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Digital Workplace Strategy - 10 Practical Steps to Success

11/16/20 8:35 AM

A solid digital workplace strategy can upgrade the way your organization operates and works together. 

As businesses transform to survive and thrive, maintaining focus on employee experience and keeping people engaged and inspired to perform at their best is more important than ever. 

Communication teams have responded by looking at the art of the possible, often crafting carefully thought through business cases to invest in the best social intranets and digital workplaces. As a result, employees now have some of the most advanced technology at their fingertips, available on every device, 24/7.

But deciding what software to invest in is only half the story. While many IT departments have worked round the clock to install and configure the new technology, finding ways for employees to get the most out of their new tools is critical. 

digital workplace strategy

Benefits of a digital workplace strategy

2020 has seen an unprecedented boom in the Enterprise Collaboration Software space. As remote working is set to stay, this exciting trend is likely to continue.

With the distinction between the professional and personal life of employees becoming ever more blurred, workers need to communicate, collaborate and speak up in new ways. Solving customer problems effectively, contributing to evolving business priorities and sharing knowledge across an organization often relies on their ability to develop productive business relationships beyond their department and location.  

Traditional cascades of information no longer meet these evolving needs. From email to virtual meeting tools, project planning to survey tools, HR applications to sales tools, it’s easy for employees to feel overwhelmed by information and frustrated by their inability to find the information and colleagues they need to complete their work effectively. 

A digital workplace is a great way to break down communication barriers, transforming the employee experience by fostering collaboration, efficiency, creativity and growth. As a result, digital workplaces are fast becoming the key component of an internal communications strategy in many organizations, and requires a strategy itself. 

10 practical steps for creating a digital workplace strategy

Encouraging employees to make the best use of a new tool can mean a change in long established patterns of behavior. But, change doesn’t need to be as difficult as it sounds. 

Once people experience the simplicity of the tool and understand how transformative the new technology can be, new ways of working will soon develop. Our ten key essential elements of a digital workplace strategy are based on practical experience within global organizations. 

1. Involve key business stakeholders and their senior teams from the start

Engagement from your stakeholders is a key success factor for many projects, but it’s often overlooked. When it comes to digital workplace success, it can be easy to assume that a partnership between Communication, HR and IT divisions is the most important relationship to get right. While these relationships are critical, to maximize your ROI, it’s the relationships with key business stakeholders that need to take center stage.

One way of doing this is to consult them when designing the new platform, making sure it meets their needs. This could include discussing the look and feel of your digital workplace, the organization of key content, governance and the integration of existing digital tools. 

Remember that you don’t have to adopt every idea you hear, but the simple act of listening to and including your stakeholders in the process will help create buy-in and build trust. In our experience, doing this often means that those you thought might present the biggest challenge are actually your biggest supporters.

2. Create a vision and clear objectives for your new tool

Central to any digital workspace strategy is a vision for what the tool will look like, how it will function and how it will help you reach your business goals. Agreeing on what you want employees to ‘know, feel and do’ is a critical first step, which includes an understanding of how your digital workplace aligns with your wider internal communications strategy.

Ultimately, your vision describes the future state of your digital workplace and how it will benefit employees, customers and other stakeholders. Ensuring that it is consistent with the organization's values and framed around the KPIs for the company will support employees to deliver the most critical objectives.

3. Launch your platform in a compelling way

Building momentum within your organization prior to launching your Digital Workplace can help to create a buzz, encouraging people to use it from the start. 

Prior to launch, simple ‘teasers’ can be effective, including e-postcards, videos, screenshots, a countdown clock and promotions through Town Halls. Holding a naming competition for your digital workplace can also be a fun way to involve all employees in creating the tool.

Tailoring your launch day to play up your organization’s unique culture, brand and energy will help to make it a success. The tone you set at launch will also set up your organization for long-term engagement.  Best practice on the day of launch includes creating online competitions, leadership blogs, no-meeting days, humorous videos and live demonstrations (online and in person).

But ultimately, the key to a successful launch is to make your content interesting and immediately useful. In an environment where many employees are under pressure, creating a tool to help them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively will ensure long-term adoption and business value.

4. Recruit and provide ongoing support to Change Champions

Creating and nurturing a network of enthusiastic employee advocates to act as local champions and experts is a great way to actively promote a digital workplace and help everyone get used to their new platform.

Working closely with an internal communications team, Change Champions typically encourage people to use their new tool, resolve any challenges and act as local role models. They can also provide feedback about what is and is not working.

