The arrival of a new generation, who want greater flexibility and mobility, is bringing about unprecedented changes in working methods. Compelled to follow this trend so as to remain attractive, businesses are gradually shifting their focus to a new priority: the deployment of a digital workplace. This modern, digital environment is reliant on the joint efforts of a number of complementary players and in particular HR.
This digitisation of the workspace encompasses many different definitions and realities. For 74% of French businesses, it is a unique communications app with centralised access to all business applications, and for 75%, it is a mobile office (a mobile working environment via tablet, smartphone, etc.) offering a multitude of applications.
However you choose to define it, your objective is the same: to enable your staff to work together in a more flexible and mobile way, from anywhere and from any terminal. When it comes to deploying this digital environment, 97% of businesses see IT as the driving force2. However, don't underestimate the role of another player - the HR Director. As the main contact for employees and guarantor of the link between management, teams and the IT department, HR ensures the quality of the employee experience. This experience may be radically altered by a working environment which is itself disrupted. If you do not plan your digital workplace project transversally, you risk jeopardising employee commitment and the overall performance of your business.
Right from the start of a Digital Workplace project, HR plays a key role alongside the IT. The digital workplace brings with it profound changes in working habits. The technological challenges undertaken by the IT Director must run alongside the implementation of change, which falls more within the remit of HR. So new uses must be defined collaboratively. The HR Director is the teams' direct point of contact. They can communicate employees' concrete needs with regard to this deployment and assist the It Director in identifying the most effective and appropriate uses for each business unit. Some people, for example, will express a desire for a collaborative working platform such as Office 365, while others will want to go further, with the installation of a digital assistant or automatic speech recognition software. It is through active participation in the co-definition of these uses that the HR Director can help the IT Director to introduce a digital working environment which is appropriate for employees, and which meets their need for flexibility and efficiency.
The introduction of a digital workplace also has an organisational impact and requires the redefinition of certain roles in teams. Often overlooked amid technological rollouts, these changes may nevertheless undermine an organisation if they are not taken into account and explained to employees. Everyone must be able to find their place and HR Directors are a valuable resource when it comes to co-defining these new roles. Do set up a forum for HR and the IT Director to discuss the organisational impact and their consequences, so that everyone's role can be clarified and explained.
One of the risks you run when installing this digital workplace - beyond the initial trial and error with the technology - is the possibility of meeting resistance. As a channel of communication for teams, HR managers are a strategic cog for getting around this acceptance problem and making collective intelligence the backbone of the project. The Communications Department can also be a valuable ally.
The first step is the presentation - via HR, the IT Director and the Communications Department combined - of the digital platform project to the teams. You could even organise an open question and answer session to dispel certain doubts, convince people of the effectiveness of the new applications for collaborative working, or identify those who are most motivated by the concept. These people might be prepared to act as ambassadors or local liaison people. They could then introduce and support the change internally, show their colleagues the benefits of this new platform and pass on the best applications of these new uses, so as to motivate even the most reluctant among them.
In the early stages, you might also consider involving employee representative bodies. Working in direct contact with HR officers, they can pass on the on-the-ground constraints and imperatives which need to be taken into account by the IT Director
78% of IT Directors see training as the best means of getting team members to embrace digital workplace tools3. After team engagement, this is the second cornerstone for a calm and smooth-running deployment. And HR Directors once again play an important part in supporting staff by teaching employees how to use this space and take advantage of it to save time and increase flexibility.
The introduction of a digital workspace will mean that your employees will have to deal with new security issues specific to digital technology, such as data protection (the need to change passwords on a regular basis, etc.), compliance with GDPR, or secure data storage. Here again, it is vital that the IT Director and HR Director speak with one voice and take advantage of their synergies. As guarantor for data protection, the IT Director can identify all these challenges before and from the beginning of the project, while HR has the resources to identify the key people who need to be made aware.
These two roles should be seen as a single team whose complementarities will help you to see things more clearly and ensure a successful digital transformation in your organisation.
Nizar Abdeljaoued, Senior Consultant