Category Archives: engagement

The Digital Workplace in the connected organisation

I have recently been reading Jane McConnell’s report ‘The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization‘.  You will have to go a long way and use a lot of effort to find another research report that will be as interesting, insightful and better value for money.  If you haven’t bought a copy then please consider seriously doing so.

What is new this year?

The Digital Workplace Scorecard

The main innovation is the Digital Workplace Scorecard, which is based on the nine dimensions of the digital workplace model described in this report. The Scorecard works from self-assessment: scores are calculated based on several hundred data points from the responses to the online survey questions.

All participants receive (privately) their own scorecard and can compare themselves to others in their industry by looking at the industry-specific scorecards or to the Early Adopters. All industry scorecards are published in the report.

The digital workplace in the context of the organization

This year’s report represents a major step forward in understanding how the digital workplace impacts and is impacted by organizational processes, structures, leadership, culture and mindset. The survey covered these points in addition to the traditional questions about people capabilities, mobile services, finding expertise, sharing knowledge and so on.

Twenty-three “In Practice” Cases

“The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization” contains 23 “In Practice” cases that are developed in more detail than in previous years. The organizations selected for these cases stood out during the data analysis process, either because of high scores or because their comments and examples are relevant to challenges many organizations are facing today.

There are so many great insights and highlights that I was spoilt for choice on what to write about.  Three highlights for me are:

Mindset

Jane identifies this as a critical factor defined as ‘the values, expectations and ways of thinking that determine how people and organizations act’.  My experience with intranets successfully transforming into digital workplaces requires senior managers to lead and encourage employees to change their way of working.  Even more important is for senior managers to demonstrate by example how they are using it to help themselves for employees to follow.

just starting

Many organisations have just started to adopt digital workplace ways of working.  Many of my clients are in this position.  Factors like access to real-time information, finding out information from people you don’t know and resilience when bad weather or other problems can affect service.  Adopting the digital workplace can help to remove these major business issues with benefits of improved customer service and productivity savings.

mobile

As Jane says in her report ‘People are increasingly deciding how they want to work and which tools suit them best regardless of corporate policies.’ with organisations recognising this as becoming the new reality with many employees saying they are ‘discouraged but accepted’ when using personal devices for their work.  To me that feels like a major shift from a year ago and one of my 2014 predictions.

Overall this research can be referred to many times as you continue your jouney to a fully integrated digital workplace for your organisation.

10 free guides to help you create intranet content

It is not often that I recommend on my blog information to read that I believe is helpful and easy to read.  Today is an exception (not just because I played a very small part in its creation)! :)

ClearBox Consulting with Kilobox Communiqué noticed that while on the top level of intranet sites there is good quality content, as you get into the lower levels standards start to drop.  Often people have been trained on the publishing tool but had little guidance on how to get the most from an intranet as a channel e.g. how to write headlines, how to phrase links, etc.

They have created an excellent set of 10 FREE guidelines, each 1-2 pages long, covering the following topics in plain English:

  1. Effective headlines: help people choose what to read
  2. Images: attracting interest and conveying meaning
  3. Links: how to link to pages and files
  4. Layout: how to structure articles for scanability
  5. How to help people search for, and find, your content
  6. Content: write for your audience, not for your boss
  7. Documents vs pages: when to use PDF, Word, and other formats
  8. Engage: writing to start a conversation
  9. Channels: how to reach the right audiences with your content
  10. Mobile content

I recommend you read and share these with your publishers to help improve the overall experience people have with your intranet.

Thanks Sam and Wedge!

Strengthen employee engagement while working remotely

Happy New Year to you!  I hope you had a relaxing break and have recharged your batteries for 2014.

I was recently asked by Simply Communicate to follow up my 2014 predictions with one for internal communications.  Here it is:

Organisations increasingly face the challenge of how to strengthen employee engagement while their workforce increasingly work from remote locations or while mobile. There is a great opportunity for internal communications to take a leading role with developing a plan that addresses these challenges with greater use of communications channels.

What is different now from previous years is the range of tools and know-how which can be used to successfully have engaged and mobile employees. The key to this will be the rich experience employees will have online as they are able to read communications when they need to, where they need to, and be able to share, feedback, rate the value of the messages with other people who share a similar interest.

An example of this could be combining collaboration tools with traditional online communication channels will help provide that rich experience so a key company announcement video, CEO blog post and detailed background information available is strengthened by a discussion forum managed by internal comms to continue the conversation with quick polls on the awareness and understanding of key messages.

