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!

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