In return, they have an opportunity to help shape the communications approach, become early adopters of exciting new technologies and improve their visibility among peers and leaders.  Involving Change Champions in ongoing digital workplace developments and enhancements can be a good way to keep them motivated and passionate about success.

5. Communicate and educate employees

However intuitive enterprise collaboration software has become, for employees who do not consider themselves tech savvy, using a new platform for the first time can be daunting. 

Confidence levels and individual needs will vary across different departments. By helping all employees to see the many benefits of a digital workplace, as well as providing a range of education options, you can ensure that it adds maximum business value.

Online training programs can be a helpful way to provide the skills needed to navigate your intranet successfully. When creating the training, remember that once size does not fit all. Tech-savvy employees will not need the same level of training as individuals who have little to no experience with digital tools. Best practice for employees is to complete a simple survey, benchmarking their mainstream social and digital technology awareness and capabilities before the training begins. Remember to also build this training into any induction programs for new employees. 

6. Leaders must lead the way

Digital workplaces make it easier for leaders to authentically connect with people. With features like blogs, comments, ways to show recognition and the ability to ‘like’ articles, leaders are able to immediately collaborate and listen to employees, wherever they ‘sit’ within an organization.

But it’s not just about creating a connection with employees. Leaders who are role models for new ways of working, sometimes known as ‘walking the talk’ drive behavior change among employees. Most organizations enable more effective change when leaders are involved, especially if they also proactively support and encourage employees through the journey.  Creating highly visible on-line leadership is a critical part of a digital workplace strategy.

7. Migrate activity from ‘push’ channels

From emails to town halls, videos, webinars, newsletters and more, the array of communication channels at everyone’s fingertips is extensive and often confusing. Employees can feel overwhelmed by information coming from all directions, leaving company leaders frustrated that key messages are lost in the noise and employees are disengaged.

A digital workplace is designed to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for the majority of communication and collaboration. Being brave enough to ‘switch off’ or significantly reduce other communication mechanisms should be a key part of your overall internal communication and digital workplace strategies.

For example, when there is an important corporate message that employees need to hear about, cascading it by email prior to posting it on your digital workplace will result in few employees accessing it on your digital workplace. The result is they are unlikely to ask questions or provide feedback.  

Sharing the message on your digital workplace without an email, however, is likely to force a behavior change, encouraging interaction and ownership. If this seems a brave step too far, a happy medium may be to email out a link to your digital workplace story, asking people to access it and share their views.

8. Create an effective governance model

In the same way as a building needs strong foundations to remain standing over time, a clearly defined ownership and management structure for your digital workplace will underpin sustainable success. Creating a governance model provides clarity and rules around roles and responsibilities of its editors, managers, stakeholders and contributors.

While governance can include a range of activities, simple, well-designed guidelines can make or break the success of your governance model. Typically, governance consists of three elements:

  • Policy: what all employees must or must not do
  • Guidelines: what employees should do
  • Standards: practices established for everyone to adhere to that create consistency in brand, look and feel, user experience, etc.

Because it isn’t always intuitive, new users will often pay particular attention to your guidelines.  This is likely to include information about day-to-day activities such as posting, commenting, status updates, tagging and taxonomy, content archival etc.

9. Measure success act take action to improve

Defining quantifiable goals for your digital workplace and determining exactly what you want to accomplish is one of the most important steps in your strategy. Aligning your digital workplace metrics with your business goals will ensure that all your employees support the most critical priorities in the company.

For example, if your business needs to improve the customer experience, your metrics should reflect how effective your digital workplace is in helping customer facing employees to quickly find the information they need. If your organization is undertaking global expansion, your metrics need to test how your digital workplace is supporting employees through collaboration across time-zones, use of translation features and mobile access.

While it’s usually easy to track metrics such as the number of ‘views’ and ‘likes’ associated with key pages or content on your digital workplace platform itself, this alone may not provide the quality or level information you are looking for.  

We’ve all heard the expression “What gets measured, gets done.” Regular measurement and reporting keeps you focused — because you use that information to take action to improve your results and business success.

10. Develop an ongoing adoption program

However good your digital workplace is, not every employee will use it from day one.  A key part of your strategy should be to continue to share key information, ideas, activities and events on your digital workplace platform. Once the initial launch is over, for internal communication teams, the challenging but exciting work begins. A digital workplace is for life, not just for Christmas. 

A digital workplace strategy for success

A digital workplace strategy is a long term approach and plan to optimize the business benefits of your tool. Creating a well thought out digital workplace strategy is essential to accelerating your business success and achieving a solid ROI. Remember to align with your business goals and include your key stakeholders and employees in the process.  

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