MIT SMR Connections
MIT SMR Connections is the custom content creation unit within MIT Sloan Management Review.
Digital experiences are now the cornerstone of our lives as family members, friends, citizens, consumers, patients, and, increasingly, as employees. We expect high-grade digital experiences with virtually every interaction, but the technology tools and experiences provided at work often lag behind those in our personal lives. Meanwhile, digital transformation is redefining how people interact with each other, ultimately changing business processes and the nature of work itself. For that reason, senior leaders serious about transformation must not only equip employees with the right technology tools but provide them with convenient, seamless, relevant, and personalized experiences through every stage of their work lives. In this Executive Conversation, we describe why and how genuine transformation must begin with a focus on the employee.
Transforming the Employee Journey — and the IT Services Experience
To support the employee experience, we have to take into account their end-to-end user journeys. For example, we can’t just zero in on an interaction with the service desk; instead, we need to consider the overall experience leading up to and following that interaction. At Pfizer, this comprehensive approach is imperative because we believe that if we can transform the experiences of our employees — whom we call “colleagues” — so that they consume digital services in ways that are convenient, frictionless, relevant, and personalized, they can be their most productive selves at work. And in turn, by unleashing our colleagues’ full potential, we can advance Pfizer’s purpose: producing “breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.”
Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already well on its way, specifically involving the next generation of employees coming into the workforce. They grew up with cellphones from about the time they were in sixth grade. Everything they do is modeled around solving problems quickly. At DXC Technology, as we look at the research across the more than 6.3 million devices that we manage, we clearly see that the No. 1 reason employees interact with IT is to get outfitted with technology when they come onboard. Obviously, companies everywhere are now doing a lot of hiring due to the Great Resignation, and that’s the first interaction those employees have.
DXC’s experience also shows that employees typically call the IT help desk for help resetting their passwords; they don’t have an automated way to do that. Another common problem: Their work-related technology hasn’t been updated seamlessly, as it would be on their own cellphones, for example. Having to call for help is not a high-grade experience. In fact, if it happens enough, it can make employees want to work for a different company. That’s a big problem.
Additionally, traditional IT metrics don’t work for digital experiences. IT processes have generally been measured not on the employee experience as a whole but instead on a narrow perspective — “Did I fix your problem?” — and on operational metrics such as “How fast did you answer the call?” or “What’s your average handle time?” Today, none of that has anything to do with true employee sentiment — that is, how did the employee feel when going through the help desk process? That’s where we have to do better.
Developing Business Strategies for a Digital World
At Pfizer, Lidia Fonseca, who is our executive vice president and chief digital and technology officer, often talks about how we must create business strategies for a digital world rather than creating a digital strategy for the business. It’s a complete paradigm shift from the way things used to work, when the business side of a company would lay out its strategies and only then loop in the IT team to talk about technologies for executing those strategies.
In an increasingly digital-first world, that model is a relic of the past — and nowhere more so than in health care, where the entire patient journey is being transformed by digital. Today, we can attend telehealth appointments with our doctors, monitor our health via devices, and access our medical records online. And that spirit of transformation goes beyond digital technologies into areas such as gene therapies, digital therapeutics, and quantum computing. At Pfizer, we are hoping that this collective innovation will help us do what we do best: bring more breakthrough medicines to more patients, faster than ever before.
Of course, digital professionals today still need to help execute on business objectives, but they also need to bring forward new technology and ecosystem partnerships with the potential to completely redefine business strategy. In that way, digital is empowering organizations like Pfizer to reimagine how they work internally as well as how they interact with their customers externally. That, in turn, is generating not just new business strategies but new outcomes and possibilities as well.
Recasting the IT Support Model
DXC is seeing a lot of change as well. Our mission is to be an IT services company that uses the power of technology to build better futures for our customers, colleagues, environment, and communities, and we are well prepared to support that change. In our Modern Workplace Services practice, we’ve redefined the business into four things we want to be able to do very well for our customers and our colleagues. One is modern device management, where we solve issues for companies such as updating employees’ devices, ensuring that employees are safe and secure wherever they work, and making sure they have everything they need to do their jobs on whatever systems they’re using. Second, we transitioned away from traditional “help desk support” to “digital support services,” where AI, automation, analytics, and self-service options reduce manual processes and deliver personalized consumer-like experiences.
