a whisper and a laugh
PHOTO: Mike Goren

Automation and other AI and machine learning-based digital tools offer incredible potential to reshape workplaces in preparation for an uncertain future — but a future that will undoubtedly be technology-driven.

According to Smartsheet, approximately 60% of workers say at least a third of their jobs could be automated, and nearly 60% also say they could save six or more hours a week with automation.

What would employees do with all that time? Complete more valuable work (72%), and focus on more interesting, rewarding parts of their jobs (78%). In short, employees are more inspired, more fulfilled and more loyal to organizations that support and invest in a digital workplace.

However, new tools aren’t a cure-all. Digital workplaces are only as good as the processes that support them. Right now, a majority of employees experience both broken onboarding (58%) and faulty administrative processes (54%) in their organizations. Moving these broken processes to a digital environment doesn’t solve them — it simply replicates the issue in a new format.

It’s essential to find ways to leverage the digital workplace to fix and improve the broken processes in your organization.

Determine Where Digital Works 

Broken and lackluster processes exact a heavy toll on your business. But while digital tools can transform work processes, embracing the latest trends without proper planning can do more harm than good.

Not sure where to begin? Here are just a few of the myriad problem areas in which digitization can provide a pathway to more effective processes:

  • New employee onboarding —Currently, new employees — as many as 55% — don’t immediately learn about time-saving tech tools and documents because the information is housed in multiple locations. Streamline and digitize the onboarding process with a cloud-based tool that collects the data and documents new hires need in a single location.
  • IT software assets — On average, companies spend as much as $12 billion a year on maintenance fees and unused software licenses. Losing track of the software you have purchased wastes both time and money. By building a central portal of software licenses, scheduling a workflow to track software updates, and monitoring installations to ensure they don’t exceed limitations, you can improve productivity and ensure compliance.
  • Purchase requests — Manual, paper-driven purchase requests are often a legacy process. But flaws quickly emerge as organizations expand. Manual systems often cause massive backlogs, making auditing and accurate budgeting impossible. An automated purchase request system allows for a high level of control and oversight, while improving efficiency.

Related Article: Why the Digital Workplace Causes Confusion

Marry Digitization and Better Processes

When you know which areas of your business can be improved by a digital workplace, your processes should adapt to support this new ecosystem rather than undermine it. The following guidelines offer a roadmap for achieving improved efficiency through effective digital tools:

Champion a Shift in Internal Culture

For your digital workplace to succeed, you need to structure your organization to support rather than undermine the shift. This includes your company’s mindset around IT, which employees often perceive as an entity separate from the rest of the company. Changing this perception of IT as an insular department is critical when implementing new technology tools because frontline workers will likely need additional IT support when learning the new systems. Without trust in the IT department, workers may feel adrift and without resources. Likewise, company leadership likely needs to increase their attentiveness to employees’ suggestions; while 90% of C-suite executives say their company pays attention to people’s needs when introducing new technology, only about half (53%) of staff say the same.

Related Article: The Digital Workplace Is Not an IT Project

Listen to Your Employees

Processes should serve people, not the other way around. More than two-thirds of employees say their companies’ broken processes hold them back from reaching their full potential. These are the same employees who should be both contributing to discussions about broken processes and suggesting new digital tools. According to PwC, nearly three-quarters (73%) of workers say they are aware of systems that would help them produce higher quality work. Why not tap these resources?

Related Article: Is Your Organization Really Listening to Employees?

Think Simple

Sometimes, the most effective use of digital tools is also the most straightforward. For example, the implementation of paperless processes has proven to result in lower costs and improved efficiency. From insurance enrollment to PTO requests to annual review documentation, processes across the board become faster and easier to track when moved from hard copy to digital. But first, ensure your teams have identified and broken down both communication and digital silos to ensure all systems and people have access to the information to make these new, simple processes appropriately straightforward.

Shiny, new cloud-based technologies or advanced, AI-driven products can lure you into believing these tools are the solution to all your process-related problems. However, no organization should jump into digital solutions without considering how processes will interact, develop and change. Remember: Good process is the backbone of any effective digital revolution.