Do you think thriving in a digital-first world is all about keeping pace with technology changes? You’d be surprised to know that often it’s not the technology that determines success but a flexible, open workforce that calls the shots. The importance of employee experience in the success of digital transformation initiatives cannot be overstated. Employees are used to sleek technology interfaces in their personal lives but workplace IT practices with legacy access and control policies fail to live up to the seamless technology experience at work that employees crave. Digest this – 80%i of all digital transformation initiatives fail, equating to over USD 900 billion worth of spend that misses the mark. With the extended pandemic-enforced work from home, while most enterprises are accelerating their digital transformation initiatives, there is a pressing need to drive simultaneous workforce transformation to ensure adoption and uptake.
This paper discusses the significance of reimagining Workplace Transformation initiatives as Workforce Transformation Programmes, and how organizations can get it right.
From ‘feeling loved’ to ‘It’s complicated’: Why employees’ status with workplace technology misses the mark
Most of us love spending time on our shopping, gaming, and personal chatting apps, but few can say the same about workplace applications. In a recent workplace survey, nearly 60% of employees stated that it’s easier for them to search for new movies on Netflix than it is to search for their work benefits information and 43% said it’s easier for them to book an Airbnb than find out how many vacation days they have left.ii Clearly, employees’ relationship status with workplace technology isn’t as lovely as it is with their personal tech, but what are the reasons? Thirty-three percent of employees in the survey stated that their company invests in the latest technology but that they haven’t been trained on how to use it properly. Most employees feel that their organizations often try to tweak their way of working around the technology investments they make, when it should actually be the other way round. Further, there is an unmissable disconnect between leadership and employees here. Ninety percent of C-suite executives believe their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, but only about half (53%) of the staff say the same.iii
As boundaries between personal and professional life increasingly blur in the post-COVID world of work, improving employees’ relationship with workplace tech is becoming a priority for organizations. The success of remote work depends on how employees use and interact with workplace technology to connect, collaborate, and improve productivity. Workforce transformation is therefore gaining increased traction and driving consumerization of IT at the workplace, and with good reason. A recent PwC report reveals that workforce transformation is closely linked to the productivity gains needed in both business and the public sector.iv
So what do employees really want from workplace tech? They want to be able to look and behave with workplace technology just as they do in their personal lives – use it anywhere, anytime and on any device – with complete safety and security. From choosing devices, to picking apps, to opting for voice over text, employees want options, greater control, and mobile capabilities that help them do their work best.
Tweaking technology to fit in to the new way of work
Let us understand this by way of an example. One of our customers who had completed a million-euro technology upgrade to LiVE Workspace™ about a year ago confided that while it delivered IT value of 30% cost savings, the initiative couldn’t really deliver the business value of a care-free user. Perturbed, the client conducted an ICT outreach programme. ICT team leads and Service Desk agents met the user groups, observed them in their environment using the new tools, and offered advice on how to use it correctly. They also tweaked the system to match user behaviour, and within weeks, the user satisfaction indexes jumped 10x. The client realized an important lesson - 12 months of technology upgrade couldn’t deliver what two months of direct user connect did. Driving business value depends on delivering the right user experience. Most of the users still need a helping hand with technology, like we do with any new tool, machinery, or process that is implemented in a factory. A new workplace tool, without training is a security hazard, and a computer programme is no different. No one would give a manual worker a power tool and expect them to use it well without training, but ironically, organizations frequently overlook the digital literacy aspect.
The focus of workplace transformation must squarely be on changing the way of work, and that will lead to new tools. Workplace transformation should therefore be driven by workforce transformation, which is in essence an integration of HR, facilities managers, and IT against a framework with executive sponsorship. Technology outreach is a key aspect of workforce transformation and it requires seamless alignment between Business and IT. Besides ICT managers, any technology transformation programme should involve cross-functional representatives from HR, Facilities, and production managers, so that their valuable inputs on ‘what the technology should do for them’ can be included in the design and implementation of tech products, features, and upgrades. If we were to borrow a sports analogy here, workforce transformation is essentially about all people — leaders, department heads, and employees —being on the same side, playing one sport, one pitch, with one shared vocabulary. For instance, in the above example, imagine the incremental value the client could have generated if the focus user groups were part of the programme when it was conceptualized and designed.
Digital skills training will define the success of the Digital Workplace
Modern employees know the importance of continuous learning and are willing to invest time and effort in upskilling/reskilling themselves to remain relevant in the changing world of work. Employees report that they’re willing to spend up to two days per month on training to upgrade their digital skills, if offered by their employer.v However, many feel that their workplaces do not offer enough resources to do so, signalling an opportunity for organizations to open new pathways for learning and development. Yet, 88% of organizations fail to take any action to tackle the lack of digital skills of their employees.vi The impact is showing - digital skills deficiency in the workforce is affecting the performance and productivity of organizations with lower ‘Digital IQs’. Companies with a generally digital literate workforce have been able to manage COVID-19 induced disruptions better than the digital laggards with lower digital IQs. But what does it take to be a digital leader as an organization and build a successful digital workplace? The innate understanding that the Digital Workplace is a concept, not a tool. It cannot be built overnight by deploying more technologies and tools. It builds upon a digital culture that organizations must carefully nurture across all levels. Ensuring enterprise-wide digital literacy is vital to the success of every Digital Workplace.