As an example, we provide onsite smart lockers. People can plug in anytime and have the help desk digitally look at their computers. If something’s wrong with a machine, an employee can return it and pull out a new one from the locker. Employees can be up and running in 15 minutes, similar to the kind of experience they might have when buying a new smartphone.
The third area is about intelligent collaboration. As people went virtual during the pandemic, they needed better tools to support new working environments. They couldn’t just walk down the hallway to get information from a coworker or meet around the watercooler anymore. Everything relied on the collaboration tool. Like many of our customers, we at DXC have invested significantly in tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and we’re integrating data and business intelligence into those environments. It’s a different way of sharing data.
The fourth and last piece is about asset management — being able to track and know where all company assets and software are around the world, determining whether they’re up to date and working the way they should, and ensuring that the business is getting the most out of the digital assets for its employee base.
As DXC has made these changes, we’ve increased our focus on all things related to employee experience. We work with [experience management company] Qualtrics to look not only at what’s happening inside the process — that’s all the operational data — but also what’s happening to employee sentiment across all of their IT experiences. How do they really feel? Are they getting what they need?
DXC is moving away from an operational SLA [service-level agreement]-type environment to one that has XLAs [experience-level agreements] that look at the expression of employees and how they feel when they interact with technology. Service levels based on experience are an emerging area for us, and for the industry.
Employee sentiment can be both passive and active. The active side relates to surveys. After every interaction, employees receive surveys, with a choice of emojis and words to describe the feelings the interactions generated. On the passive side, we discover employee sentiment by watching what people type into IT support chat windows. We can scrape what employees type in 109 different languages. We can address questions such as, “Hey, do we have a problem where our automated chat responses do not resonate with a French-speaking population or a Portuguese-speaking population?” Maybe the answers we are presenting in the digital assistant aren’t resonating really well for a particular group, based on how they respond. And we can watch their responses in their natural languages and ask, “Is there a sentiment problem here?”
So sentiment is becoming the new currency for DXC as we serve our customers and our colleagues. We’re moving away from very operational-type metrics to “Did I make the employee happy?” and “Do they feel good with how they’re interacting?”
Meanwhile, at Pfizer, we’ve learned that you have to look at employee sentiment for the transaction as a whole, not just one component. Say you’re on a video call, for example, and a bot on the system asks during the meeting whether you’re satisfied. If everything’s working normally, most people would say yes, they’re satisfied. But the real employee experience involves the entire meeting, not just one piece of the enabling technology. So if someone had home network issues, or their laptop crashed suddenly, and if someone else had bad audio, they might all score the Zoom meeting itself as satisfactory — but, overall, they didn’t have a positive work experience. And ultimately, what we care about is: How did all of these components come together?
That’s why Pfizer has aligned its colleague services with its business relationship management — because we want to get a 360-degree view of employees’ experiences with digital. It’s not enough to just measure their experience with the help desk. It’s not enough to just measure their experience with an application. What we want to know is “How’s our community treating you?” and “What’s your experience overall?” The digital umbrella covers everything and therefore gives us that complete picture we need to understand the quality of the employee experience.
The bottom line here is: When everybody’s optimizing their own individual pieces, you may not be optimizing the whole. People may be putting resources where they’re not critically needed when those same resources could have a bigger impact elsewhere. That’s the biggest change. There’s a broadening of thinking, bringing a horizontal perspective, with this digital age. The technologies are no longer the rate-limiting step. Now it’s a matter of how you make all those things work together seamlessly. Imagine the power of creating that interconnected experience for many thousands of people, on a global scale.
Ensuring That Experience Begins With the Employees
Pfizer had begun focusing on the holistic employee experience before the pandemic. This was always in the works and of high importance to us. But now, with a lot of the advancements in technology — things like AI, chatbots, automation — you can do a lot more behind the scenes. And as a company, we emphasize customer experience as a discipline; that’s a known investment of ours. So now we’re starting with the experiences of the customer, the patient, and the employee and working our way back.
