What If Employees Were Engaged To Work Like Consumers Are Engaged To Buy?

Gina Nodar

One of my guiltiest pleasures is online shopping – not because I love buying things (well, maybe partly), but because the experience is so much more convenient. It combines the ease-of-use of mobile apps with intelligent technology that allows me to virtually try on a new outfit or see how a paint color will look on my walls. I can order via voice automation and enjoy quick, free shipping for a frictionless experience that keeps me coming back for more.

We’ve heard of such experiences used to highlight the impact digital technologies are having on the market (think of how Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry) – but it’s also disrupting the workplace and employee expectations.

Imagine if employees were engaged to work like consumers are engaged to buy. The rise of technology has influenced a change in business operations and shifted how we interact with brands as consumers – and more importantly, how we expect to be engaged as employees. Just as I expect a seamless experience ordering something via a mobile app, I expect that same experience when using any internal process at work.

Why is employee engagement important now?

Because disengagement costs almost $400B per year in the United States alone (according to a Gallup study). Technology has made employees more productive and simplified work, but it has also created the “always-on” employee. We can communicate with colleagues all around the world at any time of day. While this brings tremendous collaboration capability, it also has the power to disconnect us or even burn us out. This is making employee well-being more of a priority than ever before.

Organizational design and role-mapping are also changing in a digital world. The rise in virtual and contingent employees has redefined how roles, relationships, and resources are aligned now that they’re no longer dictated by geography, but by skills and organizational goals.

These trends are all contributing to the need for an inclusive, integrated culture, enabled by intelligent technology. And fostering this type of digital mindset starts with an organization’s leaders.

What is a “digital mindset,” and what does that mean for the workplace?

In its simplest form, a digital mindset means:

  • Embracing enterprise transformation as a business imperative, not just endorsing it as an IT project
  • Forging the gap between next-gen technologies and employee adoption so technology becomes fundamentally integrated into the employee and customer experience
  • Willingness to try new things with relentless curiosity

The third blog in our series, “Curiosity And Change: A Never-Ending Conundrum,” explored how organizations create real-time digital workplaces while ensuring user adoption and managing change. Now, we’ll discuss leadership’s role in creating the digital workforce – and how digital leadership nurtures a digital mindset among all employees and increases engagement.

I connected with Claude Silver, chief heart officer of VaynerMedia, and she shared how her team is executing this concept with a people-first strategy. From Claude’s perspective, a digital mindset is an empathetic one. It starts with “internal honey,” as she calls it – with each employee feeling empowered to be their own leader in an inclusive organizational culture that embraces technology and the human element. Claude said, “If we get this right, we’ll be able to deliver that experience to our customers and ultimately to the end-consumer.” This approach creates an end-to-end digital experience from employee to end-consumer that is centered on empathy, attention, and culture (and don’t you just love how even her title reflects this mentality?).

What makes a leader a digital leader?

Digital leaders drive better outcomes. Oxford Economics calls them “digital winners,” reporting that they achieve greater revenue, higher profit, and have a more sustainable talent pipeline. They have the power to guide organizations in the shift from just doing a few digital things to operating as a digital enterprise.

As an individual leader, you can use new technology with your team to get work done. Exhibit empathy to connect with your team to drive outcomes. And try new things, even if they are out of your comfort zone!  For example, Claude’s team embraces a “feedback as an act of kindness” philosophy – supplying employees with feedback in real-time using tangible examples so they have the opportunity for development in the moment.

Companies can be digital leaders too. In 2018, we surveyed 100 leaders from leading companies around the world and found that they:

  1. Focus on true transformation: Embracing a cross-functional versus incremental approach enables consistent change, viewing transformation as an opportunity to reinvent business models, processes, and how employees work across teams.
  1. Transform customer-facing functions first: Understanding a reinvigorated customer experience drives success in the digital economy so they proactively align customer-facing initiatives with internal processes across the organization – and extend them to their ecosystem.
  1. Are talent-driven: Recruiting top talent and continuous/targeted development opportunities are a priority.

Employees seek purpose at work, so creating meaningful work tied to the organization’s mission is key. Intelligent technologies support a digital infrastructure, but it’s an organization’s employees who empower the application of digital to see viable business growth. People are a company’s most valuable asset. And as we work to redefine the customer experience, we must also redefine the employee experience – engaging them as they’re engaged as consumers.

Watch for our fifth and final blog about managing talent in the digital workforce.

For more insight on digital leadership, see How To Succeed In Today’s Digital Economy.


Gina Nodar

About Gina Nodar

Gina Nodar is an Integrated Communication and Enablement Specialist at SAP, where she gets to tackle topics like digital transformation, cross-industry trends, digital workforce, social selling, and other strategic priorities to enable SAP’s sales teams and accelerate the ultimate success of their customers. Gina is also part of the Digital Workforce Taskforce, a team of SAP leaders whose mission is to help companies succeed by understanding and addressing workforce implications of digital technology.