Originally published in HR Technologist.
Designing a digital workplace is a complex undertaking. To make it successful, enterprises must develop a solution that drives innovation and collaboration through effective internal communications that reaches and engages each and every employee.
According to Gallup’s recent “State of the Global Workplace” report, an alarming 85 percent of employees worldwide feel disengaged when it comes to their work. Gallup further estimates that this lack of engagement accounts for more than $7 trillion in lost productivity. Since employee engagement and workplace productivity are inextricably linked, enterprises need to make employee engagement a top priority, especially when it comes to reaching mobile or hard-to-reach employees.
However, it is often far easier to start the planning process by thinking about those who work in a headquarters office or use central services such as HR, finance and IT. To be effective, more thought needs to be given upfront about ways to connect with employees who are considered ‘hard-to-reach.’ These employees are often working from the road or in a retail setting. They may be the ones assembling your product on the manufacturing floor or logistically getting your product from point A to point B.
As more companies set out to rethink how they bring together business processes, content, applications and collaboration tools into a single unified platform, these hard-to-reach employees can feel left out or forgotten and can be difficult to integrate into your company’s culture. The challenge stems from the fact that these employees may be temporary staff, or they may never work at a desk, they may not also have the luxury of working within your company’s IT environment.
One of the key benefits that a digital workplace offers is better communication and collaboration across an organization regardless of an employee’s role or location. By targeting specific groups of employees with relevant tools and content, a well-designed digital workplace can significantly make their working lives easier, by simplifying it and cutting out irrelevant ‘noise’ that is of no use to them. Likewise, an accessible platform can also provide hard-to-reach employees with an inclusive means to contribute their ideas of how to improve operations or up-level a company’s customer experience , especially since they often deal with customers, suppliers, and partners on a daily basis.
Bringing everyone together into a unified digital workplace means that everyone – not just those knowledge workers located in central locations or functions – will feel like their insights and feedback are heard and valued. Achieving this will help cultivate a positive culture no matter where an employee is located, to ultimately benefit how the entire organization responds to the needs of its customers.
To start the process for how to engage your hard-to-reach employees, there are three main tenants that you should consider putting in place to reap the benefits:
Ease of access adoption
According to Statistica, smartphone penetration will reach 72.7 percent by 2021, which is more than a 3X increase from 2010. Companies need to take a mobile-first strategy when implementing a digital workplace to ensure that each employee has access to the same information regardless of where they work . As part of an internal communications strategy, providing ubiquitous access to vital company information, including employee handbooks, policies, procedures and other HR resources is the first step, but employees should also be able to search for company news and resources to help them better do their job. Whether this is done from a smartphone, tablet or desktop, the experience should be the same.
Engagement is a two-way process
Hard-to-reach employees don’t always work in a traditional office setting. Due to their remoteness, work pressure, or because they are continually dealing with customers, they can find it difficult to be part of the corporate culture. Special attention needs to be given to this unique part of the workforce to get them involved to share their opinions and connect with others. Implement an internal communications program that pushes content and pulls insights across your business. How you do this needs to be carefully considered, planned for, and nurtured. It must consider two aspects of how to communicate and engage your staff.
First, employees are eager to understand the direction a company is taking, read the recent news or even understand whether there are three floating holidays rather than two this year. This helps instill corporate culture and unify a workforce.
Second, your staff needs to feel that they are being listened to too, and will as a consequence, feel compelled to share their experiences with customers and appreciate that their opinions are heard and valued.
Collaboration is vital to drive new ideas
The growth in social media has transcended into the corporate world, but with a greater focus placed on collaboration to achieve business goals. One of the benefits of a digital workplace is to have quick and easy access to people within your company who can share their insights to help you with a project, point you in the right direction to get the information you need or quickly answer a question without having to jump through multiple hoops. Collaboration helps deliver a better end-product, but it also instills a sense of community within a company and fosters an engaged culture. Since remote or hard-to-reach employees often work directly with customers, they provide tremendous value to the entire collaboration process as they are the best able to interject the needs of customers back into the enterprise from the outside in.
A well designed digital workplace will significantly transform and meet the needs of all employees regardless of whether they work in an office setting or in a more remote location. Doing this well will not only help improve productivity but also morale and retention, which are critical elements in maintaining a company’s competitiveness.