Two years into the pandemic, many are still going back and forth about whether hybrid and remote work is here to stay. While some feel that “remote work” is simply “work,” executives in several companies are recalling employees to physical offices.

The funny part is that many of these companies are tech-based (although one can make the argument, what company isn’t tech-based these days) — wasn’t tech supposed to provide more flexibility? 

Elon Musk wants workers’ butts in seats for a “*minimum*” of 40 hours per week, because “Tesla will create … the most exciting and meaningful products of any company on Earth. This will not happen by phoning it in.” 

Distrust in remote work isn’t uncommon, and studies post-COVID show that digital work culture may be fraying at the edges. A study out of the University of Chicago observed that being plugged in all the time encourages remote workers to work longer hours, resulting in less productivity. Another study of Microsoft workers in September 2021 cited “less interconnectedness” because of an overreliance on email and messaging. Not just the tools themselves, but the restrictions placed around communicating complex ideas. 

So, do we need a stampede back into the office? No. Younger worker demographics like Gen Z and Millennials still demand workplace flexibility. To combat employee turnover during the ongoing Great Resignation, companies need to instead rethink their approach to the employee experience. How do you support employees’ proficiency, protect their wellness, and align both with your business’s needs? 

The clear answer is offering both in-person and remote work, or some combination thereof. And to ensure connectivity regardless of where their employees are, they can streamline the digital employee experience with an intelligent backbone in the form of AI-powered search. 

Does Your Digital Employee Experience Strategy Pass “The Employee Expectation Test”?

In the spirit of “there’s an app for that,” there’s certainly no shortage of digital workplace tools designed to solve all kinds of problems. But that attempted solution has in turn become its own problem, creating pockets holding documents, images, content — or in enterprise parlance, knowledge — that all too many employees spend too much of their time digging for. 

Our recent Relevance Report 2022 Workplace uncovered that employees across a variety of industries spend 4.2 hours a day searching for relevant information to do their jobs (an increase of over an hour from last year’s Relevance Report). 

This is making employees frustrated and burned out, not to mention less confident about the quality of their work — and 16% said this difficulty in finding information made them want to quit their company. 

But the answer isn’t ripping and replacing everything already in place. It’s about connecting your tech stack, unifying those silos, and ensuring that relevant information rises to the top of search pages. This supports hybrid work in the long run, enabling an in-person office, supporting the connectivity of remote workers, and allowing your business to balance the needs of both to provide a well-rounded employee experience. 

Because, let’s be honest – these frustrations aren’t new, but the cost of not addressing them has skyrocketed. A great in-person employee experience can no longer be used to compensate for a poor digital experience. You simply need both!

Get all of the insightsReport: Are Employees Driven by Information – or Stalled?

The Dangers of Ignoring the Digital Employee Experience

Every initiative that you have, every goal your company is working towards, relies in large part upon the success of your employees doing their jobs effectively. Unfortunately, the employee experience has not always received the same level of sustained attention as customer experience.

Customer experience and employee experience go hand in hand, but most companies have yet to get a grip on improving the latter. Many best practices have been developed for improving the customer experience – but the next leap in the customer experience will require improvements in your employee experience first.

“What’s left are the harder projects and smaller gains, often delivered in an agile or incremental way,” argues James Robertson in CMSWire. “Within many businesses, the potential gains are still great and largely unexploited. This is where digital employee experience comes in.”

Think of it this way: one of the great focal points of improving your customer experience is to smooth the bumps that occur in a multichannel or omnichannel journey. We’ve all experienced the disconnect in our interactions with a company when we move from social media to customer support to the website. Information and digital experiences never seem to be the same from channel to channel.

Due to digital transformation efforts, a similar fragmentation has occurred within our workflows. From communication channels like email and Slack to content repositories and dozens upon dozens of applications, we’re switching from window to window without anything to unify that experience. Once casual in-person chats with colleagues disappeared, these gaps in internal communication and digital experience felt magnified.

The danger of a bad digital employee experience — whether it’s a remote or in-person workplace — comes from the fact that high levels of frustration and disengagement can lead to poor job performance and poor employee retention rates.

Recent observations from Gallup found that only 32% of employees are overall engaged. A lack of engagement has costly ramifications for not just company culture – but even the bottom line.

