| 7 min read

What Does The Digital Workplace Of The Future Look Like?

Digital Workplace of the Future

It’s time to gaze into our crystal ball (analyze current trends and make informed predictions) about what the digital workplace of the future will look like.

There are four components that are the basis of the digital workplace paradigm shift that we’re currently undergoing: people, processes, technology, and data.

Today we’ll look at two major evolutions in each of these areas, to get a glimpse into the digital workplace of the future and how your business can keep up - to ensure ongoing success and relevance in the modern world.

People: Physical workplaces are rapidly changing, revolving around the Employee-as-a-Customer (EaaC) mindset

The ultimate physical office is focused on the people part of the digital workplace puzzle.

Sodexo’s Global Workplace Trends 2018 report identifies 7 Global Workplace Trends, the first of which the outline being ‘Getting Ready for Gen Z’ - those born between 1995 and 2012.

From Sodexo’s insights about Gen Z they found:

  • 91% would be inclined to take a job at a company that uses sophisticated technology
  • 92% do not want to work in open plan offices
  • 57% are willing to relocate for a job
  • 58% are willing to work nights and weekends

How does this new generation want to work, and what do they want from a workplace?

Jody Kohner, Salesforce’s Senior Vice President of Employee Marketing & Engagement explains how Salesforce built an award-winning workplace: “Coming from a marketing background, the first thing I asked was: ‘Who is my customer?’ The answer was my Salesforce employees. My next question was: ‘How can I build a great experience for them at every stage of their journey?’ For example, someone who is interviewing for the company should have a totally different experience to someone who has been here 15 years.

For this people-centered approach to office environments in practice, you could take a look at Interior Design’s Best of Year Awards Winners 2018 Mid-Size Tech Office Honorees GitHub office, designed by Rapt Studio.

The design is warm and inviting with plenty of light wood, concentrating on providing the full range of working environments/spaces: individual pod-like spaces for solo concentration, coffee-table like large bench spaces, and lounge-room-esque spaces for collaboration. One thing you’ll immediately notice is that you can’t identify technology within the design. Charge points are obscured, laptops are de rigueur, lighting and fixtures tailored to be in synergy with each individual space.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

Customers leave a product when they’re unsatisfied with their experience. And employees leave a job when they’re unsatisfied with their experience, which now is influenced more than ever before by working conditions.

How to get ahead:

  • Physical workplaces can remove in-your-face technology, with service infrastructure cloud (or hybrid-cloud) rather than on-site.
  • Enhance the workplace by adding behind the scenes IoT devices to deliver always-on connectivity, comfortable temperatures, lighting, and meeting capture capabilities.
  • Transform your office space into a place that caters to employees’ working styles and hours (whatever they may be), and creating spaces that allow for comfy face-to-face collaboration.

What else will people want in an office? Well, often it’s not an office at all...

People: Work follows the talent, and not the other way around

Randstad Sourceright’s 2018 Talent Trends Report surveyed 800 C-Suite, HR and procurement leaders in 17 countries and found that “76% (of respondents) say the right worker can fall under any type of work arrangement and be based anywhere in the world.

It’s becoming apparent that geographical location is less important than ever before when it comes to the right talent for your business.

Let’s face it, people often don’t want to be in the office at all! Sometimes you’d much rather be sitting in your pijamas on the couch at home and not socializing, laptop out and working, with the TV on and the dog in the background.

Or maybe you want to go sit at a cafe at the beach, or even be doing work in between exploring a new city on the other side of the world. Maybe you love and want to work for a company, but hate the city it’s based in.

Not everyone works their best being confined to a single physical location every day. For some people it works, for others it may reduce their motivation.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

Your new workforce will simply move onto the next employer. The Gen Z and Millennials Collide @ Work study by Randstand in 2016 signals that most important workplace benefit is employee flexibility - and that 35% want to work in more than one country.

How to get ahead

It’s time to create a hiring and employment arrangement strategy and processes policy that embraces remote and flexible work across your workforce.

