How to deliver a great employee experience through your digital strategy

For businesses competing to win and keep workers, the right digital strategy can provide a decisive edge.

4 minutes read

Canadian businesses are facing intense difficulties when it comes to hiring and retaining workers. In a BDC report on labour shortage, 55% of entrepreneurs said they were struggling to hire and 26% had trouble retaining workers. Another 64% said the labour shortage was limiting their growth.

An appealing work environment plays a big part in winning the competition for talent. And digital technologies play an increasingly important role.

“We’re hearing more and more that technology is key,” says BDC Business Advisor Tyler Lockyer. “Coming out of the pandemic, there’s the expectation of a hybrid work environment where people can work remotely and bring their own devices. And a lot of high-end candidates will ask about the systems you use because those will have a direct impact on their work experience.”

Rather than take an ad hoc approach to meeting employees’ technology expectations, Lockyer and his colleague, Senior Business Advisor Philippe Desjardins, recommend building the employee experience into your company’s digital strategy.

“Doing the work” vs. “the employee journey”

“In most businesses, you’re going to have technologies that contribute to doing the work and technologies that contribute to the employee journey,” says Lockyer. “You should think about both in your digital strategy.”

Doing the work refers to technologies that range from computers and cloud applications to mobile devices, Internet of Things (IoT) sensor systems and more. Desjardins calls them the classic productivity and collaboration tools. They make work faster, easier or more efficient.

The employee journey refers to technologies that are directly involved in attracting, recruiting, onboarding, retaining, training, managing and even exiting staff. From the very first touchpoint to the very last, the technologies you choose send a message about your business environment and values.

“We always start on employee experience by asking entrepreneurs: ‘What does it mean to work for you? What are the values you want to project — and want your employees to project’?”

We always start on employee experience by asking entrepreneurs: ‘What does it mean to work for you?’

Three steps to an employee-centric digital strategy

To start building a digital strategy that factors the employee experience from the get-go, Desjardins and Lockyer offer these three tips for business owners:

1. Map your employee journey

Break down the journey into its component phases or steps from the employee perspective. That includes job-seeking, applying, hiring, ongoing admin (pay, benefits, vacation), all the way to retirement.

“Mapping the journey reveals opportunities for business process digitization,” says Lockyer. “We recommend creating a persona or profile of the kind of employee you want to have for a given job and thinking about those characteristics as they move through the journey. That will help you get even more specific about what they may want or need at any given point.”

For example, a salesperson will benefit from some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) solution that fits the way the business flows, while a delivery driver will need different tools, such as a mobile device with GPS maps and tracking.

2. Identify where technology can bring mutual benefits

With the journey mapped, consider where and how technology could enhance each step of the way.

“How will people succeed and be happy — and what would benefit the business at the same time? The answer ties into the tools you give at each step of the way,” Desjardins says.

The mutual aspect matters. A good employee experience is related to efficiency and profitability, say Desjardins and Lockyer. BDC’s own research has found, for example, that investing in automation both makes businesses more productive, as well as more attractive to new employees. Sixty-one percent of entrepreneurs who had invested in automation said finding people to hire was easy or very easy.

That same research mentions that “…technology and automation benefits employees by freeing them up for more interesting tasks. As output per hour worked increases, so does the business’s profits and its capacity to increase wages.”

3. Streamline, integrate and de-silo

In many workplaces, workers have to deal with incompatible interfaces, disconnected systems with multiple log-ins and passwords and data silos. Altogether, these inefficiencies make it hard for workers to access the information they need to fulfill responsabilities.

Ignoring employees’ technology frustration can cause errors, hamper productivity and cause stress and dissatisfaction — exactly the opposite of a great employee experience.

Businesses should try to ensure their digital technologies integrate well, streamline systems wherever they can, and break down data silos so the information employees need can be accessed easily in one place, say Desjardins and Lockyer.

“You want to enable people to work smarter, not harder,” says Lockyer.

Enable people to work smarter, not harder.

Keep it simple

When embedding the employee experience into a digital strategy, Desjardins says the most important thing is to do everything you can to simplify your workplace — what it’s like to work for your business and in your business.

“And we can’t say it enough, but make sure your systems are well integrated and get rid of those data silos,” says Lockyer. “You want people to have quick access to relevant, real-time information so they can make accurate decisions. That’s good for you and good for them.”

Seeing that investing in technology is likely to be one of the best ways for companies to get through the labour crunch, now may be the ideal time to put the employee experience at the heart of your digital strategy.

Ready to learn more? Read our latest research on Canada’s labour shortage for more advice on hiring and retaining workers.