How employees experience technology on the job could make the difference between digital success and failure.
You might think that because your employees already use email and Zoom and Slack, you've got the future of work figured out. Well, there's a big difference between using workplace technologies (which almost every employee in every industry does) and really having a successful digital workplace.
And that could wind up making an even bigger difference to your company's bottom line. In a world where technology, markets, and external conditions are constantly changing, a digital workplace strategy lets you ride the chaos instead of being pushed around by it.
Just in case you're still on the fence about whether this "digital workplace" thing is just a fad, here are nine ways that getting serious about digital will give you an advantage, now and through whatever the coming years may bring.
Sure, it's easy to see how email enables better business performance than when all documents had to be sent physically through the mail. The advantages of mobile devices are clear to everybody who remembers when cumbersome, immobile desktop systems were the norm. The cost savings for digital accounting and money transfer are obvious.
Yet when it comes to continuing that digital transformation to streamline processes even further, many people are stuck in the present. The biggest efficiency wins are still to come.
In the digital workplace, artificial intelligence will take on most of the time-consuming rote workflow tasks that project managers perform today. Ever-evolving collaborative tools are constantly shortening the review-approval-billing timeline. Don't make the mistake of thinking efficiency stopped evolving five, or ten, or twenty years ago.
Similarly, it's easy to take the vastly improved productivity enabled by current technology for granted. Overall productivity for U.S. workers has grown 350 percent since 1948, with the last 100 of those percentage points coming since just 1990, when computerized business processes started to become widespread. AI promises, if anything, to lift that trajectory even higher.
But the digital workplace can add another dimension to employee productivity: it can facilitate work in the way each worker needs to be their most productive. Some employees thrive in the 9-5 bustle of an office. Some need to get away from those distractions to buckle down and get work done.
The decentralized digital workplace makes this possible. Trust your staff to work the way they're most productive, and you'll see the results in your business performance.
Managers and foremen have used the "eyeball test" to judge employees since the first factories were built. Just by walking the floor of a physical office space, a brilliant manager can supposedly tell who's busy and who's slacking, who's productive and who's not. Needless to say, while flattering to management's ego, this kind of subjective "data" tells us little more than who's good at looking busy.
With new technologies and digital tools, managers can get better insight into employee productivity and workflow than ever before. And we're not talking about intrusive spyware that measures meaningless "busyness" like keystrokes and mouse usage. Project management platforms, videoconferencing tools, digital calendars, messaging apps, and more all generate powerful data as a byproduct of their main functions.
Where are the blockers? What employees need help? What quiet superstars could be unleashed to have even more impact? It's all there in your digital workplace platform, if you know where to look.
"This meeting should have been an email." You've probably seen that joke everywhere from memes to coffee mugs, and for good reason. Getting everybody together in the same virtual "room" at the same time is hard enough. Requiring their physical presence is increasingly burdensome and logistically difficult. Surveys show that 83% of employees spend up to a third of their entire workweek in meetings.
There's no excuse for this kind of waste in the digital workplace. Modern communication tools make it possible to take care of the vast majority of knowledge sharing without convening a meeting.
The digital workplace empowers managers and employees to be much more selective about when a group meeting is really necessary or when asynchronous two-way communication will suffice. All those meetings that should have been emails? They will be emails.
By now, most companies use digital collaborative tools to some extent. Whether it's sharing a Google Doc, brainstorming in a Slack chat, or keeping project to-do lists in Microsoft Teams, surveys show 80% of workers collaborate online in some form, up 44% since before the pandemic.
But the power of digital collaboration to facilitate work is just starting to be unlocked. The truly digital workplace integrates those scatted channels into a single Operational System of Record: one source of truth for all work planning, collaborations, tracking, approvals, and data.
Many organizations scrambled to get some sort of digital collaboration tools in place when the pandemic hit. Now, three years later, it's time to deepen and elevate their role, for the good of your workers and your company.
6. Employee satisfaction
The basics of employee satisfaction are no mystery. Most people want a few basic things out of their jobs. A decent paycheck, sure, but also a sense of purpose. Some flexibility to and work-life balance. And don't forget: the opportunity to use their skills and creativity to make a measurable difference.
The digital workplace unlocks all of these keys to a better employee experience. It frees employees from rote drudgery to use the skills and expertise you really hired them for. It gives them the time and space to balance work and life. And it makes it more obvious how their work contributes to the company's purpose.
It's been proven time and again that employee engagement significantly boosts productivity. A digital workplace strategy can supercharge your company's performance and your staff's mental health.
Employees have spoken, and the message is clear. They want work-life balance and flexible working arrangements, including remote work. LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends survey found that balance and flexibility ranked behind only salary as the top priorities for workers worldwide. Other studies have found many workers would even take a pay cut to continue remote working. Clearly, the employee experience in the digital workplace is a distinct competitive advantage in attracting and retaining the best talent.
But that's not all. For companies whose talent recruitment has been restricted to a specific geographic area, the digital workplace opens up a whole new world - literally. With a geographically distributed workforce, you can assemble the best people, period, regardless of where they live. And they bring along the diversity of perspectives that has been proven to improve performance and outcomes.
Think about how you spend your day as a manager. How much of that time is actually spent doing the creative problem-solving and big picture thinking you were hired to do? And how much of it is spent on routine but time-intensive tasks that could be done by almost anyone - or, for that matter, a robot?
Now multiply that by every manager and frontline employee on your team. Asana found that the average knowledge worker spends 60% of their day on "work about work".
The digital workplace is about automating as many of those repetitive tasks as possible. With technological advancements like machine learning and today's digital tools, employees are set free to spend more of their time innovating and creating. The impact on efficiency, job satisfaction, employee engagement, and overall productivity is enormous.
9. Cost savings
The digital workplace isn't just about boosting the revenue side of the balance sheet. Major operational costs like physical office space and global travel can be reduced or erased completely.
To be sure, a fully digital workplace is a big mental and emotional leap for many executives who are used to a company's physical presence making a statement about their significance. But it's time ask whether the overhead costs of a showplace office are a price worth paying, especially given the many other advantages we've already discussed. Even if you don't eliminate your physical office completely, every dollar saved on real estate is as good as a dollar made through a sale.
Ready to embrace the digital workplace yet?
A successful digital workplace strategy doesn't just happen. And no plan will fit any two companies in quite the same way. If you're interested in all of the benefits of the digital workplace but aren't sure where to start, we're WNDYR. We've helped dozens of companies achieve digital transformations involving hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. And we'd love to talk to you today.