office chair shadow by Dean Hochman

Sometimes we forget how much the internet has changed our lives over the past 20 years. On a personal level, it has enhanced the way we view the world and communicate with each other. On a business level, it has redefined the way we work and the tools we use to get work done.

But even with advances in technology, many companies still struggle with information barriers and a siloed mentality that limits their sharing of organizational expertise. These factors can have crippling effects on productivity, employee engagement and the pace of innovation.

Rewiring Pre-Internet Mindsets

Because many workplaces were born before the internet, they’re not wired — either literally or figuratively — to embrace the modern digital mindset.

That’s why innovative companies today need to adopt digital workplace strategies as a way of retrofitting modern tools and technology into their current infrastructures — while bracing for the next wave of challenges ahead. Only by doing so, can these companies put their existing knowledge and expertise into a context that both deals to their strengths and stays ahead of threats from the competition.

4 Digital Challenges and Opportunities

With rewiring challenges, come opportunities for organizations to build new digital synergies. Let’s take a look at four high-potential areas:

1. Mobile: Connect and motivate a far-flung workforce

Today’s workforce is becoming more and more distributed. Work is no longer defined as a place, but rather what you do. In fact, reports that approximately 20-25 percent of the global workforce teleworks with some frequency and employees are away from their desks 50-60 percent of the time.

With flexible hours and the ability to work remotely from the devices of their choice, employees can be scattered across geographies and time zones and still get work done.

2. The Generation Gap: Develop solutions that create common ground

The majority of today’s workforce is comprised of two generations that entered the workforce during two very different times. Perhaps inevitably, the differing ways in which Generation X and millennials process information — and the diverging priorities each generation has set — has caused friction.

Now, with an ever-widening gap in digital fluency, there’s an urgent need for companies to identify and tailor digital solutions that ensure everyone is productive.

3. Bring Your Own App (BYOA): Embrace individual preferences within the organization

As work and personal lives continue to overlap, people are opting to use personal productivity applications like Google Docs or Dropbox to communicate and collaborate at work. Why? Because they’re fast, familiar and don’t require involvement from IT.

But accommodating every employee’s apps of choice can jeopardize communication and knowledge-sharing practices across an organization, not to mention dealing with the security implications involved.

4. The Talent Wars: Create a digital space that attracts and retains great people

People no longer stay at companies for life so this can pose a challenge for companies that haven’t devoted significant resources to attracting, developing and retaining talent.

Gone are the days of top-down management where executives rule from the top floor. Today's most innovative companies are adopting a ground-up approach that focuses on building a strong corporate culture that recognizes that people are their most valuable asset.

But … Too Many Platforms Is Overwhelming

Although most organizations are committed to finding and creating systems that make it easy for employees to access the tools they need when and where they need them, implementing multiple disparate platforms and tools can eventually overwhelm people.

That’s because even modern, cloud-based solutions still require employees to learn new functionality, processes and ways of communicating and storing information. The result? All too often it’s underutilization, nomadic data, and abandonment of new solutions, regardless of their initial perceived value.

Intranets Are Mission-Critical

Modern intranets have emerged as the mission-critical tool to band disparate employees, workflows and productivity apps together. A tool that was traditionally thought of as an IT-sanctioned document store now represents an avenue for organizations to create a sophisticated digital destination around a corporate identity that connects the entire organization across borders, boundaries and organizational structures.

A modern intranet doesn’t promise to replace existing solutions or third-party applications inside an organization. Instead, it’s a portal through which people can view and access all the tools and information they need to do their jobs.

Create a People-Powered Digital Workplace

Re-wiring your workplace is just as much about your people as your technology. It’s about modernizing your company’s brand, values and ways of working by building bridges between your physical or digital workplaces through collaboration between your IT, HR and communications teams.

As your company begins to re-wire its workplace, start by asking if any new technology being considered will provide clarity about who should use it, how they should use it and what objectives it will support. Embracing systems that bring people together for a common purpose will propagate a company culture that your employees will be proud to own.