Going Digital? Here’s Why to Always Put Your People First

New research suggests 95% of business executives believe digital is critical to achieving their business goals. And in the last few months, businesses across the globe have swiftly transitioned to a digital business model.

For some, it’s temporary ‘digital lipstick’ (i.e. – using Teams, Slack or Zoom) to get through COVID restrictions. But most are facing a hybrid future workforce – a mix of staff working from home and in the office.

As we begin to emerge into the next normal of working in 2021, you’ll have to consider your business needs and how this affects your team. What digital infrastructure do you require? What training do you need to provide to upskill your team? Are your team engaged enough to go through further changes?

Going digital can boost collaboration and provide a more flexible workplace that supports the wellbeing and performance of your staff.

Putting theory into practice, however, requires finesse.

Here are some tips to help you get the right mix and capitalise on the opportunities of a digitally established business.

1.   Re-think Your Organisation’s Approach to Work

GitLab, a San Francisco-based tech company, has been 100% Work from Anywhere (WFA) since day one. Its 1,300 employees are scattered across the globe, which means its technology, policies and processes have all been created to align with its business structure.

On the other hand, organisations such as Yahoo, IBM and HP have had to reverse their WFA strategies to get people back in the office and aligned with company values.

To establish the needs of your business (and to prevent disruptive backtracking in the future), create a dialogue with your staff to determine the extent of your digital strategy. Would your business benefit from having a compulsory office day or two every week? Or would your staff benefit from more flexibility?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but striking a balance is key when going digital. By determining your needs, you can then go on to align your policies and technology accordingly.

2.   Determine What Tech Can Do for You, Not the Other Way Around

Once you’ve determined your approach to work, rethink the way you have been using technology in crisis mode.

What is working? What needs to change? Are there any gaps in technology or processes?

Zoom is a perfect starting point, as many businesses have had no choice but to adopt this technology throughout 2020. As we emerge from lockdown restrictions, it’s important to make meaningful decisions when it comes to technology instead of sticking with the new status quo. Some businesses have ditched Zoom altogether to bring back the good old-fashioned conference call, while others reserve Zoom for social occasions.

Look through each of your major processes and work out how technology, mixed with remote working, can benefit your business. Perhaps some roles can be made permanently remote, while other functions can remain office based.

Conducting a technology audit will help you strike gold – so be thorough and leave no process unturned.

3.   Make Thoughtful and Inclusive Decisions

Have you ever been on a conference call where most of the other participants are together in person?

Where everyone else is laughing and joking and you’re having trouble following the conversations and are feeling left out and deflated?

For remote working to be a success, you need to ensure everyone has a voice and feels included. A two-tier culture will emerge if you have a bulk of employees meeting on-site with a remote minority dialing in. Look at ways of avoiding this by making every meeting digital, enabling ease of joining remotely.

If you can’t avoid a mix of remote and on-site participants, use apps such as MIRO instead of in-room whiteboards. Create an equal playing field for your staff despite varying arrangements so that everyone feels included.

It’s also important to consider how people interact. In the office, a lot of time is spent on social and informal communication, so the same needs to go for your remote workers. Get creative with your approach and ask for the input of your remote workers. A pizza lunch (home-delivered) or the much-used and loved Friday remote drinks session are easy options to enhance the connection between your team members.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning your organisation to take advantage of digital platforms is an important strategic move. However, it cannot be done without bringing your people with you.

Collaboration is a solid starting point that puts focus on your people, but technology is being utilised more often on many other fronts. Tools such as ERP’s, CRM’s, robotic process automation, augmented reality and IoT are all starting to impact our lives with greater frequency and importance.

The real challenge lies less in choosing which technology to use and more on how it will improve the happiness and productivity of your people and therefore, the health of your business.

Your business will prosper with increased adoption of technology, but only if it is accompanied by a greater sense of purpose and connection with your staff.