7th Jun 2024
3 Min Read

Skeuomorphs and employee experience

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
IC & Engagement

Are skeuomorphs keeping you stuck in the past? Our lead digital consultant Tony Stewart explores how a need for nostalgia could be affecting your digital employee experience.

In the digital world, the recycle bin on your desktop is an example of a skeuomorph. Your files aren’t really going into a bin but using the image helps us recognise that this is a place to store items before they’re deleted.

A skeuomorph is an object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artefact. In other words, it helps us understand new things by referencing what we already know.

Get with the times

But what happens when the skeuomorph becomes unrecognisable? The ‘Save’ icon is still a floppy disk but there will be people in your organisation who’ve never seen a floppy disk in their lives. Now there’s a disconnect.

This skeuomorphic way of thinking can often keep us in the past and at worst, stop innovation. I mean, imagine if Netflix had you wait two minutes to rewind a movie to replicate the VHS tape experience. Pointless, right? But we’re doing just that in our businesses when it comes to collaboration and employee experiences.

Misplaced magazines and cloudless computers

I see clients sharing their digital magazines using page-turners and PDFs, expecting employees to read them on a device far smaller than a printed magazine – yet employees still have to digitally turn the page on content that could be easily accessible on one link.

Getting stuck in this mentality of recreating the past reduces their employee experience. Now, I love printed magazines and think they can really support the wider employee experience in a business but replicating this channel so literally in digital isn’t doing us any favours. If you want your employees to have a good magazine experience, print a magazine.

Some businesses are spending a lot of money on Office 365 licenses, only to see their employees save their documents in the equivalent of old filing cabinets, the server or, even worse, locally on their desktop. Documents saved on a server can be very tricky to access via mobile – and we all know the importance of mobile in the employee experience. On top of that, files on a server can’t as easily be linked to from other platforms, so they’re probably less accessible and less collaborative.

And don’t get me started on the benefits of simplified version control!

By using documents stored in the cloud, we have control over which version is which, can roll back to old versions and don’t have to worry about a document locked on someone else’s desktop when we need it.

So get those files out of folders and use the cloud.

Skewer the skeuomorphs

Another example is an employee newsletter sent out as an email but still reads like an old-fashioned newspaper. It has reams and reams of text which is already out of date when it’s sent. There’s huge value in an email newsletter, but consider the way it’s presented – the way it integrates with our other digital chat touchpoints and even physical channels.

Your employee newsletter can be a fantastic gateway to other digital touchpoints in your IC suite. Just make sure it’s not a static piece of content – the digital equivalent of a note pinned in the staff boardroom.

Ask yourself, are we doing this out of habit? And when it comes to digital platforms, did we just copy/paste a physical thing into the digital world? If so, you could be making things unnecessarily tricky for your people – maybe scuppering innovation – and probably not using that platform to its full potential.

Experience better engagement

If you’d like to explore your employee engagement experiences, see where innovation can drive new behaviours in your platforms, find new understandings of strategy and create a better all-round employee experience, get in touch.

Want more info and resources on employee engagement? Click here.

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