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Digital Workplace Strategy and How Intranets Fit In

by Siv Rauv

05 Aug 2020

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You must have heard the term ‘Digital Workplace’ doing the rounds lately. Various organisations are more and more inclined towards a new type of work space – the digital workplace, where advances in technology such as virtual meetings, social media apps, and instant messaging tools are incorporated into the physical work environment.

The benefits of the digital workplace are vast, particularly with remote working a popular option these days, employees are more than empowered with features that provide a tailored work experience and enhance communication.

However, to successfully utilise the digital workplace, an effective strategy is crucial.

Defining digital workplace

The rise of the digital workplace is nothing new. The digital workplace already existed in some ways or another, once organisations started using any sort of digital technology within their workplace.

It all starts with understanding what a digital workplace is, so an organisation can take control over how it should work.

With its many definitions, one of the earliest is attributed to Paul Miller’s book, The Digital Workplace, where he defines digital workplace as the technology-enabled environment that allows an organisation to be independent on location.

As it evolved over the decade, a more commonly used definition for digital workplace is from James Robertson of Step Two:

“A holistic set of tools, platforms and environments for work, delivered in a coherent, usable and productive way.”

You can see that with this definition, the focus is more on employee experience and the environment in which they work.

Building your digital workplace strategy

Setting up a modern digital workplace involves building a clearly defined digital workplace strategy. And a great digital workplace strategy starts with laying out business objectives before moving on to identifying technological priorities. When you set what’s relevant to your organisation before selecting the digital tools, you can define how engagement, productivity, and efficiency can be achieved. According to Deloitte, digital workplace framework includes four components:

  • Collaboration, communication, connection where business relationships and culture are established between employees and employers
  • Your digital toolbox where a system of tools and technology are used depending on your organisation’s needs as they are carried out differently
  • Governance, compliance, control and risk that defines structure and management process on how information is controlled within the organisation
  • Measurable business value where direction of your organisation should guide the direction of your digital workplace

Deloitte also shares a compilation of benefits when adopting a digital workplace: talent attraction, employee productivity, employee satisfaction, employee retention, and communication tools. They state that by improving employee engagement, the employee retention went up to 78%. This goes to say that the very essence of modern intranets relies on organisational communication where employees connect and collaborate.

In line with the above, there are certain aspects that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to setting up your plan for digital workplaces, features such as:

  • What are the tools needed by your employees?
  • What locations will it need to be accessible from?
  • What devices will it need to be accessed on?
  • Which tool is right for the job?
  • Do you have a digital culture in place that embraces technology?
  • Are employees knowledgeable on how and when to use these tools?
  • How do these tools support the goals of the business?
  • How do they function together in incorporation, verification, and the overall user experience?
  • Does it provide an easy, efficient, and employee-centered experience for the user?
  • Does your digital workplace promote ease and promptness in getting the job done? 
  • What digital workplace trends should you take into consideration?

While there is still no standard set in stone that dictates how exactly you should create your digital workplace strategy, ticking off the boxes to these questions enables you to create a holistic strategy that interprets the overall digital ecosystem. Here are a few central measures you do not want to miss.

1. Have a vision

An outlined vision for what the digital workspace will look like and what its future functions will be can help you and your employees determine the significance of your roles and your goals. 

Your key objectives should be able to pin down the essential elements to your business as well as your workforce. Are you looking for enhanced productivity? Boosting engagement? Increasing collaboration?

While the vision usually encompasses what you think the business essentially needs, early-stage participation of stakeholder ideas is also crucial. Open the conversation and encourage communication with those you work closely with. Know what they want and expect from a digital workforce to avoid mistakes.

Develop your strategy with these objectives in mind to help keep everyone aligned with the long-term mindset throughout the process.

2. Give room for improvement

With a goal that has already been established, it’s time to take a step back and determine the current situation, along with which ones need modification.

Oversee your workflows, evaluate your tools, and processes. Find out which factor has brought in more harm than good and which ones need adjusting.

Take this time to consider which tools are essential to help you reach your company’s objectives while eliminating anything that takes your team away from the end goals.

3. Evaluate your overall employee experience

Your digital employee experience is only one component. Now that you have recognised your goals and how you can further develop your tactic, the next step to helping you establish your strategy is by assessing your overall employee experience.

Include your staff and vital members in the process of creating and achieving your goals. Make it a company-wide initiative by including them in your team from the very beginning.

Consult with the heads of your IT department so you can determine the right technical tools as well as the skills needed to set up the crucial technical solutions. Get your management team on board to make sure your initiatives are approved and that the whole thing stays on track. Have your HR department back you up behind the scenes by making sure that each employee continues to be motivated and engaged.

