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The intense debate, analysis and the general excitement surrounding the digital workplace and its potential ramifications can at times obfuscate the practical challenges that really need to be understood about this critically important issue.
That the digital workplace is generating so much excitement and analysis is not unusual. This type of buzz often accompanies a new social and business phenomenon. In fact, it’s very hard to avoid getting carried away by it. But it can also be a significant undertaking for any senior management team that chooses to wade through the myriad side issues, non-issues, and even the wrong issues before it eventually identifies the real ones – the ones that will have a tangible and long-lasting bearing on profitability and growth.
So what are the real issues that senior management should be focusing its time and effort on addressing?
In my view, one of the crucial factors that should underpin senior management’s thinking is to understand the potential ramifications of the digital workplace on employee productivity.
More specifically, senior management needs to better understand how to measure employee productivity in the context of the digital workplace in order to reshape the organisation’s digital strategy and help the workforce to fulfil its productivity potential.
That is not to say that I think forward-thinking senior management teams are not already measuring and analysing employee productivity, and exploring how best to boost it in a sustainable manner. Of course they are. It’s just that the rules of the game are changing. In fact, I believe they have been changing for some time. And I also believe that they will continue to do so for many more years to come.
The chief catalyst for this change is the workforce itself. The expectations our people have about how, when and where they work are evolving rapidly. Indeed, new mobile technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things, web-enabled business processes, greater insights derived by ever more sophisticated business intelligence methodologies and tools, as well as the open, knowledge sharing culture of our organisations are all contributing to this change.
As more millennials join the workforce, they are also accelerating the pace of adoption of trends such as the consumerisation of workplace technology including the wider use of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, more mobile and collaborative ways of working, and the desire to mirror the digital, socially-networked experiences of their private lives in the workplace.
The digitally-defined organisation that will succeed in today’s information-rich, hyper-connected work environment needs to be reassessed by different criteria than we have traditionally used. In addition to employee productivity, I believe the new criteria comprise the following:
- Mobility – the ability to nurture and manage a mobile and remote-based workforce.
- Agility – the organisation’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to a customer’s changing requirements as well as the ability to anticipate any future needs.
- Information security – how the organisation uses, manages and stores information.
- Sustainability – ensure that sustainable ways of working form an integral part of the organisation’s strategy and operations.
I think that any senior management team that wants to succeed should consider re-evaluating its organisation against these criteria. And as a starting point, senior management teams should ask themselves six questions to help them better understand their readiness to become a digital workplace:
- Business Vision – Is “digital” a core part of your business strategy and are you using it to drive innovation with products and services?
- People – How would you rate your team’s use of digital collaboration tools such as instant messaging chat and social tools?
- Technology – How flexible is your strategy in its ability to support a BYOD policy for a mobile workforce?
- Customers – How easy is it for your customers to do business with you using digital platforms?
- Business processes – How far have you progressed in automating core business processes to drive up efficiency, revenue generation and client satisfaction?
- Workplace – How are you transforming the workplace to suit different employee work styles and personas?
I hope these six questions illustrate the nature of the debate and analysis that senior management teams should be having internally before formulating their strategies.
Some will have already begun implementing strategies to transform their organisations into digitally-enabled entities to address the challenge of the changing workplace. For those that haven’t done so, it may well be time to put this issue higher up the boardroom agenda.
Inevitably, asking the right questions is just one part of the challenge.The bigger issue is to make sure that senior management has found the right answers, and that the board understands the implications of those answers for the way in which it helps its people to achieve their potential and deliver the productivity needed in the age of the digitally-defined organisation.