Work has changed.
OK, tell us something we don’t already know. Work is always changing. But if you think about it, maybe it’s not so much that the work itself is different. Rather, it’s where work happens.
“Our research shows that more than half of employees are working at least part of the time – if not all the time – outside of a traditional corporate office,” said Melanie Turek, Vice President of Research at growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. “They can be working from home, out in the field, or what we’re increasingly seeing is people blending work.”
Turek described how it’s more common at companies that value work-life balance to allow flexible schedules. So, maybe you’re in the office until 2:30 p.m. You leave to take your kids to soccer practice. Then you’re back working in a home office for a few hours later that night.
“Workers are so incredibly dispersed these days,” Turek added. “You can’t assume that people are finding out things organically around the water cooler because they’re often not in a physical facility. You need to communicate with people over any kind of device, on any kind of network – whether it’s the company system or the internet at Starbucks. You have to deliver communications the way people want to receive them.”
Frost & Sullivan explores why it’s crucial for organizations to adapt to this new reality in a thought-provoking guide, “Growth Requires Activated Employees: Driving Engagement through Digital Transformation.” It explains the growing need for organizations to leverage modern technologies to create an employee experience that connects, engages, and activates a changing workforce.
The benefits, according to the guide, can stretch across the business.
- Leadership: Enabling business agility
- Sales: Growing the business
- HR: Reducing risk
- Marketing: Improving brand equity
- Corporate Comms: Reaching every employee
“Once you take people out of the physical company location, it’s just much harder to keep employees engaged,” Turek said. “It’s not necessarily about being engaged with work, but rather the culture of the company.”
Her specialty is researching enterprise communications technologies. In her view, organizations generally are doing a solid job of making sure that dispersed employees have access to the information they need for their jobs. After all, that’s a business imperative. But what organizations often don’t think about as much is this question:
How can I make employees in the field feel connected to the company?
“It’s not enough to send out an email once a week with a company update,” Turek explained. “Nobody pays attention to that, and Millennials, especially, will just roll their eyes. It’s more about making sure that employees are connected to one another so that everyone really feels like they’re part of something bigger. That’s a really important part of work that often gets overlooked.”
Turek added that there’s still “a pretty fair amount of denial” among companies – particularly in industries that skew older – about how the Millennial generation is taking over the workplace and the way these younger workers expect to get information. Not surprisingly, she said, they prefer to receive it on social platforms that allow for two-way interaction.
But one key constituency is ready to evolve with the times: IT.
In a recent Frost & Sullivan survey of almost 2,000 global IT decision-makers, 75 percent of respondents said that having an integrated and comprehensive set of communications tools to connect with their employees is a top investment priority. That supported one conclusion from the new guide: “It is critical that businesses find new, better ways to communicate critical information quickly, on any platform or device.”
Part of the reason for this attitude from IT, Turek said, is the BYOD phenomenon – Bring Your Own Device.
“What that’s done is force internal IT departments to start paying more attention to all the different tools that are out there, because they’re showing up in their environment, one way or another,” she added. “As a result, IT has become increasingly open to adding new technologies, while also still maintaining security and privacy control for the organization.”
Turek also said that she advises people that while technology obviously is important, what you do with those tools matters more. The goal should always be to help employees not only do their jobs better but also build closer relationships throughout the organizations.
When a company has that kind of culture, it’s noticeable in two areas. One is the customer experience. Front-line employees have the most interactions with customers, so they can play a huge role in shaping impressions about the brand.
The second is cultivating productive, loyal employees.
“Getting the most out of your employees will be a lot easier if they’re happy, feel like they’re having an impact in the organization, and that good work will be recognized,” Turek said. “Things like that go a long way toward increasing their productivity and creativity, keeping costs down, and driving revenues up. So, there’s no downside to keeping people happy.”
Learn more by downloading the free guide “Growth Requires Activated Employees” here.