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Employee Experience
4 min

Enablement: Employee Engagement Is the New Bottom Line

by Kat Kollett, Zach Schloss April 1, 2024

Unlocking the full potential of employee engagement—and your business—lies in the alignment of the tools, processes, and relationships that empower individuals to seamlessly navigate the intricacies of their daily work and contribute confidently to your organization’s mission.

While there seems to be a relatively new focus on Employee Experience, we’ve known about its benefits for a long time. A study done by Gallup in 2012 calculated the work-unit-level relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes:

In this post, we’ll share our approach to employee experience (EX) strategy work that specifically targets enablement—how to identify opportunities that surpass surface-level improvements, propel job satisfaction, and increase employee retention. In short, we’ll be sharing our approach to transform employee enablement.

Every organization has its share of struggles concerning employee enablement, some larger and some smaller, some political and some practical. Large practical issues (“We need more space for our growing teams!”) are generally the easiest for organizations to recognize, and their impact is articulated clearly at the organizational level. These are the problems that easily make it onto prioritized lists to be addressed. But the small inefficiencies and roadblocks of daily tasks (“Our software solution isn’t holistically designed and therefore isn’t aligned to how people actually get work done”), and those related to interdepartmental challenges—the issues that never seem big or clear enough to take on—may actually be more important to solve.

At first glance, it seems logical to deprioritize these “smaller” issues, as each isolated instance likely has very little impact on overall effectiveness or productivity. However, when viewed collectively, these inefficiencies can have a significant impact. Disregarding them solely based on their individual significance would be shortsighted. In addition to this, these are often the same issues that lead to employee burnout and attrition. They are the issues related to tools and processes that cause small, repeated friction points and frustrations in employees’ daily lives. In a lot of cases, an off-line process (paper & fax) was ‘digitized’ in essentially the same format. Meanwhile, every other software and technology has evolved 10-40 years beyond that original process and needs to be rethought from the ground-up.

The good news here is that employees know exactly what frustrates them about the tools they use and the processes they follow. They know the workarounds they’re using to complete tasks faster and more efficiently than they can without them. They know exactly where friction lies in the relationships that they need to navigate to move work forward, and how their tools and processes sometimes even aggravate this friction.

Getting serious about enablement means listening to your employees and finding real, lasting solutions to their needs. It means continually engaging with them to understand how their needs and frustrations are evolving—and including them as you shape and refine their ecosystem.

It is important to note that this work can be done at a variety of levels and in a variety of contexts. It can be as small as looking at the tools and processes for a single team (although this kind of work is stronger if it includes the perspectives of both internal and external “customers” who benefit from it) and as big as a service design initiative supporting the end-to-end customer experience. On both fronts, organizations often look to new tools as a “silver bullet” to introduce new efficiencies and address employees’ frustrations. In the case of service design, the new “tool” could be a comprehensive digital transformation initiative; but new tools are only partial solutions if they are not implemented thoughtfully with consideration for the human side of the work they support. If you haven’t considered related team/relationship challenges and the needs of stakeholders beyond the daily users, these new tools are likely to fall short of your organization’s hopes for them.

Enablement can be complex work. It can take a long time—and cost a lot of money—to select or design and implement new solutions for employees. To find success, we recommend following a framework that closely mirrors our approach to customer experience strategy:

  • Explore your goals with respect to employee enablement and do some baseline investigation around their current-state tools and processes, documenting known concerns and open questions.
  • Get to know your employees and learn about their relevant—and sometimes not so relevant, but illuminating—needs and frustrations.
  • Distill what you’ve learned into key learnings and opportunity areas, accompanied by maps of employees’ current experiences, if useful.
  • Generate ideas, imagining new possibilities to support your employees in their daily work and interactions.
  • Sort, group, and prioritize these ideas into a recommendation and roadmap, framed as a vision for the future of employee enablement.
  • Build support for your vision, as needed, and begin taking the steps outlined in your roadmap.

Note that the outcome of a strategy initiative shaped like our approach above is a vision and roadmap to realize an ideal future state of enablement for your teams. Realizing your ideal future state will likely involve a lot of change, potentially including changes to roles and responsibilities, and sometimes even extending to culture. This means that implementation work should be done in close partnership with Change Management. While not the focus of enablement-oriented EX strategy work, it may also reveal needs and frustrations related to Communications and Operations and Knowledge Management.

As we shared above, Employee Enablement work can be done at a variety of levels.  Where might it help you the most? Are one of your teams struggling with its current toolkit or process? Are you rethinking how to best serve your customers and interested in upgrading your internal processes and tools overall? Is your intranet not quite meeting your employees’ needs?

It doesn’t really matter where you start, so long as you start. Build the habit into your practices of continually exploring how you might better serve your employees, so that they might best serve your customers, and you.

Photo Credit: Martin de Arriba | Unsplash

Kat Kollett
Senior Director of Strategy

Kat Kollett is the Senior Director of Strategy. She brings a multidisciplinary, user-focused approach to innovations in brand, digital, analog, environmental, and interpersonal experiences, and helps clients apply those innovations to meet their strategic objectives.

Zach Schloss
Director of UX

As Director of UX, Zach helps clients maximize the effectiveness of their digital properties by ensuring they’re human-centered and tailored to their most important audiences. He considers it his personal responsibility to represent the voice of the user on every project, as they are often the only one not at the table during the design process.