How to make a great digital workplace
Written by Stacy Wilson of Eloquor Consulting
Several years ago Gartner published its “8 building blocks of a digital workplace.” Just last week, Information Age republished them in an article, as if it’s new news. For those who don’t want to go read the old post, those 8 originally read as (all relative to the digital workplace (DW)):
- Vision (why, what and how)
- Strategy (the comprehensive road map)
- Employee engagement in the workplace (culture of autonomy, accountability and empowerment)
- Organizational change (planful, explicit, incorporating listening)
- Processes (enable well)
- Information (accessible, relevant, personal)
- Metrics (business-value metrics that provide the basis for continued improvement)
- Technology (be smart and resourceful about choices, integrations and implementations)
The Information Age article articulates them slightly differently, so perhaps Gartner has refined them over time. Regardless, what’s interesting is that this list of 8 building blocks is not revolutionary, just smart. Most organizations still don’t use these, although more and more use the term “digital workplace.”
Eloquor has consistently used all 8 of these in our practice for 16 years now. I’ve personally used all 8 for nearly 2 decades. After so many years I have four observations to make.
Four observations of Gartner’s DW building blocks
First, the two on the list that are toughest to get clients on board with are engagement and organizational change. Most companies don’t want to address culture because they either view it as “soft” or as unreal (as in fake news). When it comes to the change work, most believe if they just put something great out there, people will adopt it. This is especially true of IT professionals. When people don’t adopt, the project team and executives come back with quizzical looks. The change work is always the first budget cut.
Second, many project teams fail to make the connection to business goals. Why is this? I believe it is because they focus on #8 (technology), when they should back up and do #1 (vision) and #2 (strategy) first. Understanding why and how to do the what leads to a better comprehensive road map. For those who don’t want to create the roadmap, well, you get out what you put in. If you refuse to map the effort effectively, then do not be surprised when the effort fails to meet expectations.
Third, many communication teams miss #5 (processes) because they are too focused on #6 (information/content). For the communication team, content is everything. But it’s the business processes that drive adoption, not content. If an employee has to accomplish a task in the digital workplace – and that’s the only way they can – they will adopt and consume content along the way. If you can solve business process problems with your digital workplace for the revenue-generating parts of the business, you’ve created value leaders want to build on.
Fourth, some lousy behavior is vertically inspired; companies in certain industries tend to do things wrong consistently. For example, heavy industry – mining, gas and petroleum, utilities – tends to focus on desk-bound users as though non-desk people aren’t at all connected. Do the listening and you’ll see a different picture. In focus groups we’ve found that mine employees working in the pit and driving trucks are just as likely to rely on a smart phone as desk workers. They just can’t use it while working at certain tasks; doesn’t mean it isn’t a valuable tool for them. These organizations are not doing justice to #3 (engagement) and #4 (organizational change).
Highlighting healthcare as an example
Another example is healthcare. Healthcare organizations tend to allow their focus on patient-related systems to distract them from creating a sound digital workplace. Sad thing is that a robust digital workplace can help healthcare organizations implement more effective change with patient tools. Patient tools are part of the digital workplace, not the whole of it. These organizations error by skipping #2 (strategy) and failing to balance investment in #8 (technology).
If you happen to work in healthcare, I’ll be teaching a workshop next month that demonstrates how a robust digital workplace can drive innovation and collaboration. Aren’t those two really important for healthcare organizations in today’s rollercoaster ride environment? Join me in Philadelphia Sept. 12-14 at ALI’s 2nd Annual Strategic Internal Communications for Health Care conference. I am excited to chair the conference, as well as teach along side so many knowledgeable professionals. Not registered yet? Get registered today.
NOTE: I’ve had a crazy schedule since early June and had been blogging quite a bit up to then. I needed a break. Break is over, back on the wagon!
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