Employee experience (EX) enjoyed a renewed focus over the past few years as work models shifted, exposing longstanding pain points in productivity and collaboration for remote workers. Now, as an uncertain economic climate puts pressure on budgets, CIOs may find it tempting to put some of these initiatives on the back burner. They should remember, however, that improving employee experience can serve as a catalyst for improving customer experience (CX) and growing the business.

When it comes to IT investment, there’s a notable gap between CX and EX. In Foundry’s 2023 State of the CIO research, IT and business leaders were asked about the top business initiatives driving IT investment. More than one-third (36%) cited CX, but just 19% cited EX. Both percentages dropped slightly from the 2022 study, but the delta between the two priorities remains large. Closing this gap is critical, considering the clear throughline between satisfied, productive employees, happy customers, and better business performance.

For example, IDC predicts that by 2024, organizations offering frontline workers easier access to digital collaboration, process automation, and similar tools will see a 20% increase in revenue due to improved productivity. In contrast, Gallup research found that employees who are not engaged cost the global workplace nearly $7.8 trillion in lost productivity, equivalent to roughly 11% of global GDP.

Other indirect monetary gains are associated with keeping employees empowered, productive, and engaged. For example, investment in EX boosts talent retention—a LinkedIn Learning report found 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index discovered that workers at companies that prioritize employee engagement are also clearer on business objectives and express more confidence in leadership—additional factors that foster confidence in the employer and keep the workforce aligned around common goals.

Regarding the intersection between employee experience and customer experience efforts as a pathway to growth and better business outcomes, research and advisory company Gartner® describes a “total experience”. Total Experience is defined as, “creating exponentially superior experiences for people, regardless of what role they play in or for an organization by interlinking CX, EX, user experience (UX), and multi-experience (MX). By 2024, organizations providing a total experience will outperform competitors by 25% in satisfaction metrics for both CX and EX.”*

At Gartner’s recent Digital Workplace Summit in London, Nick Hedderman, senior director of Microsoft’s Modern Work business group, discussed a recent Microsoft study that links employee engagement with better business performance. “We found that organizations with a highly engaged workforce had better performance on the stock market,” Hedderman said. “That’s a wonderful thing: happy employees and better profitability.” Watch the full session with Nick Heddermann and Toni Vanwinkle, vice president of Digital Employee Experience at Adobe, here.

Fueling employee empowerment

For CIOs tasked with using technology to improve employee experience across hybrid work environments, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind.

First, beware of technology sprawl. A Forrester report found that many organizations have six or more EX-related tools, some of which go unused because of a lack of proper training or integration with other systems. Most employees (84%) are hungry for a comprehensive, integrated EX platform that can help them be more productive, increase job satisfaction, and aid in mental well-being and work-life balance, the Forrester research found.

Integrated collaboration platforms, automation tools, highly accessible analytics, and citizen development capabilities are at the heart of an integrated and holistic employee experience. These integrated digital workspaces allow employees to work efficiently and seamlessly across time and space, which is essential for hybrid work.

Second, it’s critical to make it easier for employees to collaborate with others at the same time (synchronous work) as well as streamline asynchronous collaboration when they may not be physically co-located or when schedules don’t sync up. Capabilities such as presence indicators and email delay features can be useful for creating healthy messaging cultures that are respectful of people’s work hours. At the same time, tools such as videoconferencing, real-time chat, and virtual whiteboards are essential for synchronous work when people are physically distant.

A third consideration is the pace of digitization across the organization. Creating advanced digital processes and workflows for key applications and systems helps people get their work done faster by streamlining tasks and providing easier access to information.

“As organizations look to keep pace not only with customer expectations, but employees’ expectations, optimized workflows are an imperative,” Adobe CIO Cynthia Stoddard wrote in a recent blog post. “Given the proven correlation between happy employees, satisfied customers, and overall business success, it’s more critical than ever that companies prioritize any systems or business processes that improve collaboration between teams and the overall employee experience.” Adobe is doing its part by exploring ways to reimagine hybrid work environments through Lab82, its employee experience experimentation program.

Similarly, Microsoft has made a wholesale commitment to reimagining employee experience based on a core belief that EX is central to helping its own customers transform through technology. Its mission is to transform the digital Microsoft employee experience across devices, applications, and infrastructure, spanning both physical and digital workplaces and assets, and continuously improving end-to-end experiences that transcend its own portfolio as well as third-party products.

Delivering modern employee experience tools and services can bolster workforce productivity through better connections, learning opportunities, and deeper insights that speed decision making. With employees empowered to do their best work, organizations can keep customers happy and drive better business results.

*Gartner Webinar, The Total Experience Strategy for Better Retail Digital Interactions, June 2023, https://webinar.gartner.com/445952/agenda/session/1051272?login=ML. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.