Modern businesses are becoming more employee-centric and going beyond their means to adopt hybrid work methodologies. Industry leaders are shifting their focus from profitability to becoming more purpose-driven as they contribute toward a greener planet and strive to make more inclusive workplaces. During my keynote speech at the recently-concluded ISG Future Workplace Summit in New York, I had shed some light on these major shifts and tried to dissect their implications to the audience.
The essentials of a futuristic and experiential workplace
It's been two years since the Corona virus first made a global impact. Over this period, companies have transformed and solidified their digital workplace strategy, thereby becoming more proficient and dexterous. But the same has also led to a drastic impact on workplace expectations.
Being increasingly profitable has always been the top priority for most businesses across the globe. While there's nothing wrong with that, industry leaders have started shifting towards a more sustainable future — a far more pivotal concern. In other words, being socially and environmentally considerate is the new bottom line for these companies. All major businesses are expected to become more purpose-driven, tread on the path of carbon neutrality, and become more inclusive in their workplace considerations.
Productivity is a metric for an advanced workplace. However, this is expected to change in the post-pandemic era as leaders within the companies are hiring more creative talent and reimagining their digital workplace strategy thus, leveling up their innovation index. Moreover, the employees are offered to work with the latest technologies, thus increasing their digital dexterity.
Even as some companies have started asking their employees to return to offices, working from home has been normalized. We know that hybrid work environment is the future. In a situation where employees are no longer working from a geographically-controlled location, endpoint security becomes a major concern, especially since access points are expanding rapidly. Collaboration tools are essential and can't be bargained with, and businesses will need to upgrade their work stack to help employees do their best work.
The traditional office-centric design for hybrid work environment is like a square peg in a round hole. It will soon fade into workspaces designed for collaboration, social interaction, and relationship building. Hence, we can expect an increased use of modern technologies for the hybrid reality and digital-era success soon.
Mapping business and employee expectations
Across industries, all competitive businesses have largely three main expectations:
- Use distributed infrastructure at a conceptual level and go global with it
- Be more efficient, grow business, and become more profitable
- Harness internal ingenuity and leverage technology to be able to do it best
However, employees have a different set of expectations that require their workplaces to be more Engaging, Purposeful, Inclusive, and Compassionate (EPIC).
On the surface, it may appear that the two goals don't coincide, but there is common ground for both. In fact, they are complimentary goals – both employees’ expectations as well as enterprises’ needs can be mapped on a similar trajectory. This in turn, can help deliver best-in-class futuristic digital workplace for customers.
Distributed yet engaged
To establish a modern digital workplace with vested interests for both employers and employees, organizations must invest in Omni-channel collaboration platforms and ensure that they offer immersive and intuitive experiences to their users. Secondly, enterprises must embrace best-of-breed technology such as the Metaverse and digital canvas, and make sure employees harness these technologies to bring out best results. Also, they must assess their existing employee journeys and strive to deliver a contextual and personalized experience. Lastly, businesses must adopt reward, recognition, and motivation programs to develop a more productive yet engaging work environment through enterprise gamification.
Profitable yet purposeful
For industry leaders to deliver on their sustainability goals, they need to interact with their employees, define, and communicate their sustainability goals. It’s imperative that IT, operations, HR, and facilities will all have to become an integral part of the organizational sustainability journey. Organizations must provide trainings to employees so that their greener skills are enhanced. Only when the workers are co-owners of the carbon-neutral initiatives can an entire industry prioritize issues as crucial as these.
Efficient yet compassionate
Every business improves its products and services based on customer feedback, and the same needs to go for developing employee experiences. Organizations must leverage in-person /digital surveys to be more empathetic and capture the voice of employees that goes beyond their performance at work. Moreover, analytics can be used to pinpoint challenges in employee journeys. They need to take appropriate initiatives and address the feedback received to ensure the employee's physical and mental well-being.
Bleeding-edge yet inclusive
Organizations must invest in the technology stack to boost employee productivity and help front-line workers, differently abled employees, and other marginalized individuals progress in their work. Digital adoption is a major factor here. Hence, businesses must implement a 'learn in the flow of work' model to help their workforce gain digital dexterity. In addition, we can further minimize the learning curve for most digital technologies with a three-click approach.
Creating an EPIC workplace
To create an EPIC workplace, here are five broad steps that organizations have to implement:
- Build a heterogeneous team composed of people from all departments, including admin and HR, who will take ownership of the EPIC goals and drive it forward.
- Conduct surveys to capture the voice of employees as a starter for addressing their expectations and concerns.
- Benchmark the organization's readiness in adopting experiential hybrid working essentials and pinpoint gaps, if any. This is to understand where they are and where they need to be to create a conducive hybrid working environment.
- Define goals and milestones to be achieved in the short and long term around the four EPIC pillars.
- Help employees take ownership of the workplace evolution and establish an efficient change management program. As the needs of the workplace evolve, organizations must revisit the second step and repeat the cycle.
The pandemic, despite its negatives, has presented a unique opportunity for businesses to understand and redesign the future of work. It would be a travesty to reinstitute the traditional model of work. This time of transition must be utilized to align workplaces to the EPIC aspirations of the employees to enable a truly digital workplace strategy.