Enterprise communications is undergoing a fundamental shift. These solutions are connecting employees, keeping them engaged, supporting social collaboration, enabling a wider variety of workspaces as well as devices, and ultimately, keeping employees productive and talent retained.
Looking beyond 2016, there are several trends to take notice of that are creating a new way to work and shaping the future of the digital workplace:
The New Workplace
In 2014, the Telework Research Network concluded that 3.7 million employees (2.5 percent of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time. An estimated 3 million American professionals never step a foot in an office outside of their own home and another 54 percent say they are happier that way.
Call it a perfect storm of an uncertain economy, advances in mobile technology, and an “always-on” generation of new employees. These trends are pushing workers out of the office and into coffee shops, cars, and bedrooms, with collaboration tools and cloud services enabling remote meetings and untraditional work hours. However, this freedom and flexibility comes at a price. Employees usually feel they have to meet greater expectations and will check emails at all hours of the day, disturbing sleep patterns and wreaking havoc with work/life balances. The biggest challenge with remote workers is maintaining good communication at all times. Companies are taking note of these shifts in their internal dynamics and placing a greater importance on human capital, employee efficiencies, and engagement.
Although it might be different than what Apple’s Steve Jobs pioneered in the early 1980’s, personal computing is stronger than ever. Software and operating systems are no longer enabling just a single device — the desktop — they’re now enabled seamlessly across all devices — smartphones, tablets, watches, and even home appliances. As of December 2015, Microsoft’s Windows 10, its first true cross-device operating system, was installed on over 200 million devices worldwide. It’s no doubt that connected devices have a strong presence in today’s world, at home and in the workplace.
Spurring this is the exponential rate of new technological innovations. To illustrate this point, it was only five short years ago when the first iPad was introduced, and Apple has released six versions in that time. As devices and app use continue to grow, companies are dedicating more and more resources to making technology more transparent to the consumer. The goal of the industry is to make interacting with technology as natural — and as unobtrusive — as interacting with people.
The Cloud Generation
Software and data is becoming routinely cloud-based, allowing users to remain connected to the digital tools in their workplaces at all times. This movement has freed employees from being handcuffed to their desk and allows them to stay connected to their colleagues regardless of location. The results of this shift have been positive change for employees and for businesses. In fact, McKinsey Global Institute found in 2012 that connected employees are 20 percent to 25 percent more productive at work.
Cloud computing has also positively impacted other areas. According to a report by NSK Inc., an IT consulting firm, 82 percent of companies surveyed saved money by moving to the cloud.
Rethinking the Traditional Intranet
The traditional intranet, an internal company website, is meant to disseminate internal communications, act as a document or media repository, corporate culture-change platforms, or enable collaboration among employees. In a 2013 survey by Prescient Digital Media, a world-class leader and expert in intranets and digital workplaces, only 13 percent of employees reported making use of their corporate intranets on a daily basis whereas 31 percent said they never do. This is a grim reality for those companies using the intranet as their chief method of communicating internally — it’s failing to internally communicate to roughly half its workforce.
To re-establish and create an intranet as a successful enterprise communication hub, it needs to part of the enterprise’s overall content plan, providing resources that make employees’ jobs easier. Without a content plan, the intranet becomes a useless tool.
Many, if not most large enterprises use Microsoft SharePoint as the de facto communication tool since it enables collaboration on other Microsoft files and certain pages of the intranet itself. Multiple sites can be held on one SharePoint system with different users and functions, and pages can be easily edited by anyone within the organization, not just webmasters, HR, or marketing personnel. It is possible to expand upon SharePoint to enable a wider gamut of collaboration and to present information in a more engaging way, thus making the company intranet an engaging and true hub of internal communication for employees. For example, interactive channels of video, data, social media, and dashboards can be embedded directly within SharePoint itself, or data can be pulled from SharePoint and display it within interactive channels of information.
The New Horizon
Never before have companies had such a great opportunity to enable success within their employees and impact business. Astute companies are taking the time to understand and embrace these trends, investing in the right processes and tools that allow them to forge a new approach toward communications in the enterprise. These companies are leveraging changes within the workforce to realize new growth and productivity.
Their new approach goes beyond the intranet to deliver new avenues of collaboration. Starting right at the desktop and with employees’ digital devices, companies are leveraging visual communications platforms that allow anyone to aggregate content; present it in an attractive, easy-to-understand, and visually driven format; distribute it to any device; and then delve deep into the content by collaborating with team members. The visual communications platform is the foundation of the connected enterprise, one that creates a cohesive, aligned workforce that can view and interact with important business content no matter where they are or what device they are using.
The result of this new digital workplace is employees who are more connected to how they want to work. This enables new growth that is centered around collaboration – a forum where a globally connected workforce of employees can interact out loud, share ideas, easily find and connect with the information they are looking for, and make decisions faster.
Enterprises can expect to see an increase in employee use of fixed and mobile devices to accomplish a range of activities, including accessing email, managing projects, participating in team discussions, collaborating with remote teams, and solving complex problems. Encouraging and making use of these applications can go a long way in empowering the connected enterprise, fueling employees who are more engaged, productive, and happy.
Maria Porco is Vice President of Business Development for X2O Media, a Barco company. X2O Media is a leading software developer of real-time visual communications solutions that significantly improve communications throughout the enterprise. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org