7 digital workplace trends in 2018

My colleagues and I on the J. Boye team constantly get current and honest insights about what works – and what doesn’t at the many organisations in our network. Our global network of digital workplace professionals generously give us privileged access to insights and best practices.

Consequently, a common question we get asked is: What are the key emerging trends?

Prompted by a visit to our member at Deutsche Post DHL in Bonn, we took the opportunity to review recent agendas and identify what’s really moving in this evolving space.

The basics haven’t changed much; It it is not a new trend, but still:

  • senior management support is a prerequisite
  • a roadmap for the evolution of your digital workplace is very useful (and more so than an elaborate strategy…)

These elements are firmly in place among those we might call digital workplace role models.

Below you’ll find a list (not exhaustive) of 7 digital workplace trends for 2018. Feel free to leave a comment below and share your perspective

1) Focus on design thinking and service design

Both design thinking and service design have become much more mainstream in 2018. It’s actually been around for a while; there are conferences on the topics and both areas encompass well-established practices: agile approach to development, customer journey mapping, personas and a more integrated approach to user experience.

It matters what we call things and these terms have a fair share of management appeal. Clearly, it is more than just management jargon and at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference, Maren Christin Hübl from SAP shared more on scaling design thinking and from their 14-years journey with design thinking.

As the numbers from Google Trends show, in particular, design thinking has been taking off for the past 5 years:

service-design-design-thinking

When it comes to the digital workplace, both concepts are becoming key ingredients in creating a superior employee experience. Recent discussions in our peer groups show how they are really delivering value and driving change.

2) Community management is taken [really] seriously

Community management has been talked about for years, but not prioritised; it has been talked up in many organisations, but the resources required to actually do a good job; mandate, time and training have been in sparse supply. Consequently, the real potential of online collaboration and communities has not been leveraged in most organisations; despite the often considerable investment in platform implementation, licensing costs etc. The current trend is towards the discipline being increasingly valued and understood. Just as is the currently the case with data privacy, community management has taken centre stage. When you take community management seriously, with dedicated resources and a plan, it can be a tremendous catalyst for change, knowledge sharing – and also foster a sense of belonging.

We’ve seen with social intranets how simple features like commenting and liking can act as a game changer for employee engagement. More than being about technology, community management is about people and can impact how we think about power and hierarchies in organisations.

Our partners at The Community Roundtable (TheCR) are thought-leaders on the topic. Do take a look at their research and helpful articles.

PS: You can meet Rachel Happe from TheCR at the J. Boye Conference in Denmark in November.

3) The best consider the physical workplace as well

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Philips in Hamburg several times. To me, this is an example of how a large, complex and global organisation acts as role model when it comes to implementing the modern workplace.

selfp
around the innovative Philips regional headquarter in Hamburg

Another global organisation is IBM, which has started using co-working spaces instead of their own offices. In one case study, Big Blue teamed with WeWork to fuel collaboration and innovation.

Contrary to popular belief co-working spaces is no longer reserved for the start-ups and have become popular among many of our members. In fact, WeWork has become so popular, that they are now central London’s biggest occupier according to the Financial Times.

When the physical workspace changes and with remote working on the up, it also adds new requirements to the digital workplace. Technology needs to be able to support the new requirements and there’s a journey ahead of us for all.

Fabio Zilberstein from the European Commission recently shared a very interesting article provocatively titled: “The Workplace Is Killing People and Nobody Cares“. The article is from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and well worth a read on how the work environment also connects to our health and wellbeing.

4) Artificial intelligence and robotics have entered the building

AI and robotics are not really new. But technology has matured so fast that organisations are deploying AI and bots at an amazing rate and delivering real value and cost savings.

As with most technology Amara’s law applies here:

amaras-law

The use cases are plenty fold:

  • Voice used to provide answers to common employee questions
  • AI used to recommend search results
  • Robotics (RPA) to automate processes, where tasks performed by humans can be performed better and cheaper by bots
  • Chatbots to help onboarding new employees

5) Reaching out across the aisle; bringing HR, communication and IT closer together

Perhaps harsh to say that all those 3 departments have been marred by silo-thinking for the many years, but a clear tendency is that all now move closer together in order to improve the digital workplace – or whatever it is called inside the enterprise.

Who “owns”; or holds the overall responsibility foe the digital workplace is a common discussion among peers; yet there is typically wide agreement that no department should go alone.

The analysts at Gartner have the following definition of the digital workplace:

The Digital Workplace enables new, more effective ways of working; raises employee engagement and agility; and exploits consumer-oriented styles and technologies

This wide scope calls for cross-functional collaboration and while intranets were mostly a comms vehicle, the digital workplace is built by teams from across the organisation.

6) Beyond desk and office

While employee apps were an innovative thing in 2016, today there’s a plethora of offerings and plenty of experience with using them. Large organisations like Siemens have had multiple apps for several years.

Key values in being able to reach employees on smartphones and other non-desktop devices include engagement and being able to communicate with all employees.

This is also an area impacted by rapid technology improvements:

  • With the advent of Progressive Web Apps the entire app journey is changing and we can potentially strive for even higher adoption rates
  • Soon 5G mobile networks will be a reality and this will radically change Internet connection speeds and likely remove the need for Wifi

7) Amazing storytellers

Irrespective of technology decisions, there’s an increasing focus on corporate storytelling.

“Stories are engagement machines per excellence” said Robert Minton at a US peer group meeting a few years ago.

Uncovering and communicating the good stories from the many corners of any large organisation is a key function of a vibrant digital workplace. Stories help us identify, put things into perspective and help us decide between different options and ultimately make better decisions.

Video and sound (podcasts, for example) play a role here as sound and visuals help bring the stories to life; make them easier and more interesting to consume and bring authenticity to the stories.

As mentioned initially, this is not an exhaustive list; merely some of the prominent current trends in digital workplace evolution as we see it. What are you experiencing in your organisation? Any key trends not included here?

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