Four Technologies Transforming the Workplace first appeared on Forbes.com.
Has Covid-19 changed the workplace forever? Quite possibly. The term “work” has morphed from the physical place you went to every day to simply what you do from your kitchen table, home office or back patio. Without the workplace technologies we use to get our jobs done, where would businesses—or our economy—be today?
Technology is the baseline to execute any remote work strategy, and it is equally important in your “return to the office” strategy. Whether you are taking a hybrid approach or planning to bring everyone back to the office, technology must be at the core of your 2021 strategy. It plays an important role in business, from operations and productivity to communications and employee engagement.
However, as work continues to evolve, technology needs to do the same. In 2020, workplace video became a workplace technology superhero. With social mandates in place, video was (and still is) the best way to connect with teammates, customers, friends and relatives. Sure, a phone call, instant message or email works, but nothing can replace the value of “face-to-face” communication—even if it is over video. Establishing connections and building relationships is a key tenant of business, which will cause enterprises to continually evaluate their unified communications and collaboration tools (UC&C).
Beyond UC&C, a whole new set of workplace technologies will come into play due to the shift in how and where we work. Below are four technologies that will transform the workplace—for the better:
Workplace Health and Safety Apps
The health and safety of employees is always the first job, but it looks much different today than it did just one year ago. It has evolved from having basic security systems and health guidelines in place to a much more complex—and arguably more important—part of your strategy. For example, you probably used access cards to protect your employees from unwelcome visitors. Today, it is far more complex (and the unwanted visitor is Covid-19).
When it’s safe, 75% of employees would prefer to work from an office than work from home, according to NTT’s 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report. Workplace health and safety apps can offer peace of mind to employees and employers alike. As an employee prepares to return to the workplace, they can use an app on their mobile device to find out if a specific facility is open, complete a health check and secure a pass to enter the facility for the day. Some, like Microsoft’s Employee Return to the Workplace App, have other elements built in, such as pulse surveys and sentiment tracking to check the employee’s level of comfort upon returning to work.
One of the biggest challenges business leaders will face in 2021 is employee engagement. No asset is more important to your business than your employees. Engaged employees are not only happier and more productive, but they contribute to the bottom line. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, highly engaged business units achieve 21% greater profitability.
Employees have to feel connected to their work, their colleagues and their company’s leadership. They need to have a purpose, which comes down to understanding how the work they’re doing fits into the organization’s mission and business objectives. Although it is not the only piece of your employee engagement strategy, employee experience (EX) technologies can play an important role.
So what is EX technology? Think of it as customer experience (CX) technology adapted for your internal customers (aka employees). Although traditionally thought of as HR-related tools like benefits portals, I would argue EX technology encompasses far more today.
Every tool that impacts employee experience and engagement is an EX technology, including enterprise social networks, one-to-one and one-to-many video, gamification applications and well-being portals—basically, anything employees use to get their jobs done more effectively and efficiently. Ongoing investments and innovations in EX technology are essential to supporting a work-from-anywhere workforce.
Digital (Employee) Events
Even though many companies are bringing employees back to the office, gathering in one room for an all-employee meeting or sales kickoff is no longer an option. Large, in-person events could even be a thing of the past altogether. Video is a great alternative, but as video fatigue sets in, you’ll need to find new ways of delivering important messages to employees.
The event industry is leading the way, forcing webcasting vendors to push the boundaries of what’s possible to create more immersive and engaging experiences. For example, virtual networking spaces, breakout “rooms,” interactive workshops, integrated social media and real-time polling.
However, you need more than reliable, interactive technology. The content of your digital employee event must be timely, relevant and focus on what employees need most from you and the organization. If it doesn’t meet these requirements, you’ll waste both time and money.
Analytics and data management have become core to business success. Today, you probably measure and analyze everything from supply chain and delivery to product development and sales/marketing. However, analytics also have a powerful play inside the organization.
As you focus more on the workplace and employee experience, analytics can shed light on key aspects of your business, such as employee productivity, employee experience, technology performance and internal communications. By understanding what’s happening inside the enterprise, you have the opportunity to make changes that lead to massive gains for the organization as a whole.
After a year like 2020, it’s hard to imagine what the new year will bring. One thing is for certain: It is the dawn of a new era in the workplace—one in which technology will improve the employee experience and drive productivity. Are you ready?