How To Build Relevant Digital Workplaces

Building a relevant digital workplace is about more than avoiding the pitfalls of a bad digital employee experience. It certainly is a mitigation tactic, but it is also an additive exercise. Delivering an exceptional digital experience to your employees has a direct impact on the bottom line. In fact, Gallup found that “companies with high engagement outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.”

With the world opening up, most HR leaders believe that remote work is here to stay – and rightly so. While some workers miss the rich, in-person engagement and interaction, others love the convenience and opportunities offered by digital transformation.

Digital interactions are very different from real or in-person interactions. It’s slightly more challenging to garner engagement when all your interactions start and end with a screen.

Challenging, yes. But impossible? Definitely not.

As you embark on this journey of digital transformation, here are a couple of tips that will help keep engagement and adoption rates high:

1) Meet employees where they are

Even employees with the same job title require a different experience. The customer support agent who’s a five-year veteran needs a much different content experience than the agent that started this week. Your digital workplace needs to be able to adapt to anyone who’s interacting with it.

2) Connect the digital workplace

In 2019, the number of apps employees used was 9.39. What this means is that employees had to search through at least nine different content repositories or little silos for information. Calculate how much time it wastes on a weekly/monthly basis – you’ll be shocked. The goal of a relevant digital workplace is to unify these disparate sources to create a seamless experience across all of them – without negatively impacting the overall employee experience.

3) Deliver true employee self-service

Do-it-yourself is not just a nice-to-have option anymore – employees, like customers, need the flexibility of 24/7 self-service. That self-service experience needs to provide relevant content based on where the employee is on their journey. 

Discover how an AI-powered search platform can help you transform the digital workplace.

Watch on-demandWebinar: Modern Digital Experiences are Powered by AI

Digital Workplace Experience: AI-Powered Search Platform Checklist

When Manulife sought to improve their digital employee experience, they started with improving the search functionality of their company intranet. Because it was important to deliver role and task-specific information alongside general company information, it was important for them to have an AI-powered relevance platform that connected all of their critical tools and served up the best content for the employee.

As a result of their transformation, Manulife significantly improved their employees’ digital work experience. With 65,000 average monthly searches – over 70% of those are now guided by AI-driven suggestions.

If your goal is to provide an engaging and helpful digital workplace experience for your employees, here are a few of the boxes you need to check when searching for a Relevance Platform.

  • A central location to find and access trusted information. Don’t make your employees spend their days searching across applications and accounts for the information they need.
  • One search and knowledge experience across all applications. This is important for all employees but is particularly important for newer employees in work-from-home environments.
  • Recommendations for the right content in context. Keep the most up-to-date content ready-at-hand and deliver it exactly when employees need it.
  • Recommendations for the right people to connect with. It can be hard to find the right person in any company – even when everyone is physically present. The move to work-from-home has made fostering connections between employees more important than ever.
  • Actionable and seamless Helpdesk and IT support to help reduce employee frustration levels.

Dig Deeper

To create a digital workplace that attracts and retains talent, you have to understand that search is the throughline of the modern virtual office. Craft the best employee experience for your workplace, with AI – start with our guide to create a blueprint for your business.

Download your copy todayEbook: Guide to Delivering AI-Powered Employee Experiences

The digital workplace is often the last area to receive investment, yet, it is arguably one of the most important since companies are dependent on skilled and productive employees to deliver on the company’s promises.

Watch the webinar to learn how to build a compelling business case that demonstrates a solid ROI for your digital workplace and employee experience (EX) initiatives.

Watch on-demandWebinar: Making a Case for Investment in Employee Experience
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About Neil Juneja

Neil K Juneja is a content marketing intern at Coveo. He has over 5 years of freelance experience creating and managing different types of content for big and small clients across industries. He has over 2 years of experience managing Internal & Digital Communication for L’Oreal Research & Innovation, India. Currently, he’s studying digital marketing and content writing at York University’s School of Continuing Education. In his free time, you can find him gazing at treetops looking for raptors or deeply engrossed in a book or anime series of choice.

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About Ashley Garst

Ashley Garst is the Senior Content Editor at Coveo. She has more than a decade of weaving words together and is a ninja editor, slicing extraneous prose like fat from a steak. A California native, when she’s not at work, she’s running in the hills of San Francisco, practicing her creative writing, or playing with her cats.

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