What is Digital Employee Experience? Seven definitions

Employee experience and digital employee experience are terms that are being used increasingly commonly across the digital workplace industry by people including:

  • Practitioners who are finding the term useful to describe their activities
  • Industry thought-leaders like James Robertson, Sam Marshall and Josh Bersin
  • Tech providers who are launching employee experience platforms.

Generally, digital employee experience is a useful term and concept that:

  • Helps illustrate the value of digital workplace tools
  • Considers technology from the employee standpoint
  • Can be used in conversations with stakeholders
  • Ties the experience of the digital workplace to wider strategic goals.

What is digital employee experience?

Just like the term digital workplace, there is no consensus about the exact definition of digital employee experience (DEX). Although there are different interpretations of the term, there is broad agreement that it concerns the way employees experience workplace technology, and that it takes in a more a holistic and strategic way of thinking about the role of technology at work.

Weve identified seven overlapping but distinct definitions of digital employee experience, all of which are explored below.

1 A counterpoint to digital customer experience (DCX)

One way to define digital employee experience is as an inward-facing equivalent to the outward-facing digital customer experience. Customer experience is often portrayed as covering all the touchpoints a brand has with its customers, with digital customer experience covering those touchpoints which occur digitally. This covers media such as emails, apps, websites, surveys, e-commerce and more, even encompassing digital experiences in retail outlets.

With customer experience being a well-recognised term and concept used by senior stakeholders, they are quick to understand that DEX is the employee equivalent of DCX, and that both hold great value. Interestingly, there are strong arguments to show that good employee experience leads to better customer experience, and stakeholders are receptive to this.

2 One of three components of employee experience

Employee experience is a concept that has a lot of traction with HR functions. Positioning digital employee experience as a major component within the overall employee experience helps to emphasise the importance of the contribution of digital tools and channels to wider strategic objectives.

Sometimes, digital employee experience can be seen as one of three components of employee experience, with the second being the physical workplace and the third being organisational culture, incorporating policies, processes, leadership, values and more.

3 An outcome of the digital workplace

Some people tend to use digital employee experience and digital workplace interchangeably. However, in our view, they are quite different terms.

If youre already using the term digital workplace, one way to contemplate digital employee experience is as the way in which employees experience the digital workplace. We agree with Sam Marshall when he argues that DEX is an outcome of the digital workplace, saying: We shouldnt conflate DEX with digital workplace. The experience is an important outcome of the DW design, but things like productivity, security, and continuity are also important elements of a DW but may be neutral in terms of the employee experience.

4 The total of all digital interactions including peers and beyond

James Robertson has helped to popularise the DEX term across the global intranet and digital workplace community with the following definition:

Digital employee experience (DEX) is the sum total of digital interactions within the work environment (v2)

Whilst this mirrors the idea of the total touchpoints in customer experience, Robertsons definition is useful because it considers the wider reality of the everyday digital employee experience beyond just the experience of core digital workplace tools.

His definition also covers the wider digital interactions which colleagues experience using social and collaboration tools. Many employees digital interactions may involve use of unauthorised applications (shadow IT), and the experience of these can be covered in this this definition.

5 Employee experience platforms

Digital employee experience can be viewed from a technology or a tool angle. Recently, there has been growth in the number of applications that are being marketed as Employee Experience Platforms (EXP), mirroring a rising trend for Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) which are usually focused on external customers.

The positioning of the new Microsoft Viva tool as an EXP is a notable example. Generally, the hijacking of a term like digital workplace or employee experience by software vendors is not helpful, as it can distort the valuable ideas behind the concepts and terms.

6 The HR lifecycle

Another very useful angle is to look at digital employee experience through the lens of the employee lifecycle, covering the time from when a person is recruited to a company to when they leave, with an emphasis on ensuring there is a strong experience for all the moments that matter during that time. This is a popular angle with HR functions, and means that digital employee experience covers areas such as employee onboarding, career development, employee feedback, learning and even employee offboarding.

The brand-new Microsoft Viva solution certainly takes this approach, with much greater emphasis on bringing learning into the digital workplace. Widely respected HR tech and employee experience guru Josh Bersin has argued: Employee Experience is a Journey, not a Solution. This could easily be interpreted in two ways, covering both the concept of the employee lifecycle and an iterative approach to supporting an employee experience that continuously improves over time.

