While I am bullish on the prospects for better days ahead, I am fully aware that we are still in a time of great uncertainty and rapid transition. It’s clear that businesses and nonprofit organizations will continue to face challenges as they strive to meet goals in a dramatically changed landscape.
Here are five specific business challenges I see affecting organizations in the rest of 2022 and how a Digital Workplace can help meet those challenges.
Challenge #1: Defining the hybrid work model
If 2020 and 2021 were the great experiment in remote work, 2022 will be the year we define “hybrid work”. Who returns to an office, how often, and for what reason? How do we collaborate with colleagues or service customers no matter where they are?
We’re seeing many of our customers redefine the office as a place to meet in person, collaborate, and build a shared vision. This is an inversion of how we used to work, when employees would show up at an office and for the daily work and go to elsewhere for team building, visioning, and collaboration. For more detail, check out Erica Keswin’s discussion of “on-site days” in her article “In the Hybrid Era, On-Sites are the New Off-Sites”.
This new model requires a different type of office. The cubicles and designated offices have given way to open, configurable spaces that can be reserved for small meetings and teamwork. There are still private spaces, but these are used for client-facing meetings or working with remote colleagues.
Digital workplaces can help meet these challenges with solutions that make moving between the virtual and physical seamless and efficient. Digital workplaces can bridge the gap between people no matter where in space and time they are working.
Digital workplace solutions to help make hybrid work
- Reservable spaces (Hoteling or Hot Desking): We’ve helped our clients make the most out of their revamped offices by implementing FlexDesk–a tool to reserve desks, offices, and conference rooms. The tool features a way for employees to quickly see who else is going to be in the office that day, revealing opportunities for quick check-ins or extended collaboration time.
- Better meeting tools: By optimizing how our customers are using Microsoft Teams, we’ve helped them plan and run smarter meetings, whether virtual, in-person or a hybrid of the two.
- Watercooler replacements: By providing digital spaces where colleagues can gather and share the type of banter and conversation that used to happen informally over lunch or around the coffee pot, we’ve helped clients maintain culture and camaraderie.
- Virtual and augmented reality: With a relatively simple piece of hardware like Oculus Quest or HTC Cosmos, companies can provide a digital experience for remote workers that is close to being there in person. These are particularly useful in training, collaboration, and human resource applications where physical proximity is useful but may be difficult to achieve.
Challenge #2: Reducing the impact of the Great Resignation through great retention and recruitment
We’ve seen an unprecedented number of people leaving their jobs over the last 18 months, with records for quitting being set in September and November of 4.4 and 4.5 million workers respectively. Some employees were let go as companies downsized or streamlined operations; some employees left on their own volition as they reconsidered what they wanted from their work lives.
No matter the reason, the Great Resignation is leaving few organizations untouched. According to New Providence, N.J.-based XpertHR, 79 percent of employers believe employee retention will be a challenge in the coming months. The challenge is really three-fold: retaining current employees (more on that below), recruiting top talent, and onboarding new employees.
To overcome this trifold challenge, organizations need to provide the right information to their people (employees and recruits) at the right time. This is where a digital workplace can really shine.
Digital workplace solutions to retain and recruit
- Targeted Information: A digital workplace can show information to employees based on their role, department, location, or any number of facets in their profile. This can provide a unique and personalized experience critical to retention.
- Centralized Information: Managing the hiring process can be time-consuming and complex. According to one recruiter for the medical industry, each doctor she hired required an average of 25 “touches” from identifying through their first day. Having a well-organized information architecture and optimized search can save hours of time for HR departments and recruiters.
- Rapid Onboarding Templates: For organizations facing bringing on multiple new hires over a short period of time, a tool like Powell Teams can drastically improve efficiency. With an onboarding template, a hiring manager can, with just a few actions, provide each new employee with almost everything she needs for her first day, week, or month. The template can contain the relevant forms and documents, access to internal or external systems, and immediate connections to colleagues, supervisors, and mentors.
Challenge #3: Meeting the higher bar of Employee Experience
Even before the pandemic, we at StitchDX have been promoting the connection between customer experience and employee experience. It is both intuitive and validated by research that a delighted and engaged employee will help create delighted and engaged customers.
Employee experience begins well before an employee’s first day and continues well after. It is the sum of all the interactions an employee has with the company, including those they have online. So it stands to reason that in the age of hybrid and remote work, these digital employee experiences take on greater importance. (Some of our customers’ employees have never met their colleagues in person.)
The good news is that the path to a superior employee experience is clearly marked. We know that employees want to feel valued, informed, and empowered. The digital workplace can help.
