Time to level the DEX playing field

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life in many ways but how we work has been one of the most seismic shifts in history. By Nicole Alvino, founder and Chief Strategy Officer, SocialChorus

Working life will never be linear again. No longer will the bulk of the world’s workforce shuttle repeatedly between where they live and where they do their job. Traditional employment patterns are changing so that hybrid working becomes commonplace, not a curiosity.

According to McKinsey, up to four times as many employees could work from home in the future compared to pre-pandemic levels[1]. Meanwhile, research by Forbes magazine found 80% of businesses believe their workforce will spend at least a quarter of their time doing their job remotely[2]. Hybrid working is here to stay.

An unequal experience

One of the unexpected effects of the COVID-19 upheaval wrought is that the inequality between the wired and unwired worker has been thrown into the spotlight.

As those who were always connected and in the office were suddenly thrust into working remotely, many employers were forced to face the fact that those who have always been deskless have been getting a raw deal when it comes to the Digital Employee Experience (DEX). In fact, a 2020 survey by Forbes[3] found just that 56% of deskless workers in the US felt connected and engaged with their employers. Furthermore, 84% of deskless workers said they don’t get enough direct communication from management, and only 10% felt strongly connected to their companies.

The impact of this is far reaching. Employee engagement is a key indicator of internal performance and productivity, and a disengaged workforce has a direct impact on the bottom line.

The painful truth is that many deskless employees, including frontline workers, have been putting up with a substandard level of DEX for years – often isolating them from the rest of the business. Things cannot continue in this way – employers are now realising that they need to ensure that every employee, whether working at home, remotely, on the frontline, or a combination of all those methods, enjoys the same DEX experience.

No more marginalisation

All employees deserve to be fully connected with - and valued by - their organisation. Having had a taste of what can be achieved, deskless workers are no longer willing to put up with being marginalised. And nor should they. Now more than ever it is time to tackle the inequity between the experiences of desk-based and deskless workers.

It is imperative that employers take action now to apply DEX principles and platforms across the entire workforce – if they haven’t already.

That means:

- Looking at long term digital transformation plans and ensuring they are fit for purpose

- Taking steps to establish what employees want from their working lives and be prepared to meet those needs.

As with any significant industrial events - those that lead the way will prosper. The ability to offer an equally slick and fulfilling experience to all employees, no matter whether they are based in the office or at home, or deskless and on the frontline, will be critical to attracting and retaining talent beyond the pandemic.

Those that are unable - or unwilling - to provide this will face justifiable criticism and will subsequently be left behind.

Seizing hybrid working opportunities

With the evolution in employee engagement and experience will surely come more responsibility and scrutiny from the C-suite - and that means DEX becoming even more of a boardroom priority.

According to the latest report from IDC, the key is making the right investments in DEX. Its COVID-19 survey revealed 47% of organisations that had longer-term digital transformation strategies in place before the pandemic are now showing strong signs of business growth.

Human Resources and Internal Communications teams (HR/ICs) are also beginning to recognise that their DEX strategies must be built around the switch to hybrid working and that they are willing to invest time and budget in proven DEX technology.

They are more determined than ever to include deskless, frontline and remote workers alongside office-based employees in their strategies for success. Doing so will also tackle inequity between the experiences of desk-based and deskless workers at a time when all employees deserve to be fully connected with - and valued by - their organisation.

Time for a reset

Change is never easy, and the challenges all of us have faced in the last 12 months have pushed everyone to the brink. The fatigue is widespread. However, it’s important not to ignore the positives that have come as a result of this challenge.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for a reset in many areas of life, and internal business communications is one of them. Qualities such as empathy, transparent communications and leading a diverse workforce no matter where they are based – have been brought to the fore and paved the way for a redrawing of the lines of engagement.

Those leaders that ensure these qualities are maintained, valued, and driven from the top down will be the ones that help to unite entire organisations as we continue to collectively recover.

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/whats-next-for-remote-work-an-analysis-of-2000-tasks-800-jobs-and-nine-countries

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2020/11/11/the-future-of-work-the-hybrid-workforce/?sh=77aa9f4a362a

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/04/21/dont-ignore-the-deskless-workforce/?sh=1e5623eb15fe

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