The Future of the Digital Workplace: The HR Perspective

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HR has the biggest role to play in shaping the employee experience that an organisation provides – and it cannot achieve this without a close alliance with the Tech/Digital Team. While this synergy is missing in most organisations, HR teams need to step up by listening to what their employees are saying. Having an understanding of how perspectives change based on employees’ demographic profiles, can help HR teams immensely.

The role of HR has evolved

The corporate challenge of managing skills shortages, employer of choice strategies, and flexible work programs have long existed. It’s just that, like most strategic imperatives, they have been optional, even for the most competitive businesses.

The Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study highlights that the current resignation pandemic is supercharging a skills famine for many firms. But with almost all attention from the Great Resignation still focused on employee experience (EX), deep consideration must be given to efficiently and effectively navigating the extreme workload now facing internal HR functions.

Recruiting, inducting, onboarding, training, and cross-boarding new staff, while exiting and off-boarding old staff, often remotely and at high volume, will see shadow-HR technologies and practices bleed out of People and Capability departments as companies scramble to reset demand.

Regardless of industry, every company’s core business just became HR!

The need for Personalised Employee Experience

The industry has been talking about the need to create personalised customer experience (CX) for a while now – we should talk about creating personalised EX now.

Given the changes and challenges that your employees have faced over the last two years, they have developed some strong work preferences. HR has the biggest role to play in shaping the EX your organisation provides – and it cannot achieve this without a close alliance with the Tech/Digital Team.

According to the Ecosystm Voice of Employee Study, 50% of your employees believe that improved EX leads to better CX.

It may not be possible to cater to the needs of every individual employee. But taking into consideration some of the differences – whether based on role, age, gender, family status and so many other factors that make up an individual – will help you shape your organisation’s Digital Workplace strategy and offer a more personalised EX.  

Here are 5 gender differences in workplace behaviour according to the Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study.   

  • Women are more likely to change jobs in 2022
  • The assumption that women prefer to work from home is wrong
  • More men prefer 5-Day work weeks
  • The challenges of working from home might be very different
  • Women and men have different collaboration styles

Read on for more insights.

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5 Key Insights to Shape Your Digital Workplace Strategy – An ASEAN View

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For the last two years organisations have been forced to invest on digital services for their customers and giving their employees access to the right technologies to allow them to work from home – or from anywhere they choose to. Organisations find that they have to continue to evolve – and are now looking to build a ‘Digital Workplace’ that caters to the hybrid workplace.

As organisations in ASEAN define the work model that works for their business operations, work culture and organisational goals, there are a few areas that they must focus on.

Here are 5 insights from the Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study that will help you shape your Digital Workplace.

  • Evolve the physical workplace. 72% of knowledge workers in ASEAN will work both remotely and from the office.
  • Build a true hybrid work culture. As organisations form their Digital Workplace strategy, they will have to ensure that the workplace is as comfortable as home offices!
  • Focus on employee wellbeing. Only 25% of organisations in ASEAN have made changes to their HR policies in the last two years.
  • Invest in the right technologies. To build that resilient hybrid workplace, organisations will first have to conduct a gap analysis and consolidation of their tech investments over the last two years.
  • Continue to monitor employee behaviour patterns. As organisations work towards a ‘Return to Work’ policy, they will see significant changes in employee usage behaviour patterns. If the right cyber practices are not in place, this could leave organisations vulnerable again.

Read on for more insights

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The Future of the Digital Workplace: The Changing Dynamics of the Workplace – An ANZ View

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The way we work in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) is changing. In 2020 “work” went from a place you go to something you do.

Through the many restrictions in 2020 and 2021, knowledge workers in ANZ changed their work behaviours and employers changed their expectations of their employees. Tighter border controls and fast economic recoveries have swung the pendulum in the favour of employees, and “The Great Resignation” has started to play out across the region.

The Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study aims to explore the emerging global Future of Work trends from an employee’s point-of-view. In an environment of uncertainty, this study is designed to be an ongoing, dynamic study that will be able to track the major shifts in preferences, perceptions, and practices through 2022.

Here are some insights from the study that can help businesses in ANZ develop strategies and capabilities to better serve their remote and office-based employees. 

  • The Great Resignation has begun in ANZ
  • Women are more likely to work entirely from home
  • Those working entirely from home are more likely to change jobs/careers in 2022
  • Knowledge workers in ANZ are enjoying the Work from Home model
  • Employees are looking for more flexibility and choice

Read on to find out more.

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The Future of the Digital Workplace: 5 Things Your Employees are Telling You

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At Ecosystm we pride ourselves in keeping a finger on the pulse of the market. There is a lot of buzz around the ‘Digital Workplace’. For the last two years you have focused on technologies that allow employees to work from home – or from anywhere they choose to. Now the focus of the tech investments is on empowering employees to return to the physical office and creating a true hybrid workplace.

As you define the work model that works for your organisation, now is the time to listen to your employees. The newly launched Ecosystm Voice of the Employee Study aims to do just that.

The study aims to explore the emerging global Future of Work trends from an employee’s point-of-view. In an environment of uncertainty, this is designed to be an ongoing, dynamic study that will be able to track the major shifts in preferences, perceptions, and practices over the year.  

Here are some key findings from the ongoing study.

  1. 2022 will be another year of flux – The Great Resignation may well impact you.
  2. You may not be giving enough choices to your employees
  3. It is time to get your workplace ready – and embrace a hybrid work model
  4. Your employees are more tech-savvy than even before
  5. Employee Experience will have to remain a priority

Read on to find more about the study findings.

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Woolworths Announces Future of Work Fund

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2020 was a strange year for retail. Businesses witnessed significant disruption to supply chains, significant swings in demand for products (toilet paper, puzzles, bikes etc!) and then sometimes incredible growth – as disposable income increased as many consumers are no longer taking expensive holidays. Overall, it was a mixed year, with many retailers closing down and others reporting record sales. The grocery sector boomed – with many restaurants and fast-food providers closed, sometimes the supermarkets were some of the few remaining open retailers.

For many retailers, technology has become a key enabler to their transformation, survival and success (Figure 1).

Technology Focus 2021 - Retail Industry

Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer, operates across the grocery, department store, drinks, and hospitality sectors. They hold a significant market share in most markets that they operate in. The company had a strong 2019/20 (financial year runs from July 2019 to June 2020) with sales up 8% – and in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year, sales were up nearly 11%. But the company is not resting on its laurels – one of its 6 key priorities is to “Accelerate Digital, eCom and convenience for our increasingly connected customers”. This requires more than just a deep technology investment, but a new culture, new skills, and new ways of working.

Woolworths’ Employee Focus

Woolworths has committed to invest AUD 50 million in upskilling and reskilling their employees in areas such as digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics over the next three years. The move comes as a response to the way the Retail industry has been disrupted and the need to futureproof to stay relevant and successful. The training will be provided through online platforms and through collaborations with key learning institutions.

The supermarket giant is one of Australia’s largest private employers with more than 200,000 employees. Under Woolworths’ ‘Future of Work Fund’ their staff will be trained across supply chain, store operations, and support functions to enhance delivery and decision-making processes. The retailer will also create an online learning platform that will be accessible by Woolworths employees as well as by other retail and service companies to support the ecosystem.  Woolworths has plans to upskill their staff in customer service abilities, leadership skills and agile ways of working.

Woolworths’ upskilling program will also support employees who were impacted by Woolworths planned closures of Minchinbury, Yennora, and Mulgrave distribution centres due in 2025.

Woolworths’ Tech Focus

Woolworths has been ramping up their technology investments and having tech-savvy employees will be key to their future success. In October 2020, Woolworths deployed micro automation technology to revamp their eCommerce facility in Melbourne to speed up the fulfilment of online grocery orders, and front and back-end operations. Woolworths also partnered with Dell Technologies in November 2020 to bring together their private and public cloud onto a single platform to improve mission-critical processes, applications and support inventory management operations across its retail stores.