7 The experience of remote or distributed work

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a huge focus on remote and distributed work. We see potentially some commentators using the term digital employee experience as a way to describe how employee experience remote work away from the physical workplace.

Still confused? Get in touch!

When it comes to defining digital employee experience, it is quite easy to get lost in a semantic maze! If youd like to discuss which definition works best for your needs or want some input into your DEX approach and strategy, then get in touch!

11 elements to include in your digital workplace strategy

Having a well-thought-through and comprehensive digital workplace strategy and roadmap is now a must-have. If you want to develop a coherent and consistent digital workplace experience that will help both employees in their everyday work and also achieve organisational goals, then you need to have some kind of plan in place.

Without a strategy it is very difficult to work out the best way forward in deploying Microsoft 365 tools, in achieving digital transformation, or even how you can use your digital workplace to best support employees through the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic.

We often get asked by customers what should be included in a digital workplace strategy. While there are no set rules for this and certainly no set format, we consistently see a number of elements within a strategy that always prove to be useful.

At this point it is worth saying that strategies come in all shapes and sizes. We have seen documents that vary between two and a hundred pages. A strategy may be a PowerPoint deck;  weve even seen one in a video format! The format of your strategy is up to you and may be dictated by standard formats you use in your organization, department or team.

A strategy also has some overlap with a business case, although we regard them as separate. A strategy usually precedes a business case, with the latter making the case for investment to help execute the strategy. However, some organisations will blend the two.

Here is our view of eleven essential elements to include in a digital workplace strategy.

1. A vision for the future digital workplace

It really helps to have a clear vision for your digital workplace and what you want it to look like in a few years. This can be quite aspirational but can also be very specific and should not only include the what but also the why detailing some of the envisaged benefits. A future vision helps to make abstract concepts more tangible and can engage your stakeholders to drive buy-in.

It also really helps to know where you are heading to, meaning you can design the steps that you need to get there. Accompanying a future vision, may need to be an assessment of where you are today. (See user research below.) A future vision for your digital workplace should be a key part of your strategy.

2. A mission statement or strapline

Having a mission statement or even a strapline as part of your strategy supports buy-in and drives awareness; it can help you to spread the word and even get people excited about your plans. A strapline needs to be engaging and encapsulate the value and direction of your future workplace in a sentence or two. Although a mission statement is always an over-simplification of your strategy, in our experience it has real value.

3. Alignment to other strategies

Because the digital workplace strategy positively impacts your whole organisation and overlaps with the aims of various different support functions, a good digital workplace strategy needs to have close alignment with your overall organisational strategy and other relevant sub-strategies and roadmaps. It is also very likely there will be several dependencies to be identified from these sub-strategies.

If your CEO is committed to digital transformation, then this needs to be referenced in your digital workplace strategy. Similarly, it will be difficult to fully execute a digital workplace strategy and get the necessary buy-in if it does not align to your overall IT and digital strategy or your people and HR strategy. It helps if your strategy also aligns to other important initiatives like your values.

Generally, we have found that the more explicit and obvious the alignment the better, showing that the strategy is highly relevant to overall organisational objectives and goals.

4. Key organisational agenda items

Any digital workplace strategy needs to address key organisational areas where the digital workplace makes an important contribution. Currently, some of these are likely to be in reference to the present challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Key areas include supporting remote teams, new ways of working, plans for the physical office, business continuity and the digital employee experience.

5. Scope

A digital workplace and its related experience have the potential to be all-encompassing. It is good to be ambitious, but a strategy also needs to be achievable.  A strategy must address the scope of what you are trying to achieve. What applications and channels does it cover? What is the extent to which it envisages controlling the experience?  Does it impact all employees? Without some kind of clarity on scope it becomes very difficult to plan and implement the roadmap for your strategy.

6. User research and data

Intranet and digital workplace strategies need to be based on a thorough understanding of user needs, usually derived from user research. This is an essential precursor to any strategy. Without this a strategy may be based on assumptions that will make it less successful; the subsequent business case may also struggle to get buy-in. Any strategy should include reference to the findings form user research, for example the pain points and issues that the new digital workplace strategy will address.