It requires:

  • Full support from upper management
  • An overhaul of HR strategy   
  • Rethinking 9-5  
  • Remote work digital systems infrastructure - a good start is an intranet available anywhere, on any device

Processes: Effective remote communication, leveraging intelligent software, is critical to operations

The key to an effective remote workforce is fluid communication. This isn’t only about the tools we use to communicate, like our cutting edge Enterprise Social Networking communications platform or remote access to a full suite of work apps via any device. It’s about expertly leveraging these lines of communication instead of default, analog systems like email.

As Jim Link, Chief Human Resources Officer of Randstad U.S.A. says, “Generation Z and millennials want to be able to use any and all technology tools to enable every aspect of their lives, from work to personal, scheduling, planning social events.

To effectively capture and enable remote communications we need to work with a number of different tools, with data flow across each (better: unified source of truth), and compliance (i.e. information capture) built in to our processes.

This isn’t about the tools themselves, it’s about effective management of the processes behind them.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

You’ll be stuck communicating by email and Skype, labelled a dinosaur, and won’t have the ability to effectively manage remote workers.

How to get ahead

It’s time to start rolling out systems that allow your staff to work from anywhere, on any device. This means secure access to workplace data, with real-time collaboration and communication at its core, and open APIs for inter-platform and systems work and data flows.

There are solutions on the market that allow you to do just this - like the CentricMinds suite - however, you need overarching strategy and processes in place to effectively implement and manage these systems, including thorough training programs.

Remember: Adaptability, Accessibility, Connection, Communication, and Remote Access.

Processes: Automation is changing everything

Almost all traditional IT operations can be candidates for automation, including anything that is workflow-driven, repetitive, or policy-based and requires reconciliation between systems.” - Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2018

The trend towards automation extends far beyond IT operations, and into all industries and job types. While the medical industry is currently a hotspot (presumably from the large amount of financial value in the field), if a task is repetitive or cognitive, then automation (including AI and robotics) can replace it.

The McKinsey report, Skill Shift Automation And The Future Of The Workforce, indicates shifting skillset demands in the job market out to 2030, with a 55% project increase in tech skills, followed by social and emotional skills (including management) by around 24%, and value in creativity. On the other side of the fence, demand for basic cognitive skills and physical and manual tasks will drop.

Automation is becoming pervasive across all businesses, whether you keep up or not will be critical in whether you will experience ongoing success.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

You waste time and money on humans doing tasks that are fast and simple from an automation perspective. Your competitors streak ahead and you curse not investigating and implementing an automation strategy sooner.

How to get ahead

The time to act is now.

The key here is to follow trend, taking advantage of automation solutions, upskilling/hiring in key growth areas, and taking power in leadership to ensure cohesive strategy across automation solutions.

Automating your business processes requires a holistic approach - a digital transformation strategy. The implementation of ad-hoc systems will be a mess. It’s time for expert opinions and strategic planning.

Technology: Cloud is king across infrastructure, storage, processing, and apps

Be gone server room! See you later on-premise software!

Why invest in your own technology on-site when you have workers scattered across the globe, when owning your own infrastructure is costly, and maintenance requires staff on hand?

In the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018, it is reported that by 2022, 72% of companies will have adopted cloud computing technologies.

When you take a look at the scope of projects such as Amazon’s AWS platform, that include products for storage, processing, block chain implementations, enterprise-level search, databases, and machine learning development and deployment solutions - all available in the cloud - with security that is near-on impossible to achieve with on-premise solutions (when configured correctly), it’s easy to see how hardware and software infrastructure is streaming towards cloud everything, particularly with faster internet solutions, including 5G.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

While on-premise hardware and software isn’t dead yet, support and product options will become limited. Your technology capabilities won’t stand up to the competition, and may be more expensive to maintain.

How to get ahead

If the majority of your hardware and software infrastructure is on-site, it’s time to start looking at hybrid solutions and a migration to cloud. It’s not as scary as it sounds.

Evaluating cloud service providers is where the difficulty lies. What’s the added value, cost over time, management overheads, and how will it fit into your digital transformation strategy? Which cloud components do you need and when? How will you manage transitioning?

