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There are many different ways of benchmarking the success or failures of a digital workplace. However, it is less obvious what makes a successful digital workplace and how it functions. Technology is now such a central part of the overall work experience that you can’t separate it from the people agenda. So should enterprise leaders assess the success or failure of their digital workplace by the level of engagement with digital workplace technologies?

What Digital Elements Should Be Measured

One of the conclusions in recent research from PwC is that in order to assess the real effectiveness of digital workplaces and digital work, leaders must go beyond titles and delve into attitudes and behaviors. This approach, the research suggests, leads to more relevant communication, rewards, and performance and development.

Automation, the report adds, will put even more focus on understanding how to create great places for people to work because it will impact just about everyone’s role, job content, and decision rights. “Today’s workforce is overwhelmingly positive about the potential for technology to improve their lives in our survey, but they also have concerns about how it can be used,” it reads. 

Jessica Higgins is a researcher, consultant and marketing professional that has written widely about the digital workplace and the success or failure of digital transformation projects. She said that if you're truly out to make an impact on the world, and you're a goal-oriented person, then moving to a digital-first workplace just becomes common sense. “I dislike anything non-productive and choose only to work with star players. Star players don't work well under the old world work structures. Capitalize on talent and give people unlimited freedom, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at what comes next,” she said. 

So how do you know if your digital workplace is actually functioning as it should? After contacting a number of enterprises and digital professionals about this, we have identified seven others:

Related Article: What Do Employees Need in a Digital Workplace?

1. Internal Processes

The strength of internal processes is important in measuring the success of a digital workplace because they provide the basic framework from which employees and freelancers will work — an unstable process produces erratic, unpredictable results. That's the opposite of a successful digital workplace.

Michelle Chuang is principal at Newport Beach, Calif.-based MMS Brand Consulting. She pointed out that the way we do business is no longer at a regional level, and a traditional workplace limits the opportunity to recruit for best talent despite geography or location to where the talent resides. However, many will argue that a non-digital workplace promotes interaction and collaboration that a digital workplace cannot provide. The argument, while potentially true for industries such as retail or service, does not apply to the majority of the office workforce today as barriers to interaction can be brought down by technology.

“There are many benefits of a productive digital workplace. Not only will it save the organization lots of money from rent and utility (and worker’s comp insurance), it will also increase employee productivity by reducing commute time and other preparatory tasks. All of which may be measured based on employee output," she said.  She added a number of elements are needed to establish a digital workplace. They include:

2. Technology

According to Chuang, to create a successful digital workplace, the organization needs to provide a multitude of tools for the team to utilize. It cannot be just a few key technologies such as telephone and video conferencing. It has to be a variety of communication technologies to adapt to the various comprehension level of the workforce and reach maximum adoption and usage. (i.e.: video conference, instant messaging, texting)

3. Mindset

To cultivate a productive digital work environment, Chuang said, the organization should understand the challenge of their workforce and utilize technology to remove barriers to those challenges then promote the benefits of a digital workplace. The primary obstacle of working in a remote environment is that you won’t have the luxury of walking two steps to chat with a colleague and inquire about the status of a project. However, with instant messaging tools available, communications can still be in real time even when two employees are in different time zones.

Related Article: 9 Technology Trends Shaping the Digital Workplace in 2018

4. Teaming

One of the harder challenges to creating an effective digital workplace is to create a teaming culture without physical interactions. Chuang shared that organizations may overcome this challenge by thinking creatively and establish a program that connects employees and implement incentive programs that reward team achievements.

5. Enforcement and Benchmarking

To truly assess the benefits of a digital workplace for an organization, it first needs to be enforced. Through the availability of communication technologies and the promotion of the benefits of working digitally, employees will need to adopt the digital work method. Then the organization should benchmark the performance and productivity through metrics such as digital engagement, time spent digitally vs. traditionally, and refine the program based on insights learned.

“Working digitally has many upsides and a few downsides. In the world that we live in today that is fueled by data and artificial intelligence, working in a digital environment is no longer a trend but will become the norm in the near future. It is time to familiarize ourselves with the technologies available and optimize for the digital workplace ahead of us,” she added.

6. Automated Roles

It is common that employees share their concerns about robots taking over their jobs and, while employers might see the true ROI in implementing a digital workforce to work amongst humans, this initiative can only be successful with support and open-mindedness from the current workforce, Ashim Gupta, chief customer success officer at New York City-based UiPath said.

To alleviate employee fears about job changes or even job loss, and ultimately see success in a collaborative digital workforce, business leaders must be strategic about how they introduce automation solutions in the workplace and keep in mind that they are training digital workers in an existing workspace. By executing against proven best practices when it comes to change management, business leaders can ensure employees not only feel comfortable and confident about the digital workforce being introduced but excited and supported, as well.

7. Effective Metrics

When it comes to conversations around the digital workplace, we’ve again fallen victim to the buzzwords of the world, and most business leaders are becoming reactionary — implementing what they believe to be a digital workplace without truly understanding what it is or why it’s being done, said Vytas Kasniunas, partner and director of operations at Chicago-based TetraVX.

This leads to organizations assuming their challenges and overlooking the true issues facing their employees and their business processes. In this situation, specific measurement is used to validate if what they did worked versus where analytics and data truly belong, at the very beginning. “When measurement is done well, it can help organizations identify where to utilize their oftentimes limited resources to improve their internal processes globally and implement the right technology for their unique organization,” he said. "With the initial metrics identified and a clearly defined problem to solve, validating the success of the new processes and technologies becomes that much more powerful.”

With this preliminary framework in place, organizations can benchmark against themselves, identifying what worked and where they fell short. This should be part of a constant effort to drive ongoing improvements instead of thinking of the "digital workplace" as a single project in time.

Whether you want to gain insight into how collaboration can be improved or increasing the employee experience, specific types of measurements will differ across organizations. When measuring collaboration (and finding areas it can be improved), key metrics might include the adoption of tools as it relates to the number of calls, video conferences, and messages, as well as time to project resolution when looking at ways to improve productivity.

Additionally, improving the employee experience can be measured through survey results from questions focused around process flaws and challenges. These are just two examples of different measurements organizations can take to gain insight into specific areas of their company, "metrics can vary based on what information is most valuable to each organization," as there is no “one size fits all solution.”

Finding the Right Measurement Fit

To really assess the success or failure of digital workplace strategy, each organization will need to find the measurement and data that fits best for their organization. While some organizations may suffer from high turnover, for example, others may be challenged with a less than productive workforce. Each of these high-level challenges come with their own unique set of measurements to help identify and resolve the underlying issues.