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[ARTICLE] Event Review: The Digital Workforce Innovation Conference

The Digital Workforce Conference | Event Review | Sam Button, Roar Media

The Digital Workforce Conference 2020, took place online on September 10th, featuring presentations from Google Chrome Enterprise, IKEA and a live interview with the Lead, Centre of Excellence at KLM finishing with a panel discussion with Legal & General, Electrolux and Citizens Advice.

Below are some of the key highlights and take-aways from the day. If you are interested in learning more, you can register via the event website to receive the link to access all presentations OnDemand.

Preparedness for Remote work

The Covid pandemic was unprecedented, however, for years companies have been offering a digital workplace to enable remote access to workers globally. Whilst the crisis was unpredictable and a complete move to a globalised remote working environment for a prolonged period of time was never a scenario which had been planned for. All of our presenters thought their organisations had a strategy in place to cope with this demand or were able to ensure this with a few agile adaptations to their existing systems and processes. However, the human aspect of the mass overnight change of working patterns and behaviours was something which required the support of teams, leaders and the organisation as a whole.

Since 2005, the number of employees working from home has grown by 173%. Before the pandemic it was predicted that by 2030, demand for remote work would increase by 30%. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has mandated that organisations take unprecedented efforts to enable their employees to work remotely.

Rebecca Kemp, (Director, Customer Journey at Citizens Advice) noted that their organisation was technologically well prepared due to the cloud based collaboration tools they utilise but that the change to all employees working form home caused the organisation to focus on ways to engage and empathise with their workforce to maintain the sense of team and closeness.

Ralf Larssono (Director, Employee Engagement & Productivity at Electrolux) felt the pandemic sped up the adoption of technology from end users. They had a digital workplace which was built for use but collaboration applications were under-utilised, the move to remote work enabled a better uptake from all staff and teams who now appreciated the value and power of these tools.

Financial companies are legacy based in terms of systems but tend to be regional & global organisations with teams requiring location agnostic communication & collaboration tools within an interconnected network. Tariq Moanah (Digital Product Lead at Legal & General) noted that this comfortability with moving around and working meant agile & remote technologies have always been available but the pandemic affected behaviours and working patterns which needed to be adapted along the way with both human & additional technological support available and applied.

Chrome Enterprise have had conversations with many companies from all industries, who felt the need to invest in remote work and were looking for deployment on a rapid scale. Anthony Wicks (Chrome Enterprise, EUC Specialist) detailed how Chrome Enterprise had worked with companies to send devices to workers who previously had no computing requirements due to their role. They were able to deploy these at speed, with limited training required for each employee and each device including personalised settings and pre-loaded company-wide compliance & security, enabling a seamless process with limited downtime for the workforce.

Asher Lake (Lead, Centre of Excellence at KLM) also agreed that they have been innovating their systems for years and have always sought to enable remote work. There was an importance to be ready from a technological perspective and to get the human aspect, workforce mentality & culture correct; in order to support a thriving remote workforce. Maintaining connectivity, leadership and coaching even whilst individuals were isolated was essential for employee engagement. We also sought to enable all employees even if they were unable to perform their usual tasks (flying, baggage handling etc), we looked to leverage their experience and expertise to enhance other areas of the organisation.

Overall, we live in a very fortunate technological age whereby many organisations had technology implemented to survive the workplace stresses of the pandemic, however, alterations and adaptations were required to enable a more connected and collaborative workforce. It was important to match the technological enablement with mental support through empathy and leadership. Understanding that each employee has their own stresses which are not only unique to their job role but also themselves. The balance of work and social has never been more important, whilst managers need their workforce to be as productive as possible there should be a real emphasis on employee experience throughout with investments of time and funding running parallel with that of the technological advances.

 This created a wider discussion around how technology has enabled a sense of togetherness whilst remote and cultivated the human & social element of work?

As we know, employee experience is not just about how easy it is to perform productively and efficiently with the right tools. There is a need to create a workforce culture which encompasses passion for all employees to support one another and work towards a common goal for the company. Internal communication and leadership arguable played as vital a role as technology in the move to a fully remote working environment.

There are many variables to this, there is a need for two-way communications to ensure everyone is engaged and aware of the direction of the company as well as the platforms available and preferred methods of communication, collaboration & management. At Citizens Advice they were looking to maintain continuity throughout the organisation, to avoid remote work becoming overwhelming and confusing. To combat this they looked to keep some traditions but were empathetic of the environment & each team member, the monthly meeting was amended and included an informal element to give people the human connection they were missing from office based work.

This was echoed by Tariq (Legal & General) lamenting the lack of organic connections which were frequent within the office, they found that borderless working lead to employees working in silos. They looked to negate this by having virtual whiteboards to increase collaboration, ideation and socialising. This form of anonymous participation was also seen within Electrolux with regular employee questionnaires being sent for early detection of issues.

Google have been great at communicating with employees that they are not required to be back in the office until July 2021. However, the CEO has been instant that there will always be a hybrid environment of workplace & remote. Gmail was an idea that came from a coffee queue within the office, they feel this ideation and chance encounter within a work setting, drives innovation and should be facilitated.

There is a clear need to cultivate an environment and culture which supports people and stimulates them mentally and socially whilst providing them with a clear message of ambition and reassurance from the leaders of the organisation. Supporting all personalities and ways of working can thrive with anonymous ideation and cross divisional interactions. Tariq stated that the increased connectivity created by their digital workplace and practices to bring socialisation & unity in a remote environment, led to less people working in silos and a greater cross between various parts of the business leading to innovation through peer learning. In turn this has enhanced the levels of transparency within the organisation with the realisation that employees have skills which can be transferred to other teams; increasing productivity, experience and knowledge.

