The speed and scale at which technological breakthroughs are emerging have no historical precedent and have created an imperative for businesses across industries to respond rapidly with their own digital transformations in order to drive growth and create competitive advantage.
In a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in February 2018, more than three-quarters of business leaders said that the evolution of their workplace strategy, processes, and technology is very important to their company’s overall performance.
“Yet, less than one-third of those surveyed said their company is very forward-looking in its approach to workplace strategies, processes, and technologies.”
How can this be?
It is the people who make up an organization — and their ability to connect, collaborate, and innovate — that will determine the level of change possible within the enterprise. In fact, a company’s workplace strategy can be the key enabler of — or hindrance to — its digital transformation.
As Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft 365 says, the time has come to envision and embrace a new culture of work.
As he adds, in a world where new technologies are disrupting entire industries, it is increasingly clear that people and the innovation they drive are every company’s most important asset. The ability to adapt and innovate is fundamentally a human trait.
Harvard Business Review also interviewed Dr. Mary Donohue, a social scientist with a focus on evolutionary psychology and CEO of Donohue Learning for a study on this topic. She says that for years, large enterprises focused most intently on shareholder demands for cost cutting and efficiency.
“But that’s not working anymore,” she says. “What’s driving interest in modern workplace solutions is the need to create a sustainable business model with a growth mindset. That will force companies to adopt a whole new methodology for work — and most of them are not prepared for that.”
MIT’s Kristine Dery agrees. She says that amid an explosion of new technologies and a deluge of new digital information, employees are struggling to keep up. “If you can embrace a modern workplace culture, work habits, and tools, you will see improved business outcomes. But that’s very hard to do,” says Kristine, a research scientist at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research who studies the dynamic between technology and the way people work.
“While most companies agree that this will deliver significant value, they’re not there yet.” In many cases, there is no one with ownership of the modern workplace transformation. There may be little executive support for the shift. Employees may not see value in new ways of working. Without those prerequisites, any change efforts are unlikely to take hold.
“People do not appreciate how challenging it is to create a truly functional workplace,” says Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School.
Importantly, those companies that are making advancements in the modern workplace realm are seeing significant results. They are not only attaining some of the key characteristics of the modern workplace—creating secure environments that enable teams of highly engaged employees to contribute and add value at any time and from any where — Harvard Business Review’s studies show that they’re also clearly outperforming their peers in the areas of revenue generation and growth, profitability, market share, productivity, customer experience, and speed to market.
So where does that leave SMEs? The first step is in of course taking advantage of the existing technologies. The entire organization needs to see the value of technology, and some ways in which this can be done is to start small, with little steps in encouraging innovation in the way tasks and jobs are accomplished.
Recognition of these efforts must be genuine, and not forgotten once the initiatives start taking form, or soon the idea itself will fade away.
External soft-skills training is an integral and important part of this endeavor, and conversations need to be started on how the organization can adapt to a changing landscape. The process begins at the top, and must be initiated by someone with a strong will to see it through.
Shebenah is a dedicated Computer Science educationist with 17 years’ experience in ICT and soft-skill training with a focus on Microsoft Office programmes, especially Microsoft Excel. She is especially committed to innovation, and as a strong believer in continuous learning, spends a lot of time learning about the latest happenings in IT and ICT.