It is how it is implemented and how it is managed within a wider governance framework will help decide how successful it will be. Good luck with whatever you do in 2014!

Read about more 2014 internal communication predictions from simple communicate.

Digital Workplace or digital working?

In my last two posts about the digital workplace I have covered an example of how field-based people use the digital workplace.  I then covered how people’s perception of the digital workplace should be more than just considering it is for office-based people only.

But is the digital workplace the best term to describe the new ways of working that people are adopting?  Is a term like ‘digital working’ a better description than ‘digital workplace’?

Firstly I don’t get too bothered about terms.  As long as there is a common understanding between me and the people I am communicating and working with then that is fine with me.  But it does help if that understanding can be easily achieved using a term that is meaningful.

Digital workplace

I describe this simply as ‘Work is something you do, not a place you go to’.  In a digital workplace you can:

  • Work from any location or while mobile
  • Have the same or similar online experience
  • Collaborate, search, and complete tasks online
  • Choose what tools you can use to do this
  • Feel comfortable whenever you are using it
  • Be confident you can use it when you need to
  • Have a better work/life balance

There are other, more detailed, definitions that describe the digital workplace.

digital working

But isn’t that explained as well by the term ‘digital working’?  It removes any ambiguity about it only referring to office-based rather than field-based or mobile people’s ways of working.

Is it better and maybe more meaningful to use the active term ‘working’ rather than something passive like ‘workplace’?  Does the increasing use and influence of mobile working also mean we should consider using ‘digital working’ now?

Summary

What are your views on these terms?  What best suits how your people in your organisation now work?  Is it ‘digital workplace’ or ‘digital working’ that we should be using?  I would love to hear from you.

Selling the idea of mobile

I have the great privilege of delivering the keynote address on 13 November at the IntraTeam Event in Stockholm.  I will be showing delegates how to sell the idea of mobile to senior executives with examples of how a good experience along with a great plan can convince decision makers in your organisation.

This builds on previous posts on mobile which you may have missed before over the past year.  I have shared my presentation here for you to find out more mobile.

I am looking forward to meeting some old friends as well as make new friends during this conference.  If you can’t make the conference then you can follow on Twitter #IES13 to find out what is happening.

If you can’t make the conference but would like to meet up with me please contact me as I have some limited free time on 12 – 14 November while I am in Stockholm.

 

The digital workplace is for everyone (not just office-based workers)

In my last post ‘BT field-based workers use the digital workplace‘ I  talked about the benefits and drawbacks of people who work remotely adjusting to huge changes in the way they work.

It made me think of when I have discussed with clients or people at workshops or after presentations who had the view the digital workplace only affected people in offices or more specifically ‘knowledge workers’.  They were surprised this wasn’t the case.

So, let me say now very clearly (big drum roll please) the digital workplace is for all employees.  In fact it can extend to their customers, suppliers, and other third parties who they share a working relationship with.

A digital workplace’s prime aim is to help and support employees whether office, mobile or home-based, to be more effective.  That will mean being more productive – no delays finding what you need, completing tasks when you need, sharing knowledge online with other people – and effective so your organisation benefits too.

Examples of how other employees, not office workers, can benefit from using a digital workplace are:

  1. Retail staff using tablets to stock-take on products and order more.
  2. Retail staff at check-outs having latest news shown on equipment they also use for payment of products.
  3. Mining of minerals using vehicles and tools operated from remote locations away from the mining area.
  4. Meter readings for customers’ use of utilities e.g. gas, electricity, and water uploaded in real-time for bills to be created and issued while the person is still continuing to visit other customers.
  5. Parcel deliveries tracked using GPS by customer service to monitor and send updates to the delivery person’s mobile device.
  6. Field engineers able to use mobile devices to receive customer information before visiting and update with the outcome before moving on to their next customer.

These are just a few examples to illustrate the point I am making here.  The digital workplace affects all employees.  The level of impact will be different depending on the work but it is hard to think of work that is NOT influenced in some way by a digital workplace with news, collaboration, online tasks and processes.

What examples can you think of?

BT field-based workers use the digital workplace

I read Jane McConnell’s latest blog post ‘Floor-field workforce: the forgotten people?‘ with great interest.  I agree with Jane that office workers are currently the main focus for digital workplace transformations.  But there are some enterprises who lead the game for field-based workers.

