Digital Workplace: The what, the why and the how
A digital workplace, as a concept, can be defined as the virtual representation of physical office space. Encompassing all the technologies made use of by employees as well as integrating all the business applications, processes, and information into one platform, a digital workplace is the central hub of operations. It is a major enabler of employee satisfaction and involvement by facilitating seamless collaboration and interaction among employees.
One popular description of a digital workplace that is rather insightful is, “a digital workplace consists of a holistic set of platforms, tools, and environments for work delivered in a usable, coherent, and productive way.”
A Gartner study in the Harvard Business Review stated that 87% of senior managers find achieving effective digital workplaces to now be a priority, with the majority saying it is a do-or-die imperative.
The Digital Workplace Framework
Designing an appropriate digital workplace is tricky and it’s best to stick to a framework that pinpoints what needs to be included. While there are no hard and fast rules that such features need to be available, it is always a good idea to keep some things in mind.
- Facilitate connection, collaboration, and communication
The primary aim of creating and maintaining a digital workplace is to ensure that all employees communicate and collaborate effectively. A responsive environment is a key to improved productivity. The culture of an organization sets the tone for how the employees should take things forward. It is important to achieve a balance between your organization’s culture and your employees’ preferences.
- Make good use of technology
The name says it all. A digital workspace is expected to be well-equipped with the latest technologies needed to further your business value. Integrating new digital advancements with your existing infrastructure keeps your employees up-to-date with the latest market trends as well as allows them to do their work quicker and better. Easy automation of processes and workflows is possible with a digital workspace.
- Enable governance and compliance
In the case of frontline workers and remote employees, personal devices come into the picture when making use of a digital workplace. Giving access to personal devices for the employees to work without any hassle supports collaboration until compliance measures are not met. Governance, security, and compliance are three crucial features that need to be taken care of to mitigate risk.
- Measure business value through accurate business drivers
Digital workplaces are designed to improve employee engagement and add value to your business. When carried out effectively, digital workplaces have the potential to develop communities of interest, facilitate knowledge sharing, and significantly increase productivity. Such measurable business values need to be analyzed to help in decision making.
Why do organizations care about improving their digital workplace?
Employee engagement contributes directly to the revenue generated by a company. This is one golden rule that everyone agrees upon. With each passing decade since the 2000s, there has been an increasing focus on improving employee satisfaction to engagement and finally, experience.
Employee experience is a term that touches upon the relationship of an employee in combination with the cultural, technological, physical, and environmental aspects of their organization.
Gartner’s report correctly categorizes employee experience as one of the eight building blocks of the digital workplace.
To take the dimension of employee experience to the next level, the first step an organization can take is to revamp their digital workplaces. Tailoring the digital workplace to the needs of your employees helps increase, enhance, and create enjoyment around the employee experience.
A state-of-the-art digital workplace leads to a happy employee, which in turn leads to:
- Enhanced productivity due to the employees developing a sense of ownership and being aligned with the goals and objectives of your organization
- Lesser churn rate and higher employee retention as the employees are effectively engaged and wouldn’t want to leave the company
- Significant improvements in the performance of your organization and higher ROI
Challenges faced in improving employee experience
Recognizing that employee engagement is an important aspect of your organization and cannot be ignored is only the first step. Taking ownership of the creation of a digital workplace initiative is no mean feat for a number of reasons. Being stifled by pushback from the company, limitations on the technology available, and less than enthusiastic employees are just the tip of the iceberg.
Employees being resistant to change can lead to low adoption rates of the new technologies
Lack of internal collaboration among the teams will lead to miscommunications unless all the teams are on the same page
Outdated technology in the digital workplace does more harm than good. Investing in the right fit for your organization is of utmost importance
How to leverage the digital workplace to improve employee experience?
Catering to flexible work styles of employees and designing a seamless, intuitive, and collaborative digital workplace is the first step towards improving employee experience. Leveraging technology leads to developing a culture of digital dexterity where both technology and the business process are aligned around conscious strategy.
