Surprisingly or not, the digital transformation of the workplace is lagging behind the digitalization of other verticals. The digital transformation of specialized business processes like healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing has been far more impressive.
For a successful and seamless transition to a more, or fully digitalized workplace, CEOs and HR managers must coordinate their priorities to stay ahead of the ever-changing digital world that surrounds them. HR departments need to take advantage of the emergent technologies to tailor the way the workplace of the future will be shaped, based on increasing productivity, but also on employee satisfaction and retention.
In this article, we will answer the following questions regarding workplace digital transformation:
- Why is the digital transformation of the workplace important?
- What are the trends that drive the workplace digital transformation?
- What can workplace digital transformation bring to an organization?
- What are the most common mistakes in digitalizing the workplace?
Let’s dig in.
Why is the digital transformation of the workplace important?
The digitalization of the workplace can be described as the utilization of advanced digital technologies, in order to connect people, spaces, and things together with business processes, and:
- improve productivity
- drive innovation
- engage the workforce
- reduce business costs
A company’s migration to digital is of enormous importance to its survival and growth. Connectivity, agility, and employee comfort are just some of the areas that can differentiate a successful business from its competitors.
By delivering a competitive advantage over the business processes and workforce alike, modernized organizations are far likely to survive and grow in the market.
Some predictions state that four in ten businesses will not go through a digital shift, and will thus fail within the next five years.
What are the trends that drive digital transformation?
The way businesses function is defined by the shifts that are occurring in their environment. Some of the shifts that have the greatest impact on company operations are:
- Employee engagement – according to Gallup, 68% to 87% of employees are not interested in their jobs. And some of those employees are openly expressing discontent, as well as endangering the overall workplace satisfaction and moral. New technologies and workplace organization methods must be implemented to enhance satisfaction and engagement. These include improvements in communication and connectivity, work flexibility, as well as using technology for making everyday tasks more streamlined.
- Workforce generational diversity – the workforce in many organizations, particularly in larger ones, is diversified. The categorization of Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z probably should be taken with a grain of salt, but the fact is that the younger generations, such as Gen Z, are tech innate, which means they are more likely to quickly adapt to a digitally transformed workplace.
- Work flexibility – The standard 9-to-5 workday may soon be history for many organizations. Today, with fast Internet speed and software, as well as the devices that compliment it, people are more connected than ever, willingly or not. And, in this time of globalization, it has become more common that organizations need workers available at almost any time during the day. On the other hand, workers now expect some degree of flexibility in their work hours. They want to be able to partly organize their workday by themselves and cater to family or health activities in-between work. The organizations that manage to provide this will have an advantage in recruiting the best talent.
- Internet of Things – It is expected that over 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the year 2020. This is due to new advancements in Internet technologies and device portability. With the expansion of connectivity, organizations can also use external competencies and knowledge, and not solely depend on that of their own workers.
What can digital transformation bring to an organization?
The key work areas that can be enhanced by implementing digital transformation are:
Online platforms and applications have become the main meeting place between recruiters and job seekers. In today’s competitive labor market, recruiters must be ready to act quickly and provide an extra effort to bring quality workforce to the organization.
With digitalization and cloud-based hiring tools, hiring managers can now more easily and more cost-effectively locate, evaluate, and organize top job candidates. But, on the other hand, it has become more difficult to find and retain top talent, considering job seekers have more opportunities than ever.
The future of talent recruitment seems to be centered around digitalization. For an example, if we look at LinkedIn, which was at first perceived as a supplement to the traditional resumes and person-to-person interviews, we’ll see that it has now become the main cloud platform for fully digital resumes and interviews.
Technology is making a world a smaller place, so talented professionals are now more likely to choose to relocate to a different city, or country, for the right job.
Collaboration is at the foundation of the workplace digitalization process. Real-time, or synchronous, communication tools, like email, have been a basic communication channel in almost all organizations for decades now, and they are still as important today.
Over the last few years, we have seen a more widespread use of near-real-time communication tools, with the emergence of Microsoft’s Skype, Google’s Hangouts, and, most recently, Slack.
Employees are now used to getting near-instant access to all important information they need for work. And, with the rise of mobile computing devices and technologies like LTE and 5G, crucial employees can be available at any time of the day, making near-instantaneous fine-tuning of important business processes feasible.
Office and home office
Technologically advanced equipment is nothing new in today’s offices. We are all used to having Bluetooth printers, powerful computers, and virtual conferences. But, with the implementation of digital transformation, even basic office commodities, like desks, chairs, or refrigerators, are being replaced with more advanced and “smarter” versions of themselves. They also often come with internet connection capabilities.
These are all improvements that cater to employee health and wellbeing:
- desks can remind you to stand more often and work in healthier positions
- smart refrigerators and vending machines can automatically send reminders for replenishing supplies
Powerful SaaS tools are implemented in almost every modern business and they enable more streamlined and efficient business operations. These tools also provide the basis of flexible work hours or fully remote work – models that are becoming more popular with both employees and the employers.
Workers are now more inclined to choose a job with some degree of flexibility, while employers can save money on office space and supplies when opting for a part, or fully remote business model. Which brings us to the next thing.
As mentioned before, employees are growing more sophisticated in their expectations about the tools and technologies they will be using in the workplace. Word processing software, sheets, and presentation software are already a workplace standard.
But, other activities and tasks are also becoming more digitized.
Solutions like collaboration software, cloud-based storage, time tracker, wearable devices, etc., are all developed and reimagined to give employees more capacity to gather information, make decisions, as well as enhance the workplace experience.
What are the most common mistakes in digitalizing a workplace?
Although the digital transformation of the workplace is desirable and recommended, organizations need to make sure they implement it properly. Here are some ways businesses fail when shifting to digital methods, according to Gallup:
- Providing tools without expectations — Gallup’s research found that the employees that were highly engaged before digital transformation were more likely to adopt new tools and technologies, and those employees who were less engaged, or disengaged, continued to be so, regardless of the new possibilities. The bottom line is unless people use provided digital tools, there probably won’t be any significant change in the organization’s culture or employee behavior. So, before introducing digital technologies, make sure that the organization’s social behaviors are in check with the desired goals.
- Implementing a one-size-fits-all solution — Creating a healthy workplace culture requires having a personalized approach to evaluating your employees. When adopting a digital solution and tracking employee engagement, managers must take into account individual differences and avoid looking only at numbers when evaluating employee performance. “There’s no autopilot, or digital substitute, for great management.”
- Forgetting to evaluate the return on investment — The implementation of new apps, tools, and technology for enhancing workplace efficiency and productivity, is just the beginning of the transformation process. You need to define metrics and track the return on investment, to see how the digitalization has helped your organization, and if there’s a place for further improvements.
Digitalization of the workplace is not an entirely new concept, but, every year, more and more organizations choose to undergo this kind of change. Some predictions state that, by the year 2020, 75% of businesses will be digital, or will have digital business transformation underway. Of those numbers, only 30% will be successful in the transition.
This is why digital transformation needs to be taken seriously, and then expertly managed, in order to prove beneficial to an organization or a business.