A diverse group of workers each with a head shot on a digital device. - digital workplace personalization concept
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This is part 1 of a 4 part series on digital workplace technologies, sponsored by Beezy.

Professionals tasked with improving the digital workplace don’t typically look to their external marketing counterparts for advice. After all, what is the connection between building a strong capability for peer collaboration and connectivity, and getting customers to buy our wares through catchy viral ads and social media? The two functions seem worlds apart.

Actually, both the digital workplace teams and marketing teams are moving to achieve the same type of goal: create behavior change in an audience that is beneficial to our business. For marketing teams advertising to external customers, that means encouraging buyers to purchase more of the products and services we want them to consume. For IT, Communications and HR teams offering modern digital toolsets to internal customers (our employees), it means supporting the journey as they move into more efficient and innovative digital ways of working.

Marketers have cracked the code to drive this behavior change: it’s about personalization. Effective marketers must engage with customers at the right point in the customer journey. When done effectively, personalization at scale can drive between 5 and 15 percent revenue growth for companies, according do McKinsey. This practice works, and we know that employees inside an organization are the exact same consumers receiving personalized marketing outside of their work day. If marketing personalization is what we expect in our personal lives, it’s critical that organizations also deliver a highly personalized work experience to keep employees engaged.

Related Article: The Role of AI in Enterprise Collaboration: Changing Everything and Nothing All at Once

More Personalization, More Productivity

After a decade of evolution for the digital workplace, employee collaboration platforms are now arguably the norm. If your medium to large company doesn’t have a central hub where employees can discuss key work topics, make connections, and share information outside of email, it’s losing out on the many benefits of a flatter communication structure and faster, authentic ways of engaging. But while there’s incredible benefit to being networked across teams, collaboration overload can quickly suck employees out of the realm of “getting work done” and back into the muddy “too much information” swamp. Ensuring that collaboration tools are actually driving productivity remains a hot topic — 47% of respondents to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital trends report reported lingering concerns about whether or not this is a reality.

This is why the digital workplace must incorporate personalization as a core component. Simply launching a new intranet and opening up a chat channel isn’t enough. Employees are already strapped for time; good collaboration tools should help them find the right people and information quickly, even when they’re not looking. This comes from a combination of smart technology as well as a concerted effort from all digital workplace stakeholders to offer highly personalized experiences that make each unique employee’s work day better.

Related Article: Customization for a Modern Digital Workplace Focus on People

Implementing Consumer-Grade Personalization With an Enterprise Twist

Making the digital workplace personal takes some creative thought. If we want to meet employees where they are, we need to think about their needs (it wouldn’t hurt to review your user discovery notes before implementing…you did do user discovery, right?). Here are three practical examples of leveraging your digital internal collaboration hub in a way that makes the experience personal to a variety of employees.

1. Give Choices for Getting Help

Savvy companies offer their customers many ways to get help, such as reading a knowledge base, engaging in a customer community with experts, chatting with a technician, or speaking to a live human. In the digital workplace, it can be relatively easy to digitize key content for IT and HR, like basic steps for a password reset to instructions on finding your 1099. Departments can offer personalized work “help desk” interactions that match our expectations as consumers, making the support process both personal and efficient for everyone involved.

The basics of this practice include using your company’s digital work hub to document official information and answers for each department (like a wiki), as well as linking the hub to critical systems that house frequently used content. Getting more social and sophisticated, each department can rally around a group of champions who can quickly answer questions that come in through more social elements, like posts and comments in the IT hub. Diving deeper, designated experts can be available during virtual office hours to provide real-time digital support to employees with questions.

Related Article: The Case for Investing in Integrated Activity Streams

2. Internal Communications Should Push and Pull

Most good digital platforms now rely at least somewhat on newsfeeds that offer employees a real-time information pulse. On the plus side, these feeds allow employees to curate what they want to see and leave out the rest. A manager in finance may not want or need to see the latest R&D update, but details about a competitors’ IPO could be of great interest. The ability to personalize one’s own information feed creates immediate relevance. At the same time, relying on hyper-personalized news feeds alone may accidentally lead to blind spots. Critical communications from the C-Suite, crisis updates, or quarterly earnings are still important for everyone to see. Smart Internal Communications teams can learn to leverage the behaviors of employees inside digital, social and collaboration platforms as well as key features that break the opt-in-only model in order to create engagement.

For example, the Director of Communications can create a few separate “flavors” of the same content, each of which is unique and optimized for a different type of social engagement. Take, for example, a typical intranet story about the CEO’s priorities for 2019. Communications teams can publish a highly visual announcement about this story (plus a link to the intranet article) into everyone’s news feed, similar to how Facebook pushes ads to its users. At the same time, Communications can reach out to a variety of groups or departments on the digital platform to ask for dialogue and input on the announcement – tailored to the department in which it is posted. This approach to critical updates combines strategic use of digital features with a programmatic approach that leverages employees’ intrinsic motivations to contribute in a meaningful way.

3. What’s in it for Me? Personal Coaching for Real Engagement

Personalization in the digital workplace isn’t just about finding what you need and who you should know. It’s also about effectively applying the same piece of technology to every individual’s needs and work habits. Because working isn’t a one size fits all activity, companies need to invest in personalized learning, training and capacity building to help employees make the most out of the transformed experience. Employees should be able to say, “show me how to do my job better with these new tools,” and digital teams should have the answer. In a 2018 McKinsey survey, respondents were 1.5 times more likely to report having a successful digital transformation when companies engaged in redefining and understanding individuals’ roles as they related to the goals of transformation overall. Personalized opportunities to understand where one fits in and how one can use new digital technology will provide significant benefits in the long term, even when up-front investment may be high.

The key takeaway? Personalization in the digital workplace is about people, not just tools, which means combining effective use of technology with practices that take time and many touchpoints with our employees. And while this may seem time consuming up front, transformation leaders will reap the benefits in the long term as engagement will be long lasting and meaningful.

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