- Understand what employees expect from a digital workplace
Making the shift towards a digital transformation is imperative but the onus falls on your organization to find out what your employees are expecting out of this shift. Gauging employee expectations, creating different employee personas, and making sure that they are aligned with the changes you are undertaking is a necessary step to take.
- Take ownership to lead digital initiatives
Simply setting up a digital workspace and leaving it to the employees to take it forward will not help. An experienced taskforce dedicated to fostering a positive work environment needs to be appointed.
- Unify employee experience across the organization
Integrating all the business platforms and apps so that an entire process can be completed with a single click will help employees be less wary of technology. For instance, employee onboarding has several steps of inputting the same data at multiple points of contact, which is invariably a pain. Unifying all such tasks into one application allows the new employee to be onboarded with a single button click.
- Personalize with the help of employee information
Blindly curating a solution for all employees alike to enhance their engagement is not helpful. Paying attention to each employee’s ideas and concerns and then creating unique solutions to address such issues will be incredibly useful in the long run.
- Integrate with the latest technologies like IoT, AI, and Blockchain
Automating mundane and repetitive tasks with the help of AI-powered tools, harnessing IoT capabilities to ease the stress of a digital work environment, and using Big Data analytics to monitor and assess employee activities are all the rage in the market.
The advantages of a digital workplace
In today’s age of digital Darwinism, the need to consciously engage a multi-generational workforce has become paramount. Millennials at the workplace cannot be expected to sit at a desk all day and instead look for exciting opportunities as the next best thing. Employees working remotely and frontline employees often do not have access to a desktop/laptop and are left out of the loop.
Employee happiness is brought about through a humanized digital workspace that can sustain organizational performance.
To form a cohesive and intuitive workplace for all the different kinds of employees, a digital workplace is an answer.
- Enhanced and seamless collaboration
A collaborative workspace is possible when employees have all the tools needed to connect and communicate, at their disposal. Doing away with organizational silos, withholding of information, and hierarchical constraints pave the road for superior operational efficiency. A digital workplace fosters trust and interaction among employees and leads to innovation and problem-solving in real-time.
- Transparency unifying the workforce
Clear cut roles and responsibilities enable the workforce to be on the same page. This in turn leads to lesser delays and misunderstandings, thereby, enhancing productivity. It also helps in making sure all the employees are engaging with each other and sharing their ideas, opinions, and issues.
- Remote working is encouraged
Due to the availability and accessibility of data and resources across any device and location, employees can explore the opportunity of working remotely. Virtual work environments are the future and allow for better employee experience. This directly leads to reduced operating costs, higher flexibility, stronger talent, and greater personalization.
- Knowledge sharing at a centralized workspace
The collective culture of employees experienced at a digital workplace promotes extensive knowledge sharing. It also reinforces the fact that all ideas and opinions of the employees are important. The purpose of any organization will be seen as compelling enough when there is a common platform to propagate the values and work culture of that organization.
Monitoring employee performance in a digital workplace: A use case
The HR team stands to benefit the most from incorporating a digital culture. The majority of their time is taken up with paperwork and manual-intensive processes, which can be avoided once automated. An efficient HR communication with real-time feedback is required to further the cause of employee engagement.
Make use of employee monitoring software that is pre-installed on their systems to track daily activity
An Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) helps HR managers to efficiently take care of documentation and compliance requirements on the fly
Enterprise wayfinding software works like magic to blend the digital and physical experience of an employee and enable the HR teams to provide real-time feedback
Organizational silos can be eliminated by sharing the individual or team results with the management and/or as public achievement
Organizations that invest in emphatic collaboration and feedback brought about by digital means tend to be much more customer-centric and agile, when compared to their competitors. Leveraging a digital workplace to improve employee experience is one step of the journey and the company, as a whole, needs to portray an aura of technological readiness for this maneuver to be a success.