Written by Nicole Alvino, cofounder and Chief Strategy Officer, SocialChorus

2020 ushered in a new era of work for all of us. Around the globe we have had to embrace remote and hybrid working – learning new ways to collaborate and communicate with our colleagues.

While business collaboration and communication tools have been gathering pace for several years,  the Digital Employee Experience (DEX) – an employee’s digital interactions – has become more critical to business survival and success than ever before.

In fact, a recent Forbes report, The Experience Equation, further confirms this – stating that 89% of surveyed executives, at companies that consider themselves revenue-growth leaders, agree that better employee experience (EX) leads directly to better customer experience (CX). The survey indicates that high EX drives high CX and that CX fuels revenue growth. Among executives representing companies that regard themselves as leaders in expanding total sales, 54% strongly agree that CX leads to fast revenue growth, compared with 36% of executives representing average or below-average companies (ABAs). 

Covid-19 has undoubtedly accelerated many businesses reviewing and upgrading their communications systems and processes, the successful implementation of which depends on harmony between the tech expertise of CIOs and their IT teams, and the human input of HR and Internal Communications (IC) departments.

However, we, at SocialChorus, recently undertook some research to assess the lie of the land given the current challenges we are all facing. The results were concerning – uncovering a gulf in the motives and actions of these groups that is currently hampering efforts to improve DEX within their organisations.

One of the most worrying findings was that an overwhelming 88% of CIOs claim the buck stops with them in purchasing decisions for collaboration and comms tools. Just 11% state it’s a decision for HR/ICs. To make a decision about a tool that directly impacts an organisation’s people, without involving the teams responsible for people, seems counter-intuitive.

Perhaps the starkest example of corporations lacking collaboration around DEX is revealed by just 30% of HR/ICs stating they collaborate with IT to deliver successful employee engagement (although, interestingly, 53% of CIOs believe this is the case).

This decision making in isolation is resulting in a DEX divide that will undoubtedly impact the bottom line.

Overall, it seems that many CIOs are working on a ‘pull’ basis when it comes to employee engagement. That is, they are building a system and expecting the employees to come. However, the mentality of “we’ll build it and they will come” is a recipe for disaster.

Conversely, our research showed that the HR and IC teams exhibited much more of a ‘push’ behaviour when it comes to employee engagement – that is, they view engagement in terms of what employees need.

Certainly, there is a desire among HR and IC teams for DEX to align with employee concerns, rather than the technical aspects of roll-out observed by CIOs. This is perhaps unsurprising when well over half of HR/ICs (57%) state they are under more pressure, since remote working became the norm in the pandemic, to develop a cohesive approach to employee engagement.

The research conducted also showed some concerning figures in terms of how HR and Internal Communication functions felt they were perceived amongst senior leaders – believing that only 31% of CEOs, and 22% of CIOs, felt that their buy-in was crucial. Similarly, the perception was that 37% of CEOs and 27% of CIOs ‘believed’ in Internal Comms.

Undoubtedly there is much to be done to bridge this DEX divide. Of course, this is a movement which needs to be driven from the top – and CIOs must be integral in leading this charge and engaging HR and IC from the outset.

But it is also imperative that HR and IC take the time to deepen and broaden their understanding of all areas of the organisation. As Gartner said in their ‘Understanding Internal Partnerships for Improving the Employee Experience’ report:

“As HR leaders apply a more expansive view of the employee experience to their work, the internal stakeholder relationships they are prioritising will also likely need to shift, taking HR leaders more frequently outside of HR.” 

In order to support any top down drive to improve DEX, it is essential that HR and IC teams strive to get more buy-in from the C-suite at the very start of any employee engagement discussion.

At a time when employees are crying out for information about the business they work for, their roles, or simply the need to engage with each other—on their terms, as efficiently as possible— it’s incumbent on these different departments to bridge this divide. The first stage if this is for departments to work together, and the second is to recognise and overcome these issues.

On a more positive note, our research did show that there are several things that both groups aligned on. For example, there was agreement that the biggest opportunity around employee experience is increased productivity—CIOs (56%) and HR/ICs (47%).

They also closely align on the concept of engagement equalling improved employee retention:

  • 50% of CIOs suggesting this is the case vs. 42% of HR/ICs
  • and affording leadership the ability to reach all employees (CIOs 41% and HR/ICs 37%).

There’s further room for optimism based on the thoughts of both groups about how employee experience can be improved. Enabling two-way communication, through better DEX underpinned by technology, is a popular response among both CIOs (46%) and HR/ICs (40%).  Meanwhile, almost as many CIOs (41%) as HR/ICs (44%) agree that investing in mental health and wellbeing support should be a major part of any programme.

Ultimately, any engagement programme must be built around what the workforce wants and needs to be able to do their job better. IT departments, HR, and IC teams all need to work together to provide engaging a Digital Employee Experience (DEX) that works for everyone in the organisation.

The opportunity is there for the taking. Those organisations willing to embrace DEX will not only unite disparate workforces but also drive greater value to the bottom line. Only by doing this and developing a best-in-class digital employee experience will organisations not only survive but thrive.

About the author

Nicole works with executives across SocialChorus’ customer base to ensure they are powering communications transformation with true business results