7. Guiding principles or pillars

It really helps to have some central guiding principles or pillars of your digital workplace strategy. These might be between three and eight main ingredients, elements or founding principles of that reflect your main priorities but also hint at the benefits. For example, a guiding principle might be to Transform digital collaboration across our locations through a new collaboration and social networking platform.  Sometimes these principles may align with the major workstreams on your eventual project plan.

8. Change management

A digital workplace strategy is effectively a business change strategy. You will need to consider change management plans in order to deliver on the strategy. Change management can take many forms from communication through to training to using champions to targeting use cases to ongoing support to fully blown digital literacy programmes. Change management takes in both adoption and the best use of tools to increase the knowledge and confidence of users in relation to digital workplace tools.

9. Tactics

Depending on how detailed you want to be, your strategy may also want to list some of the tactics and approaches that you intend to employ to carry out to execute the strategy. This may also include details about governance, for example the creation of steering and operational bodies to help guide and implement the strategy.

It may not be necessary to go into too much detail here but listing some of the specifics can make a strategy more credible by allowing stakeholders to clearly see how you plan to get from A to B.

10. A high-level roadmap

You will absolutely need a high-level roadmap to include in your strategy that will feed into a project plan. This may be as simple as three phases each with a year attached to it. At this stage, a roadmap can also be highly aspirational. It can also help to keep this vague as to not to set an unrealistic timetable on a strategy that still needs far more detail to commit to a timeline.

11. Criteria for success

Many teams do not include criteria for success in their initial digital workplace strategy but establishing these from the outset helps to keep projects focused on strategic outcomes, and also helps plan for more detailed measurement. All too often metrics and success factors can become divorced from the original strategy; setting these up at the beginning helps teams to stay aligned to their original aims.


Need help with your digital workplace strategy?

We hope you have found these tips on what to include in your digital workplace strategy useful! If you need with your digital workplace strategy or would like to discuss any aspect of it then please get in touch!

Eight digital workplace takeaways from the Wizdom conference

The 2018 Wizdom Conference on The value of the digital workplace was recently held in the beautiful setting of Copenhagens Tivoli Gardens. With some incredible sunshine and a friendly crowd of 140 digital workplace professionals, here are some of the main themes explored over two days of inspiring presentations and conversations.


The digital workplace is all about human to human

The first day of the conference started with a warm welcome from Wizdoms CEO, John Wainer. John reflected on how the digital workplace should be about making the working day easier, making employees more productive and making our colleagues happier. If the digital workplace can deliver this even just a little then we have succeeded.

This idea about the digital workplace being focused on people rather than technology was also touched upon in a fascinating and lively opening keynote session from Morten Albæk, Creator and Executive Director of Voluntas A/S.

Morten is a frequent and well-known international speaker and author. His powerful presentation delivered a strong message about how work must be meaningful. So many people say they regret spending too much time on work, but Mortens personal management KPI is to make sure that anybody who works under his leadership does not regret their time working. Morten also reminded us that too many people are feeling stressed or anxious from work and this is on the increase.

Morten dwelled on the importance of meaningfulness and how organisations can help employees find meaning in their work. Delivering a sense of purpose, receiving guidance from strong leadership and a strong sense of community can all support employees feeling differently about their work. In turn, having more meaningful work can lead to a more innovative, creative, loyal and productive workforce. Mortens observation that B2B and B2C approaches were in the past, and it was all about H2H Human to Human resonated with the audience.

Security and compliance are critical in the digital workplace

One of the great things about this years conference agenda is the variety of different topics being covered. One key theme was the importance of security and compliance in the digital workplace.

Rory Fitzpatrick, Senior Communications Manager at pharmaceutical company Acino International, told us how a virus attack had impacted virtually all the companys computers, temporarily preventing access to operational files. Although the business recovered quickly due to our excellent IT team, this incident was the catalyst for the companys move to Office 365 and the cloud where all the files would be backed up and accessible. It also kick-started an intense twelve-week project to build a new intranet.

