There’s a reason you’ve been hearing a lot about the digital workplace lately. Researchers forecast that companies will spend nearly $35 – $80 billion on digital workplace technologies in the next few years. From our own research here at SocialChorus, we know 75 percent of organizations plan to increase spending specifically on workforce communications.
The digital workplace is not just a challenge for HR and IT to sort out in the next few years—it will require the entire company to adapt and shift.
What is the Digital Workplace?
As with most new concepts, nailing down a single definition for the “digital workplace” can be difficult, however one of the first and simplest may also be the most accurate:
The digital workplace is the “virtual, digital equivalent of the physical workplace.” – Paul Miller
Building off of that, this new digital version requires tools and technologies to enable both its formation and effectiveness. These digital applications are fast becoming a crucial part of today’s workplace and can be seen everywhere in 2021 from HR applications to messaging apps, email to enterprise social media tools, internal communications apps, and even the employee intranet – to name a few. These tools build the infrastructure upon which the digital workplace lives.
For anyone that is working to improve, enhance, and optimize the employee experience via communication and technology, the shift toward the digital workplace and the acceleration of its adoption in 2020 has made this transformation extremely interesting. And while most companies have worked to keep pace with digital technology, not every organization is as advanced, strategic, or aligned as it could be.
Why Is the Digital Workplace so Important?
What’s driving the growth of the digital workplace, and why now? You can trace it back to four core ways digital tools have transformed the way we live and work.
- Technology innovation: From mobile to machine learning to robots, digital tools, and platforms eliminate mundane tasks and increase the speed that work gets done.
- Societal expectations: The way we communicate in our daily lives—from text to video— have given rise to a new category for employee communications applications which help companies connect to frontline and remote workers and improve the quality and speed of communications among teams.
- Shift to the Gig Economy: The move for many workers to freelance and the gig economy mean it’s harder than ever to hire and retain top talent. And thanks to digital tools that let us work from almost anywhere, at almost anytime, the workforce is now made up of gig workers, remote consultants or seasonal workers of diverse backgrounds.
- The “new normal”: During the COVID pandemic companies have had to ramp up the digital workplace at an incredible rate. Throughout 2021 the shift to work from home and the increased usage of video calls is making the digital workplace more crucial than ever.
Driving workplace alignment and simplifying the employee experience is a complex undertaking. It spans multiple categories like Gartner’s Market Guide for Employee Communications Applications and Intranet Packaged Solutions. (report available to Gartner subscribers or get your free market guide for the modern intranet here).
SocialChorus is honored to be uniquely included as a Representative Vendor in the Market Guide for both employee communications and the modern intranet.. According to the employee communications report, “The market for employee communications applications is set for growth and innovation as vendors enter the space from multiple adjacencies, creating a hypercompetitive environment. Application leaders of digital workplaces can use this guide to plan their investments in this rapidly evolving market.”
How Do You Know When a Digital Workplace is Working Properly?
When trying to understand if a digital workplace is successful, you can look for a few specific signs. Consider the following as hallmarks of a company that has invested in the right digital tools, aligned them successfully with business objectives and team workflows, and gotten the entire workforce to adopt and use those tools routinely.
- Mundane tasks have either been eliminated or vastly reduced.
- Workplace efficiency has increased.
- Productivity has increased.
- Employee engagement levels are high.
- Workers are more connected, informed, and aligned with leadership.
- Remote workers are connected, engaged, and productive.
- Usage of digital workforce platforms and the cloud have created more agility and alignment.
- Employees are easily able to share and locate information with consistent experiences across devices and locations.
- Attracting and retaining top talent has become easier.
The kind of technology you offer in your workplace impacts your employees’ ability to collaborate, communicate, and innovate; and organizations are beginning to spend more on their digital workplaces. Researchers forecast that companies will spend nearly $35 – $80 billion on digital workplace technologies in the next few years. A Gartner study in the Harvard Business Review discovered that 87% of senior managers find achieving effective digital workplaces to now be a priority, with the majority saying it is a do-or-die imperative.
