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What Is Digital Employee Experience (DEX)?

Think of superior DEX as a critical employee–retention tactic in a competitive job market where staffers expect more from their employers.


Digital Employee Experience, or DEX, broadly refers to employees’ interaction with the digital tools available in their workplace. How effectively an employee interacts with their technology dramatically impacts how proficient and productive they can be in their particular role. In their personal lives, people are accustomed to seamless digital experiences, and they expect the same ease in their work lives. But workers often struggle with poor-performing technology, complex processes and systems, and insufficient support, and the resulting frustration can spell dissatisfaction with the workplace overall.

DEX approaches the digital experience from two perspectives: 1) It looks at how employees experience and feel about the applications and endpoint devices they use to perform their daily work and gathers data to identify, contextualize, and remediate specific problems they may be having —using both manual and automated tools; and 2) it looks at how the IT department works with leadership and individual employees to address these issues and deliver the technologies and training the employees need to do their job most effectively.

DEX has taken on greater importance in the last few years as the world’s workforce shifted from in-office to remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the U.S. alone, the work-from-home workforce increased from 17% to 44% in 2020. It was initially believed these changes were temporary and that employees would return to the office once lockdown restrictions were lifted. However, remote work—both part-time and full-time—has become a permanent fixture in many workplaces as organizations realize the productivity and cost benefits it offers.

According to projections for this year, 58% of workers in the United States will continue to be able to work remotely at least one day a week while 38% will continue to be able to work remotely full-time.

Gain real-time visibility into your digital work experience (DEX)—and learn how your workers really feel about it.

This post-pandemic shift to fully remote and hybrid work has added a host of new variables to the availability and performance of workplace technology, impacting everything from the platform to connectivity, apps, and data access. Apps designed to be powered by an organization’s high-speed networks, for example, are now being accessed via less-reliable home and public networks across a VPN. These changes have made the digital work experience more challenging for many employees. According to Gartner, 47% of technology users experience high digital friction, and 34% experience such friction several times a week.

That friction has led to an increase in support calls and lower levels of employee satisfaction because technology is getting in the way of productivity. IT help desks are facing a constant barrage of tickets, often about recurring issues and complex problems that can’t be resolved in a single call. Historically, IT has tried to provide employees with self-service options to help expedite issue resolution and reduce ticket volumes. But these put the onus on employees to find the appropriate remediation procedures, often via self-help articles, and attempt to execute them. Many end up calling the help desk anyway. More often, employees will suffer in silence and find workarounds that mitigate the issue but reduce their productivity, leaving them dissatisfied with their work experience and even their employer.

These challenges have made organizations increasingly aware of the need to provide a superior digital work experience. They need tools to monitor, manage, and maintain the reliability and performance of the end-to-end digital work experience for employees. They’re also looking for better ways to communicate with and get feedback from employees so they can gauge satisfaction with the digital workplace experience and take actions to improve it.

DEX is an evolution of endpoint management. It provides a set of client-side capabilities that enable IT operations to better manage employees’ daily technology experiences by collecting and analyzing telemetry data from their networks, devices, apps, and identity, while also gathering employee feedback. These agent-based solutions are deployed to the endpoint itself where they monitor the device’s performance by tracking CPU utilization, free disk space, memory consumption, throughput, and other indicators to ensure it can provide the optimal user experience.

If a particular condition is detected—for example, performance slows because there are multiple instances of a business application running in the background—the user gets an alert describing the problem with an offer to fix it, which the employee can accept to self-remediate the issue. In this way, DEX can help operations identify and proactively remediate degradation in their employees’ technology experience while reducing loads on their help desk.

Why is Digital Employee Experience important?

Digital Employee Experience can dramatically improve operations across the board in your organization. Some of the key enhancements it provides include:

  • Improved employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention—For hybrid and fully remote workers, the digital work experience has become the primary or even only means to interact with colleagues and the job itself. If they find it burdensome to access information, perform their daily tasks, and get help to resolve technology issues, it can diminish their overall satisfaction with their employer. In a competitive job market where talented employees are very willing to explore other job opportunities, providing a great DEX is an essential employee retention tactic.

