The following contributed article originally was published to Chief Learning Officer and can be viewed here
When’s the last time every employee in your company was in the same room at the same time? Even in the past few years, managers could answer this question by quickly flipping through their datebooks. But in the age of multiple offices, remote workers and cross-departmental teams, there’s a more likely response: probably never.
Global Workplace Analytics reports that approximately 20 to 25 percent of the global workforce works remotely at some frequency and employees are not at their desk 50 to 60 percent of the time. And the McKinsey Global Institute finds the average employee spends nearly 20 percent of the workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues to help with specific tasks.
But that 20 percent also represents an opportunity for employees and companies to improve time management through technology. First, however, it’s important to understand some interpersonal communication points in play.
Teach Your Employees
By surveying people about their tech favorites, you might discover some solutions you’ve never heard of and would like to add to your suite of options. But what good are tech tools if they’re not being used — or if they’re being used incorrectly?
Fortunately, this is also an opportunity to bank on your team’s knowledge base and improve cross-departmental communication at the same time. Ask the folks who are most knowledgeable about a tech tool to help create user guides and host lunch-and-learns for other departments.
At the same time, it’s important to include official training for any new tech solutions — and as a refresher on the proper use of existing ones. Online learning courses can be taken at the convenience of employees (with a set deadline, of course) and ensure each training experience is consistent and quality controlled.
Learning leaders should also have employees go through courses on proper communication and how to use the company’s digital tools so all employees are on the same page for cross-departmental communication.
A next-gen intranet and the tools that come with it won’t be successful without employee buy-in. Igloo’s 2018 “State of the Digital Workforce” survey found nearly as many workers say they use employer-approved apps to complete their jobs (42 percent) as non-approved apps (41 percent). Those employees going rogue say they use unapproved apps because it’s what they’re comfortable using in their daily lives.
This work-life technological divide doesn’t have to exist — and employees say they don’t like it, either. Igloo’s survey found that 95 percent of employees would find it extremely beneficial to have a central platform to house all sanctioned and personal apps that employees love to use.
When planning the rollout of any new digital workplace initiative to improve company communication, consider surveying employees about the apps they’re currently using to make their work and personal lives easier — and make it anonymous to encourage people to be candid about unsanctioned apps. Then build out your options, including the Google and Microsoft suite of products, along with other familiar names like Dropbox and Salesforce.
The Generation Gap
The U.S. is at a crossroads when it comes to a generational divide in the workforce. In 2016, millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest group in the workforce, at 56 million and 53 million, respectively.
This digital-native group processes information differently and has vastly different digital fluencies. A survey by Robert Half Management Resources found that communication skills are the greatest divide in generations and that newer generations prefer collaborative approaches to communication.
Remember that any companywide digital communication tools must be innovative enough for millennials but easy enough for Gen Xers to grasp. They must also help bridge the divide between skills and communication styles.
Diversity Is Key
To be positioned for success in the decades to come, a variety of cultures and viewpoints are increasingly important. Deloitte found that teams with members of different races outperform non-diverse teams by 35 percent, and 83 percent of millennials said they would be more actively engaged in a company that is inclusive.
So as the share of millennials in the workforce increases, introducing different types of people and sharing ideas between employees isn’t just desirable — it’s more productive and profitable.
Create a People-Powered Digital Destination
Concerningly, now that the need to share information is at its highest, employees are hitting stumbling blocks that may be confounding cross-departmental communication. The Igloo survey found that 32 percent of employees across multiple industries have avoided sharing documents because they would be too hard to find. That number rose to 37 percent among survey respondents in IT. Meanwhile, 31 percent of respondents said they would use Google to search for a copy of their company’s logo, rather than knowing where to locate it on an internal platform or knowledge repository.
So, what’s the solution? The quick answer: House everything people need to do their jobs in one easy-to-use, accessible, digital destination. Your team may traditionally think of intranets as a place where information goes to die or where HR celebrates , but today’s next-gen intranets play a critical role in improving communication, collaboration, knowledge management and employee engagement across the business. Launching the digital workplace each morning should feel like walking into work for the day, with everything an employee needs at their fingertips, from to-do lists to critical communication.
Help Multiple Teams Feel Like One
Today, up to six times as many employees are working on cross-departmental teams compared to last year. But because of remote work — or digital-first teams with little in-person interaction — it can be tough for employees to engage with one another. As a result, there’s a drain on productivity and the workforce — only 33 percent of workers in a Gallup poll say they’re actively engaged in their work.
While you don’t necessarily want employees scrolling through Facebook all day, the McKinsey Global Institute research found that internal use of social collaboration tools can reduce the time employees spend searching for company information by up to 35 percent.
Social collaboration messages become a record of knowledge; if employees know they had a conversation via Google Hangouts, for example, a quick search can bring up the necessary information. And because millennial employees already are comfortable using these tools, they’re more likely to integrate them into the workday.
A digital workplace platform must be seen as essential for it to be successfully implemented. Having everything in the company tie back to this one central destination will help multiple teams embrace one culture and a unified front — no matter how far-flung they may be.
Mike Hicks is the vice president of strategy at Igloo Software. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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