Future of Work

For many years, Ecosystm has been advising our clients to invest more in the skills of the business. Every business will be using more cloud next year than they are this year; they will suffer more cybersecurity incidents; they will use more AI and machine learning; they will automate more processes than are automated today. More of their customer engagements will be digital, and more insight will be required to drive better outcomes for customers and employees. This all needs new skills – or more people trained on skills that some in the business already understand. But too many businesses don’t train in advance – instead waiting for the need and paying external consultants or expensive new hires for their skills. Empowered businesses – ones that are creating a future-ready, agile business – invest in their people, work environment, business processes and technology to create an environment where innovation, transformation and business change are accepted and encouraged (Figure 2).

Future of Work

Empowered businesses can adapt to new challenges, new market conditions and respond to new competitive threats. By taking these steps to upskill and empower their employees, Woolworths is building towards empowering their own business for long term success.


 Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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Google Workspace Evolves to Empower Hybrid Working

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The ways we connect, create, collaborate in our workplaces has seen major shifts in the last year. And the tech industry has continually supported that shift as they create new capabilities and upgrade existing ones. Technology providers will continue to revamp their product offerings to support the increase in adoption of the hybrid work model work – a fusion of remote and in-office. In the Top 5 Future of Work Trends for 2021, Ecosystm had predicted, “Every major digital workspace provider (such as Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Cisco, AWS and so on) will broaden their digital workplace capabilities and integrate them more effectively, making them easier to procure and use. Instead of a “tool-centric” approach to getting work done (chat vs video vs document sharing vs online meetings vs whiteboards and so on), it will become a platform play.”  

Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Ravi Bhogaraju says, “It is becoming clear that companies and individuals are grappling with three issues – the changing size and composition of the workforce; the productivity of those who are driving the businesses; and attracting, reskilling and engaging the broader workforce.” These are the challenges that tech providers will have to help organisations with.  

Google Upgrades its Collaboration Platform

The Google Workspace was launched in October last year, and last week saw the tech giant announce a series of upgrades and innovations to better support the flexibility needs of frontline and remote workers.

Workspace is Google’s office productivity suite comprising video conferencing, cloud storage, collaboration tools, security and management controls built into a cohesive environment. The new features announced by Google Workspaces include Focus Time to avoid distractions by limiting notifications, recurring out-of-office and location indicators to make colleagues aware if the person is working from home or office, support for Google voice assistant in workplaces, second-screen experiences to support multiple devices, and features for frontline workers designed to help mobile employees collaborate and communicate better with the rest of the organisation. Google is also working on a trimmed down version of Google Workspace – Google Workspace Essentials – which will provide support for Chat, Jamboard, and Calendar. Workspace is estimated to have 2.6 billion monthly active users.

Bhogaraju says, “One of the issues that is fast emerging as significant is not just the employee experience or customer experience but the complexity of the digital workplace as platforms introduce newer and advanced features. In the end, there has to be simplicity, clarity, and a clear focus on the goals – not just an overload of features that makes life more complex for the employee. It would be critical to enable these features thoughtfully and reskill staff adequately so that the adoption and impact to business process is felt in their day-to-day activities.”

Workspace Transformation across Industries

With many of Google’s employees and developers working remotely, the company has first-hand experience of the challenges of remote working and is leveraging the experience. Google Workspace is also working on custom solutions for various industries. In Retail for example,  Woolworths, rolled out Google Workspace and Chrome for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate in real-time and adopt custom-made applications linked to global servers to allow managers to log and address tickets from the shop floor itself. Similarly in Aviation, All Nippon Airways uses Google Workspace to allow pilots, cabin attendants, HR and finance staff to communicate and collaborate in real-time across the globe, using Google Meet, Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides from their PCs, smartphones or tablets. Google retains its focus on the Education industry – Google Workspace Education Fundamentals is free for all qualifying institutions. Solutions such as Google’s Classroom, Teach from Anywhere hub, roster sync, mobile grading and EdTech tools aim to enable better learning and teaching experience for students and educators.