It reminded me of when I was the BT intranet manager.  BT had employees who worked mainly from offices or while mobile or remotely from home or local hubs. I was involved in a project to give everyone, including field-based workers, access to BT’s intranet and developing digital workplace.  The project was seen as key to BT’s overall transformation as a business and was closely linked to wider strategic business priorities that included, higher customer service, improved employee productivity, and reduced office and travel costs.

The hardest part of this transformation was equipping all the field-based engineers who visited customers at their homes or places of work.  At the time BT had around 30,000 field engineers spread across the whole of the UK.  Some places were very remote and customers in difficult places to get to.  But this was not just a change of technology project.  It would bring about a huge change in how engineers worked and behaved with other team members, manager, everyone in BT and most importantly their customers.

Equipping every engineer with a laptop or smartphone with access to the digital workplace to upload and download customer progress reports and next job was expensive and technically complex.  The time needed to plan, test and implement for so many people didn’t encourage senior managers to commit easily to this project when quick results counted.  Because of these factors – cost, complexity, time to roll out – BT’s field engineers were the last group to be connected to the digital workplace.

To answer Jane’s point, the field-based engineers were not forgotten in BT but prioritised with everyone else because it wasn’t easy, quick, or cheap to achieve or for business benefits to be realised.

Before the transformation engineers would meet at the start of each day at one location to be given their work by their manager and to plan their routes from there to the each customer’s home or place of work.  They shared knowledge with their team members over a cup of tea before they started on traffic problems, technical tips, new products coming soon, etc.  Any news was given by their manager before they left for their first visit either individually or if appropriate together in an informal meeting.

After the transformation field-based engineers downloaded their first job (not their day’s work schedule) at home using their laptop and free broadband  connection to the online work tool in the digital workplace.  Travel was straight from their home to their first customer saving time and costs – there was no visit to their usual location at the start of each day.  When each customer’s visit was successfully completed the engineer uploaded this outcome to the online tool and be informed of the next customer to visit and what the work involved.  At the end of each day the engineers go home.  They were able to use the digital workplace to read the latest information about BT the same as everyone else.

As I said earlier it wasn’t just a technology project but more about changes to working practices which had been the same for decades.  It was very difficult for everything and everyone to benefit when this amount of change is made.  There have been many benefits but some drawbacks.

The biggest benefits were increased productivity with engineers able to go to their first customer visit straight from home.  The digital workplace was resilient and always available so the online tool could be trusted 24/7 to accept and provide work updates.  Customer service also improved with more flexibility in times for customer visits and quicker changes to work schedules.  Less buildings were needed with home starts with huge savings in costs.

Culturally for the first time in a long while field-based engineers felt part of the same BT team again.  Access to information and news on the digital workplace helped to remove a perception that they were missing out on important information affecting them.

But there were some drawbacks.  Engineers didn’t like the isolation.  It meant they did not see their team members for days sometimes and their manager less frequently.  Many found it hard to adjust to the new approach and considered leaving risking a huge loss of knowledge from BT.

BT has tried with limited success to replace the face-to-face sharing of knowledge with technology.  The limited time and lack of contact did not encourage a huge takeup with its impact on unsolved problems.  In my view tools like Yammer and Jive can supplement some face-to-face contact but they can’t completely replace the absence of it.

The inability to decide how to schedule their work brought a sense of disengagement and lack of empowerment that affected their job satisfaction if it did increase productivity.  A slow burning issue that needs to be resolved.

To again answer Jane’s point, the field-based engineers were connected with the digital workplace but it is not technology changes which are the biggest challenge but the human changes that need most attention.

How to help people to find your content

One of the areas that I get asked for help with is how to make it easier for people using their intranet to find the information they need for their work.

How people are able to find your information or site is critical to how good their experience of it is.  It’s no good having this fantastic source of knowledge on your intranet if no one can find it!

If you are making a major change to your intranet or maybe a smaller improvement to it e.g. launching a new site, it is very wise to test it with some volunteers who can feedback and influence any refinements so it gives the best experience when launched.

One way to help you is to create an information architecture – a structure and menu to help people find their way around your intranet easily – to test with people who could benefit from this new information to be launched.

An online testing tool can take the guesswork out of information architecture and help you check where the right place should be as well as the most suitable headings.

I have found ‘tree testing’ – a usability technique for evaluating the findability of information – is a good way with a simple text version of your intranet structure and hierarchy.  You can also use it to test the structure of a new site to check the content and headings are shown in the best way.

