Digital Experience, Culture, and CommTech: an interview with Grant McLaughlin

Graphic representation of a variety of employee digital experiences.

Digital experience for employees should be simple, inclusive, and increase productivity

How are you building your employee digital experience?

Grant McLaughlin, is the founder and Principal of Engaged Leadership LLC. This is a consultancy serving leaders in organizations small and large. They’re an employee engagement expert in the CommTech arena, driving revenue with metrics aligned to client insights and data-driven targeting.

As new technologies come fast and furious, one thing is certain: communication technology and culture are intertwined. The digital experience impacts your employees’ experience. Grant states, “It’s about identifying a new engagement model and not technology for technology’s sake. How do you help people quickly access the information they need to do their job? How do you connect them into a larger community? Going slow to go fast is key. Map out the process to truly understand — what needs to be done, how it needs to change, and will it land where I want it to land?”

“Communication Technology should eliminate barriers to access and level the playing field for everybody. New tools and new technologies enable simplicity for employee communications – and are useful to run our operations and help us gain new employee insights.”

– Grant McLaughlin

Crafting digital experiences

When you’re thinking about communication technology, it’s critical to understand and educate others on the intent of the tool. Do you know what it means for the employee digital experience? How does it integrate with the existing technologies in your CommTech stack? Ideally, you are building a technology stack that has the elasticity to shift as technology changes. The goal is to meet the current and future needs of your employees.

This means it’s essential to be thoughtful, intentional, and deliberate.

“It isn’t simply applying to an existing process; to truly do this right, you must rethink the entire process—and start from a user experience perspective.”

– Grant McLaughlin

Rolling out new digital tools requires an understanding of the entire change adoption landscape within the employees’ world. Specifically, this means understanding the digital experience they currently have. Then, defining what digital experience we want them to have. Learn what’s changing. How do those changes integrate into what already exists? To have the most effective digital experiences, it’s essential to:

  • designate a clear executive sponsor to champion the change
  • have the right conversations at the right levels
  • command the necessary resources to implement the technology

When assessing new communication technologies, key steps include: 

Gain Consensus and Insights

The minute you start exploring a new technology, engage the chief information security officer (CISO), chief information officer (CIO) and chief data officer (CDO). Let them kick the tires with you in terms of user requirements. What are the features and benefits? What are the security risks? How will it fit into the existing technology stack? How will it connect with other tools? Will it replace existing capabilities? What data is being collected? Will the data flow into a data lake? Is single sign-on acceptable, or is multi-factor authentication required? Understand what the CommTech tool will do – and what it won’t do. Bringing the CISO, CIO, CDO along works best as you decide versus deciding and defending your decision.

Identify User Groups to discuss digital experiences

  • Understand employee work experiences. Some are sitting in an office in front of a company-issued laptop every day. Others are not in front of a computer – ever! Some use their own personal cell phone, while others use a company-issued cell phone. Truly understanding their experience is key. Know what technology they are using today. Understand how the new CommTech will fit into their experience. You don’t want to unintentionally create a digital divide.
  • Gain an understanding of the different demographic types. How are they using technology? What are their expectations of technology? What is the shared technology experience we want? Once you have a clear picture, test it. Launch multiple pilots, in multiple environments, to test your understanding and the experience your employees have with the tool. Did you get what you expected? What are the variety of digital demands?

Make Time to Listen and Learn 

  • Employee Focus Groups – Employees have opinions, and they want to share them. Create opportunities for them to talk and be prepared to listen. Minimize their risk within the organization so they can speak their truth and feel comfortable doing it. Ongoing dialogue yields better results – keep the focus groups going. Representation across all levels and demographics is key – which may mean you need to have multiple groups to ensure all voices are heard.
  • The Technology Ride Along – Understand the tools in your technology stack. Not just what they produce but how they work, and where the hand-offs are between tools and teams. Take the time to sit down with someone who knows the tools well. For example, in one instance, I had an impression of the connectivity between a customer relationship management database and email automation tool and the relationship between the two. Yet, when I did a ride along with an email automation manager, she reshaped my understanding on how the data flows and where the bottlenecks are. That meant we could quickly adapt and adjust. 

Talking about the digital experience.

Create Clear, Simple Messaging

From a communications perspective, share what the change is, what the features and benefits are, and when it’s going to take effect. Understand what’s important for the employee to know what you want them to think, feel, do, or act on as a result of reading your message. If it isn’t clear, rewrite the message so it is.

The Digital Experience: Rollout & Adoption

  • Be open to a soft launch versus a hard launch to get some additional feedback and buy-in .
  • Truly listen for feedback. Hear what your employees say and acknowledge it. It goes a long way in helping people adopt new technology 
  • Make sure the technology is viewed as an essential business tool. It is not a toy.
  • Establish the right incentives for people to use the data. Provide the right training to bring people along .
  • Align your metrics and measures to drive use and achieve the desired end state. 
  • Once employees have been trained on the new tool and an appropriate time period has passed, sunset old ways (processes, tools) in order to strengthen new tools. 

Almost every study shows that when employee engagement is high, especially in public companies, profits rise as well. Supporting a positive employee user digital experience requires:

  • simple clear messaging
  • easy-to-use communications technologies
  • great connectivity

The convergence of those in a digital experience will strengthen culture, employee retention, brand awareness, and reputation health.

But wait! There’s more on the digital experience!

Recently, Integral CEO & Founder Ethan McCarty sat down for a conversation with Howard Pyle, Founder of Experience Futures to discuss automation and digital experience design. They discussed avoiding a deeper digital divide, which is essential to a good employee digital experience. Making sure you design your employees’ digital experiences so that every single person can interact with the digital experiences that power our lives.

Because, when CommTech is done right, everybody wins!