remote work
While the digital workplace sounds great in theory, transitioning to one is another story PHOTO: Meri Sorgaard

Many of the discussions about the digital workplace and digital transformation strategies share a certain assumption: workers are jumping at the opportunity to go digital.

However, new research from Deloitte's Human Capital business indicates the move to digital workplaces is not as fast, or as efficient as might be expected, and that a large disconnect separates the leaders of organizations from the workers when it comes to digital.

Digital Tools Don't Equal Productivity

In fact, while 90 percent of organizations anticipate their businesses will be disrupted by technology, only 11 percent feel like they’re ready to adapt to the digital age.

The findings are contained in the 144-page Human Capital Trends 2017 report, which uncovers several unexpected insights and trends about the digital workplace.

The report authors, Brett Walsh and Erica Volini, note digital workplaces still have a ways to go before maturity and that they are not necessarily more productive than what we might now describe as traditional workplaces.

In fact, the report states that despite all of the new workplace technologies, productivity growth is at its lowest in 40 years.

“Business productivity has not kept pace with technological progress. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources show that productivity growth remains low despite the introduction of new technology into the business environment. In fact, since the 2008 recession, growth in business productivity (gross domestic product per hour worked) stands at its lowest rate since the early,” the report reads.

It adds the situation is likely to get worse too.

“Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), mobile platforms, sensors, and social collaboration systems have revolutionized the way we live, work, and communicate—and the pace is only accelerating. This causes stress for individuals as well as societies." 

'Empowering and Connecting the Workforce'

So, what is the problem and why the disruption? CMSWire asked Michael Gretczko, principal at Deloitte and general manager of ConnectMe, a part of the Human Capital business, what the research had uncovered:

“What has changed now and the reasons we are seeing this disruption in the workplace is that the way we work is changing,” he told us.

“Historically we worked in very linear ways — one step leads to the next step leads to the next step in defined teams and hierarchies. Now we live in a world where we work in teams that form and reform around projects and ideas.”

The research is one of the most comprehensive studies of the digital workplace to date. The conclusions are based on responses from 10,400 business and HR leaders across 140 countries.

The companies covered ranged from global enterprises with more than 10,000 employees (22 percent) to those with less than 1000 employees (49 percent), with all geographical areas covered.

Gretczko noted the researchers had to develop a working definition of a digital workplace before carrying out the research. This is no mean feat given the lack of agreement on a definition, as we saw last month. Gretczko explained:

“We have developed a very simple description. It’s about empowering and connecting the workforce with a modern digital experience,” he said.

“If we look at that in terms of the workforce of tomorrow, it means the ability to get their work done in different ways. They come into work with certain expectations of technology and how they will engage with each other, and those expectations are defined by the experience they have with the consumer applications.”

10 Digital Workplace Trends

The focus of the report was to discover how human resource professionals are dealing with the disruption digital technologies are creating, but in the process it identified 10 general digital workplace trends. 

1. Redesigning the Enterprise

Leading organizations, or those leading the digital charge, have already moved past the digital workplace design phase and are now actively building digital workplaces.

2. Real Time, All the Time

Companies need to create a culture of continuous learning, offering readily available classes over a range of mobile platforms to keep employees up to speed.

3. Talent Acquisition

Recruitment will become a digital experience as candidates expect convenience and mobile contact. Digital companies will adopt these polices to underline their digital credentials.

4. Employee Culture

Digital enterprises will expand their focus on employee engagement and integrate a new focus on creating employee experiences that encorporates a new range of feedback and self-service tools.

5. Work Technologies

Human resources will be one of the key players in digitizing workplaces and will play a role in delivering the technologies that change the way people work.

6. Performance Management

Companies that have undergone digital transformation processes will have to reassess their entire management programs from goal setting and evaluation to incentives and rewards, and aligning all with business strategy.

7. Disrupted Leadership

Digital organizations need new kinds of leaders who are, according to the research, younger, more agile and "digital-ready."

8. Digital Human Resources

Human resource managers will be forced to take a more significant role in digital organizations and will be key in ensuring the organization is committed to a digital transformation rather than just “doing digital.”

9. People Analytics

Analytics will continue to move into the area of business operations with new real-time analytics used to assess what is happening in the workplace.

10. The Future of Work

Digital organizations will be forced to experiment with new cognitive tools and rethink the role of people as more and more work becomes automated.

“We look at this however as an opportunity for the digital organizations. A digital organization that is comprised of a digital workforce, a digital workplace, digital HR who are leading the workforce through this change, and the enablers that allow an organization to change their behaviors,” Gretczko said.

“Organizations increasingly think in terms of people and getting the best value from those assets. Yet they haven’t invested in how they get the value ... They invest in building better factories, or workplaces, but not in the people side of it.”

A Bumpy Path to Digital

Another point worth noting — which may not come as a surprise to anyone actively going through this transition — is the report uncovered considerable difficulty in moving from traditional to digital enterprise mode.

The research showed a large disconnect between organization leaders and digital workers in these new enterprises. Workers using consumer technologies are adapting digital technologies much faster than enterprises are changing.

“It definitely seems to be harder that it should be. I think the reasons for that is that these technologies that are out on the consumer market place have a very clear commercial benefit for the companies that provide them,” Gretczko said.

“Within the walls of the enterprise it has historically been very difficult to make the value proposition of making the changes to the technologies, they were just seen as an investment without any obvious benefit."

These are only some of the highlights of this extensive report. If you want to dig deeper, you can access the report for free.

Editor's note: Want to learn more about digital workplace trends? This June, SMG/CMSWire, publisher of CMSWire and creator of DX Summit, and Digital Workplace Group will present the Digital Workplace Experience 2017 conference. The three-day event will run June 19 through 21 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. 

Digital Workplace Experience (#DWEXP17) features a unique agenda of interactive workshops, digital workplace live tours by real organizations and technology-driven breakout sessions led by practitioners, analysts and industry experts. It's designed to help attendees understand how leading organizations are meeting modern workplace challenges and effectively making digital transformations (view the agenda). We hope you'll attend.