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The shape of the intelligent workplace

Unpacking the value of putting employee experiences at the forefront of workplace design, investment and engagement, by Michaela Voller, Chief HR Officer at Dimension Data.

Johannesburg, 29 Jan 2021
Read time 4min 10sec

Organisations rapidly leveraged digital investments to keep employees online during the global pandemic, but this sudden change introduced as many challenges as it did solutions. As employees navigate this new way of working, it invariably involves some isolation, burnout and social disconnection. The NTT 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report, Shaping Employee Experiences for a World Transformed (NTT Report), found that for most organisations, employee well-being has moved to the forefront of the business agenda to overcome employee concerns around connectivity, workspaces and experiences.

This is a significant shift from traditional thinking and it is being driven by a growing awareness of the value of people in building a sustainable company. The report reveals that, on average, more than 80% of organisations believe that employee needs sit at the heart of intelligent workplace design and that they need to develop more robust strategies to permanently provide for their distributed workforces. Comprising the three pillars of culture, technology and location, the modern workplace has to consider how to maintain productivity and effectiveness while allowing for the evolution of technology and the development of relevant employee skillsets.

Best practice in employee experience

The first pillar is culture. Employee well-being and experiences have risen in strategic importance as organisations recognise how important they are to building an agile and successful enterprise. The culture of the company is critical to this. Environments that are toxic, unplanned, divisive and weak in strategy and skills development rarely foster productivity and growth. The value lies in providing people with opportunity and in shaping a workplace that empowers the individual and their future.

The organisation that can make brave, data-driven and human-led decisions is in a far stronger position today than those that have let this pillar slip. A supportive culture that helps people to find fulfilment in their work and that recognises the value they bring to the company will reap the rewards of an engaged workforce.

Engaging productivity

As organisations leapt into remote working action during the pandemic, many solutions were quick fixes, designed to patch the lines between the physical and online working worlds. Today, as remote working continues to be a priority, these quick fixes need to become more intelligent investments. There are plenty of tools that can be used to increase productivity and collaboration for the employee – even once they return to the office – but these have to be implemented strategically.

It’s worth using intelligent tools designed to analyse the workplace and employee behaviour to find out what their pain points are, and how specific productivity tools can help them overcome these pain points. Workplace analytics can help the business establish how to prioritise and assess training so that it positively impacts on employee adoption and productivity. The added benefit is that this process, streamlined and effective, directly influences the employee experience.

Focusing on intelligent technology

The pillar of technology is not just in the tools and systems that are put in place to help employees become more productive and connected while working remotely. It’s about considering the impact of technology, both today and in the future. Digital transformation must remain a corporate priority, but it must equally put the employee at the centre of its strategy.

Questions that should be asked include:

  • Do my employees know how to leverage this technology?
  • Am I providing the right skills development so they can make the most of technology?
  • How does this technology add to the remote working burden?

Helping people to stay connected is key, giving them technology that supports their productivity is smart, but success lies in policies and course training so employees feel comfortable on these platforms.

The current reality

These three pillars may seem simple and obvious, but the NTT Report paints a complex picture. Less than a third of businesses have changed their IT policies to help employees work within these new operating models, and less than half have deployed new communication and productivity tools. Yet more than 80% of companies say that they plan to design their future workplace around employee enablement, empowering them with choice and flexibility. The challenge now is to find the path forward through legacy structure, policy and technology to create a workplace that’s agile enough to cope with uncertainty and focused enough to empower its people.

Read more on how to transform and inspire your workforce by downloading the NTT 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report here.

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