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A vial of liquid with COVID 19 vaccine written on the label

COVID and why Digital Friction Could Now Kill Your Company

When I first started in my proper full job out of University back in 2000 as a website manager, it took two weeks for the organisation to get me a computer. I turned up to an empty desk (in my own office which was nice) with one of those stationary organisers, some pencils, pens, a very heavy sellotape dispenser, a stapler and a pile of paper.

There was a monitor, but no computer to plug it into.

It turns out I was being given the most powerful computer in the organisation as I was “the expert” building their first website, so the computer was built to order. I was excited, but also thankfully found funny I was a web developer with no computer, but super grateful to have a full-time job.

I spent those first two weeks computerless drawing websites on graph paper. This is before I knew wireframing was a thing. Every few days I’d proudly present the drawings to my boss and whoever was interested and say “hey, here’s what the website could look like”. (If I had a computer to build it).

When the computer did arrive, it had to be kept completely separate from the organisation’s network for security reasons as it was one of the only computers connected to the internet. This meant I spent a large amount of my time running between offices with a floppy disk in hand to get content to put onto the website I eventually built.

This meant I got some exercise at least.

I also had to spend a significant amount of my time trying to convince IT why I needed the latest version of software on my computer to keep up with the world outside. They would often spend weeks assessing whether I was allowed to install the latest version of Dreamweaver (software used to help publish websites back then), even though my computer was stand-alone from the whole network.

Still, I put up with it because I had a new exciting job right? one I felt very lucky to have.

However, looking back there was some really serious friction for me to be able to do my job, not only the onboarding experience as a new employee, but due to the ongoing nature of my work I was constantly having to wrestle with limitations of the technology available, or the restrictions of the organisation, some valid, some not so much.

I was patient, it got better, I got support and more freedom with the technology, I enjoyed my job, I became as productive as I could be within the environment I was in, I was happy, I was proud to work for the organisation, I eventually began to see the fruits of my labour.

Why am I telling you this? Would I or many of you put up with this situation these days? How long before you say, “screw this, I can’t do what I’m being paid to do”, “I don’t have the tools to do my job”, “I can’t access the information I need quickly enough”, “I have to travel miles for a meeting that turned out to be a waste of my time”, “I’m off to work somewhere else where I don’t spend my time fighting through all this friction”.

I’d suggest we are a lot less tolerant these days.

Employee experience friction (digital or otherwise) is increasingly not only causing companies to lose valuable employees to competitors, but it is having a knock-on effect on the customer experience.

Oh and the whole pandemic thing? The stakes just seriously got a lot higher.

Industry analysts say a wave is coming. A wave of resignations from employees who demand flexible and remote working. Who expect their employer to be digitally advanced, offering them a seamless experience to do their jobs to the best of their ability with as little friction as possible.

Our patience is measured in seconds and even milliseconds these days.

  • Website loading too slowly? “screw this, I’ll go to a competitor and buy from them”.
  • Has an application completely frozen the computer? “Arrrgggg, I’ve got to restart the machine again – I’m going to throw it out the window”.
  • 10’th Zoom call today? “I’m just going to turn off my camera and pretend to be present”.
  • Spent more than 1 minute trying to find an important piece of information? “This intranet is awful, I’m just going to phone someone and ask them to send me a link to it”

The digital employee experience needs to be thought of from the day they apply to join your organisation to the day they leave.

What does your online recruitment process say about your organisation? (you do have an online recruitment process don’t you?!) Is it clunky, does it have a bad user experience? does it frustrate and confuse candidates? If so, you’ve already set a tone for what it might be like to work for you.

What about an employee’s first day. Do they have a device delivered to their house the day before all set-up and ready to go? Do they have to spend the first day on the phone to IT trying to get their account set up so they can log on?

When they log on for the first time does the Intranet welcome them by name, does it show them a new starters specific homepage that gives them a structured set of information and guidance? Does it have a video welcome from the CEO? Does it onboard them easily and in a frictionless way that they feel cared for and valued? Do they already have welcome meetings booked in with the team and their boss?

Is the intranet full of old content? was the navigation designed by a committee? is the homepage littered with vanity content? Or Is the intranet continually managed by a team of user-centric champions who focus on delivering the best employee experience using evidence in their decision making?

Are your employees using old technology that is slow, out of date and unreliable? or do they have the tools to collaborate easily remotely? access the information and services they need immediately? are platforms personalised and tailored to their needs and expectations?

Does your company think differently about meetings? Does every employee have to be on the call at the same time or do the technology and mindset exist that recognises “meetings” have changed? Work can happen before or after a scheduled call, tasks and actions can carry on for weeks with employees working collaboratively across not only different hours and days, but timezones. Meetings can be automatically transcribed and sent to the individuals who attended or missed it and even translated automatically into different languages.

All of the above matters, it has always mattered but now it matters more than ever.

You need champions for the employee experience just as much as you do for your customer experience.

In the words of a great philosopher Martin Lawrence in the 2003 film Bad Boys 2, “Shit just got real”.

Martin Lawrence holding a phone to his ear with the text "Shit just got real"
Bad Boys 2 (Columbia Pictures)

Take action now or you’ll lose your best employees to the companies that have embraced the impact COVID has had on the workplace and employee expectations.

Score your Intranet Digital Employee Experience

If you’d like to find out the impact your intranet and digital employee experience is likely to be having on your employees and organisation we’ve created a free scorecard that will help you assess where your risk areas and areas for improvement are. It only takes five minutes to complete.

  • Assess your areas for improvement
  • Measure your intranet maturity
  • Discover your risk areas
Results of the Digital Employee Experience scorecard

Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

Posted in: Digital Workplace and Intranets , Productivity , User Experience (UX)