Many organizations had little choice but to accelerate both planned and unplanned digital transformations to cope with the impact of COVID-19 since it swept across the globe at an unprecedented rate in early 2020. With learnings and lessons aplenty emerging from this recent crisis, it’s important that executives and leaders reflect and regroup to ascertain if the critical technology gaps that were plugged during the onslaught of the crisis, are in fact the right tools and technology to provide future technological advances and organizational gains.
With this in mind, we have taken this opportunity to dive into the trenches to understand the latest developments and trends that help to create a truly digital workplace that will serve your organization now and long into the future.
The Future of Work: How AI and Machine Learning will Impact the Digital Workplace
Workplaces are bombarded by technological platforms that promise to enhance and future-proof the organization. With the sheer volume of technologies available, it can be challenging for organizations to separate the wood from the trees and therefore difficult for leadership teams to ascertain what technology will help, hinder or have little to no impact. That’s why we’ve selected 3 key organizational challenges that come up time and time again in our discussions with business leaders, to explore if technology can help solve these challenges.
Before we get into that, let’s take a glimpse into the latest technology, pushing the boundaries of the digital workplace that we know (and love?) today.
Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the Key to a Digital Workplace?
The concept of artificial intelligence has been around for quite some time, with instances of classical philosophers trying to describe the very concept many moons ago. But the name ‘Artificial Intelligence’ didn’t exist until Alan Turing coined the term in the 1950’s. Since then, AI has come a long way, weaving its way into many areas of our lives, including the workplace.
AI is creeping into many facets of the digital workplace, in particular data analytics. AI is exceptional at analyzing large volumes of unstructured data to drive meaningful analysis, much faster than humans can. AI can also be applied to analyze the effectiveness of a digital workplace platform, as it can quickly evaluate data such as usage statistics and engagement levels, which can fuel improvements and provide great insights into overall digital workplace effectiveness.
Many people outside of the technology industry view artificial intelligence and cognitive computing as interchangeable terms but in fact, they are quite different. The differences are important to understand to determine which, if any, are applicable when trying to solve a particular workplace challenge.
Cognitive computing focuses on mimicking human behavior and reasoning to solve complex problems. While artificial intelligence augments human thinking to solve complex problems based on the best possible algorithm.
According to McKinsey, partial automation will become more common in the workplace, with AI complementing human labor rather than totally replacing it. In such cases where humans are replaced by automation, it’s not always a negative. Take the example of how Amazon has retrained staff who previously stacked shelves, to become robot operators!
What exactly is Machine Learning and How can it be Applied to the Digital Workplace?
Machine learning is a subset of AI, and according to MIT Technology Review, “Machine-learning algorithms use statistics to find patterns in massive amounts of data. And data, here, encompasses a lot of things—numbers, words, images, clicks, what have you. If it can be digitally stored, it can be fed into a machine-learning algorithm.”
Take for example Spotify and Netflix. Both of these organizations utilize machine learning to present content based on your previous activity, providing curated suggestions such as “Made for You” playlists on Spotify and “Recommended for You” movies and TV shows on Netflix.
When we apply this logic to the digital workplace, we can see how machine learning can surface content and curate recommendations, such as news, search results and documents, based on previous user activity which, if done correctly, can help save employee time and enhance overall workplace productivity.
How Does Microsoft Teams Stack Up as a Tool for Taking Workplaces to the Future?
Microsoft Teams has grown leaps and bounds since it was first released by Microsoft in early 2017. MS Teams is an ever-evolving digital workplace solution that facilitates the trifecta of collaboration, communication and engagement. Employees find the modern interface friendly and easy to use, plus there’s the added benefit of seamlessly scheduling meetings, accessing files and live collaborating with teammates, with everyone seamlessly working on the one file at the same time. It’s goodbye to the nightmare that is document version tracking and hello to the joys of true team collaboration.
Microsoft Teams is charging ahead to the forefront of the digital workplace arena and it’s exciting to see the pace at which Microsoft continues to invest in MS Teams to evolve its capabilities as new features and technologies become available.
Can Digital Workplace Technology Help to Solve Key Organizational Challenges?
Many organizations strive to enable employee collaboration, drive employee engagement and foster an authentic corporate culture. With an overwhelming amount of enterprise technology solutions available in the market, it can be difficult for leadership teams to assess and dissect exactly how digital workplace technology can help solve organizational challenges both now and long into the future.
Without further ado, let’s look into three challenging organizational areas to determine if and how technology can be used to help overcome:
- Poor employee collaboration
- Low levels of employee engagement
- Ineffective organizational culture
1. What’s the Best Technology for Driving Collaboration Across the Workplace?
There’s an array of enterprise collaboration tools that promise the crowning glory in workplace collaboration; from Slack to MS Teams to Google Hangouts and Airtable, the options are abundant. While all of these are enterprise technologies that have the ability to drive collaboration, there are stark differences between them all.
