Digital workplace strategies have helped leading organizations create highly engaging and competitive cultures.
Take Google, for example, which is voted by employees as one of the best places to work for in the US year after year. The web giant puts employees at the center of its decisions, including technology ones, and uses new technology like machine learning and augmented reality to empower its employees and its business.
The Google-esque culture is now becoming more common and people expect employers to give them the culture and tools they need to innovate.
For companies that are yet to follow suit, transitioning to the digital workplace is now a question of life or a slow and painful death.
Here are a few reasons why:
There's no sure-fire method or one-size-fits-all strategy to the digital workplace. The steps vary enormously from one business to the next depending on "readiness" to change, current digital competency, and more.
Many companies don't get that, to successfully transition, various departments need to start collaborating. All too often IT teams work in silo from the rest of the company to roll out technology to various departments. All too often this ends in a messy, difficult to manage IT infrastructure.
There's a shedload of information on the digital workplace out there and filtering out the good stuff is like finding a needle in a haystack. Who's got time for that?
For these reasons and more, attempts to get to the digital workplace are often unsuccessful, or simply don't happen.
Table of Contents
1. Define the "Why" — Your Digital Workplace Mandate
Do you want to transition to the digital workplace because you want to solve issues like high employee turnover or stagnant productivity?
Whatever the reason, C-level execs aren't likely to buy in to something simply because "everyone's doing it". Your digital workplace is a big undertaking and needs a raison d'être that will significantly benefit your company.
So, before you embark on your digital workplace mission, it's crucial to clearly define why you want to transform your workplace, your vision, and broad objectives — your digital workplace value prop, if you will.
Your vision and objectives will guide the initiatives you create and the decisions you make. They will help the team stay aligned with the big picture throughout the transformation and get your business to its end goal more quickly.
Once you've nailed the "why", lay it out in a visual format so you can easily present it to the rest of the business for buy-in and to align employees with the end goal.
2. Create Your Digital Workplace A-Team
The digital workplace improves the employee experience, makes business processes more effective, and empowers the organization with technology.
Therefore, it's important that people with expertise in the areas of people, process, and technology are involved in the program from the get-go. After all, the digital workplace is a company-wide initiative, not just an IT one.
Ideally, a digital workplace team will include (at the least):
They're the ones with the knowledge and skills to propose and deploy the right technical solutions to help the business reach its digital workplace goals.
Think program managers. Their job will be to communicate the company vision, values, and objectives to the digital workplace team. They will likely check in regularly with C-level execs to validate initiatives and make sure the program stays on the right track.
Human resources (HR).
Employees are the core of a digital workplace, and HR is crucial for better understanding employee needs and helping find solutions that increase motivation and engagement.
What's more, including stakeholders from different departments helps ensure that everyone in the organization is on board with the program and working towards the same goals. This helps get the organization to the digital workplace with fewer bumps in the road, more quickly.
3. Analysis: What's the Current State of Your Workplace?
Every company has different challenges to solve, which is why you can't apply the same solutions as your competitors and expect them to work for you. You need to figure out the processes and tech that will have a positive impact, and that starts with better understanding your unique business.
Before you get stuck into launching an ambitious digital workplace plan, analyze the current state of your business. This will help you compare the current situation with the mission's vision, spot improvement opportunities, and take the right action.
3.1 Get to Know Your Employees
Improving the employee experience is a key focus of the digital workplace. Businesses need to understand how their employees work to roll out processes and technology that employees want to use and that helps them do their jobs.
This is an area where HR will help. HR is well positioned to understand where the employee experience could be improved in line with the business's digital workplace objectives.
Action: Reach Out for Employee Feedback
Gathering employee feedback on their frustrations and motivators is a good place to start to find areas where their experience could be improved with business processes and technology.
Here are a couple of ideas for getting feedback:
confidential employee surveys
a forum for employees to share their experiences and express positive feedback and concerns
Action: Map Out Your Employee Journey
An employee journey map is a visual depiction of your employees' experience at every interaction with your company, from first contact to leaving. It's a way to identify specific areas for improvement along the employee lifecycle between the current state and your company's desired outcome.
Below are the steps HBR recommends for creating an employee journey:
Start by mapping out the stages of your company's employee journey, for example, recruitment, onboarding, learning and development, advancement, retirement.
Determine the current employee experience at each stage. For example, through surveys.
Set the benchmark for your ideal outcome for each stage. This should be based on your employees' need and business objectives.
Compare the current and ideal experience at each stage to spot any gaps.
Action: Get First-hand Insight into How Employees Work
Sitting with your company's employees while they work can give you great insight into what helps them get their work done, and what hinders them. IT leaders are well placed to do this because they have the best understanding of the current IT infrastructure.
Get employees to talk through the tools and processes they use every day and how they communicate and collaborate with their colleagues.
3.2 Figure Out Where the Business Is Headed
All too often, business leaders and employees aren't sure what the priorities of their business are, which makes it hard to know which actions can drive the business forward.
