working on a laptop outside in a park
Leadership can make or break a digital workplace culture PHOTO: Brian Vaughn

The need for a healthy workplace culture is nothing new. 

But as brands wave goodbye to water cooler conversations and welcome emoji-laced messaging, fostering a culture of cohesion and productivity among employees working across timezones is easier said than done.

But as Digital Workplace Group researcher Beth Gleba wrote, “culture is the starting point for digital workplace strategy.”

So what works and what’s broken in digital workplace culture?

Digital Workplace Culture: What Works?

Daisy Hernandez of SAP
Daisy Hernandez
Daisy Hernandez, digital collaboration expert and global VP at SAP told CMSWire the collaboration technologies and strategies most brands have in place are working.

“With more and more employees working remotely, it’s increasingly important for businesses to get collaboration right,” Hernandez said.

“Seamless collaboration across departments and office locations is key to understanding and executing common business goals and objectives. The strong collaboration strategies being used today center on having a modern day intranet that employees can go to anytime, anywhere to engage with each other via real-time chat, discussion boards and open Q&As,” she continued.

Digital Workplace Group CEO and founder Paul Miller sees user-focused experiences as one of the successes of digital workplaces. He used Verizon’s approach as an example to follow.

Paul Miller of Digital Workplace Group
Paul Miller
“[One strategy that’s working is] ‘end-to-end’ user-focused experiences — [like at] Verizon, where the digital workplace team looks at what every Verizon employee experiences digitally as they work,” Miller told CMSWire.

“This holistic appreciation and interest in what it feels like to use the digital workplace in any environment — administrative, front-line, logistics, customer service and so on — and wherever they are  — company offices, on the move, or working from home —  is what works to create effective and rewarding digital worlds of work. This delivery of services that help the workforce is what create a digital workplace culture,” he explained.

Digital Workplace Culture: What’s Broken?

Both Hernandez and Miller identified some roadblocks to healthy digital workplace cultures.

Hernandez emphasized that, although existing technology is useful, there’s still plenty that’s missing.

“[Digital workplace technologies] should house enterprise-wide context with the latest iterations of reports, presentations, and even HR policies,” she said, indicating that greater accessibility to data will help harmonize digital communities.

Hernandez also touched on the improvements needed in the realm of communications. According to her, digital workplaces, “need to be able to foster communications beyond simply chit chat and one-off questions.”

“If a business only has a tool to facilitate chats, they are segmenting the workforce into siloes. To communicate larger decisions and facilitate enterprise-wide discussions, organizations need a more structured approach, and this is often overlooked,” she claimed.

Miller highlighted the lack of human effort as the biggest barrier to the emergence of strong digital workplace cultures.

“The main absence is serious and persistent leadership input and presence. If there is a belief or actuality that the people at the top are just paying lip-service or treating the digital workplace as ‘money wasted that could be spent better on customers’ then the culture of digital work will be fragile and easily shattered,” Miller said.

Practical Tips For Molding Your Digital Workplace Culture

It's still early days for digital workplaces. So how can businesses build on the successes while overcoming the roadblocks? 

“When trying to champion a dynamic and interactive workplace culture, the leaders — from executive management to supervisors — need to drive strategic collaboration initiatives to ensure that people from different offices and departments are interacting. In order to achieve a digital culture of collaboration, everyone in the company needs to engage — meaning that top executives need to take charge and help lead the effort,” Hernandez explained.

Hernandez also suggested “tying business goals and KPIs to the processes that are taking place online” as an important element of measuring success.

She explained employees are “more likely to engage, interact and develop a digital workplace culture” if they can see how it positively impacts the company's business and their own work. But she warned if employees don't see the value, “they will not engage, and the culture will fall flat due to lack of participation.”

Miller agreed with Hernandez, reiterating that digital workplace leaders carry the lion's share of responsibility. He urged brands to ensure their digital workplace leaders are “fully engaged and proactive participants in the digital workplace.”

As a yardstick, he suggested asking the right questions:

“Are they sharing, live streaming, entering conversations and making their digital presence felt?”