How have your organisations remained secure during the rapid move to remote working?

It is a corporation responsibility to keep users and the organisation secure. We shouldn’t look to have layers and constant invasive updates which have a negative effect on productivity and uptime. We need easy deployment and updates to new threats.

Within finance, security has always been almost a block for innovation.

We are governed very closely by compliance. However, with initiatives like ‘Bring your own device; it made these more difficult to follow and keep all data safe.

Legal & General worked to get the right devices into the right hands and be able to wipe these remotely if required. There is also a need for inbuilt security parameters in the background and not be overly invasive for employees.

Chrome Enterprise’s holistic approach to security keeps remote workers safe from external threats. Chrome devices have built-in features that prevent end users from falling victim to harmful attacks like malware & phishing. Each device provides IT with control with its diverse ecosystem that ensures applications are trusted and harmful apps are not permitted for download or use. Chrome Browser also provides secure, trusted access to data, apps and cloud services, helping connect employees to any device.

Users get a consistent, customisable experience ‘anytime, anywhere’ and IT administrators can easily manage permissions and policies remotely. With the ability to remotely disable devices if stolen or lost.

There is a battle between the business and IT teams and the product for the end user can be vastly different from what is best from them. Do you think there is now a greater emphasis on employee experience?

Organisations with low employee engagement scores experience 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth & 65% lower share price over time.’

Kenneth Lindegaard (Former VP, End User Enablement & Productivity at Ikea) discussed how employee experience should be at the heart of digital transformation rather than business goals, with all iterations of new software and strategy designed to benefit your workforce, thereby increasing the uptake in utilisation of new applications & systems as well as pride in the organisation & engagement within future improvement projects.

At Citizens Advice they realise that all areas of the company need involvement within the evolution of the organisation. Their requirements are provided by their employees, with quick cycles of iteration for continuous improvement aligned to the needs of their workforce and solely for their benefit.

Legal & General also see the importance within employee experience and engagement to successfully implement new technologies & applications. There is a need to focus on employee benefits as an enhanced employee experience through digital tools leads to a thirst for more from the workforce which will only continue with expectations becoming even greater throughout.

Google Chrome Enterprise supports employee experience by increasing uptime when employees want to work as well as providing a personalizations at the point of login and layered security and updates which work in the background for a seamless user experience. Ensuring devices work quickly and hardware is ready to use when received by workers and the access to information data & systems required to perform their role is instantaneous.

Similarly, at Ikea they have an aim to give 5 minutes per day of wasted time back to each employee, this was sought by saving time logging on, minimising the need to switch devices and having technologies & applications in place to increase efficiency.

When there are so many enhancements you can make to improve efficiency for a broad set of users, what are the best techniques to prioritise improvements?

It is important to consider all users, there is a need to move away from decision from committee and put the power back into employees as a collaborative. All decisions should have vision of a long-term strategy, utilising data and employee feedback should create business cases for a number of improvements required to thrive as an organisation but choosing which to prioritise and focus on can be difficult.

Electrolux use surveys, focus groups, performance & user metrics to give them insight at a global & local level, encouraging diverse voices to be heard but understanding others will prefer a level of confidentiality and preferring one to one interviews to get their opinions across. Developing personas & seeing how they can interlink aided by technology, provides a suite of improvements which can work in parallel to cause a complex digital transformation of all internal systems in unison.

Experiences have to be unique to the job role and also communicate seamlessly within various aspects of the customer journey, providing links between sales and supply chain. Utilising technology to provide an employee experience to increase productivity of the workforce whilst keeping customer experience at the highest level throughout.

Enabling and empowering your workforce keeps them invested and supportive of organisational change. When they can see the improvements within their workplace experience and how this is benefiting delivery to the customer and helping the organisation perform and grow

There are small changes you can make to empower your workforce to seek digital transformation positively, Google found that a simple innovation of using badges of achievement led to a huge rise in engagement internally and led to a massive increase in the adoption of technologies to reach milestones. This also provides a management view of how individuals are performing in terms of productivity and process.

What does the future of the Digital Workplace look like?

We are heading into an era where it will be necessary for all companies to provide remote work but also the opportunity to access an office. This hybrid way of working needs to provide accessibility form both a home environment and the office and should be built on a number of principles.

‘The time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more over the past two decades with more than 75% of an employee’s day now being spent communicating with colleagues’

Harvard Business Review.

This creates specific challenges for remote work, however, remote teams communicate well and leverage their strengths. Remote teams identified that the key to effective communication was to establish clear rules of engagement and build empathy through using real-time communication tools such as video or IM. In addition to this, employees reported the feeling of connection in real-time to their team gives them ‘psychological safety’ which is critical to their engagement level and overall satisfaction.

The opportunity to work remotely should be available to all employees, however, a large amount of your workforce will need an office to be fully productive and have a physical connection with colleagues. It is clear there have been benefits for individuals and the organisation working from home but a hybrid approach is necessary. It is a major challenge, how to move back to the office in a way which keeps everyone happy. We need to encourage personal connections and a sense of unity even when we are apart and it is good to use technology to do this.

This is the time to build a business case to have an employee experience strategy in place. It is something which benefits employees, customers and the bottom line.

Work to empower your employees and teams to innovate your business from within, adopting a more agile framework.

Get all the OnDemand content from the event today for free!

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