Seven Tips for Using Technology To Make Work Better


en Tips for the Digital Dream Team To Improve Organizations

During the pandemic, 40% of workers in some cities were able to work from home.

If you think about when you have most enjoyed your work, it’s usually more than just the location.  The so-called ‘great resignation’ reflects the fact that some workers have been thinking about the ‘why’ of work as well as the ‘where’.

Designing a safe, productive, and enjoyable working environment definitely involves the ‘why’ and ‘where’ of work, and also the how, who, and when. In a typical working week, we use more than 30 different platforms, sites, and systems. Designing a great ‘employee experience’ very much includes the smart use of workforce technology – changing how work, works.

The exact shape of each industry’s response to COVID will evolve, however, there will be mergers, acquisitions and re-organizations. In this context, all organizational change programs need a rethink of how we manage our workforce and technology. 

Here are seven pointers for what IDC calls the Digital Dream Team when using technology to improve organizations.

The first rule of Digital Transformation is…Don’t mention ‘Digital Transformation’. Sure, the term might mean something to the team who can recite the program goals. For communicating outside the core team, ditch the project jargon. Instead focus on something tangible that people will grasp – for example, “Project Get Help”. 

An opportunity to ‘rethink work’ – when new technology arrives, such as AI or blockchain, it is tempting to use it to make our existing processes slightly better. This can miss a big opportunity as some of the technology requires a shift in mindset. For example, when mobile technology arrived, we took online job application forms with 40 data fields and then tried to add them to a mobile app. The first mobile versions didn’t work out so well. We adapted over time as we understood what the new technology meant. 

Enable great teamwork – successful organizations are made up of successful teams. Examples of great teamwork are all around us, from those developing vaccines, caring for the sick, or planning logistics for food and medical equipment. All the magic in our organizations happens in teams, yet many management processes are focussed on individuals.  Successful teams are a mix of many factors including the individual team members, the context, the communication tools, the culture, and psychological safety. Workforce analytics is allowing organizations to identify influential individuals, the risk of burnout, and team attrition. With the right employee opt-in, employee sentiment data and location is giving a new view of how teams operate and what makes them successful.

Connect technology silos – our experience as an employee is very much influenced by how we interact with employer portals.  After a decade of rapid SaaS growth, the overall employee experience has suffered. Our systems maps look like a bowl of noodles. There is a shift in Workforce Technology from ERP and transactional systems toward systems of experience, automation, and intelligence. We need to connect those technology silos and provide a more seamless onboarding experience.  As Daniel Wilks, EMEA VP Employee Workflow at ServiceNow, explains, “Behind every experience is a process, join the dots and mask the complexity.”

Example – Improving employee experience by consolidating help desks.

Unilever recruits about 15,000 new employees every year globally. In the past, they used 15 siloed help desks to support candidate queries. They built a platform with ServiceNow, called Una, to consolidate and give users a consistent experience in whichever country they are in. This has reduced 47% of the time previously spent booking time off, searching for colleagues, and other transactional support activities.  

Connect organizational silos - any successful and sustained organizational change is a multidisciplinary effort. The CHRO needs to become a Workforce Technology Evangelist. The CFO needs to consider the workforce diversity impact of decisions. Mix the teams up and see what happens. 

Cast the net widely – the headline goals of transformation efforts will be set by the business drivers and M&As, consolidation, expansion, etc.  Where do the best ideas for organizational change programs come from?  Asking the people who are closest to your products and services – your employees. For your program team, also think about the cognitive diversity of the team members. Cast the net widely initially, critically assess the best ideas, start small, and scale rapidly.

Improving organizational decision-making – how can we improve the success rate from change programs?  Start by asking the right Questions. Too many start with, ‘How do we introduce AI or Blockchain into our department?’ rather than ‘How do we increase sales, improve customer satisfaction?’  Look for the best available evidence from broad sources to support the changes you are proposing before sprinting ahead.  Executive decisions need to get agreement in short-time frames - this approach can help gain approval and confidence from colleagues.

We have learned so much in the last 2 or 3 years, organizations that can bring that learning to the new challenges ahead will prosper. Successful adaptation in the next phase will need a smart rethinking of the design of our work, organizational rituals, locations, teams, and technology. The upside is enormous for those leaders who embrace new technology and empower their workers to achieve their goals in successful teams. 

As we recover and regroup, some of these principles can help the ‘Digital Dream Team’ make our organizations work better.

Andrew Spence is an independent workforce strategist who publishes Workforce Futurist Newsletter.

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