Learn how to build a digital employee experience strategy and actionable tips for managing crucial areas in your Microsoft Teams: sprawl, channels, guest access and external sharing, and automation.
Organizations are beginning to realize that great digital employee experience matters, even in their cloud-based tools, such as Microsoft Teams.
Digital employee experience (DEX) is vital for crushing your business goals. It spans every aspect of the employee journey with your organization, from recruitment and onboarding, professional development, and ongoing retention, to the point at which they leave.
A great DEX strategy considers how your tools integrate, the common challenges of new employees, and how to succeed and stay secure within a hybrid workforce.
Three environments have the most impact on EXP:
- Company culture—A strong corporate culture can improve employee sentiment, filling them with a sense of purpose and giving meaning to their work.
- Workplace—Now that work has expanded beyond the physical office, organizations that provide a well-connected, flexible digital workplace will produce happier, more productive employees.
- Technology—One of the most critical pain points for a good employee experience is the technology environment. Employees need digital tools like Microsoft Teams to maximize efficiency and be more productive and confident in their roles.
In this article, we’ll focus on employee experiences you can influence as an IT manager in the digital workplace, particularly in managing your Teams environment. After all, IT plays a critical role in shaping the employee experience. It’s no easy task, but we’ll cover some basics to get you started with a DEX strategy for any new or mature digital workplace.
Table of contents
- What is the digital employee experience?
- What is digital employee experience management?
- How to get started
- 4 key areas to improve the digital employee experience in Microsoft Teams
- Empower your digital workplace the easy way
What exactly is the digital employee experience (DEX)?
The digital employee experience is neither a tool nor a strategy. We’re all experiencing the same digital tools and business processes to do our work, but each person perceives them differently.
Why is the digital employee experience important?
Well, according to Forrester:
“Digital employee experience is the sum of all the perceptions that employees have about working with the technology they use to complete their daily work and manage their relationship with their employer across the lifecycle of their employment.“
DEX isn’t limited to just the digital tools they’re using but is also influenced by the processes and policies associated with how they can use those technologies.
As an IT manager, your DEX strategy should include all aspects of every technology used in your organization, including its quality, ease of use, reliability, inclusivity, accessibility, and all other aspects of the end-user experience. Digital transformation happens rapidly in a hybrid workforce, so ensuring your IT department keeps up with digital innovation is crucial.
What is digital employee experience management?
DEX management involves evaluating employees’ touchpoints with workplace technology and making them the best, most seamless, and most intuitive experiences possible.
When we talk about digital touchpoints, we’re talking about a wide range of workplace technologies—and the digital tools and policies governing their use. Here are just a few examples:
- Human resources technologies for performance management, tracking leave, etc.
- Technologies that provide self-service access for employees to information on their benefits, company policies, etc.
- Learning technologies for training and ongoing professional development
- Streamlined workflow and project management tools for basic business functions
- Technologies that employees in different areas of the business (e.g., finance teams, marketing teams, customer experience, etc.) use to do their jobs
- Communication and collaboration tools include phone calls, email, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc.
- Devices and mediums that employees use, especially as remote workers (mobile devices, desktop computers, etc.)
Communication and collaboration tools have always been integral to providing a positive digital employee experience. But with the massive shift to hybrid and remote work, they have become two of the most important digital touchpoints impacting today’s digital employee experience.
A better digital employee experience = an increase in satisfied employees and better business outcomes
Getting your organization’s digital employee experience dialed in is worth the investment. Here are some of the benefits of creating a great user experience:
Reduced churn: In today’s tight labor market, investing in creating a great employee experience makes it easier to attract the best employees and helps you retain them longer.
Financial benefits: Companies that provide great employee experiences generate more than twice the revenue and are more than four times more profitable than those that don’t.
Improved security with digital tools: Enabling self-service helps to mitigate shadow IT and security risks resulting from a locked-down system and a controlled environment. Rather than creating a ticket asking IT to make a new team in Microsoft Teams, self-service enables end users to create teams themselves—which, in turn, reduces your ticket queue and ensures your company data remains secure.
A more engaged workforce: Empowered employees lead to great work experiences, helping them feel more connected to their work, team, and employer. DEX provides people with the tools and access to systems that enable them to collaborate and unlock their potential without impediment.
How to get started with digital employee experience management
Adopting a self-serve approach is one of the best strategies for improving employee satisfaction and reducing pain points.
While it may be tempting to lock down your Microsoft 365 environment to keep it secure, doing so is the antithesis of a positive digital employee experience.
Locking things down too tight leads to frustrated employees and security risks. Any friction in having access or learning to use the tools you provide will make them run to other unapproved tools.
When you work with your end users to understand their needs through a collaborative governance approach, you can develop better governance policies that keep your Microsoft 365 environment secure while allowing them to be more efficient and productive.
A self-service environment and good governance improve the digital experience for everyone, including your IT team. What IT team wouldn’t be thrilled to reduce the number of support tickets they get daily? Implementing a self-serve environment can make this a reality.
Focus on these 4 things to improve the digital employee experience in Microsoft Teams
Now that we know communication and collaboration are two essential types of workplace technology impacting the digital employee experience, Microsoft Teams tops the list of technologies you’ll want to evaluate.
Focus on these crucial areas in Teams to optimize your environment so that end users can do their best work more securely and efficiently.
1. Minimize Teams sprawl
Without a good governance plan, the staggering amount of data produced daily and the graveyard of unstructured and unused data in Teams lead to sprawl. This data includes a bunch of abandoned or rarely used teams that have empty channels and (potentially sensitive) data spread out across them.
If data sprawls unchecked and unprotected, sensitive company information is being put at risk. Sprawl also creates a poor digital user experience. Users have to look for the content they need and end up having to email different departments to see if they can provide it.
