Engaging the digital workforce

The productivity toolkit available to the new digital workplace is growing fast. Already it includes communications tools (email, audio conferencing, instant messaging and telepresence ) and collaboration solutions like messaging, file sharing, mobile and cloud apps.

It’s fantastic.

Or is it? None of these tools will make any difference at all unless your employees engage use them fully.

Boosting engagement demands enterprises foster a sense of belonging and ownership among staff – they must even open up channels to enable employees to contribute to the development of future digital processes.


“Employees more readily become high-impact performers when their work experiences are contextualized to meet their needs,” explains Gartner research VP, Mike Gotta in a webinar on Collaborating in the Digital Workspace.

"Smart work environments enable [employees] to work in transformative ways. The future of collaboration encourages dynamic and free-flowing teams, communities and networks,” says Gott.

To achieve this enterprises must engage in-depth analysis across business processes to identify where and how collaborative tools can improve results and empower new working practices.

Cultural change

The expression, “build it and they will come” doesn’t always hold true. Your IT department probably leads on new digital workplace projects with little or no input from human resources teams or the employees themselves.

Collaboration is a cultural process, so it’s important to actively encourage voluntary participation and contribution among your employees.

“The challenge for IT is to take off its features hat, and think about the end user, which, if done correctly, can make or break the design of an enterprise solution,” explains Accellion’s Director of Product experience, Michael Ashley.


Modern workplaces are attracting more and more millennial employees. These digital natives are switched on to approachable technology created with the consumer in mind.

“The IT worker of the future will have habits, incentives and skills that are inherently different from those in play today,” Deloitte observes. “Design lies at the heart of this new generation, and requires new skill sets such as graphic designers, user experience engineers and behavioural psychologists.”

These changing needs reflect a desire among employees that their enterprise solutions be as easy and pleasant to use as consumer products. The scale of this demand will grow as more millenials enter the workforce. It’s not rocket science.

Ease of use and logical menu structures are de rigeur across every other digital solution they use, why should your enterprise be different?

Join forces

Enterprise must put their people first. They then need to figure out how best to connect employer and employee goals. The aim is to nurture a win-win relationship in which both parties see gains, boosting engagement and motivating better business results.

“The benefits and outcomes of digital tools must be communicated to employees on a consistent basis, and rewards and recognition work well to increase engagement. When done right, the tools will improve productivity, morale, and overall engagement,” writes Lamont Exeter, executive director of Learning Innovation.

To achieve this, Gartner advises we think about how we might enable employees across the digital workplace.

·        Think about what your employees may care about – things like, career flexibility, peer communities, or democratized decision-making.

·        Think about what matters to you… It’s likely this includes workforce optimization, productivity gains, building and maintaining high performing teams and providing high-quality service delivery.

How can you connect these goals within your digital workplace? Can points systems, loyalty bonuses or other forms of gamification help boost engagement, outcomes and results? T-Mobile incorporated gamification within its employee collaboration platform. When it did contributions jumped 583 percent, and it saw a 31 percent improvement in customer satisfaction.

Design while doing

The rapid pace of technological evolution means attitudes to process management are evolving. This means that when you do sit down to design digital business processes you should adopt a “design while doing,” approach.

Employers can stay on top of these changing times by nurturing innovation programs within their enterprises. Doing so seems to boost employee engagement while harnessing new ideas that may enable digital transformation plans. The aim is to link employee ideas with rewards.

The user interface “is crucial as it drives adoption, enables productivity, and helps reinforce brand experience,” said Ray Wang of Constellation Research.

New hierarchies

Where business structure was once relatively fixed in its hierarchical structure, a collaborative culture benefits from a different approach. Think of your workplace as a community with its own sense of belonging, new hierarchies (or none), wellness schemes, mentors and more. These more intimate relationships are energized by digital collaboration, which can unleash tight bonds between enterprises and employee.

These bonds and improvements in collaboration transform workplaces into effective collaboration networks. These networks foster a new approach, so where business processes were once designed along the lines of “We know better”, tomorrow’s will see a transition to employee empowerment (“You know best”) in which the employee community will design the processes themselves.

Today? Today the best approach to designing digital workplace improvements while fostering the kind of employee engagement you need to succeed with these starts with one simple step: ask the employees what they need.

The digital workplace is unique in that it enables geographically dispersed employees to operate as strong collaborative teams. Read about how we use these technologies to empower cross-cultural teams (and the benefits of doing so), or explore some further ideas concerning best practices to help employees use Unified Communications effectively.

Stewart Baines
Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.