MarTech Interview with Tim Stahl, Vice President- Experience at Rightpoint

Discover how optimizing digital workplace experiences fosters a more productive, empowered workforce. Learn from common challenges and strategic solutions to streamline tools, reduce costs, and boost employee morale.

Tim, could you briefly share your journey to becoming VP of Experience at Rightpoint?
In my previous career path, I was a graphic designer working in advertising, marketing and branding before coming to Rightpoint nearly 14 years ago. Intranets were merely a part of my work here, and not something I really loved at first. Over a few years and a lot of innovation within the space, I realized my passion had evolved into improving the experience of work. In Q4 2019, Jesse and I created the Employee Experience Solution at Rightpoint which is a very strategic offering including not just Digital Workplace, but EX Transformation, People Insights, Knowledge AI & Search among others to address the holistic workforce needs and help change the way employers see them – as their most vital asset and strategic differentiator. I am proud to say that we have reduced friction and improved engagement for literally millions of employees across the globe over the years. That passion has led me to grow into a role I feel I was truly meant to fill.

How can organisations transform their intranets for better employee experiences and internal communications?
First thing is to put your employees at the center. Understanding the needs and expectations of employees will not only help to address their preferences, but also serves as an initial change management benefit. Including their voice in the strategic direction strengthens adoption and engagement.

The intranet should be a primary source of truth and productivity by providing the news, tools and resources your team members need. This doesn’t mean they’ll be doing their daily work living in the intranet, it means when they need it, it should be as effective as you expect your employees to be. Integrating tools, simplifying pathways to external platforms, and utilizing it to enable collaboration or access to workflows that will make their job easier are some of the ways it can strengthen a positive employee experience.

Internal communications should be relevant, engaging and timely. This means developing a personalization strategy that ensures the right people are seeing the right information at all times. An important aspect of this is designing an experience that is intuitive, navigable and user-friendly. Avoid structuring information based on how the business is organized and take a user-centric approach to your content strategy.

Finally, it should be designed in a way that feels right for your organization. It will carry your brand visually, but also should have the right tone and voice. For example, your internal voice with your employees can be more friendly and casual even if the one you use with customers is more formal. It all depends on your culture and engagement philosophy. Visually, it should be engaging, familiar and available everywhere, on any device, at any time. Many of our modern digital workplaces are consumer-centric experiences that feel very similar to the public-facing sites of our customers. While that can lead to customizations depending on the platform, the engagement can go a long way by producing something polished that your employees will see as a seamless internal extension of your brand.

How does having the right technology and an effectively designed intranet affect employee engagement? What can other organisations learn from this?
An organization’s overall efficiency, profitability, and competitive advantage are directly tied to employee engagement and satisfaction and that impacts productivity, customer satisfaction, and a stronger bottom line. In today’s environment especially, organizations can’t take these things for granted. There’s no room in operating costs for businesses to tolerate a loss in productivity –especially due to the tools they provide. We expect our employees to be as productive as possible and need to expect the same from the experiences we create. A great modern digital workplace will improve employee engagement and contribution by harmonizing people, processes and technology. The result is an empowered workforce capable of delivering greater value to internal stakeholders, partners and customers.

Some of the common challenges organizations face with their current experiences I have seen in my career are items like too many bolt on tools. This occurs when additional platforms or systems are added to address a single or small sets of needs rather than thinking holistically about what capabilities exist within what they already have, or a platform that could address more independently. This takes burden off the employee and the IT group that supports the platforms.

By developing a strategic direction that defines the digital employee experience, you can form an alignment to the most important challenges and opportunities to solve and when. This can lead to a simplification of tools which reduce many items including workplace friction, downtime, and employee churn. This is a benefit on multiple levels, but most notably it reduces cost through support needs and software licensing, as well as improves employee morale and attrition.

What does effective internal communications look like within an organization?
There are a few vital items to consider when developing strategies to improve them.

They should have a purpose and be transparent. Developing content for the sake of communicating is merely noise to your employees. If there is a clearly defined purpose, desired outcome and reason it is seen as such to the employee. Being direct and meaningful will most-likely lead to higher engagement. Be honest with your workforce – if it’s good news or bad, keep it real and factual.

The channels and frequency should be considered – and continually evaluated. Utilize the best tool for communicating and keep it consistent, unless you’re using email. Find a channel to send your voice out, whether that’s the intranet home page, a Teams channel or some other vessel that is most appropriate and help build an expectation for your employees of where they will find the information. Evaluate over time if your methods are staying effective and shift direction as needed.

