People are at the heart of the digital workplace

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The workplace is being transformed forever thanks to digital technologies, but companies sometimes purchase technologies without making sure they will deliver real value to employees or without teaching them how to use it properly. How can enterprises ensure they get the most out of tech and employees?

Digital technologies are one of the key levers for supporting the profound transformations enterprises are facing today. Enterprises now need to be more flexible and productive, able to leverage the potential of data. It also makes sense to embrace the digital approach, given that millennials, a generation born into a digital world and raised on sharing and collaborating via social media, will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, according to the Brookings Institution.

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Some CEOs and CIOs are quick to welcome new technologies to drive employees to challenge their established habits and ways of working. It is part of a cultural and strategic transformation. That means more than just forcing employees to using new software: it also means transforming how people are able to share, communicate and collaborate. IT teams need the support of Human Resources (HR) to successfully drive these transformational programmes.

Time to share

The digital workplace has collaboration tools at its center. Companies are breaking down silos and creating smaller and more diverse teams to be more flexible and deliver faster value, and so much is now based on collaboration, team working and information sharing. Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) suites are the cornerstone of efficient collaboration. To achieve great collaboration, employees need to be trained and guided on the best practices to be fully empowered. In a recent study, it was revealed that over 60 percent of employees would do twice as many videoconference format meetings if they knew how to use the technology properly.

Leadership also extends to CEOs and CIOs. Leading from the front is important in digital transformation initiatives, and if employees further down the ladder see their business leaders using UC&C tools, or even just blogging about their work and encouraging information sharing and discussion among workers and teams, they are more likely to do it themselves. 

New workers, new practices, new tools

With the emergence of new communication technologies, HR can be a powerful ally in making sure employees balance their personal and work life. It is especially true with mobile devices, being more and more entangled in the employees’ lives, with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) practices. HR is the department with responsibility for working on the impact of being always connected to the company and having to adapt corporate policies, such as the Right to be Disconnected in France.

According to the Dell & Intel Future-Ready Workforce Study U.S. Report , 42 percent of millennials say they are likely to quit jobs if the technology available to them is substandard – so HR must make sure they can leverage digital technologies and workplace quality to attract the best talents. The label “Top employer” is a very good example for demonstrating well-being of employees in the office.

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New types of worker, new challenges for HR and IT

The perceived role of HR departments as mainly being there to assist when required on training or structural transformation plans has certainly changed. In the digital era they must play a much more significant part. First because they now must support the IT in the new ways of working transformation plan, but also in the integration of the digital workforce provided by bots driven by artificial intelligence (AI). Many jobs will be disrupted by robots and new jobs will be created. This has an impact on the skills required by the company and requires training programmes, new recruitment process and coaching.

The growing digitalization and automation of processes and tasks is happening as well within the HR department, making them work in close collaboration with the IT department. Consider the data available on each individual employee and how that might be utilized to benefit the company and its employees. If HR uses digital tools to track progress against goals and KPIs in real time, the organization could then align resources, training, recognition and even bonuses in real time to keep employees engaged, satisfied and more productive.

Keep workers involved, keep them keen

Another important responsibility for HR in the digital workplace is in keeping employees engaged in the tools they use to do their jobs – and ultimately the decisions that will affect the future direction of the company. Bringing workers inside the tent and listening to them is vital. HR can proactively ask workers what digital technology tools and solutions they feel will make them do their jobs better and, significantly, keep a human face on the organization. Being engaged in the process and having their opinion valued ensures employees do not feel like merely nodes on a corporate network or robots carrying out mundane tasks.

It is important that cultural change and digital transformation start from the top. CEOs and CIOs need to set the standard and show all employees that they are committed to transformation and continuous improvement. And HR departments need to ensure that in the digital, always-on era, they are always talking to workers and making them feel valued. Engage employees in the digital transformation process on an ongoing basis and you will reap the benefits on both a human level and a business level.

Aligning business, IT and HR in the workplace

In a recent report, Gartner cited Orange’s "Essentials2020" and digital transformation strategy approach as providing clear paths to “bringing business, HR and IT together to drive transformation in an organization”, with HR-driven initiatives to the fore. Investing in the tools employees need to work productively and prioritizing with business unit leaders on what technologies and tools to invest in are also key.

Strong collaboration between IT, HR and business leaders in an organization is the way forward to culture transformation and a new way of working.

To read a new Gartner and Orange report, Orange Business Services Drives Digital Business Through People and Workplace Transformation, and learn about how digital culture and tools help digital transformation in the workplace.
Olivier Vicaire

Olivier VICAIRE has been working in business consulting for more than 10 years, in Paris and London and is a specialist in digital transformation.

With a telecom engineering degree and a Master in marketing, he manages innovation, digital workspace strategy and user adoption programs to drive the digital transformation for the employees of Orange Business Services’ customers.