Two men work in an office with cubicles making improvements.
PHOTO: Yuya Tamai

We have to do better at employee experience. More than half (51 percent) of the US workforce is not engaged, according to a recent report from Gallup.  Alan Lepofsky, who studies the Future of Work as an analyst for Constellation Research, noted that organizations often still offer employees the same old workplace setup and practices they've used for decades. The analyst called on organizations to “get creative” in his report published last month, “How to Embrace New Skills for the Future of Work.” (fee required). 

Lepofsky and a CEO of a global company shared some tips with us on how organizations can embrace new technologies and strategies to enhance employee experience and make the future of work better.

Borrow From the Consumer World

Lepofsky’s thesis is this, organizations have little excuse with technology advancements to continue to offer boring PowerPoint presentations and deploy communications methods stuck somewhere in the 1990s. 

Great customer experiences have employees expecting seamless experiences in the workplace too. “I know it's cliche, but we have better experiences in our personal life than we do in our work life. We use Facebook. We use Snapchat. We have cameras at our disposal on our phones. We are able to engage and share and do things that are fun. Yet we go to work and we have calendar entries and email messages and PowerPoint templates,” he said.

Break Boring Cycles with Creativity

Lepofsky notes that he doesn’t see things like email and PowerPoints fading away but, he advises, organizations need to embrace new technologies that allow workers to tell their stories better and make their points more accurately. It also has to create more interactive and collaborative environments to engage with colleagues and customers. In his report, Lepofsky cited advancements such as, camera apps that provide lenses, filters, stickers and other “digital tricks”; file-sharing services that use artificial intelligence (AI) to create collages; slides and spreadsheets that use AI to improve layout and design; chat clients with animated GIFs, emojis and stickers.

Ask Your Teams: How Can We Be Different?

We’re 'snapping' messages to each other with filters and emojis, sharing quick bites of content on Facebook and uploading beautiful images in Instagram that get tons of engagement. Why can’t we mimic that in the business world? Why does content-sharing at work have to continue to be stagnant?

Lepofsky challenges organizations to share content in creative ways much like we do in the consumer world on social networks. “There are no right or wrong answers. We’re at the cusp of something super interesting. There’s absolutely no denying that people engage in Instagram and Snapchat and people add filters to things and graphics on top of their head, like all of a sudden there is a cat in the picture. We just all do that. It’s just normal. I want to see that evolve into work,” Lepofsky said. Enterprise collaboration tool Microsoft Teams, for instance, allows users to insert animations and meme generation and allows them to customize emojis.

Prepare for New Tech, Embrace Consumer Advancements

Lepofsky cited advancements like Microsoft Sway and iPhone ARKits that could help organizations build more engaging experiences.  “We need to start preparing for this role of augmented reality. How can we learn to create things in the 3D space and share them with each other? If we’re following the natural evolution of the last 20 years of technology, it starts in the consumer world and works its way into the business world. We now use Slack because we use Messenger at home,” Lepofsky said.  

If Facebook and apps like Timehop share with us memories from earlier posts and social engagements, why not mimic that in the workplace?, he posits. “These things spark our imagination. Microsoft Office has never come back to me and said, ‘Wow, last year at this time you presented about the following. Here's the calendar entry. Or here’s the OneDrive or PowerPoint you uploaded.'”

Take Risks in your Workplace

One company that’s embracing new ways to engage employees and foster team-building is Wibbitz. Wibbitz has a live video stream between offices so employees in New York, Paris and Tel Aviv can see what's happening across the world as well as engage and collaborate with each other. Wibbitz CEO Zohar Dayan said the company’s biggest challenge was to bridge the distance and the gaps between the different offices and 90 employees. Wibbitz emphasizes culture and a “family atmosphere” and are always thinking of new and creative ways to make the entire company feel like one big team.

The video live streaming between the offices helps because it’s a window into the offices across the globe. Each office had a large screen monitor streaming live. “It's just a good way to make everybody feel like everybody's working for the same thing,” Dayan said. “You kind of get a glimpse into the daily life of what the other team’s place looks like and what they're doing and if they're in the office or if they're not.” The Apple TV screens include a Nest App that films and keeps up the live stream. Employees can view other offices with a split screen or one view of one particular office.

Workers for Wibbitz on a live-streamed video screen wave at the camera.

Respect Employee Feedback, Encourage Positives

Organizations should recognize that with new technologies and workplace strategies may come pushback from employees. Dayan said with the initial rollout of the live stream came some pushback. “People were like, 'You know, it's like Big Brother.’ But I think they quickly understood nobody's interested in looking at what they’re doing all day.”

Wibbitz sold the live stream to employees by explaining the benefits and letting them work themselves out, which they say include better communication, getting employees to know colleagues better and recognizing their faces and getting a sense of a location’s vibe. “Overall, I believe, it creates better collaboration," he said.

Embrace Messaging Apps, Social Networks

According to Domo, 22 billion texts are sent every day worldwide, not including app-to-app messaging. Then why aren’t more organizations embracing text-message communications?

Wibbitz cultivates culture by having a WhatsApp group where employees share pictures and funny videos. Everybody in the company is part of that group. When their sales team closes out a deal, their reps make a video of the sales teams banging a gong. “Everybody in our sales team usually finds ringing very creative ways to do it,” Dayan said. 

Screenshot of a WhatsApp exchange featuring a pic of two employees at Wibbitz.

Wibbitz also uses Workplace by Facebook as another way to mimic the communication realities its employees are familiar with in the consumer world. “It’s especially a great way for when you onboard new team members to get a glimpse to the past of the company and what type of team they're joining and what they can expect in the future,” Dayan said. “This helps with onboarding, speeding things along and integrating that person into the team.”