Tech Companies Revamping their Collaboration Offerings

With more companies rethinking their work policies, leaders in the collaboration space are also stepping up their game to evolve their offerings for the hybrid norm. Microsoft’s Viva  unifies the experience across Teams and Microsoft 365 for employee communications, wellbeing, learning and knowledge discovery. Similarly, Zoom too has upgraded and integrated various utility, sharing, and management features to support a hybrid workforce. Tech companies are being forced to invest in creating next-generation tools to stay relevant, as Future of Work models continue to shift and evolve.  

As tech companies evolve their capabilities, Bhogaraju warns organisations on how they should leverage them. “While technology companies continue to deliver feature rich suites – in reality the uptake and embedding of these programs into the day-to-day business processes is still in its early stages. Business, HR and IT teams continue to struggle. They tend to operate within independent thought silos and there is limited consensus on which feature is really needed and how it can add to the productivity and efficiency. Without this crucial context and an effective change management program – they remain rich features and not impactful ones.”


The hybrid workplace model is gaining popularity in 2021. Check out Ecosytsm’s top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021. Signup for Free to download the report.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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The Future of Work: Trust, Good Faith & the Engagement Process

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Many opinions exist on how automation and machine learning will help our return to the office environment. Removing physical touchpoints and leveraging machine learning to trace employee behaviour can help with the transition back to the workplace. But will people trust the office’s automated suggestions on where to work in the building, or help themselves to alternative workspaces?  

Processes & Trust for People Engagement

Organisations such as Disney and Amazon understand what kinds of processes and trust it takes to engage people. These organisations took their time to create a vision of the contactless trusted experience before developing an implementation plan. The RFID wristbands at Disney that open hotel doors and get you on to rides involve many elements of trust and privacy. The automated order and delivery tracking of Amazon, along with suggestions and buying patterns, require the person to opt-in and share information to make happen.

So for your company, once employees re-enter the workplace, how will your company create those processes, that level of trust and faith, that would allow movements and health status to be tracked by office automation? For example, how often should employees overtly be aware of their temperature being scanned?

Abilities of Buildings to Manage

Facilities management is trending towards intelligent building management systems (iBMS) which know about room occupancy, room hygiene and are tracking who has been where and with whom. Elevators will limit occupancy and direct users to the correct lift going to the correct location. I have already seen this in our city hospital where you get directed to the correct lift once you have entered information on your destination. This combines user interface devices such as touchless pads, system hardware, and access control management software.

The building can also possibly direct you via a building app to request a place to work. You could swipe your personnel card and then be shown several options based on your personal profile and job role, including private quiet rooms, communal areas, and outside meeting tables. Previous occupants can be noted to share hygiene tracing if necessary. Intelligent buildings already offer direct support to the employees who interact with them for HVAC, lighting control, and occupation sensor. They have the ability to reduce user friction while raising workplace experience metrics to create a measured environment.

User Trust & Participation

Users should be willing to participate to get access. To create the trust that is required for employees to be willing to participate in the process, companies need to share policies and demonstrate stewardship of the data accessed. Who is holding my locational data, for how long, and for what purpose?

Trust facilitates successful data sharing, which in turn reinforces trust. Trust is built when the purpose of data sharing is made clear, and when those involved in the process know each other, understand each other’s expectations, and carry out their commitments as agreed. Trust increases the likelihood of further collaboration and improves core surveillance capacity by supporting surveillance networks.

Conclusion

Will we put our trust in buildings and facilities management on our return to the office? If communication is clear and policy well articulated, the building can play a role in engaging users to return to some standards of in-office participation. But if communication is muddy and policy not made clear, people will make their own way to safety – potentially impacting the environment of others.


Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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