Thankfully, cloud service providers now provide APIs or simple plugins that can allow you to work with multiple cloud service providers - so you can take parts of one, parts of another, and share data across them.

Again, expert business evaluation and guidance pays off.

Technology: Barriers to custom development vanish

Unless you have undertaken an introduction to software development, reading a line of Python code might look like some strange sort of math equation. But we’re rapidly seeing solutions coming to market that allow people with zero coding experience to build their own solutions.

Tools like Microsoft’s PowerApps mean you can build an app with limited technical skills, and Zapier can create automations between (or inside) your favorite apps with just a few clicks of a button.

While these solutions are excellent for easy or basic app/workflow building, in the future, they will become more complex - which means “coding” can then fall to administrative staff - leaving very complex software to the realm of more experienced engineers.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

You potentially lose money on hiring software developers to build custom apps and workflows you could develop in-house.

How to get ahead

Investigate these types of solutions. Build a working group within your workforce to design prototypes, tools, and workflows, and implement them in small teams within your business.

Train staff who would typically take on manual or repetitive administrative roles in how to build these solutions, instead of automating them out of a job.

Data: Decision making increasingly transitioning to AI

The core of AI is data. For instance, those fuzzy Captcha pictures you’re asked to solve when completing an on-line form are testing Google’s self-driving car decision-making processes.

The bigger the data set with more data points and lengthier historical data, all assist a machine in making better decisions. This is why tech companies are hell-bent on capturing as much data as they can.

The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018 we referenced earlier indicates that by 2022, that 85% of companies will have adopted big data analytics. This is for business intelligence and decision making.

What happens if I don’t adapt?

You better have some really smart analysts on your team for decision making. And even they won’t be able to crunch the numbers and tease out patterns that machines can identify. You’ll waste resources on experts that could be better spent capturing data and analyzing it with AI.

How to get ahead

Start capturing data from all facets: employee work and interaction patterns, marketing efforts, sales funnel, website bounce rates. Anything that exists through digital systems can be captured. Even if you’re not ready to process and analyze all the data you gather just yet, it will be important for historical context.

A unified data solution ensures captured data is in the one place. You can start to gain insights through inbuilt analytics solutions like our Intranet Analytics.

Data: Bots taking on more typically human tasks

When we typically think of bots, we find ourselves gravitating towards chatbots: Siri, Google, even text bots with your favorite online retailer.

Chatbots are designed for natural language processing, which can then go away and perform a task a human would usually do; booking meeting room 3 for 1pm in two weeks’ time, asking to play a music playlist.

Chatbots are a synchronicity of natural language processing, AI, and again, data. As far as language processing can go, chatbots are only as good as the data they’re given. That’s why Apple and Google are so good given the wealth of data gleaned from your apps, searches, computer use, and systems, they can find the information they seek and perform tasks.

Everyone has a personal assistant in their pocket, and they’re only getting smarter.

Accenture Digital’s 2018 Chatbots Are Here To Stay report indicates that executives see large benefits in chatbots of the future for:

  • Enhancing employee productivity by automatically following up on scheduled tasks
  • Improving the ability to handle client queries by networking with other bots
  • Delivering personalized attention to clients/visitors to the website by being more conversational
  • Facilitating more effective communication within the organization
  • Improving customer acquisition/retention by guiding web/tele-calling customers through the order process

What happens if I don’t adapt?

You continue with administrative and customer service staff at a greater overhead. Human error continues such as scheduling a flight or meeting incorrectly. Your staff get frustrated because their home chatbots are more clever than what they use in the office.

How to get ahead

Hooking up chatbots to your internal business systems will allow you to do business with less friction, in less time, and even build your customer base and/or retention. Whether it’s custom bots or employing ready-made solutions, chatbots should be a ticket item on your to-do list for future-proofing business.

Look to the future by learning from the past

Your existing systems bring a wealth of company information that gives you almost everything you need to launch into the digital workplace of the future. CentricMinds data, app, and intranet solutions can help harness the power of your existing systems, and help guide through the digital transformation process to give your business the competitive edge. Contact us to start your transformation conversation.

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