It was great that Acino International now has a robust, secure and compliant digital workplace, but it was also inspiring to hear how the new intranet is also helping employees to communicate and collaborate and feel part of one company. This is extremely important for a company where there are often acquisitions.

We also had another excellent (and very timely) presentation from Ole Kjeldsen, Director of Technology and Security for Microsoft in Denmark. Ole gave us a very level-headed view of GDPR which comes into full effect in a few days time. While explaining we dont need to panic, organisations do need to do some work to achieve compliance, and Oles presentation was full of resources and useful tips. It was also a warning not to be complacent. No product can deliver GDPR compliance, but platforms like Office 365 can help you get closer to it. Another interesting observation was that GDPR was all about good data governance something which we all should have been doing for years anyway!

Were moving from the digital workplace to the integrated, intelligent workplace

Another key theme of the conference was the digital workplaces potential to become a truly intelligent workplace, with data and insights which help employees find things, get things done and make decisions.

Implement Consulting Group is already on that journey. We heard from Morten Rye Christensen, CIO, about how the company has built a data-driven, integrated digital workplace with different elements including Office 365, a Wizdom-based intranet and a learning portal. Perhaps most impressive was a project portal where critical client and project information from the companys ERP systems is readily available. Whenever a new project is set up a project site or an MS Teams site can be created to drive collaboration and document sharing. Bringing all this information and content together through the digital workplace and via a mobile app was helping consultants to deliver great outcomes for clients.

The integrated digital workplace is also set to become ever-more intelligent. Jess Lassen, Wizdoms CTO, delivered an exciting presentation on AI and bots. Jess established that AI is already a big part of our lives through using Amazon and Netflix. He also admitted that when he says good night to Siri on his iPhone it turns all the lights off in his house! Jess also painted a brighter picture of the impact of AI than some believe, arguing it will create more jobs than losses and will transform every aspect of our lives.

Organisations need to start acting now to gain advantage from AI. Jess gave the audience some tips including the importance of having the data to power AI, thinking about security and assembling the right team. The potential for AI is huge and could be a secret weapon to success, truly disrupting businesses and allowing smaller players to compete with much bigger companies.

The digital workplace needs both robust foundations and delightful touches

In the last presentation of the day our very own John Scott, User Experience Director at Content Formula, walked us through some of the ways you can delight users of your digital workplace. John introduced concepts such as Surface Delight (smaller flourishes and design touches which impress users), and Deep Delight where more fundamental user needs are met.

John also talked about a hierarchy of user experience needs where functional needs sit at the base of a pyramid, with further layers ensuring the digital workplace is reliable, then usable and finally delightful. Citing a series of examples inspired by movies from the eighties and nineties (and giving us a hint of Johns taste in movies!) Johns presentation was a salient reminder that to deliver a great user experience we need to focus on some digital workplace foundations such as performance and governance and that we need to have a deep understanding of users. But we can also add delightful touches such as using tasteful animations, and beautiful images.

Johns session echoed some of the other themes of the day. Yes, we need to worry about fundamentals like security and compliance, but the digital workplace is also about smaller, everyday things and about being human.


The digital workplace has outgrown the confines of the traditional intranet

While we all love intranets were also excited by the future possibilities of the digital workplace. Many companies are using the intranet as the front door to the digital workplace and the Office 365 universe, but several of the case studies at the Conference show how the digital workplace is starting to outgrow the confines of the traditional intranet.

Its also a trend which is reflected in the future developments of the Wizdom product, all of which reflect the feedback and request we receive from our clients. The opening session of the day, a joint keynote from Jess Lassen, Wizdoms CTO and Flemming Goldbach, our Vice President of Product, was titled The digital workplace of the future in a Microsoft universe and covered the principles which inform Wizdoms product roadmap. We also got to see sneak previews of some of the cool features in the pipeline.

While many of these new improvements and capabilities focus on the intranet such as better content targeting, support for multi-language intranets and even nudges and suggestions for content owners, there were a number which expanded access to the digital workplace beyond the intranet. One of these is a new Wizdom mobile app with a beautiful user experience and expansive capabilities, ensuring work can be done from anywhere. The app features access to news, the phonebook, links and has Yammer integration. There is also the ability to create mobile-specific pages which can be targeted, for example, to employees in the field.

