Get on Board the Digital Train: How to Build a Successful Digital Workplace

A detailed guide to building successful digital workplace, why(whether) you need it and what the key elements are

“Forces colliding in the workplace are putting stress on the traditional ways of managing and structuring work. New and emerging technologies are transforming the type of work employees perform, as well as where and how work gets done.” Gallup News, State of the American Workplace report

I can personally attest to the truth of this observation with regard to the digital workplace. As recently as 5 years ago, I was still commuting to work and working my 9 to 5. I finally got tired of the constant hassle and long hours in traffic and decided to look for remote work. Today, I am happy to say that I actually make more money working from home, and because I have flexible hours, I have better work-life balance. I have time to spend with family and friends that I didn’t have before.

Leaders must gain scientific insight into employees’ evolving wants and needs and learn how to build an exceptional workplace

Of course, not all jobs are eligible for remote work, or even flexible hours. However, new technologies and changing employee attitudes are affecting the way people work, and by extension, their productivity, whether it is in an office cubicle, or working from a kitchen table.

This is a continuing challenge for many human resources managers. According to the Gallup News report, 51% of employees in the US are actively looking for new jobs, or one out of every two people currently employed. Since high employee turnover involves serious costs to replace and train a new employee (some put it as much as 200% of the lost employee’s salary), this is obviously something you would like to avoid if you own a business or run the HR department.

Why do people change jobs?

According to Recruiting Daily, among the top reasons people change jobs include lack of opportunity for advancement (31%), bad management (22%), and toxic work environment and culture (12%). This is in line with a 2015 survey from LinkedIn of 10,000 people that changed jobs, but put the figures at 45%, 41%, and 36%, respectively. As you can see, all three reasons directly link back to the workplace, which indicates a need to change the way we work.

When it comes to retention, managers make a difference

It is not as easy as it sounds, though. The workplace dynamics are becoming more complex, making it necessary of organizations to be more responsive and quick on their feet. Many companies are struggling because it is not just about upgrading office technology. While the digital workplace necessarily relates to changes in technology, the ultimate definition of a successful digital workplace is how it benefits the user, a.k.a. the employee, and how closely it meets their needs and expectations.

The trick to getting on board the digital workplace train is not to be reactive, but proactive. Trying to keep up with all the changes in technology as they happen is costly and inefficient. You need to identify key elements of a successful digital workplace, and take it from there.

Hiring

A digital workplace requires employees with needed skills and appropriate attitude to work in digital environment. Not everyone has the skills to use digital communication tools. In addition, some people simply do not work well with a team, and thus may not be a good fit for a collaborative effort. Still others work well with others, but do not have the skills or experience to do the work properly.

The number one reason people change jobs, is for career advancement.
The number one reason people change jobs, is for career advancement.

That said, some work environments do not require collaboration with a team, so loners may function well in such cases. In fact, most introverts function well in a digital workplace where face-to-face meetings are minimal.

The recruiter has to have a well-defined set of requirements for what constitutes a value hire in a particular digital environment, and stick to it.

Work environment and relationships

Collaboration

The digital workplace has to have a collaboration framework in place. Most people nowadays work together without face-to-face meetings, so they need to have an organized way to contact team members, share data, brainstorm, find solutions, and relay decisions. A collaboration framework is also a good way to keep track of work progress and maintain accountability.

Provide your employees with collaboration tools and insist on their consistent use by team members and management. Some organizations will need just one or two tools, while others will need much more. It will depend on the work cycle and the number of people involved.  Some tools you may want to consider include Basecamp, Slack, and Trello.

Feedback

Many companies place an emphasis on customer feedback in order to improve their offerings and increase conversions. The same principle applies to a feedback system for employees to keep them competitive in retaining their workforce. Regularly conferring with employees is essential for improving the digital workplace because it will inform management what is working for their employees, and what needs reworking or replacing.

Policies

People work better in a structured environment, even in a digital workplace. While some flexibility and openness is desirable, policies provide the structure on which employees and the business depend for long-term success. Make sure that you have well-considered and clear policies in place for everything from tardiness to online meetings, and enforce them in a consistent manner. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, and help them work together more smoothly and productively.

Agility

The digital workplace exists in a word that is in flux, so you need to put agile tools in place that will let you handle any sudden shifts in processes and goals that may occur. Agile tools that focus on boosting collaboration and productivity of employees are peculiarly suited to the digital workplace because it ensures the timely and proper execution of work.

Agile practices are also increasingly being used outside of technology functions, in areas such as marketing

Many agile tools are available specifically designed for the digital workplace, and the tools you select will depend on your needs.

Video conferences

Many people consider meetings a waste of time, but that is in the context of a traditional workplace where it requires people to take time out from core tasks to one location. In the digital workplace, video conferences are an effective way to communicate on an as-needed basis to resolve an issue or correct a misunderstanding. An effective video conference can be between two people or more people, but it will only require the presence of people that actually need to participate, so it is time well spent. At a pinch, instant messaging can take the place of a video conference so participants can get more done.