In a competitive job market where talented employees are very willing to explore other job opportunities, providing a great DEX is an essential employee-retention tactic.

  • Higher self-service rates among employees—DEX tools allow IT to create trigger-based self-service remediation actions that notify employees of performance issues and suggest actions such as running an automation.
  • Improved transparency and actionable visibility into tech performance/adoption—DEX tools allow IT to ensure that employees and their devices receive only the trigger-based self-service remediation actions, notifications, workflows, and surveys that are applicable to their particular role and device. Organizations gain the visibility they need to assure the adoption and utilization of their tech investments and maximize employee productivity and satisfaction.
  • Ability to measure and track employee sentiment for C-suite reporting—DEX tools provide the ability to create a survey that can be sent to the employee post-remediation to determine if actions taken by the employee, IT, or the help desk were effective. The collected data can then be used for reporting purposes and to improve custom notifications, remediation actions, and so on. Custom surveys can also be created to gather qualitative or quantitative data for assessing employee sentiment about their digital work experience.
  • Improved tech support life-cycle efficiency—The top 10% of tech support issues consume 90% of the help desk’s time. Because DEX capabilities enable more effective self-remediation options, IT and help desks are freed from many of these routine support tasks to work on more critical business initiatives.

[Read also: When the verdict is, “I’d rather get a root canal than call support,” it is time to rethink DEX—and find the tools to enhance it]

What are the challenges to improving Digital Employee Experience?

As with any technology program, getting started is the hardest part. Some roadblocks you might experience include:

  • Understanding employees and the way they use technology—To optimize an employee’s digital experience, you first have to understand it. But most organizations have little insight into who their end users are, how they work, and what tools they need to perform their jobs effectively. The lack of visibility into individual workflows has been exacerbated by remote work in which employees use a mix of organizational and (unmanaged) personal technology.
  • Departmental silos—IT, HR, and other departments each bring unique perspectives to employee relationships and they must work together to develop a digital employee experience that keeps employees engaged, productive, and happy throughout their life cycle.
  • Too many performance metrics—There’s no shortage of solutions that collect all manner of performance data, so there may be a temptation to tackle the full spectrum of issues the help desk faces each day. But that’s neither possible nor practical. It’s more effective to focus on the issues that directly impact productivity and employee satisfaction. Aiming to reduce the top 10% of help desk issues, which take up about 90% of a help desk’s time, should be the goal.

How do you build a strategy to improve Digital Employee Experience?

Let’s consider a step-by-step guide to getting started with a DEX strategy, beginning with the basics:

  • Determine what you want to achieve with DEX—It’s important to start with a vision for how DEX fits into your organization’s larger employee experience. Start by asking some broad questions: How will DEX support your business goals? What digital tools will be needed and how will employees be trained to use them? How will you measure success?
  • Think in terms of life cycle—The employee experience encompasses all of an employee’s interactions with the organization from pre-hire to post-exit. To improve the digital employee experience, it’s critical to assess the digital component at each of these stages, identify problem areas, and share ideas for improvements. This may require breaking down organizational silos so that IT, HR, and other relevant departments can collaborate effectively on creating a holistic digital employee experience.
  • Create a digital employee experience team—You need someone to own the adoption, performance, and satisfaction of the digital employee experience. A cross-functional team that includes leaders from the departments mentioned above, as well as employees from across the organization, will ensure you take a holistic view of your organization’s DEX, identify opportunities to empower employees around their job roles, and steer the organization toward the right technology investments.
  • Develop employee personas—Different employee segments interact with technology in different ways. It’s essential to understand their daily workflows to design the optimal digital employee experience for each. The DEX team should use end-user IT data, surveys, and interviews to identify pain points and create personas around groups of employees that share characteristics and requirements. This will enable you to better prioritize and allocate resources for architecting your digital employee experience.

