How HR teams can lead the workplace of the future with the power of technology

Beyond technology for individual employees, it’s critical that HR teams and business leaders have access to workplace analytics to help them understand and assess new pain points introduced by remote working. By reviewing what applications and features people are using, HR teams can learn how to prioritise, tailor and measure the impact of training to positively impact on adoption, usage and productivity – all of which contribute to the employee experience, writes Ed Phillips, General Manager, Digital Workplace, NTT Ltd.

It’s a truism now to say that COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives and, perhaps most especially, the way we work. Pressure has been put on HR teams to determine how to help their employees get back into the office in a way that helps them feel secure and supported, while also managing collaboration with those working remotely.

The pandemic has put employee wellbeing at the forefront of the business agenda and, according to NTT Ltd.’s 2020 Intelligent Workplace Report, almost four-fifths (78.5 per cent) of Australian and New Zealand organisations agree that home-working during the pandemic has been challenging for employees. From a lack of bandwidth to feelings of isolation and a lack of dedicated workspace, employees are managing concerns on several fronts. HR leaders and teams have an opportunity to lead their businesses into the future, combining culture and technology to optimise employee experience and ultimately drive businesses forward.

To do so, there’s several key areas that HR leaders and teams need to focus on:

  • Strategies to support hybrid working models and the future of office design
  • The importance of policies to support a distributed workforce by using technology
  • Overcoming pain points through training and analytics

Remote working has been tough for employees, leading to feelings of isolation and lack of connection to their work. HR teams must look at workplace strategies to optimise employee experience, including culture, technology & location.

Strategies to support Hybrid working models
Most organisations are now embracing a hybrid working model, allowing employees to work from home or the office, depending on their preferences and needs. Hybrid working models will be effective in allowing organisations to adapt to this new world, but HR teams need to develop more robust strategies, centred on employee welfare, for this to remain successful.

87.7 per cent of ANZ businesses believe employee needs will be a critical factor in developing the future workplace – recognising the desire for choice and flexibility to work in an office and the need for face-to-face time to build a sense of teamwork. As a starting point, organisations must look at how their office design aligns with employee needs, including facilitating creativity and collaboration, driving activity-based work initiatives and ensuring the right technology, such as video conferencing/video collaboration, is in place to connect a distributed workforce.

Keeping employees connected through policy and technology
Despite the massive shift in working habits, less than a third (28.5 per cent) of businesses across Australia and New Zealand have changed their IT policy to help employees work with a new operating model and well under half (38.5 per cent) deployed new communication and productivity tools. With all of the changes we have experienced over the last several months and the changes that are still to come, it’s no longer enough to rely on outdated policies and technologies. Keeping employees connected through HR policies and collaborative technologies that support the new reality is essential in order to maintain employee engagement.

HR teams and business leaders must react with agility and purpose, driving change in real-time compared to months, if not years, previously. Those who were already ahead of the game in employee experience, making brave, data-driven, human-led decisions, are now in a much stronger position to create a supportive culture.

But to make this technology effective, organisations must revamp their policies around the connected employee – in order to safeguard their wellness and experience. Helping people stay connected is key to looking after the workforce and maintaining productivity and effectiveness. But this must be underpinned by long-term policies that cement digital transformation, helping employees feel confident and comfortable with the new technology so that investments don’t go to waste.

Training and analytics
Across industries, we have access to a vast range of digital platforms and applications, but the rapid adoption of these technologies has not always been supported with enough or the right kind of training. It’s important for HR teams to clearly communicate the benefits of new technologies to employees as individuals, and ensure they’re trained to use it effectively.

Beyond technology for individual employees, it’s critical that HR teams and business leaders have access to workplace analytics to help them understand and assess new pain points introduced by remote working. By reviewing what applications and features people are using, HR teams can learn how to prioritise, tailor and measure the impact of training to positively impact on adoption, usage and productivity – all of which contribute to the employee experience.

Setting the foundation for the future employee experience
Having spent the last several months adapting to the pandemic, it’s clear that now is the time to create the workplace of the future. HR teams play an essential role in helping businesses combat the challenges posed by COVID-19 and reshaping their workplace strategy, and this will lay the foundation for an entire generation’s future of working.

Hybrid working models will be effective in allowing organisations to adapt to this new world, but HR teams need to develop more robust strategies, centred on employee welfare, for this to remain successful.

HR teams and business leaders must react with agility and purpose, driving change in real-time compared to months, if not years, previously. Those who were already ahead of the game in employee experience, making brave, data-driven, human-led decisions, are now in a much stronger position to create a supportive culture. Empowering people and helping them find greater fulfilment in their work is delivering greater value to these businesses.

5 top takeaways
Optimise employee experienceRemote working has been tough for employees, leading to feelings of isolation and lack of connection to their work. HR teams must look at workplace strategies to optimise employee experience, including culture, technology & location.
Provide for a permanently distributed workforceAs many organisations now embrace a hybrid working model, it’s critical for business leaders and HR teams to look at how their workplaces align to employee needs – facilitating creativity & collaboration and ensuring the right technology is in place
Keep employees connectedThe connected employee must be at the heart of the future of workplace strategy. Helping people stay connected is key to looking after the workforce and maintaining productivity and effectiveness
Technology for the individualIt’s crucial that organisations are deploying technology to align with employees’ changed needs and a more collaborative environment. HR teams must clearly communicate the value of these new technologies to employees as individuals.
Technology for HR execs & teamsBeyond tech to benefit individual employees, it’s important that HR executives and teams, as well as other business leaders, have access to workplace analytics to help them understand and assess new pain points introduced by remote working – and how to solve them.

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