4. Measure your success

Now that your workforce is organised, and the digital transformation process has begun. It is time to keep a close watch on your metrics to quantify your success.

Metrics are vital in ensuring an accurate and transparent idea of the performance level within your digital workplace.

State clear metrics that go together with your vision. These should be consistently measured and shared with your stakeholders and employees.

Completing the strategy: Intranets

Modern intranets have played a big role in today’s business processes. Your intranet essentially becomes the core strategy for a digital workplace. It is the foundation for your digital workplace.

Going back to Deloitte’s work: The digital workplace, modern intranets are built around connection, collaboration, and communication. This makes intranets necessary for digital collaboration in the workplace to encourage engagement and increase employee morale.

Here are the key points on how intranets fit in your digital workplace strategy:

Creates a central source

What would happen without the presence of digital systems? Imagine working with physical rooms in the workplace. One room is where files are stored while another room is where you present these documents to a team. And in another room you process the documents. You get the job done in each room but the constant room to room process only results to loss of time.

The point of the intranet is to eliminate this and have one hub for all processes, documents, and engagement.

Why choose an intranet over say, a shared drive?

Firstly, it is accessible by all staff across all devices including those who work from home. They simply need to log in through their browser. If your organisation is concerned with security, you can add in additional security protocols such as two factor authentication.

Secondly, you can store information in contextually relevant pages. For example, if you have a page on COVID-19 on your intranet, you can add all related resources onto the page along with additional tools such as company news, forms, a social feed for asking questions and contact details of the best person to ask additional questions to. Everyone can point to the same document, and when it’s updated there’s clear version management in place so nobody gets confused.

Thirdly, you simply need to add in new content such as a policy document and use taxonomy to tag it. It then automatically appears in relevant sections across the intranet. Going back to the previous example, the document would appear in both your Policies and Procedures section, as well as your COVID-19 page. This means you only have to maintain and update one version of content. Bonus tip: Worried that staff might download a document into their shared drive and continue accessing it even though it is outdated? With an intranet, you can add all the content from your document into a page/article on your intranet. This way staff cannot download the document, and they are forced to view the page/article that will always be up-to-date.

Finally, information is easy to find. Housing information on contextually relevant pages makes information easy to find. Better yet, the search functionality allows people to filter their searches so they find information quickly. Some intranets will even allow people to input a keyword and search for documents that have that keyword inside it!

Ties existing tools into one system

44% of workplaces have some form of digital workplace programs in place. A good Intranet is where all these programs are plugged into one system. This system becomes a one-stop-shop for all the tools and data that employees need to get their jobs done. File sharing, sales data, instant messaging, CRM, HR, ERP solutions and others are tied into one central system so all data ‘speaks’ clearly.

Further reading: [Blog post] Intranet Best Practices

Gives personalised access

Personalised access adds value to your digital workplace strategy – this avoids information silos and unorganised information dumps.

With an intranet, your employees can collaborate on a unified information platform that makes their digital experience worthwhile. Personalised access can simplify work, foster engagement, and drive productivity.

So what can you personalise on an intranet? Everything from the content shown to the navigation menu! News, forms, documents, digital team workspaces, social threads, events, training courses - if it is a feature within an intranet, chances are you can personalise it for different groups of staff.

Provides customisation

Your Intranet must be able to scale with your future needs, add features, customise for your branding updates, etc. Here are some options on what your intranet can do.

  • Social tools: Adds features to involve community in sharing knowledge, asking questions and crowd sourcing in general
  • Digital workspaces: Provides a central online interface to collaborate together for teams, projects, departments and informal get togethers
  • Meeting Management: Offers a centralised meeting management system to schedule agenda, create tasks and manage resources
  • Events Management: Supports event organisation and management in terms of attendance limits, alerts, SMS reminders, and more
  • Corporate Directory: Integrates a centralised directory of staff and management where searching and browsing can be performed using convenient filters
  • Training Management: Provides management of staff and training programs to improve their skills

Add features for long-term growth

Your intranet provider is just as important a choice as they can help you add features as you grow. New concepts will emerge in the future but the need for keeping employees engaged will remain. This makes your intranet the heart that supports the true value and longevity of your organisation.

Wrapping Up: Management and Success Measures

Your digital workplace strategy does not end here. Managing your intranet is an ongoing process and measuring its success is just as important. You can do this by constantly communicating with your employees, providing necessary training, regularly reviewing stats, and establishing performance metrics.

With an intranet as the foundation, your digital workplace enables communication and collaboration. With the right digital tools, you can prepare for any unprecedented scenarios and be independent of location of a physical workspace.

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