The content should be clear with a voice representative of your culture. We all know communication should be relevant, accurate, engaging and timely but it should also be concise and consistent avoiding too much jargon or ambiguity. Your employer brand should shine through in the tone you utilize as well. We can all imagine that the internal communications would most likely be very different from a company like JP Morgan versus one like Zappos. No matter what your culture is, keep it respectful and professional.

Finally, your organization should collect feedback, measure effectiveness and adapt based on the results. Much like the comment about the channel, you must understand if your messages are impactful and effective through collecting qualitative employee feedback and quantitative metrics and results throughout the process. Collecting the results is only helpful if you act upon the findings – adapt and refine your practice, process and tone as needed.

How does investing in improving intranets or the employee experience as a whole positively impact other areas of a business?
Market leaders understand that creating the best customer experience is about creating a culture where employees are the differentiator.​ Investing in your employee experience can help your company differentiate itself in the workplace and the industry.

In the workplace, you will see improved employee engagement and retention, an increase in collaboration and innovation and connectivity between employees. People that are happy at work tend to stay longer, work harder and share their joy of the company with others. The industry learns about trends from all sources, but none more powerful than that of their workforce. In the world we live in, news travels fast and far, good or bad. The only control an organization has over that message is the way they run their business and treat their employees.

There are many direct correlations to support the concept that customer experience is improved overall through engaged employees. A company that invests in a positive employee experience typically sees higher profit margins, increased earnings per share and a lower bottom line thanks to a reduction in work-related stress. This has a very positive effect to the financial strength of an organization. That money is able to be re-invested into the company, its employees or other initiatives.

Increased knowledge reaches across nearly every area of the business including groups such as research, sales, service & support, Human Resources, IT and Operations to name a few. The entirety of the workforce is empowered when a culture of learning becomes the standard mode of operations and that tide lifts all boats.

What challenges do organisations face when evolutionizing their intranet? How can they overcome these?
There are several challenges that can become roadblocks for an organization in a new intranet/digital workplace project, but I’ll speak to the three biggest I have seen. Alignment (and Budget), Preparedness and Change. You’ve probably noticed I don’t have anything about execution in this list of three – but if you pick the right partner, you won’t have to worry about that.

Alignment has many lenses but the most vital is that with your executive sponsor and key stakeholders. You will need to define your purpose – the why. Not only why you need an intranet, but also why now? Having a definition of your mission, for what business purpose and what success will look like are a good starting point. Articulating the positive shifts this undertaking will bring is fantastic way to gain alignment. What percentage shift can we make in attrition due to a lack of a modern, well-performing intranet? What operational efficiencies will the new platform bring? How much time (and money) will the organization save with an improved experience? Having these tangible results in mind from the beginning will help solidify your case for the work (and the budget) and keep you aligned to your stakeholders.

Preparing for a new intranet means getting a team together and allocating time for them, since this will most-likely be an added responsibility to their ‘normal’ responsibilities. Also, you’ll need someone to be the product manager, the person who will be ‘in charge’ of the new intranet from the day you start the project. Get to work on your content…. Like, now. That is the number one challenge we see over and over again that hinders launch. Content audits, assessments, and migrations take more focused time and effort than you think. Assigning folks to that work across the company will make your launch more seamless and timely in the future. Pick a good partner to work with you throughout the initiative and collaborate with them throughout the process to make sure you’re checking all the boxes so there’s no surprises on launch day.

Investing in Change pays real dividends, especially considering it can be one of the biggest challenges organizations face. The measure of a successful technology project is not hitting the launch date, it’s about sustainable adoption. Effective change management enables companies to realize faster adoption and greater value of projects. Failing to invest in change management results in greater chance of project failure and lower levels of realized value.​ Change can be as simple as corporate communications and end-user training to a full fledged promotional campaign, champions network, events and giveaways. This is all dependent on the organization, budget and resistance to change.

How can organisations make sure intranets and new technologies are adopted by employees and used most effectively?
Beyond some of the change actives I mentioned above, organizations need to implement analytics and insights to ensure the new platform is being utilized most effectively by the people they have created it for. This approach will connect the dots between business strategy and the technology on which the experience is built. Success factors, KPIs and measurements frameworks should be built along with the platorm so it can be up and running on launch day. From that point, your organization can continually measure and optimize the experience through performance measurement, ongoing testing, user behavior analysis, and data management. This ensures you will have sufficient data to make decisions and not emotion.