That orientation forces you to think about things horizontally as opposed to working through the individual teams. Take onboarding as an example. If you’re a new employee, that’s your first interaction with the company. It’s not just a question of “Do I like my new laptop?” Instead, it’s the whole experience: “Was my training delivered on time?” “When I went onto the training system, could I access it easily?” “Could I set up my computer easily?” All those things feed into the onboarding experience. That’s what we’re trying to design for — again, that convenient, frictionless, relevant, and personalized experience.
Customer service views are changing as well, as people have acclimated to getting what they want, when they want it, across their devices. When they come to work, they want that same look and feel, the same ease of getting an answer. The result is that when employees don’t have consumer-grade experiences at work, it leaves a bad taste.
A DXC client — one of the largest companies and top employers in the world — was looking at its onboarding process. The company required new employees to fill out 12 different documents on their first day at work. There was information that was the same on all 12 documents. Yet the new hire had to sit there and fill all that out manually. Given that today we’re in the world of apps, we asked why we couldn’t just snap a picture of someone’s driver’s license, pull the information off that, have them look at a digital form and ask, “Is that correct?” Then it would populate everything inside of the HR platform, and the new hire never would have to worry about it. That’s a much better experience and in line with what employees expect.
Now new hires can more quickly get to what they were hired for, which is to use their minds to analyze problems. The organization’s job is to make sure they have everything they need to make the best decision on what’s in front of them.
Adopting New Norms for Collaboration
As people have started coming back to the office — or returning in a hybrid model — we’re all finding that many things have changed. We need to revisit our cultural norms to operate effectively in hybrid work environments.
And it’s not just the policies, procedures, and tech tools. For instance, sometimes when people are traveling, they call into meetings in conference rooms that were designed for in-person gatherings; they weren’t optimized for remote work. But the impact of COVID has changed that. It’s made meetings much more productive because it’s leveled the playing field. Everybody is connecting in the same way. Everybody is calling in from home.
Later this year, Pfizer will be moving into new headquarters located in Hudson Yards, Manhattan. We’ll be in a brand-new building that’s designed and optimized for sound, audiovisual quality, and flexible workspaces — what everyone has wanted for so long. We are also transforming facilities in Tampa, Florida, and in Greece and Costa Rica, among other locations. Now the physical and digital sides have to work together. From now on, some percentage of employees will always be calling into meetings. It’s important to make sure that participating remotely is an equitable experience on par with being there in person.
Success in that area depends a lot on trust and knowing the people that you work with. Working together in person will always play a role because relationships are incredibly important. There’s a certain level of comfort that comes after you meet somebody in person. Maybe you go to dinner, or you have an informal chat, and you get to know about their families or something else that will allow you to work together even more productively in the future. That’s what you’re trying to replicate in this new environment involving people who are working together in person, remotely, or a combination of the two.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer leaders began setting up calls that were nothing more than virtual coffee chats to give people a chance to share what was on their mind — with no agendas and no slides. These events provided an opportunity for people to interact informally and recreate the watercooler-style conversation or the unscheduled office pop-in. And to keep things equitable, we started using a custom-built tool that allowed us to randomly select from a pool of colleagues. So there was no selection bias and no departmental, hierarchical, or geographic constraints. That kind of approach needs to continue now, even as people start spending more time in the office, because it helps maintain that level playing field. And all the technology has to work seamlessly, whether you walk in or call in.
Meanwhile, DXC sees the potential of the metaverse as a critical component for companies to ensure collaborative equity in today’s remote and hybrid workplaces. Leveraging the metaverse for communication and collaboration across the enterprise enables everyone’s voices to be heard regardless of their location and personal circumstance.
As an early pioneer in the metaverse, DXC finds it invaluable for our large employee base to have opportunities to engage with each other in all types of activities. We’re running private meetings and big events — for example, we hosted more than 1,300 attendees in a virtual sales conference — and we’re offering training for all employees in a pilot program. We’ve even held parties, such as our New Year’s celebration, complete with dancing and speedboat rides.
