What is a Digital Workspace?

The digital workplace is the digital transformation of work processes and systems, driven by the need to improve employee engagement to reduce turnover and maintain a competitive workforce. Portal platforms, collaboration suites and intranet point solutions have evolved to better meet the needs of the digital workplace, but a full solution generally requires an integrated set of systems to truly meet the needs of a modern workforce.

From Intranet to Employee Portal to Digital Workplace

Since the early days of intranets, companies have recognized the value of moving employee collaboration, document management and communication into digital tools such as email, shared document repositories, video conferencing and much more. The evolution of intranets to employee portals to the digital workplace is spurred by this adoption of technology; however, the last five years have seen a paradigm shift that runs parallel to the maturing trend of digital transformation.

Intranets began as a secure way for companies to manage digital assets and communicate internally. Portal platforms were often chosen to build custom intranets because of their ability to provide authenticated experiences and integration with other systems.

As smartphones matured and laptops became more affordable, employee portals moved the concept of an intranet outside the corporate firewall to enable remote access across employees’ preferred devices while maintaining security. Because people were increasingly online in their personal lives, they began to prefer easy digital tools such as Dropbox, Gmail and Facebook to the custom tools that most organizations offered for document storage, email and collaboration. In response, employee portals grew to either provide integration with newer solutions or replicate their designs.
Email, intranets and web conferencing are typical components, but what makes the digital workplace more than a collective noun for these parts is the emphasis on thinking about how they come together from an employee’s point of view
In the midst of these changes, digital transformation emerged as a new and necessary way to rethink business models that focused on customer experience. The realization that a customer-centric mindset can dramatically improve an organization’s effectiveness was soon applied to internal teams, resulting in an employee-centric rethinking of familiar systems and processes. As digital transformation strategy has matured, it’s become clear that redefining the employee experience is critical to succeeding at customer obsession.

Digital Workplace Solutions: The What and Why

Unlike traditional intranet or employee portal requirements, digital workplace strategy reframes technology requirements in the context of business value and employee experience. The digital workplace strategy can include intranet or portal software but should be coupled with emerging technology that drives engagement and helps companies respond to changes in working styles. In particular, a digital workplace should support:
  • Remote work tools, including mobile solutions, that empower employees to be as productive at home or traveling as they are in the office.
  • Improved user experiences that create seamless connections between virtualized work tools, employee social networks and core business applications.
  • Centralized communication tools that sync online and offline collaboration, including email, instant messaging and company social media tools.
  • Business intelligence efforts that collect data in the background and run analysis to uncover opportunities for process improvement.
The goals of a digital workplace tend to focus on improving efficiency, communication and engagement. Together, these three themes help companies reduce employee turnover, which is increasingly important as companies compete for talent in new competencies created by digital innovation.

Workplace Strategy Drives Cultural Transformation

Within digital transformation initiatives, cultural change remains a significant obstacle for companies. Implemented correctly, the digital workplace can be a major component of facilitating this change.

Attract New Talent

Millennials are currently the largest segment in the U.S. workforce, and they bring expectations of employer engagement and values that are significantly different from the expectations of Gen X and Boomers. Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually, according to Gallup Research.

In order to attract the critical digital skills that companies require for effective digital transformation, digital workplace strategies should understand how Millennials evaluate job satisfaction and what drives them to stay with an employer for the long term.

Reskill Your Existing Workforce

In addition to recruiting new skills, many industries face a need to reskill their existing workforce to account for the new technologies being introduced into key business processes. As artificial intelligence and automation replace certain jobs, those workers will need guidance on how to succeed in new conceptualizations of work. Digital workplaces can incorporate learning management systems (LMS) to bring learning closer to employees and measure how quickly the organization is gaining new skills and knowledge.

Digital Transformation Needs the Digital Workplace

As digital transformation continues to create new business models, organizations will need to foster workplace environments that enable employees to confidently take advantage of new technology and trends. The pace of change shows no signs of slowing, which means that a digital workplace will only increase in strategic importance.

Fortunately, most organizations now have basic customer experience blueprints that can be reused to optimize the employee experience, including developing worker personas, identifying pain points and reorienting stakeholders to be customer-led. As buy-in for new work norms increases, new standards and systems will merge to accommodate the expectations of today’s workers.
People and culture lie at the heart of organizational performance and typically drive both success and failure. This means your culture ultimately determines how and to what extent your employees leverage the digital workplace to connect, communicate and collaborate.

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