The connected workplace: where are we today?

Over time, digital technologies have shaped new behaviours and raised the basic human need for connection to a level that demands continual satisfaction.

January 16, 2013

By Bruce Skjolde, channel manager for Mindjet’s Emerging Markets

Over time, digital technologies have shaped new behaviours and raised the basic human need for connection to a level that demands continual satisfaction. For the workplace in particular, this trickle-down effect has not been a simple shift.

As the popular platforms, trends and devices of the consumer world, such as e-mails and messaging tools, smart devices and social media, have flooded into corporate spaces, businesses have struggled to successfully adopt and integrate them into existing structures and processes – not to mention manage the added security and cost implications.

Despite these challenges, the desire for connection and communication in our professional lives has ultimately prevailed. The fact is, we are much more successful when we work together. According to McKinsey Research, there are big monetary gains that can be realised through collaborative business technologies and processes – $867 billion with a 20 to 25 percent increase in productivity, to be exact.

And yet, McKinsey also notes that of the 70 percent of companies using social business technologies, only three percent are maximising it.

So, today’s challenge is really about getting all of these technologies to work together in order to reach a truly collaborative and connected workplace.

Unfortunately, connection doesn’t necessarily equal collaboration – but if we can learn to recognise and elevate connection, it certainly provides a doorway. It will be by patching together our knowledge of what works that we’ll discover the characteristics of a truly connected professional space. These environments will not only increase business productivity overall, but also tap into individual enthusiasms and passions. They will amplify the power of groups, but allow each person to form their own path to full potential.

Moving forward to become more collaborative on a business level will take a lot of adjustment, but there are steps companies can take to keep them moving in the right direction:

  1. Collaborative culture: We need to move away from controlling employees to empowering our workforce. It starts with the c-level executive who champions a culture of collaboration and sharing. They will balance new policies and initiatives that alleviate security and operational concerns and must lead by example.
  2. Simplified, directionally efficient technology: Deploy technology that is impossible to ignore. To win fans across the entire enterprise, collaborative technology has to be as simple, user-friendly and ubiquitous as e-mail. It will only gain adoption if it’s ingrained in the workflow and instantly gratifying. The key here is not to try to change how employees are fundamentally working with technology, but to support existing working practices and provide tools that will facilitate better collaboration, making it quicker and easier.
  3. Support: There must be support and buy-in from all areas along the way. Moving to a more collaborative workforce may require new functional expertise, which could include integration experts to update systems and a community to offer advice and best practices.

The result will be a very different environment than we’re used to, but it will be one that falls in line with the advancements going on all around us: more effective, more productive, and better aligned to deliver against business goals.