Digital workplace solutions to delight and empower
- Tools to do the work: One clear success of our collective remote work experiment was how productive employees can be when not in the office. If we provide good, functional tools and support for asynchronous work, our employees can thrive. We’ve helped our customers utilize tools like Microsoft Teams and Power Automate to streamline and automate processes that were often done manually.
- Open Communications: Utilizing Microsoft Teams and other tools we’ve helped organizations open new channels for communications with senior leadership. This open dialogue helps build trust and a sense of value. Employees can share their concerns about topics like coming back to the office and other changes while senior leadership can share important information about upcoming efforts or changes.
- Better Design: When creating an intranet, social platform or internal marketing tools, we are always keeping keep the employee front and center. We understand their time is valuable and that they are used to consumer-grade digital products. This approach is critical for creating digital workplace tools that are both functional and beautiful.
Challenge #4: Finding customers where they are
Just as your employees have been working from their kitchen tables and home offices, your customers are as well. Whether you are business-to-business or business-to-consumer, the people you sell to are most likely working at least partially from home.
This means that your customers will be looking to your website and social media for information about your products. They will also want to interact with your employees online. They’ll look to social media and review apps for recommendations and opinions about your products.
Most successful organizations can’t rely entirely on customers walking in. They need to engage with their customers on the platforms and channels their customers use. A digital workplace can help organizations create more effective sales and marketing efforts as well as better customer support.
Digital workplace solutions to increase market share
- Robust sales and marketing tools: In addition to building websites and digital marketing campaigns, we’ve created the online tools to better track potential leads, interact with existing and new customers, and manage key facets of the sales process. We can deploy templates that make sales process streamlined and efficient.
- Better Help Options: One powerful strategy for keeping customers is arming employees with the tools and information they need to feel confident in their jobs. For example, we helped one customer create a dedicated Covid channel to distribute vital information to their nationwide network of stores. This allowed the stores to adjust to new situations without missing a beat.
- Employee Advocacy: With tools like Powell Software’s social advocacy platform, employees can easily share curated news and brand ambassador assets from their social media profiles right from within their intranet. It works like this: marketing creates and releases an item, and the employee shares it to their LinkedIn feed with a couple quick clicks.
Challenge #5: Adapting to Ongoing Disruption
2021 kept teaching us the same lesson: be ready for things to change. Companies that have the agility to adapt to changing circumstances and ongoing disruptions – to their supply chains, to their workforce, to their marketplace – have a serious business advantage
Agility is not about rushing into things foolishly. McKinsey defines agility as “the ability to quickly reconfigure strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-creating and value-protecting opportunities.”
This agility requires timely and accurate information and frictionless collaboration.
Digital workplace solutions to seize the moment
- Feedback Loops: One powerful way our customers have dealt with changing conditions is to give employees a voice. Our customers have used Microsoft Teams teams and channels to offer feedback. We’ve built out polls and surveys that live inside customers intranets. And we’ve created profiles for online communities that are specifically for gathering information and interacting with networks of people.
- Centralized Information: Again, agility is not the same as rash decisions. It’s important that decision makers have seamless access to the information they need to make important decisions quickly. Some customers have used Microsoft Teams for consolidating and organizing time-critical information while others have adapted SharePoint libraries.
Learning the lessons
More than a year ago, I wrote: “While 2021 may not be the same brutal rollercoaster [as 2020], it will continue to be a crucial moment for employee experience and productivity.” I was looking forward to a year where the pandemic would start to fade away with the vaccinations and we could begin to return to a more normal business environment. I was wrong.
However, my instincts about the potential for digital workplaces to meet business challenges still right on target. Digital workplaces will play an increasingly important role in how we adjust to life marked by hybrid work, career flexibility, and higher expectations for employee experience.
There is real opportunity for those companies able to invest in a digital strategy built on a solid digital workplace foundation. The business benefits delivered will provided serious advantages over competitors that have chosen to keep the status quo.
In fact, those unwilling or unable to invest in a digital workplace may be left behind – by their customers and their employees. We found in our State of the Digital Workplace report that 78% of senior leadership ranked their digital workplace tools as very important or important.
The good news is that a winning digital workplace strategy does not need to break the bank or wait years to pay off.There are quick wins and low-hanging fruit that are easy to identify and capitalize on. Reach out for help identifying what you can do now to give you an advantage tomorrow.
We’re here to help you build a better digital workplace.
We can help you meet these 5 challenges and more in our digital workplace process.
If you need help building a better digital workplace that connects your employees with the colleagues, tools, and resources they need to drive your business goals, please reach out or go ahead and click that orange chat button bottom right of this page.