Business in 2021: The DEX Realisation

Two corporate employees reviewing data on a computer monitor

Nicole Alvino, founder and CSO at SocialChorus, describes what DEX is and how it has become integral to the efficient operation of modern business.

In January 2020 I gave my predictions of how businesses would need to operate in order to be successful in the year ahead. At that point, the overriding themes in my mind were ethical leadership, multi-generational employee engagement, and the need to combat fake news. That was just before COVID-19 hit the world full force!

Little did I know how accurate those predictions would become. So, if 2020 was defined by a compelling need to lead by example to overcome these unprecedented challenges, what will the defining factors be in 2021?

Paradigm shift for leaders

2020 marked the realisation by many senior business leaders that connecting with their entire workforce was critical. Especially the frontline, meeting their essential needs, and giving them a connected Digital Employee Experience (DEX) that worked for them.

Moving forward, empathy will be the very foundation of this. Empathy has always been an important trait for leaders to exhibit, but now it’s not just a ‘nice to have’ for those in management positions – it’s a must. Senior business leaders need to really listen to their people, across the entire organisation, and develop a deep understanding of what their workforce requires. Not just as a collective but also on an individual level too.

In a world where desk workers are already overwhelmed by too many messages and tools, while deskless workers struggle to access systems designed for office workers, it’s more important than ever to ensure that messages are clear, personalised and targeted. Leaders need to think about communications from the recipient’s perspective – how will they be received? And, importantly, can they be received? They must get into the habit of putting themselves in others’ shoes and thinking of things from their employees’ perspective.

Empathy has always been an important trait for leaders to exhibit, but now it’s not just a ‘nice to have’ for those in management positions – it’s a must.

This paradigm shift – that empathy must form the baseline of a successful business – has to be the very foundation of everything going forward in this new way of working.

This newfound empathy goes hand in hand with trust. It works both ways between leaders and their workforce. Managers should get comfortable communicating with their teams in an authentic and transparent way. This approach means that when the next crisis hits, there is a baseline of trust from which they can care for their people as they steer their ship.

That trust is born out of a consistent, sustained engagement effort – which again is why an effective DEX system is so critical for business success moving forward. When the workforce is accustomed to receiving relevant messages as part of normal business, they will already know where to turn when things get difficult. They will also trust that they will be listened to in return – their voices will be heard.

Another key factor in 2021 will be agility. So much of 2020 was about reacting – we had to respond to the changes that were going on around us, but in 2021 the best leaders will be those that are proactive and make bold moves pre-emptively.

In the past, employers could get away with sticking with the status quo or taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. But now the ones who are agile, the ones to act first and who are able to direct their workforce to take action and quickly adopt new initiatives, will be the ones who capitalise in a competitive environment.

When the workforce is accustomed to receiving relevant messages as part of normal business, they will already know where to turn when things get difficult.

This ability to act swiftly becomes easier if you already have your finger on the pulse of your organisation – which is what effective engagement is all about.

Hybrid workplaces are here to stay

For many businesses, there is no denying that the notion of a permanent physical workplace is a thing of the past. Unless you are required to do work in that specific place, the notion of ‘work as a place’ has gone. From now on it will be a given that most businesses will be hybrid – with a distributed workforce.

So much of ‘going to an office’ has changed forever. Recruitment, onboarding and training, for example, used to all happen in person. Now much of this will happen virtually.

This makes it even more critical to ensure that employee communications are highly personalised and targeted, to ensure that the important messages get through. We need to give every employee the DEX that works best for them.

CEOs must lead the charge in defining a digital workplace, or a DEX, and put as much effort and resource into that as they have in thinking through the overall physical employee journey of the past.

Connection is key

In 2020, we reached people that have never been connected digitally before, we moved systems and processes to the cloud. We delivered on five-year digital transformation road maps within weeks rather than months and years … so what’s next?

Giving employees lots of new cloud-based tools to improve productivity isn’t the answer. As business leaders we need to think about how we make these tools work together from the perspective of the employee. We need to take into consideration how they go about their day, creating that optimal DEX for every worker, wherever they are.

Employee engagement is a key indicator of internal performance and productivity—but most enterprises lack the ability to measure it. They have no way to track technology adoption, learn how initiatives are performing, evaluate workforce sentiment, or take the pulse of their organisation.

What we want to see is employers responding to their workforce’s engagement behaviours in the same way that online retailers predict what you want to buy next. That level of interconnectivity – everything working together to provide valuable business intelligence to guide decisions – will be the cornerstone of an optimal DEX.

As we now look forward I believe that DEX will be the lynchpin that brings together the crucial elements for business in this decade, perhaps century – empathy, agility and hybrid working. Making DEX a priority needs to be at the top of the C-Suite’s agenda. Failure to do so will result in being left behind. Leaders that invest and focus on this over the coming year will quickly see the positive impact of effective digital engagement. Furthermore, those who have embraced the importance of DEX before now will already be reaping the benefits of the direct impact on the bottom line throughout 2021 and beyond.

Business in 2021: The DEX Realisation