The traditional, centralised workplace is quickly becoming a thing of the past – and that’s been accelerated due to the pandemic as more people work from home. Employee expectations for the workplace also differ by generation. To address all of these needs and changes, organisations need to re-think the digital workplace. Let’s look at what this entails and how digital learning underpins these efforts.
The concept of the digital workplace has evolved over time. It’s not new, but it’s an idea that has taken on greater significance in recent months out of necessity. The most basic concept is a virtual space where employees can go to communicate and collaborate. It started long ago with email, and now it’s a fully immersive collaborative environment – you might not ever see your colleagues in person. Today, the digital workplace is anything that you were doing in a physical environment that’s brought into an online collaboration system.
To be successful, a digital workplace needs to meet these three criteria:
- It needs to be user friendly and intuitive, providing the tools tailored to the business user. If the barrier to entry is too great – if you can’t find the right tool that you need and it’s too complicated – people won’t use the solution.
- It must be extensible: It needs to offer the opportunity to add business apps in the collaborative workplace. It needs to provide all of the communication tools that a user would need in order to collaborate with other users.
- It needs to be inclusive, meaning it needs to work for all types of users. For example, Microsoft Teams recently added closed captioning to meetings. Adding this feature creates inclusiveness of the entire employee population so no one is left out. It seems like a simple thing, but it has a significant impact.
Gartner notes that digital workplace initiatives are not solely an IT issue but must include employee engagement and culture change as well in order to be successful. When employees have access to new technologies, processes and work styles, these improve the overall job experience and help them to work more effectively. Gartner estimates that organisations that invest in the employee experience will see a 10 per cent improvement in employee engagement scores.
In the digital workplace, employees are always connected to each other. They can access digital workspaces by smart phone or other personal or company-issued devices at any time. The best way to innovate and to solve problems is to collaborate. So then, a significant advantage of embracing the digital workspace is an increase in efficiency and productivity within the workforce.
Best-in-class collaboration tools will have these three characteristics:
- Support for video calls: This is a crucial piece so that people can see each other and use various tools together. In the meeting space itself, you want to make sure people have the necessary tools to efficiently conduct digital meetings, like the ability to take notes, control attendees, mute them and so on.
- Flexibility: The collaboration solution needs to work the way that business users want to work. It needs to provide the tools business users need without forcing them down a specific pathway where they have to follow a certain workflow.
- Extensibility: Choose a digital platform with the basic tools your organisation needs but also with the capabilities to extend to additional applications. You need to see what type of third-party applications are available in a digital platform so that you can bolt onto it and add additional features and functionalities to support the business.
The most important thing about any technology or system you implement is that you want people to want to use it. Not only does it need to be user friendly and intuitive, but users need to be made aware of the tools at their disposal.
The digital workforce needs strong learning tools so that users can adopt collaborative technology and understand what types of resources are available to them – that’s crucial. This will help to alleviate the risk of silos that could potentially impede knowledge transfer across the organisation. Yet training on these tools is often overlooked within organisations – or it’s thought of only in terms of onboarding new staff.
Employees need help all along the way. It’s important to remember that not all employees react to change in the same manner. Some thrive on it, while others shrink from it. The fear of change is present in all people to one degree or another, so change management is in order when introducing new digital tools. Coincidentally, digital team and collaboration tools help facilitate change by making communication and training easy and engaging throughout the organisation.
In addition, workforce training is changing as more options become available to employees. People regularly partake of bite-sized learning in the form of daily news recaps, “Learn a New Word a Day” emails and other micro-learning opportunities. This proves that learning can become a fixed part of employees’ day with easy access to the information they require. This is made possible with today’s learning platforms, enabling workers to take part in anytime, anywhere training as it fits into the flow of their day.
In the wake of Covid-19, the workplace will likely never be the same. As organisations were forced to adopt remote work, some were more prepared while others had to scramble. Collaborative tools have become a lifeline for maintaining business continuity, enabling employees to be productive from anywhere. However, these tools must be accompanied by proper training so employees can make full use of them and remain productive and connected. As your organisation adjusts to the new normal and makes long-term plans for the digital workplace, use the criteria above to make choices that will best serve the work and training needs of your unique workforce.