There is also an exciting Power Panel which is a toolbar which can be accessed not only from within the Wizdom intranet but also other parts of SharePoint, the Office 365 and even potentially the wider Microsoft universe. The Power Panel can be configured by each client to meet their needs and allows you to access and create pages and content, get relevant links to critical services and navigate around. It is extremely powerful as it can be targeted to different users and even be contextual, based on where it is being accessed from. The Power Panel also has an in-built bot who can make suggestions and nudge users into actions. It was clear from the demo that it will be both a gateway and a digital assistant which surfaces the wider digital workplace from anywhere.

The best digital workplaces place the user at the centre

A principle which also informs everything that Wizdom builds is to put the user at the centre of the digital workplace. What is built must provide value or users will just simply go elsewhere and use a different tool. The best digital workplace implementations weve seen also follow this principle.

At the Conference we had a strong presentation from Mads Boldsen, Lead Business Consultant, Ørsted A/S. Ørsted is a Danish energy company committed to green energy that recently has gone through a period of intense change with a new name and identity. There is also a brand new digital workplace. What was very challenging for the project was that it was already underway once the decision to re-brand the company had been made, and the project team had to navigate the issue of keeping this confidential while also working closely with users to ensure the digital workplace met their needs.

Whats fantastic about Ørsteds digital workplace is that it is truly centred around user needs and daily work. This has been achieved through extensive user research and testing, delivering an intuitive information architecture and an approach to content migration with the deletion of many pages which were not delivering value to users.

The team also carried out a very detailed user satisfaction survey both before and after the new environment was delivered. Perhaps surprisingly the feedback was similar across both surveys but given the scale of changes in the company (and change can be difficult) it was actually a positive trend and gives insight into future improvements to make. At its heart the digital workplace implementation was community-driven project, and the result is a community-driven digital workplace.

Another organisation that created a highly user-centric digital workplace was GEA Group, a German technology company with 17,000 employees. In a joint session from Christian Larsen, Director of Internal Communication & Corporate Events, and Claus Ole Hasle, Wizdoms COO, we heard how

GEA has created a task-based intranet which is driven by a solid understanding of user and stakeholder needs. Successful approaches included taking time to truly understand the tasks employees need to complete and finding the right content to meet these needs. The team also conducted extensive user testing of their information architecture and refined it accordingly ensuring strong usability. Christians point that user testing creates buy-in, saves time, removes the emotion from decision-making and forges better results was spot on.

Successful digital workplaces focus on collaboration and productivity

Two of day twos case studies reminded us how the digital workplace must make collaborating that bit easier for employees and start to unlock productivity and efficiency.

We had a very interesting session from Ute Aggensteiner, Project Manager for Intranet & SharePoint at Stadtwerke Lübeck Holding GmbH and Torsten Schlueter, HanseVision, GmbH. Stadtwerke Lübeck Holdings award-winning digital workplace project has three main components Information & Communication, Collaboration and Workflow & Digitalization. With a complex organisational structure and many employees who dont sit at desks this is a considerable challenge. The team has made significant process in using workflow and forms to digitize 88 processes and integrate these into the intranet, resulting in significant ROI.

The team has also given employees the power to collaborate both internally and externally and has made this much easier by creating a compelling collaboration area which listed relevant sites for each user, as well as aggregating tasks and documents from each workspace. They also created site templates for different use cases such as sharing documents externally or running more complex projects. This was a true digital workplace which exposed employees to a range of different tools.

Ramboll, a global engineering and design consultancy headquartered in Denmark, is also bringing collaboration to the centre of its new digital workplace. Poul Hededal, Group Director, Knowledge & Innovation at Ramboll told us the story of the new digital workplace which includes several different components.

As well as compelling new global intranet (brilliantly named Rambla) there is also an expansive and ambitious project portal. Poul explained how Ramboll is a very project-orientated company and has a staggering 40,000 projects ongoing at any one time with a dedicated project space for both very small and absolutely massive projects and all in-between. The project portal aims to make these spaces more efficient and accessible for employees, integrate information from other systems, and will help to fulfil the teams vision:

to create an integrated digital environment, Digital Workspace, that allows employees to communicate, collaborate and deliver excellence, whenever and wherever they may be working.

