The world of enterprise communications is undergoing a fundamental shift. Creeping into the world of human resources, the software and technology being used throughout the enterprise is being used to connect employees, keep them engaged, provide a means for social collaboration, enable a wider variety of workspaces as well as devices, and ultimately keep employees productive and talent retained.
Looking at 2016 and beyond, there are several trends that are becoming quite evident:
Personal computing is making a comeback
…albeit in a different way that Apple’s Steve Jobs pioneered it in the early 1980’s. Software and operating systems are moving are no longer enabling just a single device – your desktop – but are enabled seamlessly across all devices that you may carry with you, be it your phone, your tablet, your watch, and even your home appliances. As of December 2015, Microsoft’s Windows 10, it’s first true cross-device operating system, is installed on over 200 million devices worldwide, and Forrester Research predicted that by the end of 2015 there will be more than 2 billion PCs in use.
With technological innovations occurring at an exponential rate (can you believe the first iPad was introduced only 5 years ago?), companies are dedicating more and more resources to making technology more transparent to the consumer. Interacting with technology should be as natural (and as unobtrusive) as interacting with people.
You are moving to the cloud
Software, and your data, is becoming routinely cloud-based, providing people the ability to remain connected to the tools you use at your workplaces at all times. This frees employees from being handcuffed to their usual office desk and remain connected to their colleagues regardless of location. In fact, McKinsey Global Institute found in 2012 that connected employees are 20-25% more productive for their organizations.
Cloud computing isn’t just about making things accessible, it’s also about being cost-effective. According to NSK Inc., 82% of companies surveyed saved money by moving to the cloud.
You’ll always be plugged in
According to a 2011 Cisco White Paper, written by Dave Evans, Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020. The ability to connect everything with everyone, everywhere, is the premise behind The Internet of Things (IoT). This has serious consequences. It introduced a paradigm shift in thinking how humans as a species will engage and interact with one another, and with the products we consume. Likely, the stuff we buy will tell us when they need attention, whether we like it or not.
With all this connected clutter comes a need to simplify daily tasks and properly filter through the barrage of emails, text messages, and notifications we receive. Real-time contextual information will equip employees to leverage the knowledge of the entire enterprise, make better use of time and assets, and drive results faster.
Your traditional intranet is dead
In a 2013 survey by Prescient Digital Media, only 13% of employees reported making use of their corporate intranets on a daily basis whereas 31% said they never do. This means that an enterprise’s chief method of communicating internally is failing to internally communicate to roughly half its workforce.
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 – but if little thought is put into the intranet, it 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.
Whatever the case may be, an intranet should provide resources that makes your employees’ jobs easier. 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 a true hub of internal communication that employees will want to engage with. 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.
Your workplace, your way
In 2014, the Telework Research Network concluded that 3.7 million employees (2.5% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time. An estimated three million American professionals never step a foot in an office outside of their own home and another 54% 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 work to be completed on weekends. This freedom and flexibility comes at a price of greater expectations with workers checking 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. But companies are taking note – by placing a greater importance on human capital, employee efficiencies, and engagement. Happy and informed workers perform better, leading to increased productivity and efficiency, than those who are stressed and out of the loop.
Social media is a part of the digital workplace. Really, it is.
Social media has become a critical component in a company’s communication, both externally as well as internally. It improves engagement within the company, serves to promote the company brand, and provides a vehicle for customers to directly engage, read reviews, and learn more about what is being sold. According to the published article, Effectively Managing Social Media in the Workplace by Jennifer L. Naeger for Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c., “94% of all businesses with a marketing department use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, to increase brand awareness and to communicate with over one billion users on these sites. Technology is rapidly changing the way we conduct business, and social media has become the dominant form of communication.”
What lay ahead?
Social media and desktop collaboration technologies encourage the creation of enterprise communities – a forum where a globally connected workforce of employees can interact out loud, share ideas, find the information they are looking for, and make decisions faster.
Individuals are increasingly using fixed and mobile devices to accomplish a range of activities, ranging from accessing email, managing projects, participating in team discussions, collaborating with remote teams and solving complex problems. With the rise of applications that empower the connected enterprise, employees in the modern digital workplace are more likely to be engaged, productive, and happy.