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Digital workplace transformation strategy: 6 steps to creating yours

Find out how to do a digital workplace transformation in the right way. Involving different departments and understanding needs are just two critical steps.

A digital workplace transformation strategy can help enterprises radically improve the employee experience. When done well, it can lead to more effective people, business and technology processes.

"Creating an effective digital workplace transformation strategy requires owning the digital experience … and focusing on the end-to-end experience," said Jannine Zucker, principal in the human capital practice at Deloitte.

A strong digital workplace transformation strategy uses a human-centered design approach and starts by understanding the technology needs of the workforce, she said. This includes how workers interact with operational platforms, how they connect and communicate with colleagues and how they access information across the enterprise.

From there, organizations must prioritize where to focus the transformation and how to apply technology to create the best employee experience, she said.

"Employee engagement is paramount to productivity," Zucker said.

Only 49% of CEO and business leaders believed workers were satisfied with their job design, and only 38% thought workers were satisfied with their work-related tools, according to Deloitte's 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report.

By implementing an effective digital workplace strategy, organizations can build stronger connections across the organization, increase workforce productivity and collaboration, improve customer outcomes and, ultimately, improve the work experience an individual has, Zucker said. At the same time, organizations must pragmatically adopt technology in a way that suits workers' needs.

Here are six steps to implementing a successful digital workplace transformation strategy.

1. Focus on change management

The main reason so many digital workplace transformations fail is because they tend to be viewed as a technical project, said Tony Saldanha, president of Transformant, a consulting firm specializing in assisting organizations through digital transformations. An effective strategy focuses primarily on change management.

Far too many digital workplace transformation strategies focus solely on IT and technology components. Most do not focus enough on the business strategy components and HR change management practices.

Most digital transformations become 'innovation theater' or anecdotal successes, which don't make a sufficient dent on business results.
Tony SaldanhaPresident, Transformant

"As a result, most digital transformations become 'innovation theater' or anecdotal successes, which don't make a sufficient dent on business results," Saldanha said.

2. Assess existing processes

Understand and assess your existing digital and nondigital processes before you try to automate them.

"The biggest problems stem from lack of proper planning, siloed efforts … and poor training or change management," said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, an HR consultancy.

Manual processes are too often digitally replicated when they should have been ditched altogether, she said.

Assessing existing processes can also help enterprises identify all the parties that need to be involved in a particular digital workplace transformation strategy. Lister has seen many efforts fail because key departments were left out of the loop.

For example, the commercial real estate team at one company launched a work-from-home program to reduce office space, she said. The problem was it did not involve IT, she said. As a result, people were working remotely without the proper tools, file access and security practices. In another case, an HR team launched a work from home program that did not involve the commercial real estate team, she said. The result was empty offices but no financial savings.

3. Tailor transformation

Another core step is creating internal groups that drive a use case across different parts of the business. For example, Culture Amp, an employee analytics platform, splits its business into three core groups: corporate functions; sales, customer success and support; and engineering, product and people science. These three functions have different needs in the workplace, including how they work, the technology and tools they use, and how they deliver on their initiatives.

"Building out and identifying unique digital transformation strategies for each group helps the team responsible for digital transformation understand the collective requirements of the workplace," said Damian Fasciani, director of technology at Culture Amp.

Tailoring strategies in this way is key to delivering effective digital transformation across functions, he said.

Fasciani's team regularly sits down with different functions across the company to understand where manual, repetitive processes occur. From there, the technology team takes the opportunity to automate and digitize those processes, opening up staff time to work on other projects or refocus on strategic initiatives.

For example, Culture Amp has partnered with MuleSoft, a cloud-based integration platform that provides the capability to integrate and connect multiple systems. This makes it easier to automate parts of many day-to-day tasks by automatically sending data from one system to another, he said.

"We can also pull valuable data from multiple systems and surface it in a key system of choice, delivering a more intuitive experience for our staff," Fasciani said.

4. Profile the workforce

To understand employee work styles, companies must profile different worker characteristics across the organization, said Anita Kamouri, vice president and co-founder of Iometrics, a workplace analytics consultancy.

This involves looking at work activities, mobility patterns, collaboration types and workplace requirements. Workforce trends and preferences also help determine how work patterns may evolve in the future and are key to future-proofing the strategy and investments.

Results from work profiling often challenge existing workplace paradigms within the organization, she said.

Employees are more mobile and distributed than ever before. Today's job candidates and employees want workplace mobility, flexibility and choice.

"It's important to present targeted, reliable and valid workforce data to executives to help them understand and endorse design solutions that address emerging workforce priorities," Kamouri said.

5. Prioritize employee experience

A digital workplace transformation strategy needs to focus on interventions that impact employee experience.

The most successful transformations involve integrating the approach to workspaces and workplace technologies, policies and practices, Kamouri said. She recommended that cross-functional teams lead these types of change efforts to ensure the resulting employee experience is inspiring, engaging and effective.

These teams typically involve multiple functions, such as HR, IT, facilities, communications, branding and finance. A cross-functional approach is especially useful when these teams share budgets and work on integrated strategies and timelines. This approach also helps influence C-suite executives and gain their support for such wide-ranging transformation efforts, she said.

6. Measure the results

Conducting pre-change vs. post-change and control group analysis to quantify the benefits of these programs on the employee experience is important, Kamouri said. Metrics may include satisfaction levels, ease of use, work-life balance, collaboration and new hire appeal. These measurements can also help identify more tangible benefits, such as lower voluntary turnover rates, reduction in environmental health and safety injury rates, and time savings resulting in improved productivity, she said. "These benefits demonstrate that workplace transformation efforts can deliver significant human capital benefits that create business value and justify investment," Kamouri said.

Enterprises may also consider incorporating ongoing feedback mechanisms that make it easier for employees to provide insights about the process itself or new metrics to track, she said.

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