Businesses that use traditional workplace models are quickly falling behind as they struggle to keep up with the digital curve. This is due in part to the proliferation of technological conveniences — employees and customers have come to expect similar conveniences when they do business.
Challenges that the traditional workplace model introduces in today's digital world include:
These are just a handful of the many challenges that businesses with traditional workplaces are running up against. We'll look at four steps that can set you on the path to overcoming these challenges.
1. Establish a new mental model
Everywhere you look, you see people using smart devices to communicate, schedule their time and help them with daily personal tasks. As people become more and more used to this way of life, their desire to have this functionality and convenience in the workplace increases. Unfortunately, too many executives at too many companies lack the necessary mentality to drive a digital transformation that can effectively utilize technology in a way that keeps employees as happy and productive as possible.
The only way to move ahead of the digital curve is to change how we view the workplace by opening our minds to new possibilities. We all have a mental model, or framework — based on our experiences in traditional workplaces — that shapes the way we believe the workplace should look and feel. When thinking about the workplace, you might envision an office, corporate park or high rise versus employees working remotely. You might imagine file cabinets full of paper and folders rather than ones and zeros in the cloud.
To break the pattern, you first need to understand your own mental model. This can start with a simple question: “What is a workplace to you?" Ask this question, and images, assumptions and stories that represent what a workplace is to you will naturally arise. These unique perspectives about the workplace have been ingrained in our minds over the years, making it difficult to see past them. The idea is to blow them apart, so you can start to think about the workplace differently. Then you can open your mind to the changes you need to make to be successful now and in the future. This open way of thinking about your business needs can help direct you to the technology that will work best for you and your team.
Carol Rozwell, vice president and analyst at Gartner notes, "To be successful, a digital workplace can't be built in a vacuum. It must be part of a wider business strategy that seeks to boost employee agility and engagement by developing a more consumerized work environment."1 In other words, you can't view digital workplace technology through the lens of an outdated mental model. You need to make meeting your business needs and goals your highest priority, then seek technology that best fits those needs, and look for ways to make that technology available to all of your employees — both onsite and remote — so they can collaborate more effectively, increase productivity across your organization and better serve your customers.
2. Adopt a digital workplace strategy
Gallup notes that only “one-third of U.S. employees are engaged" at the workplace.2 This is a big problem when you consider that engaged employees are a necessary element when it comes to improving customer relationships and staying ahead of the competition. Optimizing connections between business, people and technology to enhance the workplace and make employees more efficient is a good way to get them more invested in their work. Here are a few questions that can guide you in the process and help you define a digital workplace strategy that makes sense for your business:
By answering these questions, you can start to gather the data you need to get buy-in — a crucial step in adopting a digital workplace strategy, as you need executive support to enable your digital transformation. A word of caution: When approaching other executives about adopting a digital workplace strategy, it's common to find some resistance. Everyone has his or her own unique mental model about the workplace — changing these perspectives can be challenging. Focusing the digital workplace conversation on business needs rather than available technology will help stakeholders understand the importance of a digital transformation. Otherwise, you could find the discussion being pushed out to IT and interrupting any real progress.
3. Assess your company with a digital maturity model
Once you get buy-in for the adoption of a digital workplace strategy, the next step is to assess your company's digital maturity and identify gaps in your current technological infrastructure. Ask yourself how your company is leveraging technology today. Have you recently started digitizing paper documents or have you already transformed business operations by leveraging various digital technologies? When it comes to empowering people, processes and technology with a digital transformation, how far along is your company today?
For a deeper dive, consider partnering with digital transformation experts who can assess your maturity level more objectively by helping you answer the following questions:
4. Keep your focus on the employee and customer experience
Two critical assets should drive your digital workplace strategy: your employees and your customers. Considering these two assets when defining your digital transformation process can have a wide-ranging, positive impact on people, processes and technology. For example, if you see a need for employees to meet with customers on a weekly basis, you may roll collaboration solutions into your digital workplace strategy to reduce time and travel costs while supporting this need — empowering your team to improve customer relationships by enabling them to share ideas more easily and effectively.
To help you design a digital workplace that fits your organization's unique business needs, you must consider how a digital transformation will affect your employees and customers. Here are some actions you can take to help you make the process easier for everyone:
Ultimately, the journey to a digital workplace should create digital dexterity — "a multifaceted endeavor spanning many areas that help make your employees more collaborative, analytical, mobile, innovative and creative."4 By working toward digital dexterity throughout your entire organization, you stand to significantly improve both the employee and customer experience while making a smoother transition to a digital workplace.