From this the digital workplace aims to become a transformational lever and change the way people work.

Office 365 has a range of excellent collaboration, productivity and project management tools on offer, but sometimes a more engaging interface or approach is needed to help drive adoption and bring these tools into the everyday flow of work. Both these case studies show how integrating information from other systems and creating a central portal that aggregates data can provide real value for employees and organisations.

Digital workplaces must continuously improve

Everyone in the world of intranets and digital workplaces knows that they are never truly finished. There is always more work to do on then. Continuous improvement, working on driving adoption and change management are a must.

This is a theme which perhaps permeated almost every presentation on day two. Paul Linde, Founder, Mindfire AB, gave an interesting presentation about some of the trends he was seeing in the digital workplace. He talked us how intranets had evolved from being megaphones for management to take in formal collaboration and then more social capabilities. User needs have also evolved significantly, but a key to getting success out of the digital workplace is to ensure there is good adoption. Paul ran us through several approaches including the importance of continuous improvement.

Many of the case studies were also investing in driving adoption and improving just after launch and beyond. At GEA Group there was an organised programme of after-project governance and maintenance. At Stadtwerke Lübeck the team continue to add processes to their digitalization programme. Many of the features of Rambolls digital workplace are still very new and will continue to evolve. And Ørsted are finding out their views of their users to improve the digital workplace. Each had also invested heavily in communication and engagement, running road-shows, producing attractive marketing, making videos and using champions and gamification to inform and engage users as seen with Implement Consulting Group.

Of course, continuous improvement is also an important part of the way Wizdom works. We are always adding new features, listening to our clients and making the digital workplace work better.

Its been an excellent conference

This years Wizdom conference was excellent. The venue was great, the speakers were illuminating, and the attendees provided us with lively debate and feedback. Were already looking forward to next year. See you then!

Ten more tips for driving adoption

Driving adoption of the intranet and related digital workplace tools is usually a preoccupation for the teams that manage them. Often the focus of adoption is to drive the number of employees visiting, engaging with and contributing to your intranet. While the numbers are important, adoption also needs to cover the ways your intranet adds value and drives success. It is better to have a smaller number of employees contributing to your intranet in a way which makes a real difference to improving a process, than a larger number contributing who add little value.

Tactics for adoption success

But how do intranet and Office 365 teams drive adoption? Unfortunately, there is no one magic ingredient or secret sauce which will guarantee your employees will use your digital channels in the way you want them to. Instead, a range of different tactics need to be deployed, and keep on being deployed. Driving adoption tends to be a gradual and ongoing effort.

We last looked at driving the adoption of SharePoint back in 2015. The tactics listed in that post including carrying out training, user research, stakeholder mapping and not turning on every feature are still relevant to intranets, collaboration platforms, Office 365 and other parts of the digital workplace.

There are several other tactics which weve seen our clients and other teams deploy to help drive adoption. Here are some of the most important.

Run a champions network

A consistently successful approach for driving intranet or digital workplace adoption is to use a network of voluntary champions who can help support users and be advocates for the intranet throughout your organisation. Often a recommendation from a trusted peer and the benefits explained within a frame of reference for specific teams, roles and locations can be a powerful driver of adoption. For small central teams wanting to stay close to their users, leveraging the enthusiasm an energy of local champions really does reap dividends.

Ensure there is ongoing visible involvement from senior management

While bottom-up communication is important, so is top-down support. It always pays to have senior management support for your intranet as this endorsement shows the intranet is a management priority. Whats even better is having ongoing visible involvement from senior leaders by featuring in news, appearing in videos, creating blogs, commenting on items and in discussions and responding to feedback. This particularly encourages behaviour from other managers to follow suit and use the intranet for communication and collaboration, and that in turn encourages other employees to contribute. Its another way to continue to drive adoption.

Integrate other tools

Intranets help employees get things done and can be an essential front door to the wider portfolios of applications in use in the digital workplace. Many intranets are now powered by Office 365 and by integrating tools such as Skype for Business, Yammer or Teams directly into the intranet experience they can help to drive adoption of the intranet and the related tools. Its far easier for employees to have just one place to go, where theyll want to return.

