Monday, October 8, 2018

Employee Engagement and the Modern Workplace

Micah Swigert, SVP, Technology
Content / Technology / Platforms / Strategy

The methods and devices that employees use to perform their jobs within a digital ecosystem have expanded and evolved greatly over the last ten years. From the advent of smartphones to the prevalence of SaaS products that are continuously up-to-date (i.e. Salesforce, Concur, etc.), tech has become pervasive and enabled new ways of working for most employees.

Why, then, do we still see broad dissatisfaction with digital working environments in the workforce? At Rightpoint, we are typically brought in to a client to strategize on how to use digital experiences to assist in driving employee engagement and productivity. The same circumstances we encountered ten years ago are still seen today, although the tech has improved dramatically. Why is this?

1. More ! = Better (We are Swimming in Digital Options)

One aspect of the improvement in tech has been the proliferation of different device types (smart phones, tablets, laptops, kiosks), types of available interactions on those devices (websites, mobile-friendly websites, phone/tablet apps, etc.), and network locations (on the company network, on VPN, at home wifi, mobile). 

Add to this the multiple ways of performing a task… is your team collaborating in Microsoft Teams? In Slack? On Trello? On a SharePoint site? (Over email? In a network file share?)

If you need to reach a colleague, do you email them? IM? Text? That’s probably based on the time of day and how critical you need to reach them, and the length/complexity of what you are trying to send them.

Although the technical possibilities have improved, clear conventions on when and where to use what tech are non-existent in most companies. And, as soon as they would be defined, the tech changes and the conventions must be updated. Simply put, living in a world of rapid technical change is exciting for a consumer, daunting for an employee, and impossible for change managers.

Your intranet can help here… if there is one digital destination that is still the authoritative location where employees go to find out about how to do their jobs or what is changing within the company, it is the intranet – the digital workspace. Recognize that the intranet’s main job is to help employee’s way-find digitally. 

How can we use the intranet to get the employee to where they want to go to do their job, as quickly as possible, and on their preferred device? Solve that problem first. Company news, leadership messaging, and other engagement and communication strategies will be amplified if they are published within the tool that employees use every day to get into their work.

2. If You Aren’t Changing, You’re Dying

Rightpoint has a collection of “before” screenshots of company intranets. Some are populated with out-of-date content, most are text-heavy and require some time to figure out how to use, and none of them look or function like a modern website that we would expect to use as consumers.

Why is that? Our clients – across IT, communications, HR, and operations – are all dedicated professionals who are committed to their discipline and their company mission. They aren’t incompetent. They are underserved.

Simply put, the way that most companies think of funding their intranet doesn’t align with how its benefit should be recognized. Most intranets get some sort of capital infusion every five to seven years, with a small operating budget to keep the lights on in-between. This means that the intranet gets a rethink, a redesign, and a redeployment (and all the change management that goes along with it) every once in a while, and although it sees content updates regularly in between, the intranet itself doesn’t evolve.

However, we expect the intranet to be the authoritative digital destination for employees – where they start their day online, how they navigate their work, how they stay informed and engaged. Everything about that experience is changing more rapidly than the capital budgeting/planning cycle.

What if the intranet was always up to date – not just with content, but with function? What if it was an internal product that had its own team and mission? True, there might be financial considerations of moving from capital investments to consistent operating expenses, but there are also benefits of not having to rethink, redesign, and redeploy every 5-7 years as well.

We see a broad-based interest in and active change to thinking of the intranet as an internal digital product – with expanded features and benefits that justify an ongoing product team. We see these teams charged with not only the intranet, but focused on overall digital experiences for employees, staffed from a hybrid of communications, HR, and IT functions, charged with delivering on the value of the internal product and realizing the benefits.

These teams enable our clients to become much more agile, both internally within their organization and externally based on technology opportunities. 

It’s hard to move from a conventional capital-funded/project-oriented to a product mindset. It also may cost more – but the benefits may also be higher. We think it’s worth considering.

3. Hope Is Not A Strategy

The popular word in intranets five years ago was “governance.” This was an awkward term, because it meant different things to different people. Some people thought it meant how the intranet site is operating (and who operates it) and how it is measured – from an uptime-focused point of view. Scalability / availability / contingency plans were often part of an operational governance structure. Others focused on content governance, and yet others focused on strategic governance – how leadership is involved and informed.

What was missing in many cases was “sustainability” – the focus was oriented on structures, measurement criteria, and steering committees… it was rarely focused on defining and organizing around lag measures aligned with sustainability.

So, while intranets continued to be governed effectively, they became less and less sustainable over time… the tech became harder to manage, users became more disengaged, and content became out of date.

We focus less on governance structures and plans with our clients now. That’s still important, but it needs to follow a simpler need: a clear vision and strategy that is focused on providing value over time. We need to recognize that hoping that what we do will make a lasting impact isn’t enough. We need to plan for sustainability up front and make sure that the organization is aligned on how we measure success and the plan to be undertaken to make it happen.

Communicators within organizations must operate with intention regarding digital experiences for employees. This is critical to drive higher engagement and higher productivity. We live in a technology environment where, as consumers, we enjoy tremendous and ever-changing benefits that increase the quality of our lives. As employees, we deserve more. Organizations can meet this unmet need by reviewing their current experiences and balancing benefits and costs within an evaluation framework that takes into account the More ! = Better concept, the If You’re Not Changing, You’re Dying reality, and recognizing that Hope is Not a Strategy

Interested in taking the next step or need to quickly launch a world-class digital collaboration environment for today’s workforce? Learn more about Spark Workspace, a Rightpoint accelerator built in Sharepoint Modern with full Office 365 integration.