Ensuring an End-to-End
Digital Employee Experience (DEX)

Manufacturing companies are in the midst of digitally transforming their operations through adoption of cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The goal is to first automate recurring processes, then monitor processes in real-time to understand operations and finally enable autonomous optimization of processes in the Smart Factory.

Originally, digital transformation was driven by the bottom line and Quality Assurance (QA); more efficient and cost-effective production of better products and services. But over the last few years, an extra dimension has been added that is focused on a sometimes overlooked but extremely important stakeholder in digital transformation: the employee. In particular, the Digital Employee eXperience (DEX) and how it affects workforce productivity, engagement and satisfaction.

The Great Resignation Forces CEOs to Prioritize Workforce Issues

During COVID-19, a new trend emerged that came to be known as “the great resignation.” According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million US workers quit their jobs in 2021 during the height of the pandemic. While many associate the trend with the pandemic, others have argued that there has been a steady increase in the number of workers quitting their job over the last decade:

Fig.1 – Average monthly quit data shows clear growth trend – J. Fuller and W. Kerr, The Great Resignation Didn’t Start with the Pandemic, Harvard Business Review, 2022

As the data in Figure 1 shows, the average monthly quit rate increased by 0.1% each year from 2009 to 2019. Ironically, when the pandemic originally led to lockdowns and work-at-home edicts, the average monthly quit rate went down in 2020 only to resume its original trajectory in 2021, which possibly made the issue more noticeable than it otherwise would have been.

The bottom line; there has been a clear increasing trend of workers quitting their jobs that is showing no signs of stopping.

This has propelled the topic of workforce engagement to the top of CEO priorities, as highlighted by the Gartner 2022 CEO Survey (released in April 2022). As shown in Figure 2, workforce issues jumped to number 3 in CEO strategic business priorities during 2021. CEOs are now focused on how employee work conditions can be improved to ensure higher retention going forward.

Fig.2 – Gartner CEO Survey shows increased focus on workforce issues

Focusing on the Digital Employee Experience

There are a number of reasons why employees resign. In the Harvard Business Review article, “The Great Resignation Didn’t Start with the Pandemic,” the authors list retirement, relocation, reconsideration of their career choices, reshuffling to a different career, and reluctance to return to the office as factors of rising ‘quit rates.’ However, when asked directly, employees point to other factors influencing their perception of their workplace and the work they do.

Fig.3 – Technology is the third most important factor in improving work experience, Deloitte Insights

Deloitte surveyed employees in 2022 to understand the factors that could improve their work experience. The results shown in Figure 3 highlight the top factors influencing worker perception of the work experience. Unsurprisingly, overall well-being is number one followed by a factor influenced by COVID-19 experience, namely the flexibility to work at home. But the most interesting is the third factor, namely the technology that employees use every day. 23% or nearly 1 in 4 indicated that technology plays an important role for work experience. Many refer to this concept as Digital Employee eXperience (DEX).

Many employees rely on various technologies, increasingly digital technologies, in order to perform their work. While digital technology is designed to automate work processes and improve efficiency, bad design, siloed technology implementations and poor training can lead to frustrating work experiences.

DEX refers to the way that employees interact with digital tools, systems, and processes in the workplace. It encompasses all of the digital touchpoints that employees encounter as they perform their work, including communication tools, collaboration platforms, productivity tools, and HR systems.

A positive DEX is one that is seamless, intuitive, and engaging, and that helps employees perform their work efficiently and effectively. A negative DEX, on the other hand, can be frustrating, confusing, and disjointed, and can hinder employee productivity and engagement.

Improving the Digital Employee Experience is an important goal for many organizations, as it can help improve employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.

Organizations can improve the DEX in a number of ways, including:

  • Ensuring that digital tools and systems are easy to use and intuitive
  • Providing training and support to help employees get the most out of digital tools and systems
  • Creating a culture of digital literacy and continuous learning
  • Ensuring that digital tools and systems are integrated and work seamlessly together
  • Seeking feedback from employees on their DEX and using that feedback to make improvements

Overall, the DEX is an important aspect of the employee experience and can have a significant impact on employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.

Improving the Digital Employee Experience of Configuration

One of the challenges manufacturers are facing is meeting increasing customer demands for customization and personalization. The issue is that most manufacturing organizations and processes are designed for mass production where engineers design products, manufacturing make them and then sales sell them. The IT systems supporting these processes are also built with this in mind; PLM systems to help engineers design, ERP systems help manufacturers deliver and CRM systems help sales close orders.

Customization and personalization demands cut across these traditional ways of thinking and working causing frustration, errors and general dissatisfaction for both customers and employees. In Engineer-to-Order (ETO) processes, sales receive orders for bespoke products based on customer demands that engineering must design and manufacturing deliver. The challenge here is to ensure that the final product delivered matches customer expectations. Even for more advanced operations based on Configure-to-Order (CTO) processes where customers can customize their product orders based on configurable modules, there is still a challenge in ensuring that the configuration chosen by the customer can be manufactured and delivered.

In these cases, separate IT systems implemented in a siloed departmental approach are no longer a help, but a hinderance. They lower the DEX rather than improve it. What is required are digital solutions that are cross-functional and can support the ETO and CTO processes that customization and personalization require.

One such solution is Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM).

Designed to manage the millions of potential variations of product configuration that can exist in ETO and CTO processes, CLM systems provide a single-source-of-truth for product configuration information that is synchronized with each siloed IT system. What this means is that when a salesperson guides a customer to a particular product configuration, he can be confident that the configuration is available and can be manufactured and delivered on a specific date at a specific price.

Bring the Value of a Centralized
Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) System to Your Company

CLM systems thus improve DEX by removing the frustration of getting multiple IT systems and departments to agree with duplication of data stored in different formats for different purposes. It also ensures that there are no errors, which saves enormous time and effort in locating the cause of inconsistencies, not to mention the negative impact of delivering the wrong solution to the customer.

Improving DEX therefore needs both a focus on the individual experience with each IT system and a focus on ensuring that end-to-end processes are also supported effectively with digital solutions, like CLM. This addresses sources of frustration and conflict for the employee at multiple levels leading to a more constructive workplace environment and increased worker satisfaction and engagement that ultimately will improve employee retention and recruitment.

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About the Author

Henrik Hulgaard Configit

Henrik Reif Andersen is the Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Configit, the global leader in Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions and a supplier of business-critical software for the configuration of complex products. He holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of Aarhus and has more than 25 years of experience in IT development and research.