Based on our own research at SocialChorus, we know 75% of organizations plan to increase spending specifically on workforce communications. Why do organizations care about improving their digital workplace? Organizations focused on enhancing the digital workplace see significant improvements in performance when measured against the performance of their competitors. The digital workplace plays a large role in not only increasing productivity but also creating a positive employee experience.
How the Digital Workplace Improves Employee Experience
The digital workplace is built around and tailored to the needs of employees. Specifically, much of today’s technology tools are designed to increase, enhance, and create enjoyment around employee engagement.
This makes sense, because employee engagement is tied directly to revenue results. What returns can an amazing employee experience have?
- Positive experiences can increase engagement and productivity
- Lower your churn rate as teams are more happy and less likely to leave
- Help reach business goals faster and increase organizational alignment
Research by Gallup shows that teams that rank in the top quartile of employee engagement outperform bottom-quartile teams by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. The employee experience has become so important that companies are beginning to have Chief Experience Officers committed to optimizing the worker journey. Building a positive worker experience involves investing in your digital and physical workplace and building a positive company culture.
“As part of an initiative to improve information for frontline workers, Southern Company Gas invested in SocialChorus’ FirstUp platform, enabling it to deliver task-critical information to employees wherever they’re located and driving a 45% increase in employee engagement.”— Best Practices: Technology Experience Management, Forrester report by Andrew Hewitt and Jonathan Roberts
How can you measure the employee experience? The Employee Experience Index ranks and scores 252 organizations based on variables across culture, technology, and the physical workspace. Some of the top organizations include Ultimate Software, Facebook, Google, and Apple.Gallup found that teams ranking in the top quartile of employee engagement outperform bottom-quartile by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity.
Note that, among the variables that affect the employee experience and the worker’s journey, technology plays a huge role. Leveraging the right tools can make employees want to work. Which is a huge goal for many organizations, as 51% of employees are not engaged and a shocking 16% are actively not engaged.
If your employees are happy, they are more likely to be productive and stay at a company. Instead of just working on keeping employees engaged, create a positive workplace experience that will encourage them to produce their best work. Your digital workplace has a tremendous impact on your employee experience. If teams are equipped with the tools they need, they are more likely to get the job done.
Why Now, Why EX Is Big
Despite the impact of the COVID pandemic on jobs, we are still in a relatively tight labor market, especially for skilled workers. Because companies around the world are searching for the same skilled workers, recruitment becomes more difficult. As unemployment shrinks, the war for talent increases. In order to attract top talent, companies need to show workers why their organization is a great place to work. Non-monetary benefits and perks have started to play a larger role in helping employees determine where to work. Flexible work hours, telecommuting, increased PTO, and a better work-life balance have all become common expectations for job seekers.
Competition for attracting talent has increased the necessity for differentiating the workforce experience. Your level of digital sophistication should be considered a point of hiring leverage, much in the same way your benefits package can attract top-quality talent. Having tools that allow for a frictionless work experience can encourage potential employees to choose your organization.
Generational differences are also contributing to advancements in the digital workplace. Baby boomers are beginning to shift out of the labor force. Millennials now make up the largest group in the labor force and making sure that they are engaged at work has become a top priority for many enterprises. To keep millennials engaged, companies are spending more on making their workplace modern. Millennials expect that the technology they use at work will be comparable to the technology they use at home. This puts pressure on companies to provide tools that are agile and equipped with the latest AI features to create a personalized experience.Millennials now make up the largest group in the labor force and making sure that they are engaged at work has become a top priority for many enterprises.
The Digital Workplace for Frontline and Remote Workers
Frontline workers are making up a larger segment of the global workforce. More than 80% of employees don’t sit at a desk and lack access to communication tools. Although these workers make up a large segment of the workforce, they are often forgotten by Silicon Valley when they are creating updates and new software features.
The rise of remote workers has also increased the importance of mobile workforce communication. Many of these workers are not given or do not have access to a company laptop or intranet. In order to keep an entire organization aligned, you need to have the tools to reach every worker. This has increased the importance of internal communications being available on your workforce’s personal device. Your digital workplace needs to be ready to meet the growing demands of a changing workforce.
