To embrace hybrid work, protect employees from digital overload

Talent leaders must help design a digital work environment that relieves cognitive strain instead of compounding it.

Logging into my workstation feels like doing several backflips off a diving board into the deep end of a pool. While also being hit by water guns from spectators (my coworkers). 

Document updates, project tasks, Slack messages — there’s information from all quarters that needs to be read, assessed, organized and ultimately responded to or completed. Couple this with the number of Zoom calls that could have been an email, it’s clear how people are being driven to exhaustion. This has become the reality of today’s workplace across the globe as we figure out what hybrid work looks like.

A flexible work model has become critical in retaining and attracting talent. Companies have spent the past two years upgrading infrastructure and bringing in new applications to facilitate hybrid work, which now looks to be our future. 

But in today’s market, transformation cannot just be about technology — it must be about people. And enterprises have learned the hard way that technology can create havoc if it’s not driven by a people-centric strategy.

Hybrid or hydra: The knowledge management problem

In Coveo’s Workplace Relevance report, 60 percent of employees said they were using four or more systems to get their work done every day and 15 percent were using seven or more. And an estimated 40 percent of the information employees receive at work is irrelevant to their role. 

Most alarming is the impact this is having on employees’ well-being. Thirty-one percent of employees reported feeling burned out because of difficulties finding what they need to get their job done — and 16 percent said they were ready to quit.

Embracing hybrid work will require enterprises to streamline the flow of information for their employees and filter out what’s not relevant — not just for employee proficiency, but also to keep people well.

And that comes down to an often-overlooked element of the employee experience: knowledge management. As the workplace becomes more distributed, employees are relying more on self-service knowledge to resolve issues and perform better. That’s why HR and IT teams must collaborate to create the type of digital employee experience that can compete in today’s talent market.

There are several effective knowledge management strategies leaders can adopt to protect their employees from digital overload and create more engaged hybrid workplaces.

Combat “SaaS sprawl” with a single source of truth 

The average enterprise with more than 2,000 employees now uses more than 175 SaaS platforms to power its digital workplace. “SaaS sprawl” has created knowledge silos, leaving employees jumping from platform to platform to find what they need.

It also leaves employees unsure where they need to go to locate files and documents. Employees waste hours every day searching — and when they feel their time isn’t valued, naturally they become frustrated and resentful.

Centralizing company knowledge within an intranet or self-service portal makes things simple for employees and reduces time spent searching for information. Of course, most companies have an intranet — but employees don’t trust them. Intranets don’t offer a unified view of what a specific employee needs and what they do offer is often irrelevant or stale.

Enterprise search has become essential in centralizing company knowledge. It has the power to create more comprehensive intranets and unified self-service portals, even for the most complex organizations. It also allows companies to deploy a familiar search interface at multiple employee touchpoints to make knowledge even more accessible. By breaking down silos and unlocking knowledge across the hybrid workplace, finding information becomes less stressful.

Personalize employee knowledge discovery with AI

Employees use Amazon, Google, Netflix and Spotify in their personal lives. Because expectations carry over, the digital workplace is becoming more consumerized as enterprises try to match those experiences. One way to do this is to personalize the digital workplace for each individual using AI.

Employee experience innovators use AI to give each employee their own self-service experience, based on who they are and what they do. This not only filters out noise and boosts proficiency, but also helps cultivate feelings of familiarity and belonging.

AI-powered knowledge management systems can learn what each employee needs now — and next — to help them feel more effective in their job. By understanding their role, location and department, and learning from their interactions across the digital workplace, an AI-powered search interface knows which files and documents are likely to matter most to that employee at that moment.

This personalized experience can be delivered on knowledge bases, company intranets, self-service portals and even within other workplace applications. Serving relevant information at key moments in each employee’s journey increases proficiency and employee engagement — and it’s only possible at scale with AI.

Leverage data to improve the employee experience

In today’s hybrid workplace, it’s difficult to understand where employee experience initiatives are working. But employees use search functions every day: digging up files, reviewing past conversations or getting the latest project updates. These searches generate a huge insight into what they need at each point in their journey — and tell companies how to improve both digital and in-person experiences.

Search analytics can validate the effectiveness of remote and hybrid onboarding and training programs to drive continuous improvement. They point to content gaps in the programs that are confusing employees or leaving them with unanswered questions. Analytics can also reveal holes in knowledge bases that might be unnecessarily straining an HR or IT helpdesk with repeat questions.

Without search analytics to drive this perceptiveness in a remote or hybrid workplace, employees are tearing their hair out looking for the same information day after day — with those capable of solving the problem none the wiser.

The hybrid workplace doesn’t have to be overwhelming

Digital overload is the result of an increasingly complex and disjointed digital workplace. But introducing more platforms shouldn’t make information harder to find—nor should it make work more stressful.

“Eliminating the unnecessary” is one of the keys to combating burnout. That’s what a people-centric knowledge management strategy strives to do. When the information you serve employees is relevant, they waste less time searching and can even skip more Zoom calls.

That’s why AI-powered knowledge management is already the backbone of many of the world’s most innovative hybrid workplaces. It makes even the most complex organization easier to navigate and creates a more relevant and rewarding experience.