Zoe Wilson, Head of Enterprise Collaboration & Productivity at Agilisys discusses why an effective digital employee experience platform (EXP) is a crucial tool for public sector organisations embracing remote-first working post COVID-19.
The best part of a year into the COVID-19 and it’s fair to say that the world of work has been turned upside down. Prompted by necessity, the barriers to remote working were blown away, catapulting public sector organisations into a flexible, remote-first way of working.
Just what the ‘new normal’ of work will look like over the coming months remains to be seen, but it’s clear that workforces seem unlikely to revert to their old ways anytime soon, if ever. And the truth is that all levels of the public sector will reap the rewards of investing in modern workplace technology. As well as working faster and smarter, flexible working will also help you attract new talent including gen-Z, better support working parents and deliver financial rewards. The benefits are numerous – and it’s a compelling argument for remote-first working to be embraced.
This doesn’t come without its challenges, however. The need to infuse frontline work with digital tools for communication, learning, and information sharing has never been more visibly acute.
Plus, the transition to remote-first raises a crucial question: how does an organisation create a culture, a sense of belonging, a mission and connection in the absence of a physical presence?
The digital experience is an intrinsic part of the employee experience. Through and no doubt beyond the pandemic, that is how they develop their culture, that is how they connect with people. If an organisation hasn’t got the technology right. If it’s not giving people the right tools, if they’re making it difficult for people to find information and connect with the people that they need to speak to, people are going to have a poor experience.
For me, this is where the employee experience platform (EXP) really comes into its own; it provides you with tools and a mechanism to still be able to get across to people those things that make an organisation special and build a sense of belonging and connection.
A better way
An integrated EXP drives a more holistic approach to digital work, which is necessary given the ways of working lost to the pandemic. Wellbeing is a great example. The public sector, especially in areas such as health and social care, are suffering from increased staff turnover due to the unprecedented pressures they’re facing. This only makes EXP even more important.
Within Microsoft’s newly launched Viva platform, the Insights module is specifically designed to provide an understanding of an individual’s way of working and wellbeing, but also what’s happening at department and organisation level. This is invaluable for parts of organisations with a higher turnover of staff. When Viva Insights launches fully later this year, it will bring deep understanding of what’s happening across a network and integrate learning and focus time into the day, crucially through the Microsoft 365 tools that are used daily.
Organisations will be able to look across their business – in a way that’s anonymised and aggregated, so that the privacy concerns of individuals are completely protected – to understand which parts of the business are at risk of burnout. Returning to the social care example, some people in a social care department could be spending an inordinate amount of time in meetings, resulting in them working 55/60 hours or more each week to get their work done. While we can all get a good feel about whether we’ve got problems like this within our organisation, being able to take a data driven approach and intervene before you potentially lose staff is incredibly powerful.
Another key element of an effective EXP – and the missing piece of the puzzle in so many organisations that Agilisys works with – is the ability to make it easy for people to learn.
I read recently that 79% of executives are worried that their workforce doesn’t have the right skills to adapt to modern technology and the future demands of their organisation. Yet, individuals are typically given about 1% of their time to spend on learning and development, so there’s a clear mismatch. The Viva Learning module provides a way to deliver the learning that people need, within Teams, so it can really facilitate peer led or peer supported learning.
Within a team, people can identify what they need to know, they can share and recommend classes that have been useful for them. Skills and learning then develops collectively. The really powerful thing that will come once the Viva Learning module is available is the fact that it integrates with a lot of the big content providers already, such as edX, Coursera, LinkedIn learning and Pluralsight. It also has the ability to integrate with some of the big learning management systems as well like Cornerstone or SAP SuccessFactors.
Employee experience magic
For me, while each of the four modules within Viva are incredibly powerful on their own, the true employee experience magic starts to happen when you look at them together.
If you’re giving people insights to help protect their time, mental health and wellbeing, and then you’re using Viva Topics to give people the knowledge they need and connecting them to the experts they need, whilst they’re in the flow of work, a positive experience is delivered. Ultimately, it’s about making people more connected and more productive. There’s just so much potential to improve knowledge management and make it easier for people.
Culture and connection are vitally important, they make us tick as human beings, and I think they’re elements of our lives that have been missing for the last year. The sense of connection and shared mission brings us on nicely to Viva Connections, which is about connecting all of the resources, platforms and systems within Microsoft 365. The key here is that the employee experience is delivered in Teams, where work is already being done. Viva sits across the top of the tools already being used and brings it together in a way that makes more sense, which is immensely powerful.
If organisations get their EXP right it can be truly transformative – not least because the digital experience of working for a company is the employee experience. Over the course of the next few months, it will be a really interesting journey for us to go on with our customers, as we work together to improve the experience for their people.