Wednesday, 12th August 2020

IT and HR – Surprising Bedfellows

By Cyrus Gilbert Rolfe, EMEA MD, SocialChorus.

Digital content has changed the way people communicate. Personal lives have been transformed by text, by social media and messaging apps. People can now communicate with as many people as they choose, all over the world, whenever they want and however they want.

While these advances in digital communication have enhanced many lives, it has also become a disruptive technology in more ways than one. Not surprisingly, the development of new communication tools is keeping pace with changes in the way people communicate, giving them a myriad of ways to get the right information in front of the right readers at the right time. However, there’s been a lot less attention given to the development of internal communications tools and their place in the ever-evolving digital workplace. As a result, many businesses have unwittingly allowed a disparate form of internal communications to evolve. According to TechCrunch there are over 10 million users of Slack, a day and over 1 billion messages are sent a week. That’s just one messaging tool. As WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have become more popular the number of SMS and MMS messages has dropped from 163 billion in 2012 to 82 billion in 2017, while WhatsApp users sent 60 billion messages every day during the final quarter of 2017. What these numbers show, is that despite a decline in some channels being used to deliver messages, the number of messages being sent have risen exponentially. And those messages won’t be just personal ones.

The job of any good communications professional is to keep employees highly engaged. Employee engagement is critical to productivity and retaining/attracting employees; and engaged employees increase motivation among the entire workforce and enable others to feel as though they have a stake in a company’s strategic direction. That’s why so many companies are prioritising the employee experience.

So how do businesses engage their employees and most importantly, what does it look like in today’s digital era? Gartner’s recentWorkplace Summit highlighted why the C-suite has made the digital workplace a high priority and how organisations that invest in the employee experience could improve employee engagement scores (by up to 10%).

Not surprisingly, one of the primary takeaways from the summit was that everyone needs to take ownership of digital workplace initiatives if they want them to succeed. “Digital workplace initiatives cannot be treated exclusively as an IT initiative,” said Carol Rozwell, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. “When initiatives are executed as a series of technology rollouts, employee engagement and addressing the associated cultural change are left behind. Digital workplace success is impossible without such [collaboration].”

The digital workplace is about aligning technology (existing and new) with business processes around a clearly defined strategy. It is a C-suite priority, and one where business leaders need to reassess. They need to ask themselves how their greatest asset - their employees - work and collaborate.

Business leaders are realising that they need to prioritise the digital workplace to overcome siloed teams and technology across the company, to personalise to retain and attract talent and include all of the workforce (when frontline workers are often completely left out of the picture). Engaging employees will be driven by communications and HR but that’s not all as already highlighted.

The challenge is that many communications professionals are still using software and methods from the early days of the digital revolution. And the reason behind this is that HR and internal comms teams rarely work together, let alone with IT, to identify ways of improving communications channels. They’ve either inherited legacy tools such as the company intranet or the business has allowed messaging apps to creep their way into the working environment. The question is how do HR and internal comms know if their messages, or indeed the right messages are reaching all employees? HR, IC and IT need to start thinking about technology solutions holistically. In turn if these teams align then the business needs to enable IT to be more agile with more up-to-date technology to keep pace with the digital workplace.

Developing a Culture of Digital Dexterity

Leveraging technology in today’s fast-paced business world depends on the ability of employees to collaborate, communicate, and innovate. Leaders must ask their workforce to rethink about the way in which they engage with their colleagues and help them to better communicate with one another.

Redesigning the workplace is about changing the organisation’s approach to technology, social networks, and leadership practices. It also means ensuring a great employee experience.

According to an MIT study, the dynamic between the technology and the way people work is most tangible when it comes to measuring success. Organisations focused on enhancing the digital workplace see significant improvements in performance when measured against the performance of their competitors.

While employee communications could benefit greatly from the same kind of purpose-built tools people use in every other part of their lives not all businesses are utilising them appropriately to connect with their employees. And there’s several reasons for that.

Embracing the Digital Workplace

The emerging digital workplace will answer a variety of problems that will spin the wheel and help business drivers—including increased revenue, reduced operating costs, greater innovation, increased productivity, higher flexibility, stronger talent, and improved employee experience—come to life.

 It will offer the necessary support when it comes to shifts in working styles that allow for employees to function more transparently and more efficiently leverage social networks.

Digital workplaces will also unify internal communications by enabling employees to stay connected through the channels of their choice (including mobile). This allows for the employee experience to exist outside the typical company firewall. When used correctly, digital workplaces can provide flexibility and personalisation. That’s because digital workplaces allow for the integration of different apps and software, which facilitates easier workflows for employees.

Virtual work environments allow employees to remain connected in different offices across the world while still maintaining a balance between customer privacy and operational risk. This, in turn, minimises spending and allows for a better employee experience through enhancing productivity, because employees are equipped with the right tools and information at the right time.

Furthermore, companies creating digital workplaces are able to attract talent by showcasing their progressive and unique working environment, where top candidates are learning to expect from employers.

The Right Digital Workplace Enhances Company Culture

Managers are increasingly aware of how much the digital workplace can be used as a lever for achieving employee happiness. A Harvard Business Review study showed 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.

Currently, 62% of senior managers are actively implementing management initiatives and transformation programs in order to make their business more digital, which will, in turn, satisfy their employees.

Five Key Attributes to Digital Workplace Success

 The human capital changes as a result of the digital workplace can be sorted into five key pillars that lead to digital workplace success.

1. Digital Workplaces Are The Workplaces Of The Future

Technology is changing almost everything about how people work. The C-suite sees the digital workplace as a top priority and now leaders are taking steps to make it happen.

2. Digital Workplaces Require A Great Communications Strategy

Companies are trying to design an irresistible experience for their employees. This would allow them to engage employees and get them working harmoniously toward the organisation’s mission and objectives.

This is where a strong communications strategy paired with a workforce communications platform comes in. Because if employees are not kept in the loop, business initiatives may fail. Also, CIOs must understand that they must take accountability for shaping the company culture, not just HR and Internal Communications.

3. Digital Workplace Success Must Be Holistic

The changes business leaders make can have a big impact on all employees. That includes remote workers, contract employees, frontline employees, and employees who come into the main office every day. The chosen technology must serve all groups. It’s not about buying more tools that only solve one problem for one team. IT needs to look at the technology and challenges holistically.

4. Digital Workplaces Must Integrate Existing Tools

Businesses need to take advantage of their existing tools. A digital workplace transformation doesn’t necessarily mean a complete replacement of existing technology. Integrate new tools can beintegrated with whatever is currently working for teams. This allows for workers to operate in very different ways and leverage different digital technologies while improving efficiency.

Additionally, IT must look for tools that not only integrate with other software but create a platform to unify the technology. For example, a workforce communications platform (or employee engagement platform integrates all communications channels giving companies one place to create, target, schedule, and publish communications to the channels employees prefer).

5. Digital Workplaces Sustain Organisational Performance

This involves constant re-evaluation of how the whole workforce performance improves in the organisation that does not rest. This will, in turn, keep on driving more and more impact on the bottom line of the workforce.

On the whole, embracing new technologies is important in keeping employees motivated and enabling them to leverage different digital skill sets. However, one team or department can’t and shouldn’t do it alone. Adopting a digital workplace strategy will help to align multiple disciplines and help to deliver a unified and engaged workforce that has a shared interest and investment in the company’s values and ultimately, its success.


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