Workplace technology can empower employees

Companies need to shift their strategy from 'doing digital' to 'being digital' to impact their workforce

Updated: Jan 29, 2019 10:38:16 AM UTC

Shalinder Bakshi is Partner, People Advisory Services at EY India.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

How must organisations embrace digital media for a positive, open workplace with empowered employees?

The workforce of today is an interesting mix of demographics, used to wheeling and dealing with information at a fast pace. The workforce expects a similar “digital experience” in its environment, in terms of easy-to-find applications, advanced features and great user experience, making logistics as easy as ordering food or booking a cab.

Over the last decade or so, a big shift has occurred from a technology deployment standpoint to a people-centric and user-oriented view of technology. Organisations have been implementing workplace technology focused on multiple areas. Some large tech companies offer full-stacks that can pretty much cover all employee interactions and transactions, and areas where digital enablement has had a significant impact are collaboration, feedback and learning.

How employees collect, organise, maintain, and process data to effectively use information is increasingly becoming an essential foundation for business performance. Digital platforms can speed-up propagation of the desired collaborative mind-set and help build trust so that employees can share, discover, manage and use information for individual and group problem-solving and innovation.

Feedback, in the context of the Continuous Performance Management, is being seen as a strategic tool to foster a culture of openness and participation. Through the right use of digital, teams feel more empowered to influence performance expectations and discussions throughout the year, instead of feeling that they have to wait for the organisation’s approval or an annual process. The mark of being empowered is when every single employee can ask for feedback from multiple sources and can receive it instantly.

Learning is the other area that has got benefited through digital media, making it possible to learn 'anytime, anywhere'. In a world where we are surrounded by literature and perspectives around the future of jobs and impact of automation, learning has now become a strategic priority and an area for organisations to invest in.

Harnessing the full value of these digital investments requires a comprehensive effort focusing on changing the mindset from 'implementation' to 'activation'. One of the biggest challenges is adoption. The key is to enable technology as a full-scale change-management exercise. The exercise should start with the premise that employees expect to be treated as consumers of workplace technology. Companies can incorporate the same principles and insights that govern consumer marketing and design. The other key aspect is that the activation plan has to have an equal focus on employee experience, along with scalability, reliability and security of the digital platforms.

There are extensive toolkits and experiences that can help companies to enable digital strategy. The simplest methodology is a four-step approach--discover, prototype, experience and monitor. Each stage involves the deep understanding of “personas” at the workplace, to configure the platform or enhance features to create a better and a simpler experience. The methodology also helps monitor adoption through published leaderboards.

Finally, digital should complement and not replace the human touch and leaders must step in to help organisations shift from “doing digital” to “being digital” for driving greater empowerment at work.

The author is Partner, People Advisory Services at EY India. (Views expressed are personal)

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