For a digital workplace program to work, the people involved in a digital workplace program need to know where the business is looking to go in the short and long term. That way, they can prioritize digital workplace initiatives based on not only employee needs but also what the business actually needs to be more successful, according to its own definition of success.
Action: Clarify the Priorities of the Business
Speak to those at the top. Business leaders should, first, communicate with C-level executives to understand the company vision and business priorities. The goal here is to help better understand how the digital workplace can help the company achieve its overall vision.
Run workshops to tease out business challenges. Get together the people you need to get a good overview of the issues faced by the whole company. Think representatives from the different business areas, such as department managers. You could then group together specific issues to identify common challenges.
3.3 Understand Your Current IT Environment
Clearly a job for the IT pro involved in the digital workplace program, getting a clear idea of what your current infrastructure looks like will help you identify opportunities to improve user experience and reduce costs.
Reacquaint yourself with your IT infrastructure
Keeping tabs on all of the various applications and systems running in your business is a tall order, especially now shadow IT is causing havoc by draining technology budgets and complicating the technical infrastructure. When companies don't provide the right tech, tech-savvy users can easily download new software applications that help them do their job.
More specifically, taking an inventory of your current infrastructure can:
help you spot any gaps when addressing unfulfilled user needs
give you a benchmark for comparison. When your digital workplace is up and running, knowing your infrastructure's original state, for example, running costs and its complexity, can help you measure the success of your digital workplace.
Give your content a spring clean
Analyze your content to find any unused or old content so you can delete or archive it before migrating to a new content management system, if necessary. This can reduce the cost and effort of any future migration, and remove some of the pain from the process.
Knowing the amount, quality, and state of current content will also help you choose a system that's better adapted to the needs of your users and business.
4. Prioritize the Needs of the Entire Business
Now that your digital workplace team has researched the current status quo, it's time to prioritize the areas you will tackle first as a group.
A good place to start is by identifying the business processes that will bring the biggest benefit to the organization. You may have different metrics for measuring this: processes that are the most outdated, the most inefficient, those that are affecting the most employees, etc.
Action: Run a Prioritization Workshop
Workshops are a good way to bring together all the findings from the analysis stage and choose which ones to tackle first. Use this opportunity to:
review the findings from your employee, business, and technical analyses
identify any common issues, decide which issues would have the biggest impact on employee experience and the business, and list them in order of priority
5. Map Out Digital Workplace Initiatives
Here's where the digital workplace team will brainstorm initiatives that will address the most urgent needs of the business. You will look at how you could use new technology and processes.
Improving employee engagement is one of the main reasons many companies implement digital workplace initiatives. Which makes perfect sense as motivated and committed employees are great for business, if not essential for success — something that has been proven over and over.
Here are a few examples of initiatives for improving employee engagement:
Goal: Give employees the flexibility to work from anywhere using any device
Initiative: Roll out cross-device technology
Consider applications that span people’s professional and personal lives when they can use the same account for work and home. Document management platforms like Dropbox, for example, offer the same interface for users working at home or in the office. And Office 365 gives people the tools they need to get work done on any device.
Goal: Enable employees to collaborate more easily
Initiative: Improve employee collaboration
Roll out a cloud-based platform like Office 365 to accommodate a more mobile, communicative, and collaborative workforce.
Hold "idea jams" or "hackathons" to get all employees involved in solving difficult problems and offering ideas for new products and services.
6. Measure and Enable Success
Businesses make hundreds, if not thousands of investments, sometimes without a clear view of what's working and what's not, and potentially rinsing precious dollars down the drain.
In Gartner's words, "effective metrics not only help to gauge the level of success, but also provide a feedback mechanism for continuous development of strategy and tactics."
Let's break that down.
First, metrics allow organizations to see the value of every single investment they make. In the digital workplace, clear metrics are defined, mapped to digital workplace goals, and frequently measured and communicated with stakeholders.
Second, metrics also enable businesses to get more bang for their buck out of their investments. With clear performance metrics, a digital workplace team knows which initiatives create the most value, those that are failing, and spot the areas where money is best spent.
You simply have to measure performance to know whether your initiatives are successful and where you can improve next time. That starts with knowing which measures to look at.
Action: Set and Analyze Crystal Clear Metrics
Every digital workplace initiative should be mapped to a specific goal. This way, you can directly measure the impact of initiatives on their goals.
Gartner suggests defining and collecting HR, IT, and business performance metrics so you can measure the impact of the digital workplace on the whole business.
Ideally, someone from HR, IT, and a business representative will take charge of setting and tracking the metrics for their business area, and regularly communicating results with the digital workplace team.
7. Evolving Your Digital Workplace Game Plan
Creating a digital workplace roadmap just one part of a bigger game plan. Business and employee needs are constantly changing, new technology is constantly being developed.
Even when you're well into implementation, it's important that the digital workplace team continues to evaluate user and business needs, as well as new technology. That way, you can continue tweaking your strategy to make sure your digital workplace is always the best it can possibly be.