Winning Workplaces: People imperatives in the new digital workplace
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace”- Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell's Soup
Oh yes! That line sounds like chicken soup for the HR soul! Another huge validation of why internal action is needed for external traction.
As COVID turned our world upside down, the “Future Of Work” as we all called it, became a thing of the present. From doubt to delight, together we moved as a working world to enjoy the possibilities of technology. Redefining all that was past: as work moved away rightfully from being a “place we go to” to the “things we do”.
Through the transformation of the last 6 months, the idea of the Digital Workplace, is a lot more real than ever—as teams and individuals come together in a seamless ecosystem enabled by technology. The infrastructure needed to support a new world of virtual services has hit the spotlight and booming more than ever before. It’s from that industry vantage that I navigate this article. Whilst many organizations believe that they have transitioned effortlessly to the new normal, the fact remains that the transition needs to also happen at a cultural and psychological level. Digital, they say is “10 percent tech and 90 percent human” but how many of us think so? We ran a quick LinkedIn poll to validate this, and the results were close enough.
As a People practitioner, Digital Transformation for me means galvanizing the people who make it all happen. A 7-step agenda that by design I would call DIGITAL with each letter standing for a key consideration effecting the transformation.
Defining the benefits
You don’t have to be a genius to understand how destination clarity is half the distance run. The benefit articulation of digital transformation needs to be tailored to inspire hope and remove fears. For a tech company (which is today’s every company), the benefits of digital transformation can range from greater competitiveness and the shared rewards of winning not to mention greater employee engagement and alignment. On the other hand for a brick-and-mortar company like a traditional factory, the digital transformation to a “smart factory” with its persistent fears of job losses, can be readdressed as the opportunity for safety and overall competitiveness that will actually augur well for the employees. Of course, obvious as it seems digital transformation is a do or die choice for competitiveness.
The new Digital Workplace demands a new Digital Workforce. While traditional companies need to grapple with the double whammy of scaling up a workforce from a technical skill perspective and scaling up the workforce for the non-tech skills asks of the digital era, the knowledge industries have a much easier challenge. From behavioral and interaction etiquettes that breach borders to collaboration skills to cognitive capabilities that will help our workforce navigate the constant challenges, upskilling is not just the need of the hour, it is the need of the decade.
Going for what’s gettable
Whilst the frontiers of the digital workplace are ever expanding, there’s a need to calibrate technology embraces that are affordable. The choice to often make is: “Quality over Quantity”—figuring out how to pick a few transformation battles and win them than boil the ocean and avoid “digital disappointment” by trying to over-reach.
Increasing content focus
Stories drive transformation and the digital workplace lives off those stories. Content for digital transformation is like coal for the furnace. Essential to keep it moving. For our 31st anniversary, we decided to identify and recognize 31 Microlanders who were successful in “making digital happen”. What would have otherwise been a Manager nomination process became a digital nomination process with a series of digital engagements. And through this process the content artifacts of great digital work within the company flooded our collective consciousness.
Trust and transparency
The Digital Workplace has imperatives on how we interact as employers and as colleagues. The transparency and access that underlines the digital workplace narrative, needs to be balanced with people policies that afford for excesses but curb abuse. The digital workplace places a high quotient on “trust and personal responsibility” with the caveat that there’s no anonymity in digital. We want our people to have access to as much information as possible, to have the power of access, to be able to know that we are building an organization where trust is at the heart of everything we do.
Aligning intent with action
The Digital Workplace is a process of continuous transformation. It’s sometimes best done if engagement is preceded by the question “in this context how can we make digital happen?” Manifesting digital in every action sets the stage for consistent success. “Culture First” could be the mantra for the digital workplace of today. Organizations need to reconcile to the idea of how digital workplaces and the power of those digital workplaces.
Much like that lovely line from Alice in Wonderland: “The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible”. Once you create a workplace that is digital, where information and access is at the heart of your employee engagement, it becomes an intuitive way to be. Covid has offered up a powerful opportunity to reimagine the spectrum of employee experiences digitally. No longer are we limited by physical presence [ or the perceived need for it]. The fact that we can unite, engage, excite, educate employees digitally is unprecedented. The “infinite mindset” could well be the agenda of the new people paradigm as we tell our people to go win, equipping them with the tools that let them win.
And, at the front and center of this transformation is the people function, that’s becoming more relevant than ever before. It’s an exciting time to be living this seismic change of the working world. As the line goes: “where the willingness is great, the difficulties cannot be great”. It’s time to see just the opportunity!