• Cairo Walker

Turbo Charge your Digital Workforce with a People-first Approach

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Technology is easier than ever. Organisations instead focus on building a ‘digital workforce’ (digitally-enabled employees).

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

The challenge is to ‘work as we play.’

Outside the organisation, the digital experience is rich and amorphous. Applications distil and combine content. A vibrant network of conversation is carried out over multiple devices, often with two or more on the go at the same time. Content consumption habits are increasing in sophistication, and smartphones are at the centre of this. News aggregators pull in from multiple sources, allowing the consumer to select the feeds and subjects of the most interest to them. People connect through a range of applications, such as Facebook Messenger, Viber, Skype, LinkedIn and the in-built texting on phones. Smartphones provide information in-context and facilitate the completion of tasks anywhere and at any time. This collection offers a digital experience of choice — not of limitation. It allows people to choose and; presuming there is little-to-no cost implication, why not take the same approach inside the organisation?

People are accustomed to moving from a phone to a tablet, laptop or desktop machine in a seamless way. Permissions replicate, recent conversations appear, and so on. In the background, machine learning works away to create the best experience for any given individual based on the places (digital and physical) visited and the preferences made.

People are the digital workforce

Devices and applications connect people with information, and also provide a new, vibrant network of people. It is the combination of the two that sets the conditions necessary for ‘serendipitous discovery.’ From gaining reassurance that the future product purchase is best, or getting the latest cute animal meme to share; people play a significant role in turning us onto online experiences that we may have not otherwise found. These experiences come pre-qualified (a friend or a friend’s friend twice removed recommended it), and it is, therefore, more likely to suit.

Passive intranets compound poor productivity.

Organisations struggle to bring a modern digital experience inside the organisation and to make current systems and technologies suitable for the new digitally-savvy employee. Intranets are usually passive. They are conceptualised as ‘an internal website’ and conceived as an isolated piece of technology. Users have no option other than to go in and seek out the required information. Most provide an inferior experience (if any) on mobile devices, removing any opportunity for in-context experiences.

Intranets have a starring role to play in the modern organisation

The intranet is the critical interface to the expanding digital working environment. As an organisation introduces new and varied technologies, the intranet provides the opportunity to deliver a cohesive experience for staff and a point of integration regardless of device, or location. It is the varied digital ecosystem (chat, video, social, commenting, content mashups, real-time working, personalisation, search, mobile, etc.) that progresses intranets from their current static and under-utilised state.

Creating a digital workforce is a culture change and capability-building exercise.

Focus on creating change in people, not technology

Creating a digital workforce is a culture change and capability-building exercise. The technical aspects are, by comparison, small. A recipe for failure is the mobilisation of a large formal project to bring about a modern, digital workforce. Successful initiatives deliver manageable, tangible, incremental improvements to remove barriers and meet the needs of staff. Small shifts minimise the disruption to both end-users and supporting teams; making it easier for them to quickly leverage enhancements and at the same time reduce the required change management effort.

Shaking off the organisational ‘laggard’ mentality

As focused as they are on delivering to the end customer, organisations overlook the importance of growing a happy, internal digital workforce that can provide outstanding customer service offerings. Individuals now take a certain level of digitisation for granted in their private lives.

Bringing the workplace up to a high standard is not easy to achieve — even for those organisations that have identified the need.

Investment outside technology is required to realise the benefit

Organisations are missing the necessary investment to bring about a digital workforce. As a guide, organisations should take their initial backing of technology and apply at least double to the culture and capability building activities. There are proven gains for organisations that meet this challenge.

According to the Forrester study into O365 implementation, the total benefit to organisations resulted in net present value (NPV) of $5.6 million (overall benefits of $8.8 million versus total costs of $3.2 million).

Those organisations that continue to lag; or to imagine a new future that is born of legacy thinking will fail. These organisations will quickly find themselves replicating the same, old intranet experience that will continue to underwhelm staff and erode confidence in the organisation, and its ability to deliver.

Some definitions

Digital Workplace

A digital workplace serves up content contextually and, in the way the end-user prefers to access it.

Numerous systems house this content, each system may have its unique form of authentication. The underlying complexity is ‘hidden’ from the end-user. Activities such as ‘social’ and ‘collaboration’ are baked in and hidden away. In the digital workplace, there is no need to talk about collaboration platforms. Collaboration will just become part of the way people work, and there will be no need to visit a specific destination for this.

The digital workplace presents a more pervasive way of working and accessing information.

Digital Workforce

There is, or at least should be a move from the physical and technical environments (digital workplace) to one that focuses on the people in the (digital) workplace. Digital Workforce is the new phrase that more accurately described digitally-enabled people.

Keeping end-users top of mind, and understanding how technology can support ways of working, will ensure that the digital workplace of the future is informed by, and designed for the actual, real needs of the end-user.


Historically intranets have been conceived as an ‘internal website’. In this definition, the intranet is a single, bounded thing comprising a set of content usually published via a single content management system. Intranets have a history of existing in isolation from other corporate platforms, with little or no integration. This practice is out-dated, and intranets now play a vital role in the broader digital environment.

In addition to their role managing content and operating as a communications channel, intranets have become the front-door to the digital workplace. The intranet is an access point to other systems, but more importantly, it is the place of integration of data from multiple sources. As a result, the modern intranet has a more interactive role to play in the online environment within an organisation.

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