A small amount of funding for online testing can save you the time and effort second guessing where people may expect to find your content.  It will also help people who need to use your information having a better experience.

Can you recommend a tool that has helped you?

Resistance is futile – the digital workplace is coming

I had the great privilege to present the keynote at the first Intranatverk conference in Gothenburg last month.  All my expectations before I went were surpassed.  For those of you who didn’t go, you missed a real treat.  The good news is Kristian Norling plans to repeat Intranatverk so look out for future announcements!

I talked about how “Resistance is futile – the digital workplace is coming”.  Showing how a better way of working – for people and for organisations – using new ways of working like the digital workplace, is something I feel passionately about.  Adopting the digital workplace can help improve how we work now and achieve the many benefits other organisations have achieved already.

Why would you choose alternatives with benefits like these?  The examples of Google and Yahoo! will prove to be wrong and need U-turns if these organisations want to avoid falling behind their competitors who take the right approach to transforming their intranet into a digital workplace.

People benefit by:

  • Working from any location or while mobile
  • Having the same or similar online experience
  • Collaborating, searching, reading, and using apps online
  • Choosing which mobile devices to use
  • Feeling comfortable whenever they are using it
  • Being confident they can use it when they need to
  • Having a better work/life balance

Organisations benefits with:

  • Less wasted property space and costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Lower absenteeism rates
  • Reduced people turnover
  • Stronger business continuity
  • Less environmental impact

The approach needed is to:

  • Develop and align your strategy with other strategies
  • Engage with senior managers to sponsor, endorse, and support your strategy
  • Connect with everyone affected so they feel positive about this new way of working
  • Create a governance framework that benefits the organisation and everyone using the digital workplace
  • Implement policies that engage employees and encourage this shift of working
  • Support the digital workplace with an IT infrastructure so it is available 24/7 and enables you to quickly use the content and tools you need for work
  • Have flexible places to work – home, mobile, hubs, suitable work places – depending on what you need to do

Read more about these benefits, watch the video of my presentation and the brilliant sketchbook of the key points by Francis Rowland.

4 ways and 3 benefits using a wiki to develop policies

An organisation’s purpose involves how to manage how their people behave by encouraging, sometimes even mandating, how work tasks need to be carried out and by whom.  In my last post I asked ‘Why not use a wiki to develop policies?’.  How would using a wiki to develop work in practice?  Here are four ways to consider:

  1. You need to have the right culture which will encourage people to contribute and feel comfortable challenging what exists and being constructively critical.
  2. You need ground rules, or terms and conditions, or guidelines which set out clearly what the expected level of behaviour is for anyone using the wiki.
  3. Make sure the wiki is easy to create and edit as well as to read.  Anyone who has used Wikipedia will know it is a very different experience if you want to create/edit an article compared with reading it!
  4. I recommend the person responsible for the policy adds a draft – something which makes sense but its structure and content is loose enough to encourage people to edit – and asks anyone interested to contribute.  It is much easier to comment upon what exists than to start with a blank screen.

It is best to start with a policy that affects most or all people working in the organisation.  Choosing a Human Resources policy best fits that aim.  A policy on employee’s terms and conditions; holiday – how much and when it is taken; flexible working hours – shift patterns; and grading and pay rates.  All of these are policies people will have a view on what they believe is appropriate and will help build up a policy that is accepted by most other people.

Why should your organisation take such a risk?

My answer is “Why not?”  I believe there is very little to be risked if you pick your first policy to be one that has widespread interest and is not seen as being contentious.

One way to encourage stronger engagement with people within your organisation is to ask for their views and listen and act upon them.  Giving people the opportunity to shape a policy which affects them means there is a stronger chance of buy-in to the final version and the impact it has.

When organisations treat their people as adults with a chance to express a view you will generally find it is taken seriously and the outcome is very good.  This applies to blogging, micro blogging, feedback, and discussions that are moderated by the members of the group.

Here are three benefits to consider:

  1. It is probable that a better thought through policy will be developed that takes account of many more concerns and points than an expert or small project team could expect to include.
  2. It is likely to be completed in less time with less effort.  And if it doesn’t work an organisation should be honest and explain why e.g. too few comments, too negative, and pledge to learn from the experience.
  3. Less time, effort, and costs will be spent policing the policy in future if everyone has had the opportunity to influence its development.

So, go on, why not use a wiki to develop a policy in your organisation?