Take Advantage of This Easy and Effective Way to Improve Employee Experience When your employees need to book vacation or find information, are they set up for self-resolving success?
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In the past year or two, there has been a notable move to employee experience (EX) as a new yardstick for organizational excellence. Although the concept has floated around since the mid-2010s, its use has been accelerated by a boundary-eroding pandemic that has crystallized the growing recognition that for many people, the line between work and non-work life has thinned.
By way of a single example (though the trend includes many more), people managers often expect workers to be part of the same always-on culture as them, so they send don't appreciate the pressure they induce when they send messages at night or on weekends. Likewise, employees are increasingly pushing organizations to be involved in ethical initiatives that matter for them, so they feel disengaged by a lack of clarity around DE&I issues.
To this end, there is a dual exchange that crosses what we once thought of as the work-life boundary: Work invades the home space, and workers bring their home concerns to work.
This is what has given EX its wings; what we're asking from employees is bigger, so what they expect in return is commensurately larger too. In many cases, workers are no longer willing to accept that discrete parts of an organization are good or bad. Instead, they come into a role with the expectation that the entire experience will be smooth, empowering and meaningful.
What is EX? Everything.
Every experience an employee has with an organization, its information architecture, leadership, ethos and technology (to name a few) contributes to the overall employee experience. These factors all inform how workers feel about the business and how they understand themselves in relation to it.
The business case here for business leaders is fairly simple. Create better, smoother employee experiences, and those workers will be more engaged, creative and productive. Research from McKinsey backs this up. Their poll suggests that individuals who report positive experiences have 16 times the level of engagement as negative-reporting individuals and are eight times more likely to want to stay in a role.
Related: Employee Experience Matters More Than Ever. Here's How to Elevate It.
The big rocks and small pebbles of employee experience
Given that EX is supposed to be all-encompassing, how on earth do you begin to optimize a (digital) workplace?
Most smart people would start with the big rocks (pay, benefits, managerial impact, communications) and then work their way down to smaller factors such as the quality of individual parts of the tech stack.
I'll be honest: I can't help with the big rocks. However, it's worth pointing out that the pebbles do matter and that many organizations already have a framework in place that allows them to prioritize EX with relatively minor adjustments. Creating a positive EX can be as simple as easing the frustration people feel when they can't access the right information at the right time.
How do we know people want that kind of self-directed access? Customer-experience research is a good indicator. In the B2C world, research shows that 90% of consumers expect a self-service customer-support portal while other surveys report not only that 69% of millennials say they "feel good" about a company when they can solve a problem by themselves, but also that one third of consumers say they would "rather clean a toilet" than speak with customer service. Assuming that most of these individuals also have jobs, there's good reason to believe they expect the same experience internally as they demand externally.
You can improve employee self-service easily. The good news is that if you already have a modern intranet in place, you can use extant workplace technology to enable employees to self-serve in a way that pleases them and reduces the administrative burden on IT and HR.
Related: 2022 Workplace Trends and Why Employee Experience Matters
Make your content findable
For any intranet to become a go-to source of self-directed resolution, the enterprise-search functionality must rapidly and accurately return results from the widest set of resources you have. Ensure that your intranet is fully integrated with third-party DMS and software systems (including Box, Google Drive, OneDrive and SharePoint) in order to curate documents for maximum visibility.
By providing users with a centralized search tool through the intranet, rather than making them access individual systems, you deliver a single point of entry that reduces the frustration that comes from wasting time on multiple sites (especially if the content doesn't exist on any of them).
Enabling self-service with enterprise search isn't just about surfacing policies and procedures though. An intranet search should enable users to find all manner of results, such as content areas, blogs, forums, users and events. If EX is at least partially concerned with how "seen" employees feel by an organization, providing them with the ability to proactively find community groups, work socials and topics they're interested in raises the chance they will have a positive experience.
At a technical level, the way that results are displayed can also structure pleasing self-serve experiences:
- Quick search should provide the top five instant result suggestions in a predictive text format (similar to Google). These results will typically include the title and content type (page, blog post, etc.) so users can find answers to the most commonly searched for queries immediately.
- Full search covers all content types as soon as the user hits enter. Because intranet results pages typically offer advanced filtering options, employees can easily refine their searches and eliminate irrelevant results. Although a search for "vacation" might return numerous results, weeding out personal blogs will trim a search down to more relevant content areas and policy documents, for example.
- Best bets allows key pages to be placed at top of search results listings by intranet administrators. Admins can override the normal weighting in search results so that popular pages (i.e., ones most likely to result in self-resolution) have the stickiness needed by crucial information.
Finally, through the use of data analytics, intranet managers can also monitor the frequency of search terms. Knowing which key phrases are commonly used and which offer no results can give great insight into which content should be promoted and which areas of the business should be developed. If multiple employees are searching for a topic but there is no relevant content, it may be time to develop it rather than having them contact HR.
Content governance is also key
The importance of content governance cannot be overstated when it comes to helping your people find what they need. Although most organizations begin their intranet usage with a content-governance policy, when those best practices fail or are implemented incorrectly, content can quickly become duplicated and out-of-date.
When this happens, the intranet becomes bloated with irrelevant content, and employees quickly lose trust in the search results. Unable to self-service because of a lack of clarity, they turn once again to IT and HR to solve easily resolved problems.
Related: Employee Experience Is Changing. Are You Changing With It?
Recurring content audits will help system managers to keep on top of content, but this can also be made easier with auto notifications:
- High warnings should be flagged for pages that have expired, documents that have not been viewed for three months and documents with inactive authors.
- Moderate warnings may show pages that have passed their review date, documents that are due for review and documents with short summaries.
- Low warnings exist for pages that have been identified as possible duplicates, documents with a low-quality score and home pages that have a design imbalance.
In the rush to find ways to improve EX, keep talented employees and reduce the burden on our organizations, there will be many possible pathways. From well-being initiatives to AI-powered time-tracking software, leaders are already finding routes to a brighter future. Before investing in all the shiny new toys though, it may be worth looking into what's already available and how it can be made better.