The primary ingredient for any digital workplace project is a clear understanding of employee needs. More than that, such an understanding is a key ingredient for any successful business.
In my work I often come across false or limiting beliefs that managers have towards their employees. These beliefs in turn influence the shape of their digital workplace and have a detrimental effect on both their employees and their business results.
Let’s examine each in turn.
1. We Train Each New Employee
Most businesses train employees when they join the company or take a new role. Yet, plenty of research shows that more than 50% of the information delivered during this training is forgotten within days. And it’s even worse with the intensive training that happens during an induction period.
In addition, things change. Information you learned five months ago might no longer be relevant.
I recommend training that focuses more on the core ideas, and that the digital workplace should supplement by delivering information in a timely/as needed manner.
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2. Our Employees Don’t Know These Things
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard managers make this kind of blanket statement. This kind of thinking doesn’t help your business move forward, because it makes every action seem more difficult than it is.
The reality is there is a percentage of people who know a certain thing. It is the job of management to improve this percentage.
3. Our Employees Don’t Want to Do These Things
All too often managers take motivation for granted, especially in a distributed workplace scenario. As noted above, it will be a mix. A percentage of employees will be motivated, another percentage won’t.
The digital workplace needs to provide the motivation for the task at hand.
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4. We Informed Them
Another mistake managers make is expecting every message they send is both read and remembered when the time comes.
The truth is most employees are overloaded with notifications. You are not the only person sending them an email (or chat, or DM, or ….). As a result, these overloaded employees will forget some of the received messages.
Designing your digital workplace to focus on and highlight notifications in a timely, relevant way will help employees perform tasks with the information they need, when they need it.
5. Employees’ Work Is Simple
Unless you are building rockets or compete in Formula 1, most of the tasks your team is focused on could be considered simple. This can lead managers to conclude employees do not need much support with the execution of these tasks.
Yet, because of the volume, variety and frequency of tasks employees have to accomplish, things often go wrong. I’ve seen some of the simplest tasks achieve a compliance rate of lower than 50% because information is not managed properly.
It is the job of the digital workplace to provide structure around these tasks and the information needed to perform them. Not just for one or some, but for all tasks. In fact, simplifying every relevant task in the organization should be a core activity for the digital workplace team.
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6. They Will Find the Information
Managers typically have been with the organization for some time. So, whenever there is a gap in the information architecture, they can tap their previous experience to fill the gap. Where they go wrong is in believing this ability extends to their employees. Managers also tend to have a much better ability to deal with complex, constantly changing information.
Regular employees, however, who are required to have a different mix of skills will not find information if it is hidden in complicated corporate repositories. Simply put, if information is not easily available, it does not exist for the employee. They will ask a colleague or make an educated guess, yet the decision they will make might not be the one the management expects it to be.
The digital workplace must simplify access to all resources related to a topic, to simplify complexity.
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7. We Run Innovation Contests to Collect the Best Ideas From the Employees
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with contests, but they can introduce some limitations in the organization. Ideas might get lost simply because the submission period has not started.
The biggest problem has to do with the impact of these innovations. Most of the progress in a company comes in the form of small, incremental improvements — a slightly cheaper packaging method, an online form with a smarter validator, or a clearer contract statement. These kinds of improvements are essential for the progress of a company, yet most of them will not receive any innovation awards.
Creating a place in your digital workplace for employees to provide feedback, which the relevant parties can manage and respond to in the shortest time possible helps the flow of ideas coming.
As a final note, it is best to assume employees are not experts on any given topic. It is the job of the digital workplace to connect them with the right people from the organization who have the necessary knowledge.
Can you suggest any other misconceptions that are hampering your organization’s performance?
Cristian Salanti is working as a Digital Employee Experience Architect at Zenify.net. He has been developing Intranets for the past 20 years. He is advocating for a more practical, managerial approach to Digital workplace design.