Google hangouts provides users with a reliable instant messaging platform along with the ability to quick make video calls directly from within a chat window. Both file sharing and search are facilitated through the Gmail search bar. Google hangouts provides basic collaboration capabilities that work well for small businesses.
Slack is another option for sharing company-wide updates, files and direct messages with teammates. For these purposes, it is relatively good, but the search capabilities are somewhat limited. Slack is typically used as a standalone platform within an organization and users typically navigate to separate applications for tasks such as sending an email, scheduling a meeting and accessing documents.
When we think of collaboration at a larger enterprise, MS Teams comes up trumps, especially if your organization already has Microsoft 365, as MS Teams comes with the following Office 365 licenses:
- Business Essentials
- Business Premium
- Enterprise E1, E3, or E5
- Enterprise E4 (for anyone who purchased this plan prior to its retirement)
MS Teams is a turnkey solution in that users can send direct messages, group chat, video call, schedule a meeting and access files all within the same application. Now if that isn’t seamless collaboration, we don’t know what is!
2. How Can Technology Help Organizations Engage Employees, Now and in the Future?
In a study by Gallup, teams who score in the top 20% in employee engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover. So, it’s no surprise that an engaged workforce is the holy grail to many organizations. Now that we understand the value of having an engaged workforce, how can we cultivate this?
Technology can play a huge role in harnessing employee engagement. Take the Communities Yammer App in MS Teams, for example, organizations can seamlessly share photos, news and announcements with the ability to pin important updates to the top of the page to encourage engagement with the most important messages. The Yammer App in MS Teams also enables organizations to conduct polls and solicit opinions. Organizations with Microsoft 365 E1, E3 or E5 subscriptions or equivalent, can use Video broadcasts supported within the App by the MS Stream video service, to engage employees.
Engaging employees across a disparate workforce is possible thanks to technology. Technology is the secret sauce for generating meaningful engagement. Managers and leadership teams need to lead by example in this regard and pave the way for employees to engage. When employees see management interacting with news updates and sharing information across the organization, they are much more likely to get involved.
There has been an increasing trend towards remote working, even long before COVID reared its ugly head, and technology holds the key to engaging your entire workforce regardless of where everyone is physically located. Providing employees with the ability to like and comment on the latest news and updates can go a long way in engaging staff and helping employees feel connected to the organization, stripping down geographical barriers.
3. What Technology Can Organizations Embrace to Foster an Authentic Corporate Culture?
Corporate culture is a reflection of your organizational values, goals and beliefs. Authenticity, repetition and communication are important factors when trying to shift or enhance an existing subpar corporate culture. If you want to truly foster corporate culture at your workplace, technology is a great place to start.
Building a great corporate culture is a two-way street, so the technology you choose ought to facilitate two-way communications. Both management teams and employees have an important role to play when it comes to organizational culture. Staff need to feel as though they are appreciated and listened too. There are many types of technology (with varying degrees of reliability) to consider when an organization is looking to shape its culture, from email to a digital workplace to collaboration and communication platforms.
Technology such as MS Teams and Slack can enable management to demonstrate their appreciation for employees and share updates and news that reflect the organization’s values to solidify these morals across the workplace. Ideally, an organization chooses one robust technology to help mold a great culture while also providing the added benefits to facilitate collaboration and engagement.
Take Slack for example. While it’s a great tool for instant messaging and quick communications, it is quite lacking on the collaboration side. Sure, you can send files but there is no version management or true collaboration capabilities like those provided with MS Teams, whereby multiple people can work on the same document at the same time.
Collaboration, Engagement & Culture: What Comes Next?
Improving talent acquisition and the onboarding experience are important goals for most HR leaders. These encounters, while they occur in the early days of an employee’s tenure, can have a huge impact on employee productivity and loyalty to an organization. The idiom: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” comes to mind. So how can technology improve an employee’s introduction to your organization? A one-stop technology platform for collaboration, engagement and culture is a great start.
But, with so much choice and a wealth of options available in the market, how can organizations truly identify the must-haves from the nice to haves to future-proof their digital workplace?
That’s where Orchestry comes in! We deliver expert insights, best practices and practical information, from Microsoft MVPs and Microsoft 365 experts, to take the guesswork out of which tools and technology are best to adopt and use for maximum impact at your organization.
Orchestry makes work simple in Office 365, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online Sites by empowering your IT Administrators and employees to define a winning Microsoft 365 adoption and change management strategy, with a roadmap of what to use when, for what purpose. Orchestry increases usage and adoption while empowering through governance and simplifies through intelligent provisioning in Microsoft 365, organization-wide at a fraction of the cost, on a subscription basis.