James McMahon, head of digital workplace, Atos
“The way we work is changing” may be one of the more overused phrases in recent years, but in the last twelve months, it’s hard to deny that the way organisations approach the workplace has shifted significantly.
Forward thinking businesses are realising that investing in significant resource for delivering an optimal customer experience is a waste if employees are struggling with outdated services and processes. Employee engagement is the key and has a measurable business impact.
Research from VMware found that more than 80 per cent of CIOs in EMEA believe that revenue can increase by five per cent over three years when employees are ‘empowered’ or allowed to use the applications they want and need and make them readily accessible.
Multi-generational demand and rapidly evolving expectations
The consumerisation of IT is another term that has been widely discussed for over a decade, but it continues to be increasingly relevant. It is no longer about providing employees with the same smartphones they use personally – now organisations must meet employee expectations for more technical applications and devices. For example, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with voice-activated connected devices like Alexa, which can dim lights, play music or even order deliveries. Many companies are already using Alexa for Business to print documents, set up video conferences and complete other menial tasks.
Added to this is the shifting demographics of the workforce. Millennials are often seen as the drivers of workspace change, when in reality, the demand is multi-generational. Businesses need to strike a balance between appealing to digital native graduates and school-leavers without alienating experienced workers. This leaves organisations with a need to transform the working environment, whilst meeting the complex expectations of their workforce.
Combining the human with technology
In the past, large-scale digital transformation would be the sole responsibility of the IT department. IT projects would often have a technology focus but that failed to address human demands and requirements. What has changed, is other areas of the business are taking an interest in the broader digitalisation agenda – the idea that technology is the preserve of IT is fast becoming outdated. When it comes to digital workspaces, HR is increasingly taking a lead as senior management recognises the impact on employee engagement.
That’s not to say that technology isn’t critical – indeed, it’s fundamental that any workspace transformation project is built upon a strong technology foundation. IT might be focused on cost savings and measurable productivity, but other parts of the business will bring the use cases and real-world experience to identify and fix the seemingly minor frustrations that get missed in large-scale change programmes. For example, a complex form designed to filter helpdesk requests, but which drives employees to find their own workarounds, potentially compromising corporate security or governance.
It is this rising of the people that businesses need to manage properly if they are to avoid being inadvertently exposed. Workarounds, temporary fixes or adaptations by knowledgeable employees are a symptom of apps, processes and systems not fit for purpose. Organisations will need to decide whether they will take the traditional route of locking down and saying no, or whether they’ll use these indicators to create the experience their employees want.
Ease of access, ease of use
It makes sense for employers to look at how their employees work to build a workspace that supports them. With increasingly virtual workforces, the rise of the gig economy and personal technology allowing people to work in ways that until recently were confined to a traditional office environment, ease of access and ease of use is paramount to success.
Which is why digital workspace transformations shouldn’t be considered a once-in-a-lifetime project. They need to be able to keep apace of change and meet expectations to engage employees. Those that do, can enjoy an enhanced reputation amongst their workforce. VMware also found that empowered employees are more than twice as likely to rate their employers as leaders in digital transformation compared to other employees, as well as being four times more likely to report that their company has been made a more desirable place to work.
Combining people and platforms for future growth
Ultimately, to be truly effective, employees should enjoy work, and employers should aspire to enable that enjoyment. That can only be achieved by understanding what employees need to enjoy their work, providing the support in which to do so and ensuring that it meets the requirements of the organisation. It is the combination of understanding people and providing the platform and applications to suit specific needs and requirements. By ensuring that both are considered equally, companies can implement digital workspaces which support higher levels of employee happiness, wellbeing and engagement, resulting in corresponding performance success.