While all organizations have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, many are still struggling to navigate the volume, velocity, and complexity of change it has brought over the last two years. Almost overnight, the workplace transformed from in person to digital. Most employees no longer go to the office but work from home. Our work personas and home personas are no longer separate and distinct but have been infused into one, as our work lives and home lives have meshed under the same roof.

This infusion has transformed the way employees relate and interact with their organizations. Because today the majority, if not all, of these interactions, occur in the digital workplace, learning and development (L&D) is tasked with addressing these digital workplace challenges. In a recent webinar, Gartner identified 12 digital workplace challenges that organizations need to address enterprise-wide.

Let’s explore how L&D can help organizations overcome these challenges and thrive in the digital world.

Engage Key Organizational Stakeholders Across the Enterprise

While the digital workplace is used by and affects most employees, it is not the sole responsibility of the L&D team. The digital workplace works best when organizational stakeholders, including senior leadership, human resources (HR), information technology (IT), facilities, finance and legal, all need to collaborate with L&D and address employees’ needs. Building coalitions is by no means a novel tactic. It is foundational in implementing enterprise-wide organizational change strategies.

Today, building coalitions in the digital workplace may take more effort and patience, as trust needs to be present in all digital interactions. It may require one-on-one online meetings with the various stakeholders separately before bringing everyone together in the same virtual room. Engaging stakeholders digitally can also be faster and less costly as digital meetings have eliminated the need to spend time and resources for physical travel. The key is to impart that the digital workplace is everyone’s responsibility and requires a collaborative effort across the company.

Factor in the Digital Employee Experience

A vital element of a successful digital workplace is the employee experience (EX). There are several definitions of EX. I like the two different ways to articulate the employee experience. The EX definition from Gallup is more operational and defines the employee experience as “the journey an employee takes within your organization. This journey includes every interaction between the Employee and the organization including the experiences around the Employee’s role, workplace,  management, and overall well-being.” The Gartner definition is more EX-centered and, in collaboration with Harvard Business Review, defines EX as “how employees internalize and interpret the interactions they have with and within their organization and the contexts that influence those experiences.

According to a 2022 Korn Ferry survey, 36% of professionals plan to switch jobs in the near future because the pandemic prompted them to re-evaluate what they want and think about the  changes they need to make to get it. L&D organizations must focus on EX and shift from process-driven to employee-centered. This means that instead of just focusing on efficiency, process compliance, and a laundry list of requirements and rewards, organizations need to center their focus on the Employee. According to Korn Ferry, this means building long-term employee relationships, segmenting and understanding employee needs, and addressing employee challenges with process and policy.

Tackle the Tech Debt

Gartner defines “tech debt” in this context as difficulties in the employee experience resulting from digital friction, low-quality data, poor user experience, complex workflows, mundane, repetitive tasks and a limited understanding of technology by leadership. Many organizations still allow technology and their IT departments to dictate the capabilities of the business.

Now, more than ever, the business and the employee need must dictate the IT requirement in this context. While no one technology is a panacea, many organizations deploy employee experience platforms (EXP) to tackle the tech debt. According to Josh Bersin, several organizations using employee experience platforms are serious about making the employee experience more accessible, more complete, and more productive. After all, the employee experience drives the customer experience and the ultimate organizational performance. EX platforms offer chat, conversation, mobile, portal, and voice integrated capabilities to enrich the way the organization connects with employees and add fluidity and oversight across the various touchpoints in the employee journey through a single platform.

While these platforms continue to evolve, many use process and serviced-based employee-centered designs, use artificial intelligence (AI) and give employees a consumer-like experience at work.

The digital workplace is here to stay. The quality of the EX hinges on the quality of the digital workplace, and both affect the customer experience and organizational performance. L&D teams along with senior leaders across departments have a foundational responsibility to ensure they identify, address, and tackle digital workplace challenges early and often to optimize the employee experience.