man in process of tuning a piano
PHOTO: Leeds Piano Competition

Many organizations have diverse employee populations, with people from different generations and cultural backgrounds who have varying digital proficiency levels. Digital aptitudes vary widely among employees of even the most modern companies. For instance, while some employees may feel uncomfortable with the concept of “working out loud” on a digital platform, others feel empowered by it. Some people might prefer to engage in siloed conversations as they develop their ideas, while others may want to openly brainstorm and iterate with broader groups in a digital environment. 

Business leaders cannot ignore the broad spectrum of digital literacy within their workforces, and they must acknowledge its impact on the overall employee experience. One way to address diversity and foster inclusion is to optimize your digital workplace.

Here’s a look at four steps that business, human resources and IT leaders can take to bridge the inevitable digital skills gaps among the people on their teams.

1. Understand the Lay of the Land

When building a solution for any business challenge, it is important to have a comprehensive picture of what’s happening in your workforce. 

The first piece of this puzzle is understanding the demographics of your employee base, so you have a good sense of who you’re engaging with. Using your corporate HR system, you can aggregate data about the languages employees speak, and their geographic locations, ages, races, abilities and more.

The next piece is to identify all of the technology tools in use throughout your organization and find out how those tools affect the employee experience.

According to Unisys, US workers whose employers provide outdated technology feel less productive and are 450 percent more likely to want to quit. To avoid that problem, weed out underutilized systems and identify situations where different teams use different tools for the same purpose, creating unintended silos — for example, members of the engineering team might use Slack to communicate with one another while people in marketing use Skype for Business.

It’s also useful to know people’s needs and preferences with regard to mobile phones, tablets, and desktop and laptop PCs, including what percentage of work hours they spend on each kind of device.

Lastly, review your current communication channels and forums at the enterprise, functional and team levels. How often do you hold events like all-company meetings, lunch-and-learn seminars and IT road shows? How often do you share tips and tricks on screens around the office?

All of that insight becomes more valuable when you start overlaying demographic data, digital usage data and your inventory of communication channels. Only then will you see the full spectrum of your employees’ digital experiences. 

When you do that, you might notice, for example, that most employees of a certain age group use mobile phones to participate in conference calls and turn to the social intranet for most other interactions. Or you might find that people with special needs tend to rely on a particular collaboration tool that offers critical accessibility features.

Related Article: Digital Workplace Design Needs a Human-Centered Approach

2. Eliminate Waste and Confusion

Once you have a snapshot of your digital workplace, the next step is to identify any wasteful tools or processes. You’re likely to find at least a few opportunities to consolidate applications and streamline workflows in ways that not only increase adoption of your most critical systems but also improve digital literacy throughout your workforce. Put together a list of digital tools with use case recommendations for each, and integrate them where it makes sense. An interactive intranet that connects with various other systems and content sources greatly simplifies the employee experience while generating a wealth of data that leaders can use to improve communication and collaboration.

Additionally, be sure to review your content management strategy, especially when it comes to the information your employees need to do their jobs. Minimize the headaches and confusion that stem from having multiple versions of similar content. Instead, make sure all channels point to a single source of truth as much as possible.

Finally, to ensure continuous improvement, form a cross-functional employee enablement committee whose charter is to remove complexities and ensure alignment across corporate, communication and IT needs.

Related Article: Get Your Intranet on Track With Effective Improvement Cycles

3. Develop Clear Enablement Programs for Digital Engagement

Once you’ve laid out a foundation for your employee engagement strategies, channels and governance, you’re ready to build effective programs.

Some of the best ways to enhance the employee experience involve focusing on strategic alignment and company goals, official communication and collaboration channels, and your company culture. For example, put some thought into all of the things you want every employee to know about your company and where they should find that information. Once you have a handle on those top-down programs, don’t forget to consider how your digital workplace can also support things like training and development programs, affinity groups, HR support resources and IT training materials.

A key component of any program is to have a clear plan for execution and defined points of engagement.

Start by identifying the ideal channels for certain types of content. For example, consider whether your messages should be delivered via a periodic blog written by someone on the leadership team, virtual office hours hosted by business partners or online question-and-answer forums — or all of the above.

Keep in mind that people consume information in various ways. Consider translations, transcriptions, video recordings, sign language and subtitling for critical content within your learning management system, in-person meetings and interactive intranet.

Related Article: Start Digital Workplace Change Management on Day One

4. Implement Measurements to Ensure Success

Meaningful measurement is necessary to evaluate the success of these programs and your employees’ digital experiences.

Look back at your data sources from Step 1 and take the time to extract insights about employees’ technology usage and engagement with your strategic content. Review its reach, sentiment and anecdotal commentaries across different employee demographic categories. This will enable you to quickly see how effective you are at reaching various employee segments, and it will produce clear metrics to support your company’s inclusion strategy.

And because your workforce and technology landscape are ever-changing, don’t forget to always iterate and improve upon the digital workplace by cycling through these phases at least once or twice a year.

These four steps can be complex, but they are incredibly important to maintaining a desirable employee experience. Ensuring cross-functional buy-in and ongoing commitment — for both your digital workplace and your digital literacy strategies — is key to success.

Thankfully, you’ll reap significant rewards for all of the effort you put into managing these programs. By taking your digital workplace to the next level, you’ll achieve a better employee experience, which in turn will drive lasting engagement and increased retention of top talent, and may even help rewire your company DNA.