A Digital Workplace is the name given to today’s virtual, modern version of traditional workplaces. The Digital Workplace experience provides personalized, role-based services as well as the data, applications, and collaboration tools required for employees to work from anywhere, on any device, at any time. To achieve this, digital workplaces utilize mobility services and digital technology to adapt to user activities to help increase employee engagement.
Research firm Gartner says, “The Digital Workplace enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility, and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies.”
The term Digital Workspace was introduced in 2009 by Paul Miller, founder of Digital Workplace Group to describe the wide eco-system of workplace technologies. A digital workplace strategy, as a natural evolution of workplaces in general, includes a number of technologies and tools to achieve business goals, some of which include:
- Communications tools and applications
- Collaboration and social engagement platforms
- Content and knowledge management systems for internal and external sharing
- Cloud storage tools for document sharing and storageIntranet and portal platforms
- Documentation archivesMobile integration and mobile devices management
A digital workplace transformation must be tailored to the exact requirements of each organization, while at the same time keeping a keen focus on the overall user or employee experience. The digital workplace experience should simplify communications and collaboration while providing a centralized hub for employees to access data and executing business functions, regardless of location, device used, or time of day.
- Increased collaboration and communications. Digital workplace applications encourage and ease communications laterally between employees and vertically between employees and management. This can help foster ideas that may not otherwise have been heard. Messaging tools let employees act quickly, and feedback between employees can improve morale and employee satisfaction.
- Performance improvements. New digital tools can help identify key performance indicators that can help improve the user experience both for external users and for employees using digital workplace tools.
- Increased flexibility. Employees with flexible work environments and flexible work schedules are more satisfied with their work experience, can have a better work-life balance, and can time-shift to perform work when they are most prepared. This enables night owls or early risers to get the most out of their workdays.
- Productivity and efficiency gains. Digital workplace tools enable employees to get more done in less time, and the ease of collaboration and communications often encourages workers to collaborate in real time to get the job done rather than waiting for email exchanges of days past. Easy user-friendly tools for simple IT requests such as password resets also lower the IT burden, freeing up tech resources for more productive tasks.
- Lower operational expenses. Replacing airfare with virtual meetings and conferences with interactive whiteboards translates to big annual savings in airfare, hotel, meals, car rentals, and the like. Additionally, reducing the number of on-premises employees translates to lower monthly real estate, power, and cooling bills as well. Additionally, opting for managed services or SaaS for digital workplace platforms can eliminate on-premises servers, storage, and IT resources needed to operate them.
- Revenue increases. Research shows that organizations see a dramatic bump in revenue by adopting a digital workplace strategy, driven by reduced costs and increased productivity.
- Employee UX improvements. Engaged employees take advantage of social profiles, directories, activity feeds and collaboration tools to communicate and collaborate, creating a stronger bond between employees and a ‘family’ atmosphere for all workers, regardless of where they are in corporate hierarchy. This improved user experience can lead to a lower turnover rate, which improves the bottom line by reducing time spent training new employees or replacing lost skills.
- Customer experience enhancements. Happier employees are better brand champions, and employees who care about their workplace will share that enthusiasm with customers they encounter.
Work is no longer performed at a single place. The global pandemic has put an exclamation point on the sea change that began with the introduction of smartphones into the executive suite. Since employees are increasingly working from remote locations, the need to recreate a workplace environment that engages employees and encourages collaboration and communications has become apparent. To achieve that vibrancy, organizations are increasingly adopting a secure digital workplace strategy. A good digital workplace empowers employees with technology and tools that can help lower overall operating costs by reducing the need for expensive office space.
Every organization must follow their own path to a secure digital workplace as every business has its unique requirements. There are, however, some guidelines that organizations should consider when building their digital workplace strategy.
First, perform an assessment of your current digital workplace footprint. The goal should include determining strengths and weaknesses of systems currently in place. This evaluation should be enterprise-wide, and often begins with a survey of employees to understand the tools currently in use, their opinions of current software and what can be done to improve the workflow for their jobs, and what roadblocks stand in their way. The digital workplace should be focused on removing those roadblocks and making their jobs – and communications – that much easier.
After completing the assessment, it is important to engage business and IT team leaders throughout the organization to agree on a common goal, and clear vision for its adoption. Without everyone working towards a clear and concise goal there is little chance of enterprise-wide buy-in by employees, especially those who do not understand what the benefits of this transformation are. It is also critical that the C-suite communicates their support for rapid adoption, and that the top executives work to ensure buy-in from all levels of the organizations.
Then, since digital workplaces are focused on improving communications and collaboration, these should also be critical elements of the rollout of a digital workplace strategy. Project management should practice what they preach and utilize messaging, intranet, wikis, and enterprise social media tools to inform the employees as to the status of digital workplace rollout. All these communications should be available to employees regardless of where they are or what device they are using to access corporate communications. It is also critically important that communications to employees are very transparent about the process, and highlight where the organization is on their path to a digital workplace, what problems or snags have been uncovered and dealt with, and how everyone is working together towards a common goal.
Finally, make sure there is adequate training on the new digital workplace, both for existing employees and to help onboard new hires. Change is always stressful, and many employees will be leery of a new work environment, no matter what the benefits are perceived to be. A solid training program that provides necessary insight into tools – and why they were chosen – can help employees rationalize why these changes are so important and help increase their comfort level while they learn. Training – and the resultant documentation – will help offset fears of existing employees and help new hires become more effective from their first day on the job.
Digital workplaces help organizations build deeper relationships and a strong culture, which can help increase productivity, improve overall business performance, and increase company loyalty. Employees’ job functions are surrounded by this new digital experience, which puts employees themselves at the heart of enterprise transformation.
Collaboration and communication tools in a digital workplace greatly improve management’s ability to hear issues from employees throughout the organization and can foster a stronger relationship between management and employees alike. When employees think they are being heard they will be more likely to share insights that can make a difference with a single customer or across the organization.
Since employee satisfaction and engagement are so critical to organizational success, delivering a superior employee experience benefits everyone in the organization, from task worker to executive.