With uncontrolled growth in the number of teams, you also end up with duplicate forms, content, pages, and multiple versions of the same documents. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked on an outdated version of a document only to find there was a more current one you should have been working on instead). So, yeah. Not a good digital employee experience.
You never want to get into managing more teams than the number of users in your tenant. And with good governance, you don’t have to.
Good governance is key to leveraging all the benefits of self-serve to improve the digital employee experience while avoiding Teams sprawl.
Give users guidance
In addition to good governance, you can take a few additional steps to empower employees to get the most benefit from Teams.
Encourage them to ask the following questions before creating a new team:
- What is the purpose of this team?
- Who needs to be part of the team?
- Is there already a team that would work for this purpose?
Remember, there’s no directory of teams within Microsoft Teams. So, answering that last question may be tough. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a relatively small number of teams that will meet most of your end users’ needs. In doing that, you can direct them to those existing teams instead, minimizing the need to create new ones.
Another tip: develop a naming policy to ensure that when someone needs to create a new team, they name it in a way that is intuitive and helps other people clearly understand its intended purpose.
Address unwanted teams
If you and your end users struggle with sprawl, check for Teams activity to identify inactive teams. Once you find them, you can decide how to dispose of them properly and any documents or data they contain.
We recommend several other best practices for handling Teams sprawl, which you can find in our Microsoft Teams management guide for IT admins.
2. Tackle Teams channels
Channels are the conversations that happen within Microsoft Teams. Each can be dedicated to a specific topic, project, or department.
Channels provide the cornerstone of Teams communication. However, with the ability to create up to 430 channels (200 regular, 200 shared, and 30 private) for a given team, it’s easy to see how they can quickly become overwhelming to end users. Not to mention a mess for IT admins.
Just as you can encourage people to be more thoughtful in creating new teams, you can also teach them some best practices to minimize the number of channels they create.
We recommend that each team start with six channels, one being the General channel and the other five dedicated to the different overarching topics or types of discussions they need within their team. Six channels is a good rule of thumb, but you can start with any reasonably small number that meets their needs.
Once end users get going, they can gradually expand if needed.
Give your channel a good name
Every channel should have a name that’s descriptive enough of its purpose. That way, team members can intuitively know if it’s a channel they need to pay attention to and what gets discussed there.
Give every new topic a heading
Headings serve the same purpose for messages posted to Teams channels as subject lines do for emails: they help you quickly assess what it’s about and what to do with it. Coach your end users to give their topics a clear heading, and they’ll find using their channels in Teams more efficient and enjoyable.
Avoid cross-channel posting
Oftentimes, end users think that cross-channel posting is a good way to gather information from everyone in the team, but it’s not. That’s because people can only respond in the channels they are members of, and there’s no mechanism to gather those responses across all channels.
Use Announcements and tags
Announcements are highlighted topics. When combined with tagging, Announcements allow people to communicate across channels. Tagging is good for addressing a subset of team members, but it only works in regular channels. Still, since all team members automatically have access to regular channels, tagging people on announcements can be a good way to bring them into a conversation they might otherwise miss.
3. Create a productive and secure guest-sharing environment
Creating a productive and secure guest-sharing environment will improve the employee experience by removing unnecessary barriers to their ability to collaborate.
Microsoft provides two tools to help you enable external access:
- Guest access – Azure B2B collaboration allows you to share information in Teams with people outside your organization (guest access).-Guest account is created when an external user is added as a member of a team by an owner.-The guest user capabilities are controlled by organization settings and some team settings (channel creation and deletion).
- Azure AD B2B Direct Connect is the technology behind cross-tenant policies, access policies, and shared channels.
Guest accounts are subject to conditional access policies run by the host tenant, which you can use to control guest access without undue restrictions. For example, you can set up a “deny list” of domains from guest accounts from consumer email domains, such as Gmail, Google, or Yahoo.
There are other things you can do to create a productive and secure guest-sharing environment:
- Scan for unwanted and obsolete guest accounts regularly. If a guest account hasn’t been active for 90 days or more, it’s probably best to remove it.
- Enable external users to leave the organization by allowing them to remove their own guest access.
- Ensure end users use sensitivity labels to prevent inadvertently sharing sensitive information with external guests.
4. Automate policies and everyday IT tasks
To ensure a good employee experience in Teams, you need visibility into Teams activity and performance to identify patterns in usage that can indicate where people might be struggling with the technology.
Microsoft 365’s built-in reports for Teams don’t give you all the information necessary to detect such patterns. PowerShell provides the basis of automation for Teams admin functions and allows you to create the custom reports you need to understand employee activity without navigating multiple Microsoft 365 admin centers. But using PowerShell to automate things takes time and specialized skills not every IT professional has.
ShareGate has got your back in Microsoft 365! With ShareGate, IT teams can automate the manual effort of managing and monitoring sprawl and security in a self-service-enabled environment. It offers a simple, easy-to-use interface that handles sprawl-related issues and helps you get ahead of Teams security issues.
Empower your digital workplace the easy way
One of the most important things you can do to improve the digital employee experience is to adopt a self-service approach to managing Microsoft Teams. While it’s possible with good governance to find a balance between top-down IT control and giving your end users the ability to do their best work with the technologies you provide, it doesn’t come without cost.
That cost is mostly administrative, involving potentially countless hours manually scripting policies, enforcing them, and monitoring your Teams environment to avoid sprawl and stay ahead of security risks.
ShareGate helps you have the best of both worlds—end users that can be productive and compliant without bogging down your IT team with end-user tickets or tedious manual tasks.
Talk to an expert to learn how ShareGate can help you stay on top of your self-service-enabled environment without the headache, making providing a great digital employee experience with Teams easier than ever.