Establish mobile access for employees not in the office

Many intranets now have great mobile access out of the box. For example, the Wizdom intranet renders perfectly onto mobile devices. Mobile is a great way for staff not based in offices and who dont have easy access to a desktop to view your intranet. With the right BYOD and security policies in place its also possible for employees to access the intranet on their own personal device. For example, in retail or manufacturing companies this can help extend the intranet or digital workplace to all employees.

Launch with a splash

How you launch your intranet will depend on the culture of your organisation. Intranet-branded cupcakes on every desk, flash-mob dancing or even branded lifts are just some of the tactics intranet teams have deployed to create some buzz around the intranet. Many organisations go for a more straightforward approach and have a welcome video from the CEO. Whatever method you choose to launch your intranet it pays to make some noise and launch with a splash. Its a natural time to drive some curiosity among employees, get interest from senior stakeholders and can help carry some momentum for ongoing adoption efforts.

Promote as part of the onboarding process

Most companies have a process for onboarding new employees with checklists to complete, training to undertake and perhaps even a formal induction day. Involving the intranet in the onboarding process is a great way to not only help new employees have a smooth welcome but also to show them the value of the intranet from the moment they join. This can either involve a light introduction to the intranet or them utilising it in the onboarding process itself. An early positive experience with the intranet should help drive adoption, particularly in companies where there is high employee turnover.

Formalise community management

Community management is essential for a successful social intranet or collaboration platform. Community managers provide support, training, moderation, group development, content and more for individuals communities and sites. They drive adoption on the ground. It really helps to formalise community management within your organisation through clear descriptions of roles and associated skills, training and even a formal certification programme.

Gather user feedback (and then act on it)

What do users think of your intranet? Too often teams only find this out when they are planning for a new platform. Having an ongoing programme of user feedback is a good way to get insights into improvements you can make which should drive more usage. It also helps to drive trust with users. Some teams do carry out an annual user survey, but it also helps to have ongoing feedback too, with a form for users to provide comments via the intranet itself.  You can also use polls, a discussion group or a regular user group meeting to gather observations and opinions as you go. Its also imperative to act on the feedback, otherwise you can create a negative impression.

Continually improve

Continual improvement is as much of a mindset as it is about putting it into practice. If an intranet team is committed to continually improving their intranet this should be noticed by your users and in turn this should drive adoption. There are many ways to continually improve but often it is about having a steady schedule of improvements, new features and content areas throughout the year. Its also about using analytics to identify where things need fixing and what works well, and taking the necessary actions. Its also about taking on board user feedback and being willing to experiment.

Use imagery in your intranet

A very text heavy intranet can be unappealing for users and that can impact adoption. Using imagery can help lift an intranet, make it more user-friendly and attractive, and that makes visitors want to return. This is an area where you can experiment to see what works but beware of adding cheesy stock imagery to your intranet that can even backfire!

The battle for adoption never stops

Driving adoption is an ongoing effort. Theres no real rest for intranet teams although its good to be busy! Taking a holistic approach to driving adoption is best which covers everything from using champions to engaging senior leaders to adding new features to providing a great user experience.  Combining a great intranet with change management efforts and a continual improvement ethic is the ticket to success.

The foundations of intranet adoption – It’s not just about the numbers

Healthy adoption continues to be a massive focus for intranet, collaboration and digital workplace teams. It is regarded as a key measure of success, a focus for team efforts and an expectation of senior stakeholders. If you cant get your employees to use your intranet, then whats the point of having an intranet?

Adoption is critical, but some intranet teams tend to have too narrow a definition of adoption. They regard it simply as the proportion of users who are using and visiting the intranet or related collaboration tools. An over-simplified definition of adoption means that teams focus on increasing the headline numbers such as unique users, number of page visits, number of registrations or proportion of users making contributions. This is their number one priority. Thats not to say those numbers arent important, but it does mean other critical areas of value can get missed.