Can you share some examples of how organisations can improve employee engagement? What results have you seen?
The path to improving employee engagement is engaging and investing in the workforce. This doesn’t always equate to investing dollars, in many instances, this can be by investing time.

  • Create a positive work environment. Invest in the growth and advancement of your employees. This is through manager connects, one-on-ones, career guidance and direct feedback. Invest in a digital ecosystem that provides them with the tools and apps to do their job efficiently. The frustration and stress that manifests due to poor or too many platforms can quickly erode engagement and happiness. Ensure they feel heard and have a say in the things that affect the business, their career and the positive change they would like to see. Be transparent & clear in your communications with employees. It is human nature to assume the worst when you hear nothing. Give them responsibility and ownership of the things they can handle and manage & support them through the challenges above their ability.
  • Demonstrate purpose for the way employees contribute to the organization’s mission and goals. The more an individual understands what they do impacts the success of the company, the more pride they will show in their work and perhaps even give additional discretionary effort to the tasks they face. This purpose creates motivation, meaning an impact inside of them. Companies can also consider rewarding them when they have gone above and beyond with their contributions.
  • Encourage collaboration to get people working together. This develops trust, a sense of belonging, and mutual support – this can even expose high-performing team members or skills that may have been previously unknown or unrecognized which can propel their career path. This can be activated with digital tools, cross-functional teams and various events.
  • Investing in the well-being of an organization’s employee wellbeing is another great way to improve engagement. I recently co-authored a blog post on this, which you can find here.

Outcomes vary, but the most consistent outcomes from improved employee engagement that we’ve seen across the industry are 200% greater revenue, nearly 150% higher earnings per share and an 80% reduction in work-related stress. I wrote a blog post related to the ROI of investing in your employees with a great deal of detail, which you can find here.

How can organisations leverage AI and emerging technology to enhance both employee and customer experiences? What benefits do you see being achieved?
Utilizing AI is at the top of the list for so many organizations we speak with today. Everyone knows they need to integrate it into their process, but many do not have any plan of how or where it will be the most effective. Overall, the best way to help support that decision is to understand where it can save time, increase productivity or improve knowledge sharing and collaboration.

  • Knowledge AI can support the employee in finding relevant answers and tools in an efficient manner. This can save the average employee from spending up to 2.5 hours per day searching down to minutes. This technology can support employees in the way they serve customers in call centers and sales performance. Both would be able to provide the correct answers to their customers, quickly and accurately thereby improving their overall satisfaction.
  • AI will drive productivity and reduce stress. Continuous context switching adds a great deal of friction and stress to an employee’s day, which can lead to unhappy, disengaged workers. Many companies are embracing AI to remove rote tasks that are repetitive and monotonous so their workforce may focus on more interesting and complex work. These shifts are reducing bottom-line costs, increasing profitability, and most importantly – making their employees happier.​
  • Human Resources are augmenting their work with AI to enhance the employee experience. New and innovative tools that are enhanced by AI and Machine Learning are paving the way for HR to be more efficient while meeting employee needs. Keeping employees engaged requires care and feeding, and the right support tools, used responsibly, can provide that.
  • Learning and Development teams are utilizing AI to support their front-end workers to improve job efficiency and positivity. Augmented Reality is being used to supplement training, real-time employee sentiment analysis, onboarding, and predictive working style support.

Any final recommendation for organisations looking to drive employee engagement and improve technology-driven customer experiences?
Ultimately, the right experience will always be greater than several experiences that serve multiple needs. By putting your employees at the center and treating them just as you do your customers, you will be in-line with the paradigm shift of employees being the biggest differentiator. Understand the needs, analyze the outcomes and adapt as necessary.

Tim Stahl, VP, Experience at Rightpoint

Tim Stahl, VP, Experience at Rightpoint, is a broad-based creative thinker who connects people to experiences. With a diverse background in advertising, branding, and digital experiences, he always keeps the user at the center of the solutions in clients ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 100. Tim creates experiences that improve the overall employee experience at every touchpoint utilizing customer experience strategies to develop internal communications sites, modern workplace, and other digital tools for some of the world’s most recognized brands. LinkedIn.
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