WSJ/Dow Jones executive summary: The new employee experience

The world of work has changed. Demographic and economic factors—from the rise of a new generation of younger workers to a record low unemployment rate—have shifted the expectations of both employers and employees.

REPORT | 4m read
December 18, 2019

In response, employers are focusing on creating an EX built on values aligning employee and business needs—from improved productivity to higher engagement levels—and are looking toward technology to help meet those goals.

Against this backdrop, Dow Jones Intelligence (DJI) investigated how companies can drive higher employee engagement through the lens of new and emerging technology. DJI, sponsored by Citrix, undertook a comprehensive global survey of 1,000 senior and HR executives in eight countries, measuring 13 different emerging solutions emerging technologically (the complete global white paper, “The New Employee Experience: Emerging Technologies Reshaping the Future of Work,” is available here). Those solutions include artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA), constituting a deep look at the future of work and the technologies that will enable it.

First and foremost, employers across the globe were found to place great emphasis on the transformation of the employee experience through technological solutions, with 74% of respondents rating it as a high or top priority versus only 4% rating it as low/no priority (figure 1). That investment comes with an expectation of significant returns: 75% expect to receive high or outstanding value for their efforts (figure 2). Moreover, the commitment to technology as a driver of EX extends to employers of all sizes and stages of maturity in their digital transformation efforts.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The drivers of EX are the drivers of DX

The expansion in EX as a discipline over the last several years wouldn’t have been possible without the simultaneous growth of the cloud as a platform for business applications. The latter has fueled the former, freeing workers from their desks and businesses from legacy technology. No surprise, then, that nearly all of the specific solutions cited by respondents as most effective, whether tools targeted at conferencing, remote access or collaboration, utilize cloud-based infrastructures, and that cloud-based applications were identified as the most significant driver of EX strategy (figure 3).

The cloud is also a critical influence on other tech trends cited by respondents as impactful on employee experience strategy, including the rise of digital workspaces, IoT, and mobile devices and apps. Employers showed a consistent preference for approaches favoring mobility, flexibility and platform independence. And when combined with advanced and predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies — considered by respondents to be among the most impactful — facilitating those attributes allow businesses to design superior EX strategies, aligning people and business goals and leading to more positive outcomes for both.

Where real EX happens

Critical to understanding the commitment to employee experience and the expectation of a significant return is knowing what practical gains are expected through a well-considered and executed EX strategy. Respondents pointed to improvements in work-life balance along with creativity and innovation, but cited above all other benefits were improvements in productivity, with 79% calling it very important or critical for a technology-driven employee experience (figure 4). To that end, strategies aimed at productivity favored the ability to work anywhere from any device, along with ease of use and easy access to data and information.

Figure 4

Solutions aimed at learning and development (L&D) were most frequently seen as having the greatest potential impact, regardless of whether they were targeted more specifically toward productivity, work-life balance, or creativity and innovation (figure 5).

Figure 5

Retraining and upskilling, which open up new opportunities for employees within the enterprise, were cited by 78% of respondents as very important or critical. The broader emphasis on learning and development also mitigates one of the most frequently cited obstacles in leveraging technology to improve EX, namely a lack of digital literacy among employees. However, L&D has less impact against the most commonly cited obstacle—financial constraints—as well as issues of digital maturity and a lack of internal EX strategies.

The high priority placed on EX by respondents, however, indicates those internal structures and processes will soon bend towards more aggressive use of technology to drive it. Indeed, prioritizing the employee experience has undoubtedly made its way into mainstream business consciousness, and the pace of implementation for technological tools integral to promoting employee experience is accelerating (figure 6). It’s clear the majority of businesses are willing to embrace the idea of experimenting with current and emerging technologies as a way to drive advancements in the employee experience.

Figure 6
 

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