Don’t mistake interpersonal relationships for productive relationships

It is easy enough to implement an instant messaging platform with a video conferencing feature with the proliferation of such services. Most people are familiar with Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber, so using them can reduce your learning curve drastically. Small companies can also use them free of charge with some limitations.

Cloud storage

A digital workplace should make it easy for employees to access and share data, files, and documents for their project, team, or reference in one place. This is especially important when there are many projects and teams active at the same time, for example if it’s essay service with a big team of writers. Cloud storage is imperative to keep the company working smoothly and efficiently, so invest in a secure and stable cloud storage platform such as GoogleDrive or Dropbox.  Some collaboration platforms such as Basecamp and Trello also provide storage space for an additional fee.

Integration

One of the most frustrating things for users of digital tools is when they are not compatible with each other and do not have integration.  It makes the organization unwieldy, which makes it inefficient. The tools you choose should “talk” to each other, especially communication, human resources, CRM, and information systems. This will help you avoid errors and fails when transferring data from one system to the other, and minimize your costs for running applications.

Before choosing a new digital tool for your company, make sure it will integrate with your existing ones. A little research on the outset will save you a lot of grief in the future.

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial intelligence or AI is steadily moving into the digital workplace, but not in isolation. In most cases, AI or machine learning features make the digital workplace more efficient by reducing digital “noise” or data avalanche from collaboration and communication applications by filtering it and presenting only the most relevant information to the user.  This streamlines operations and other systems to boost productivity and efficiency.

Another interesting use of AI is in sales. Chatbots can provide 24/7 communication to sales prospects, providing the first point of contact, handling initial inquiries and introducing them to the product before handing the more qualified leads to human agents.

AI is clearly on the minds of many businesses

Some companies are unsure about the value of AI in the digital workplace, but they can significantly improve the culture, productivity, and user satisfaction of any digital workplace. AI and machine learning can handle repetitive and/or mindless tasks, freeing employees to do activities that are more challenging. The trick is to employ the right type of AI that can help your business.

Security

Security of data is a real concern for any business, big or small, and your employees are going to expect that you have the proper IT governance in place. Failing to provide them with a secure and safe environment for their collection, collaboration, and use of data will result in a loss of trust and confidence.

IT governance is a formal framework that provides a structure for organizations to ensure that IT investments support business objectives

Your IT governance should support connectivity, collaboration, and compliance as well as minimize the risk of a data breach. The governance model you choose will depend on company policies and industry compliance standards.

BYOD

Most people today have their preferred device for getting work done. A Bring Your Own Device or BYOD policy could potentially increase the productivity of your employees because they are comfortable using them, as opposed to requiring them to use unfamiliar technology that does the same thing anyway. It reduces the learning curve, and enables you to minimize your capital outlay for employee-assigned devices.

A bring your own device (BYOD) policy starts with HR setting the terms for new employees

Mobile phones, laptops, and other personal devices may pose some degree of risk in terms of data security, but in most cases, this is minimal compared to the payoff in smaller technology costs and increased productivity.

Before implementing a BYOD policy for your company, assess the problems it may pose for your company if data goes astray, viable ways to minimize confidential data breaches, and restrictions you can impose that will ensure your employees do only company work on company time.

Social media

There was a time when companies discouraged their employees from connecting to social networks on company time. While this may seem like a reasonable objection, as social networks are notoriously time-consuming, having a social media policy in place for your employees can be mutually beneficial.

Social media is an important part of your business

Your employees can be excellent brand ambassadors when executed properly, and their endorsements are more credible because it is on their personal accounts. Of course, it may result in some abuse by your employees, but that is a small risk overall. Provided you are mindful of and flexible with employees, they are more likely to engage in positive social brand conversations.

Flexible work

Finally, you should consider adding remote work, or at least flexible work schedules as part of the mix. Technological advancements have made remote work much more viable for both employers and employees. Many companies nowadays are implementing partial or full remote and flexible work arrangements because studies show employees that work from home or have flexible work hours feel they are more productive than working in an office environment.

Thankfully, today’s work-from-home capabilities are much more sophisticated than simply carrying on conversations over the phone

While there is no guarantee this will be so for your own business, providing your employees with the option can be a significant factor in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. In addition, you can save a bundle in office space, utilities, and supplies by having your work force working remotely some of the time. A flexible work arrangement is also one of the things that keep your digital workplace truly in line with the times and mindset of your employees.

Conclusion

A digital workplace is not merely the sum of its technological parts. Fancy devices and top-of-the-line software that fail to focus on the people that will be using it on a daily basis is just a waste of your resources, and will not make a successful digital workplace for you.

People are still central to your business success, so you should make sure that you have them in mind when planning your digital transformation. Any improvements you make to your workplace should aim at improving the user experience of your employees in order to boost their satisfaction and productivity. Use the key elements described above as a guide when making decisions and you should be just fine.

 

About the author

Laura Buckler’s life plan is to help people reach their potential. Therefore, using her great content writing skills, she became a life-changing freelancer. Laura is a very motivated person. Follow her on twitter for more info.