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It would appear that recent findings from the US Bureau of Labor Statics show that productivity increased 2.2 percent in the business sector in the third quarter of 2018 and 1.2 percent over the year. That is good news. However, the figures, which are mirrored in the Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report, are actually bad news when put in context. The numbers show that US business sector labor productivity growth averaged 2.3 percent from 1960 to 2000, 3.4 percent between 2000-2004 period and dropped 0.7 percent yearly in the 2011-2017 period. The figures show workers are less productive as more and more digital tools enter the workplace.

Understanding Productivity Problems

The Deloitte Human Capital Trends report from March, in fact, poses the question as to whether all these new communication and collaboration apps are increasing productivity, or, through sheer volume, turning it into a chaotic, relentless series of messages, emails, conference calls and chats?

The report said the flood of new tools fuels this shift, as each promises to give people more intelligent ways of communicating with each other. In response, the market has attracted top tech companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, Facebook, Slack, Atlassian and others, which have all announced new messaging, chat and video communications systems.

The research uncovered a high level of anxiety about whether these new tools actually align with business goals. While 71 percent of survey respondents believe these new tools improve personal productivity, 47 percent were concerned about whether the tools really drive productivity overall. So how do you benchmark whether your digital initiatives are successful/helpful or they are a hindrance in the digital workplace.

Alex Brower, the VP of market research at Cloud Academy, which develops a digital skills development platform for enterprises, said if enterprises cannot plan ahead for and successfully execute their digital transformation they risk losing their competitive advantage along with the opportunity for market share and revenue growth.

The leadership responsible for these initiatives is faced with the need to identify customized strategies, respond to emerging solutions and staff critical roles in order to drive innovation. “To truly measure the success of digital workplace development, organizations must take a proactive approach and use data to qualify and quantify the demand for the roles, skills and technologies needed for digital initiatives,” he said.

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Establish Solid KPIs

In practical terms, this means making sure you develop your KPIs and metrics as your programs and projects mature and develop. There is no point in measuring new successes and failures against outdated standards and KPIs that don’t correlate with your new objectives, Steve Pritchard, business consultant for Anglo Liners said. Doing this will provide you with skewed data which then doesn’t give you an accurate representation of where you are succeeding and failing. Certain metrics will always be relevant to a business, such as revenue; but others will become less and less relevant over time. Depending on the project, certain KPIs will only be useful once and then never need to be measured again.

“Be sure to look at how your measures and scores are built into the performance structure in your business. Linking individual measures to specific bonuses and performance indicators will help the team develop on a structured and focused path,” he said.

Three Useful Metrics

Bernie Clark, founder of Majux Marketing, said there are a number of obvious metrics that managers and enterprise leaders can use to measure whether or not our digital workplace is successful. These metrics are particularly pertinent for companies that support remote working.

1. Is work getting done? - Managers can see via rankings, traffic, sales and paid search metrics whether or not employees are getting the job done. If performance remains strong, the company knows that the digital workplace is effective. “Frankly, I don't care that I can't keep track of an employee while he or she works from home — I only care if we are getting the work done,” he said.

2. Employee Retention Rates - There will always be turnover in marketing jobs, especially at the entry level. But if employees are sticking for more than two years, it is a good indicator that the digital environment that's been built is effective. “There are so many marketing jobs available right now that if someone stays with you, it's a decent indication that they're happy,” he said.

3. Social Statistics - Slack, or other internal collaboration apps, can be a good indication of digital workplace success. Majux uses Slack (like many other agencies), and looks to the end-of-the-month statistics whether or not people are collaborating. While the messages are private, the statistics show volume and offer insights into engagement. “I like to see that my team is chatting and collaborating on projects, even if they aren't in the same building,” he said.

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What Should You Measure?

Robert Rodrigues, co-founder of ecommerce site flo.ie, said that for online retailers, managing the digital workplace experience is particularly important as the majority of its activity resides online with campaigns and sales. He provided this simple list of metrics that organizations should be using to ensure their digital workplace is functioning properly beyond hard metrics of time, cost and manpower. They include:

Online Marketing Campaigns

  • Landing page traction (how many visits we got).
  • Using specific event-led coupons to gauge purchases from certain activities.
  • Email signups.
  • Sales.

Website Analytics

  • Best performing content (how many clicks it got, how long people stayed on the page, did it convert sale/signup).
  • Visitor flow. Did they click on one page and follow the funnel we set up? If not why? AB test placing click-through in different places.

 Call To Action/Engagement

  • Number of visits per week/month.
  • New customers vs. returning customers.
  • How many customers are spending over $100 (this can be set to any price).
  • Social media follower engagement (how many comments, like, shares).
  • How many new followers.
  • How many outward engagement + conversations?
  • How many direct messages asking about products?

As a final thought, Chris Steele, VP of technology at Saggezza points out that businesses can't examine a single score or value to understand the value and success of their digital workplace initiative without also considering the driver of that initiative and the problems to be solved.

While simple tool roll-outs may utilize adoption rates as a measure, other initiatives that (for instance) increase capabilities for multi-channel communication and journey management would have very different success metrics than those designed to improve data availability, access control and retention. Meaningful benchmarks are derived primarily from the business case... Which makes it difficult to trust any one-size-fits-all approach.