Examples of Digital Workplace Initiatives that have improved the Employee Experience
Investing in your employee experience can transform your organization for the better. Ensuring that your workforce is informed and connected will enable them to be more productive. Investing in your digital workplace can be key to helping you reach broader business goals. Here are some top companies that invested in their digital workplace:
A Fortune 500 organization dedicated to advancing health information technology and clinical research, experienced enormous change after a 2016 merger. The merger resulted in different IT and HR systems and a lack of communication to employees. IQVIA relied heavily on email communications and couldn’t measure whether their communications reached their employees. This made it more difficult to maintain an aligned organization and keep all employees on track to meet strategic business objectives. In order to better their digital workplace the company needed a tool that could help its teams reach every employee and track the impact of their communications. SocialChorus transformed the way IQVIA communicates with its employees. IQVIA uses the SocialChorus platform to send emails to all employees with the bulk upload feature and send push notifications to employees for the most important news. The company now has analytics to track communications performance. By tracking and measuring communications the company can directly assess the impact of its messages and make sure all employees are aligned and informed.
An American multinational manufacturer and marketer of home appliances, was having trouble engaging its workforce. Whirlpool has 92,000 employees spread across the globe. The company needed help simplifying communication processes to enable teams across every region, brand, and function. Having the Whirlpool 360 employee engagement app, powered by SocialChorus, allowed its C-suite to communicate authentically and directly to employees and reach manufacturing workers effectively. This has strengthened company culture and facilitated the dissemination of leadership values. Company culture has trickled down from the C-suite and influences the entire organization. Because Whirlpool employees understand the broader context of the entire company, they can make better decisions in their respective work environments.
3. Canadian Pacific (CP)
A transcontinental railway company, has employees distributed across Canada and parts of the United States. Its workforce is composed of deskless, remote workers who, for safety reasons, cannot spend lengthy amounts of time at work checking the company intranet to stay informed. Prior to getting a workforce communications platform, internal communications was done predominantly through posters and bulletin boards. CP needed a digital workplace transformation so it wouldn’t have to rely on physical messaging and be able to accurately estimate the impact of communications. In order to reach frontline workers successfully, CP adopted the SocialChorus platform. The company was able to easily measure the reach of communications and validate recommendations to people outside of the communication, complete with data-based proof points.
Each of these companies faced challenges related to modernizing communication channels, reaching a dispersed workforce, and aligning company culture and business objectives. Investing in your digital workplace can be the change needed to reach organizational goals. Having the right digital tools can help you communicate and support your entire workforce.
Digital Workplace Best Practices
Digital workplace transformations don’t happen overnight. These transformations are more like an organizational change than simply working with IT to update a system.
To lead a change in your organization, you need to create a strategy that works for the unique needs of your workforce. That means focusing on the people within your organization, aligning your vision with the entire organization with internal communications, assessing your current tech stack, and building a roadmap for future success.
Here are some best practices for implementing a digital workplace:
Best practice #1: Focus on what your workforce needs.
Traditionally, the focus of most organizations has been on the consumer journey. But your employees are the driving force behind creating a positive consumer journey. Happy employees create happy customers, so your vision for your digital transformation should be aligned with what your workforce needs.
To understand what they need, you will need to gather feedback, assess challenges, and gain a deeper understanding of how your tech stack is used. Do so by asking the following questions.
- Is our workforce currently using so many technology tools that they spend too much time working in tools rather than completing tasks? Are digital distractions in the office making it hard for employees to focus?
- Are our technology tools siloed?
- Do our tools work in harmony with employee workflows, or do our tools create productivity disruptions?
- Does our organization have tools that address the different communication and collaboration needs (based on department, job function, and region) of employees? ?
The feedback you gather should include a diverse range of perspectives and seek to discover what technology and processes they value most. Feedback could be given in the form of surveys or interviews. By getting a holistic view of your current workplace environment, you will be able to assess what challenges and barriers your employees face.
Best practice #2: Align your vision.
After you have gotten feedback from employees, it’s time to bring in stakeholders from individual business units. Organizational change starts at the top but should be adopted and agreed upon by the entire workforce. People can be resistant to change, and if they don’t understand it, the initiatives could fail. Which is why internal communications is critical to your success.