To use an analogy, its a bit like just focusing on the bums on seats when launching a new movie as your criteria for success. On the surface of it that might be the most important thing when the film is launched but significant revenue may also come from merchandise, licensing, DVD sales and other spin-offs. The critical reaction to the film is also key. If your focus is only on driving up the audience numbers, then youre missing a trick.

What does good adoption mean to you?

Intranet and digital workplace teams need to take a more nuanced and three-dimensional view of adoption which is more aligned to the strategic aims of their intranet. They need to work out what good adoption means for their organisation and what value it will drive.

In addition to the proportion of people using your collaboration site or visiting your intranet, adoption needs to cover the how and the who.

The how means thinking about what successful use of your tools means. For example, are you trying to drive adoption of collaboration tools to cover specific types of work such as managing projects? Do you want your employees to using a workspace for more than just a place to dump documents?  Successful adoption needs to account for working practices and use cases which lead to positive outcomes for employees and the organisations they work for.

The who also takes in which different groups who might be using your tools and visiting your intranet, but for different purposes.  For example, are you aiming for your managers to use your intranet? Do you want more frontline employees to visit? A more three-dimensional view of adoption may cover different groups and how you want them to use your intranet.

The foundations of adoption

When intranet teams think about driving adoption they need to consider all the different ingredients which can influence it. There is no single ingredient X which drives it, but instead multiple, over-lapping factors which lay the foundations for good adoption:

  • Value: Employees find things, complete tasks and stay informed, ensuring the intranet is helping employees in their everyday work.
  • Awareness: Employees are aware of features and benefits, so they are knowledgeable about what it does and how to use it.
  • Proximity: Barriers to successful use are removed so that issues such as poor performance, difficult authentication or lack of access do not impact adoption.
  • Governance: Structures, roles, rules and processes are in place to ensure the intranet continues to work efficiently, content is up to date and standards are maintainted.
  • Improvement: The intranet continually improves to meet user needs so it stays relevant and aligned to staff and organisational needs
  • Trust: Users trust the intranet, its content and the team behind it for all the reasons above.

You cant control adoption

One of the problems of driving adoption is that it is an output or a consequence of your intranet and the way it is run.  Therefore, it is something that you cannot ultimately control or guarantee. However, the good news is that it is something that you can influence.

Considering the different foundations of adoption, there are several ways that teams can influence it. Adoption strategies need to consider all these factors, not just an engaging launch and getting your CEO to support it:

  • Intranet features, capabilities and design: how useful, relevant and engaging your intranet is will depend on what it can do and to a lesser extranet what it looks like
  • Getting users to design, shape and influence: getting direct feedback and involving users to ensure the intranet is user-centred but also helping to create advocates and ambassadors
  • A governance framework for a sustainable intranet: this has a direct influence on how up to date content is and all the processes that need to make it work to ensure visitors keep returning
  • Senior management endorsement and involvement: visible support from your CEO helps spreads awareness, legitimises use and encourages other managers to promote it
  • Champions, site owner and publisher networks: leveraging the enthusiasm and energy of communities of champions, publishers and site or community managers to promote the intranet, produce content and manage sites
  • Content management and related governance: all the standards, processes and roles to ensure content is relevant, up] to date, accurate, findable, on brand and engaging
  • Engaging launch and communications: spreading awareness of the intranet as well as the benefits of using it
  • Measurement to deliver insights for improvement: using a data-driven approach to continually improve the intranet
  • Targeted support and training to drive best use: making sure the right groups are using the intranet and its tools in the right way
  • A post launch roadmap of features and improvements: additional content and capabilities to keep on drawing people to the intranet and engage users

Taking a more holistic view of adoption

Taking a more holistic, 360-degree view of how to influence adoption means that intranet teams can develop a more cohesive, coordinated and long-term strategy for evolving it. For example, instinctively a governance framework might not feel like it will immediately drive adoption. Perhaps it wont, but it will help to maintain great content and engage the people responsible for it and that is critical for good use of your intranet.

Adoption needs to be more than just being about chasing the numbers. Its also about successful usage and targeting different groups to use it in different ways. Teams need to consider a range of approaches which will drive intranet adoption, so it is sustainable. They can then factor their efforts into the way they regularly operate. That should drive up the headline numbers but also ensure your intranet is used in successful ways which are valuable for all.

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