salespeople into one persona. That business might decide that all people identified as "sales" require a laptop as their primary device. Easy, right?
The two minutes of boot time to start up the laptop might go unnoticed by a desk-bound phone sales representative. For a sales representative in the field, however, two minutes represents 40% of their face time with the potential customer, which can have a massive impact on opportunity. An always-on device such as an iPad running applications from the cloud could save those precious minutes.
An organization could also enable the sales representative to immediately take an order and close the sale, eliminating the need for a multistage process where every step adds increased risk for the sale to collapse.
By revealing where a digital facade masks unintended or unrecognized challenges, you can develop a blueprint that shows how an organization can move its digital infrastructure forward, conduct ongoing evaluation and measure progress. A digital core that evolves to serve employees first will by extension better serve customers and improve business.
About the author
Kalyan Kumar B (known as KK) is the corporate vice president and chief technology officer of IT services of HCL Technologies and the company's business line leader for global cloud native services and DRYiCE products and platforms. He also leads the service line for global infrastructure services. As a part of his CTO portfolio, Kumar is actively involved in product and technology strategy, partner ecosystems, startup exploration and incubation and supports the inorganic initiatives of the company.