[Watch also: “When I used to work in an office, I had a technical support staff around where I could go get help fast. But now…?” The remote worker’s lament has a solution]

  • Put people at the center of the process—To create a digital employee experience that delights your employees, keep the focus on the job the employee has to do and the issues that get in their way rather than trying to craft the experience around the process it must enable.
  • Set achievable goals—Once your organization understands the value of optimizing the digital employee experience, identify realistic goals to realize that value and create strategies for meeting them.
  • Establish the right KPIs—There’s more to delivering an optimal digital employee experience than tracking IT metrics like downtime and Mean Ticket Resolution Time. Ultimately, you want employees to feel that they can rely on their digital tools, will experience minimal disruptions, and are happy with the support they receive when they need it. While IT metrics help drive these outcomes, experience metrics such as employee satisfaction, employee wellness, and employee retention are the barometer of how effective your DEX efforts are.
  • Look for a single end-to-end solution—An optimal digital employee experience covers every aspect of the employee life cycle. Taking a piecemeal approach with disjointed tools will only make the digital work experience more complex and intimidating for employees. A single end-to-end endpoint management solution that includes DEX capabilities will enable IT to drive broader adoption and provide experiences that maximize productivity and improve employee satisfaction. It will likely cost less, perform better and add IT efficiencies as well!

What is a Digital Employee Experience solution?

A Digital Employee Experience solution provides organizations with greater transparency into their employees’ perceptions of the technology they use to complete their daily work across the life cycle of their employment in order to optimize it. It achieves this by aggregating device and software data and contextualizing it with employee sentiment data into a holistic DEX score. The score is then used to help deliver employees more effective support to maximize each employee’s productivity and satisfaction. Ideally, you should track an aggregate score to understand employee satisfaction at the organizational level, and scores for key groups in your organization such as the C-suite and the senior leadership team.

With the line between work and home virtually erased, an employee’s entire work experience is now a digital one.

Digital Employee Experience solutions, according to Forrester, provide the following critical capabilities:

  • Understand daily technology experiences from the perspective of the employee.
  • Track experience with digital work experience scores.
  • Collect qualitative feedback on technology experience.
  • Reduce time spent on root-cause analysis (RCA).
  • Improve remediation through self-healing.

In practice, DEX solutions enable Ops pros to proactively detect and remove obstacles, identify and remediate issues, streamline organizational systems and processes so employees can more easily get the resources they need, measure employee sentiment to determine how effective these support efforts are, and report findings to the organization’s leadership. The DEX process can be outlined in three steps:

  • Gain visibility by aggregating data—The first step is to collect the right analytics about your endpoints. This data should reveal how employees use their devices and applications, anything that isn’t working, and the causes of the issues.
  • Use sentiment data to validate the analytics—Employee surveys and interviews are used to gauge users’ overall digital experience and their feelings about specific workplace tools. This helps identify what issues are most heavily impacting their productivity and influencing their satisfaction.
  • Take action to improve the digital experience—A hallmark of DEX is the ability to respond to employee feedback and improve a poor digital experience. With a Digital Employee Experience solution, this will mean proactively alerting the employee to issues with their device or software, suggesting remediation actions, and even providing real-time automated fixes.

A positive digital work experience is more crucial to employees than ever before. With the line between work and home virtually erased, an employee’s entire work experience is now a digital one. Your organization’s lack of visibility into its endpoints and application performance can impact your employees’ ability to be productive, successful, and happy with their employment. And employees are increasingly willing to look elsewhere if their current work experience is leaving them unsatisfied.

[Read also: Are metaverse meetings the answer to better employee engagement?]

A digital employee experience solution can help your organization establish workflows, processes, and modes of staff interaction that gratify employees and enable them to be successful. It begins with giving them the means to resolve issues independently and provide feedback to improve their experience, while relieving the help desk of mundane tasks and enabling them to focus on the most critical problems so they can deliver a more productive and satisfying working environment.

Done right, DEX can also help improve perceptions of the IT department, from being seen as merely on call to troubleshoot problems—the digital equivalent of a custodial staff—to a group that’s actively listening and responding to its user base. By incorporating feedback that improves employees’ working experience, DEX not only enables employees to do their best but also gives them room to grow in both skills and satisfaction.

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is a veteran technology and business journalist with more than 25 years of experience writing for Yahoo, Wired, Forbes, and more. He was a top editor at PC Computing¸ Smart Business, and New Architect and was the founding editor of Mobile magazine.

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