Establishing New Pathways to Engagement and Empowerment
It’s also important to meet employees where they are at the moment while recognizing that location can change quickly. On Monday morning, people might be sitting at their desks, but on Thursday afternoon, they might be at their kids’ soccer games. The channels of interaction shift constantly, and companies need to support all of them. That presents an opportunity to be really creative about things from a technology perspective, but it’s also a challenge.
Pfizer has implemented a program called “Log In for Your Day.” For office workers, the general expectation is that you work remotely for two to three days a week and come into the office the rest of the time.
That’s pushing a level of empowerment down into the organization. We hope that it’s allowing people to maintain some of the benefits of work-life balance that the work-from-home environment fostered. It gives them flexibility about where they do the work and how they do it, depending on business needs. We believe that empowering our colleagues with greater flexibility will also maximize their productivity. In turn, we can attract diverse, top-notch talent, and support more agile ways of working that enable employees to do what we are all here to do, which is to get breakthrough medicines to patients. And we want to remove obstacles to those goals.
Personalization plays a key role. That can be as simple as learning how people prefer to be contacted. Pfizer is beginning to survey various colleagues about their preferences. We’re trying to capture, measure, and quantify their experiences. Then we can use that information to tailor those experiences, to meet them where they are. We are starting to look at personas for our colleagues and serving each persona type differently.
Meanwhile, DXC is seeing persona creation happening in many different companies. We start by learning what each persona wants. We gather information from chats and understand the themes based on individuals’ roles.
It’s essential to keep evolving to keep up with what people want. Most companies now have about four to five employee personas. DXC is starting to define, for each of those personas, what they need to succeed. For example, you might have the road warrior, the office worker, the factory worker, and the executive. They each have different experiences, need different tools, and prefer different things.
DXC has taken the entire company of 130,000 people to a virtual-first model. We’ve gotten rid of all of our domestic offices, and everyone works from home, except for those assigned to data centers, call centers, or customer locations. We started asking people what they wanted while working from home, and then we provided those things — everything from computers and desk chairs to headsets.
Over time, we’ve redefined what people need and want in their day-to-day jobs. That’s not just a “one and done,” it’s a continuous evolution. You’ve got to constantly be getting feedback and changing as people’s needs and expectations change over time. We use the experience gained from our own transformation to better help DXC customers realize an improved digital experience for their employees.
Ultimately, our advice to senior leaders is to listen. Just listen to what your employees are saying and don’t dismiss it. The new generation of workers coming in is pushing us to think differently because they solve problems differently. It’s important to be open and experimental.
At Pfizer, it helps that our focus on colleague experience directly aligns to the purpose of the corporation — again, to deliver breakthroughs that change patients’ lives. Our CEO, Albert Bourla, has outlined five “bold moves” that support that purpose. One is to specifically unleash the power of our people. We’re asking how we can create room for meaningful work and make Pfizer an amazing workplace for all.
Another “bold move” is to win the digital race in the pharmaceutical industry. Under that umbrella is the task of making our work faster and easier. So we set out, for example, to automate 75% of the company’s transactions. Our thinking is that if we can free up our colleagues’ time so that they’re working on the most important things, we’re enabling them to help discover and deliver medicines to patients faster than ever before. Pfizer had a number of those efforts underway prior to COVID.
Our work on employee experience also ties into our four company values, which are: courage, excellence, equity, and joy. Equity is very important in this space because it’s really saying that every person deserves to be seen, heard, and cared for. We strive to create inclusive work environments. For example, we are shining a light on the various digital assistive technologies available to our colleagues worldwide to help those with disabilities bring their best selves to work. This ensures that everybody has access to the same opportunities.
In terms of Pfizer’s value of joy: We all spend a lot of time at work. We want to make sure that people enjoy what they do, the environment they work in, and the people they work with. It’s pretty hard to do that if you’re providing people with a poor work experience. That’s why we try to create the strongest digital experiences for our people, to help them do their best work every day.