By bringing in key leaders you can make sure that everyone is on board with your digital transformations. Stakeholders can help lead successful transformations by encouraging their business units to adopt new tools. Once you have aligned your vision with your entire organization, it will be much easier to implement new technology.
Best practice #3: Assess your current comms tech stack.
Communication is key to a digital workplace initiative. You need to know what tools you already have, identify what technology is used the most, and how your employees use it. Identifying what features they rely upon or what tools they see themselves using in the future is critical to leading a lasting transformation.
Once you have identified positive features, you can work on highlighting gaps in your stack. Gaps could include the growing need for a mobile app to reach remote workers, multilingual capabilities, or centralizing your internal communications. This will help you map solutions for your current tech needs.
One of the largest barriers to a seamless digital experience is having siloed technology. If systems are not integrated, it can be difficult for workers to get the information they need in a timely manner. Having a single digital platform can immensely help to align your technology.
Best practice #4: Develop a roadmap.
After you have gathered employee feedback, gotten stakeholders onboard, and assessed your current tech stack, you are ready to create your roadmap. Create a roadmap timeline so you can help your business units and stakeholders understand the steps you need to take as an organization. Highlighting when phases will launch and who will be involved during various steps will help your organization be ready for change.
Identify how you will determine ROI; this will lend legitimacy to your strategy and give stakeholders a way to track success. Your roadmap’s endpoint should be a successful digital transformation that empowers your workforce and creates a positive employee experience.
What Will the Digital Workforce Look Like?
We know the digital workplace is a growing market, which means there’s also a real need for companies to explore workforce communications tools. But there is still much work to do to educate companies on how such tools can help them.
The findings show:
- 56 percent of companies stated that the digital workplace was an extremely or very important priority.
- 72 percent of the companies report having an “established digital workplace strategy.”
- Only 11.3 percent of respondents reported having fully implemented the technology platforms need to support the initiative. Many are building a business case, researching vendors, or developing requirements.
- Digital workplace technology purchases are led primarily by IT (48 percent),C-suite leadership (42percent),and HR (23 percent). Line-of-business, corporate communications, digital groups, and others represent a less significant number of decision makers. But the ranking changed when survey respondents reported who was responsible as well for “employee experience”—HR teams took first place.
- Top priorities that respondents thought were most important include integrated digital workplace environments, digitization and process improvements, culture and change management.
Finally, survey takers reported that the number one metric used to measure the success of digital workplace initiatives was employee engagement. (Though editors also reported that “measuring the digital workplace is at a nascent stage.”)
It’s exciting for SocialChorus to be a part of the growth of this market. We’ll continue our work helping our customers meet their technology needs, improve the employee experience, and measure workforce engagement and alignment.
Gartner Disclaimer: Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
Conclusion: Invest in Your Digital Workplace
Today, a digital workplace is absolutely essential to increasing employee engagement, generating high levels of productivity, and keeping employees (and customers) happy. Your employees expect their workplaces to offer the same kind of sophisticated technology they use and enjoy in their personal lives. And quality internal communications is at the center.
Having a positive digital workplace can lead to creating a better digital employee experience. This can help you decrease churn rate and align your organization around strategic business objectives.
More companies are investing in their digital workplace and leading transformations to drive business growth. As the competition for talent increases and millennials make up more of the labor force, the importance of having an amazing digital suite has increased. The rise in frontline and remote workers has also put pressure on enterprises to have the communications tools needed to reach their entire organization.
In order to build an amazing digital workplace, your strategy needs to be employee driven. If your technology doesn’t enhance how your employees work, it doesn’t matter how user-friendly that technology is.
Best practices for a successful digital transformation includes understanding the unique needs of various employees and stakeholders at your company. Align the entire enterprise with your change, by communicating effectively, to ensure successful rollouts and adoption. You will also need to identify gaps in your current tech stack and what tools you will need. Finally, building a roadmap will help define your transformation and show ROI to your organization.
Learn more on how to take your organization into the future with a digital workplace. Schedule a demo today.