Many companies introduce enterprise social networks like Yammer, experiment with eliminating offices and creating open workspaces, and enable more flexible and mobile ways of working. They anticipate that these initiatives will help them to better deal with turbulent, rapidly changing environments that require collaboration and agility to deliver more complex digital solutions in rapid cycles.
Digital business environments offer opportunities to deliver customer solutions rather than distinct products and services. The problem is that if you try to bundle, stitch, customize, or link products and services to build end-to-end solutions within traditional hierarchical and siloed work environments, then you make working life very hard. While most companies acknowledge the need to revise the way they work, many are finding this very difficult to do.
In 2014 and 2015, we interviewed 63 executives at 27 large, global organizations that have implemented digital workplace initiatives, and we conducted a poll with 276 respondents from global companies. We believe that the digital workplace is about a fundamentally different way of working with distinctive behavioral norms. Influence, networks, and dynamic decisions become much more important than power, hierarchies, static decisions, processes, and rules that make sense in a slow-moving, traditional environment.
For companies that recognized this essential difference, the digital workplace played an integral role in transforming their business, including performance, leadership, and employee satisfaction. Others did not get past pilots and patchy take-ups.
So what does it take to create a digital workplace?
The ‘S’ Factors
Our research shows that successful companies focused on four design levers — symbols, space, systems, and social — and two management levers — sustaining leadership and systemic learning — to transform their workplaces.
Symbols of change make the digital strategy visible throughout the organization and reinforce the strategic value of the workplace changes every day. It takes well-thought-out, broad campaigns to drive home this cultural shift and motivate changes in behavioral norms. These symbols are much more than communication campaigns — they initiate changes in the way people in the organization define their working lives.