03 March 2020

Digital workplace series part 1: what is the digital workplace?

By Andrew O'Hara

This is part one of a series where we’ll be looking at the digital workplace, what this means and how organisations can adapt. We’re going to focus on the much-asked question ‘what is the digital workplace?’ before looking at specific tools to support this.

The changing workplace

Change driven by technology is a core part of the human story, the difference now is the all-encompassing nature of that change. The advancement of digital technology is happening at such a rate that we are struggling to keep up. People are expected to deal with more information, from multiple sources at an ever-increasing pace. This is not only changing the way we work, but it’s influencing some fundamental parts of being human in a way no other technological change has before.

With this shift in our mobility and connectivity comes an expectation that these changes be reflected in the offering of employers. Herein lies the fundamental challenge of the digital workplace for the employer and employee. It brings new possibilities when it comes to collaboration and connecting a remote workforce, changing the definitions of what it means to be at work.

The digital workplace is extremely broad and constantly shifting, making it hard to pin down a fixed definition. In a general sense, the digital workplace is essentially the digitalisation of traditional workplace occurrences.  It encompasses the digital tools, technologies and spaces which help us do our jobs and work together; extending, replacing or enhancing traditional working practices.

Benefits of a digital workplace

Evolving with the times and implementing digital spaces to work in has significant benefits. These include:

  1. Providing digital tools and technologies can help to boost the productivity of existing employees and attract new talent. In turn, this has a positive impact on organisational performance.
  2. Connecting employees with information and learning opportunities that they can access anywhere allows for greater flexibility in sharing information.
  3. Taking advantage of the fact that employees are comfortable with technology and give them access to self-service requirements such as HR documentation, IT, etc.
  4. Digital tools give a huge scope for enhancing our everyday tasks. This, in turn, boosts productivity, satisfaction and talent retention.
  5. Providing increased mobility and connectively, meaning employees can work anywhere, in or out of the office.

Engaging a digital workforce

The workforce has changed over the last five years, and it is likely to accelerate further in the next five years. For the first time, five generations will work together, in the same workplaces. This, coupled with the rate of technological change and the shift in how people want and even expect to work, will introduce significant challenges for employers[1].  As a result, a digital workplace should be high on the list of priorities for those looking to attract talent, increase retention rates and improve employee satisfaction.

For organisations looking to capitalise on these opportunities, it is all too easy to focus on the technology and forget about the people. People and culture are in fact the two most critical factors in the successful development of a digital workplace. Bringing your employees with you and developing a culture that encourages the adoption of digital tools as part of a new and better way of doing things is crucial. 

For many organisations making this transition will require a mindset shift, change is as important at the top as it is at the bottom. Organisations must adopt a ‘digital mindset’ which encourages fluidity, adaptability and collaboration. This cultural mind-set must then be supported by increasing the organisations ‘digital IQ’[2] through well-structured training and learning programs. The HR departments of the future will likely look very different. This means they will need to focus on skilling up the existing workforce to meet the requirements of a changing work environment.

The agile digital mindset must be driven from the top and adopted throughout, and it must all be backed by a technology infrastructure that delivers the key benefits of a digital workplace to both employer and employee.

 

Now that we’ve addressed the question ‘what is the digital workplace?’ next week, part two will look at collaboration and how digitalisation supports and enhances this.

 

[1] Changing the way we work through digital thinking, 2018, Deloitte

[2] Pg. 7 Changing the way we work through digital thinking, 2018, Deloitte

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