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8 tips for successful communication across the digital workplace

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

To get their jobs done well, UK office workers have to interact with an average network of between 200 – 3119 professional people. This means that it’s more important than ever to ensure that communication becomes more efficient and collaborative, across the digital workplace.   

By today’s standards effective communication means a two way conversation between colleagues, a corporation and its team, remote workers and head office, etc. By creating a secure, communication portal for the modern, digital workplace, will help build a strong community and an emotional connection between the workforce. Many other areas can also benefit from having optimal communication channels - from staff retention - to product development and field sales.   

The next eight steps will explain what activities, process and technologies are required to achieve desirable outcomes.   

1. Get stakeholder involvement 

Before a secure, communicative environment can be created, define what your existing workplace looks like across your organisation. A portal-type system may well involve a new way of interacting, so the shift will need to happen internally to align your people with the initiative. Having key stakeholders from HR, Marketing, Internal Comms & Operations and IT, will ensure that your portal works for all - not just the few. You will certainly need executive sponsorship and internal champions to drive this behaviour and ensure that the vision is delivered in a cohesive and consistent way.   

2. Define nature of workforce  

Working with key stakeholders across your organisation, from a variety of roles, will help you establish exactly what the makeup of your workforce looks like. Questions to ask can include; are they largely remote workers, do they sit at a desk for 7 hours a day, or are they very rarely at a desk and rely on devices to capture and consume information? This resulting insight will inform decisions that you make around information that’s presented and accessible via the workplace, the type of communications that get sent out - and even the look and feel of the working environment.   

3. Plan the user journey  

Once you’ve defined the make-up of your workforce, work with some of the key user groups to define what the communications portal will look like - when applied to their daily working lives. This is an important activity, as you’ll establish what your workforce really need to make their day more productive, what they really care about and what they don’t. This insight can generate some key wins - such as getting rid of features your users simply won’t use – so you’ll save time and associated costs on the development of your portal.   

For example, a user journey for in-store workers at a large retailer – who often share one device in store, means they won’t need email or spreadsheets, but may require a portal where they can access the latest offers pushed out via HQ. They will also need a tool to communicate with other branches to share stories, stock information and POS design ideas. At the retailer’s HQ, the user journey for its operations, HR and marketing personnel will look different - as they all use individual devices. This means access is required for data, recruitment, product design and marketing - as well as a way to push campaigns direct to stores.   

The final user journey could be the retailer’s logistics and purchasing teams – who are often forgotten as they are neither customer facing or based in their HQ. This can provide an opportunity to re-engage them to become an active part of the workforce, equipping them with devices, to access store information, stock levels, pricing catalogues and a way to communicate with other logistic and delivery teams around the country. 

4. Device strategy  

Following the workforce analysis and user journey activities, you should now know who uses devices, what for and whether these devices are shared across teams or are specific to the individual. This information will inform your device strategy and its two key facets – licensing and design.   

First, ask if you have the right licencing in place to support your strategy? You may find that you are paying too much, if you’ve a large portion of your team that work in stores or don’t need access to a full office 365 suite - you can opt for a “lighter” licence. This will still allow your store workers to access the information they need - whilst saving you further expense. 

If your team is going to be using laptops & tablets, rather than mobile phones - or vice versa, you’ll want to adapt what your digital workplace looks like. Although most current websites are mobile and responsive, unfortunately many “intranets” or internal comms portals haven’t followed suit. No one will use your portal if it’s ugly, unintuitive and non-responsive.   

5. Consider your security and compliance    

To ensure security and compliance objectives are achieved - you need to consider who needs access to what, how long you retain the data and where its stored. For example, when creating a communications portal on Office 365, data is stored in Microsoft’s cloud, you can also migrate it to Azure to take advantage of its scale and transparent costing.   

Also, if you’re moving to a new digital workplace, you have a great opportunity to get GDPR compliant. This involves conducting data inventory mapping and PII assessments. By doing this before migrating all your data across – you can ensure that you’re only moving compliant data - so when May 2018 comes around, you’ll be risk-free and compliant. 

6. Pre-launch plans and engagement  

Another stage that often gets cut or skipped due to budgetary or time restraints is the pre-launch activities. You can’t just switch on a portal and tools and expect your team to take to it. Prior to launch, you should spend the preceding weeks and months building excitement, awareness and teasing your workforce about the new portal you’re giving them. When the time is right hit the button, release it and let them play.   

7. Supporting the environment to manage and develop portal  

Speak to anyone about their comms portals or intranet, a common theme usually surfaces – namely, how complicated, difficult, slow and arduous the ongoing management of it is. Historically, intranet managers shouldered the burden, but we are seeing the shift in ownership to Internal Communications and Marketing departments. These teams are being tasked with the development of this portal, updating calendars, content, personnel information and collateral.   

In reality, it’s often so difficult to make content updates.Every portal we’ve come across has old or expired information still active on portals. This means that portals become slow and you may need to run a health check on it to get it back in tip top condition. Also, consider tracking the analytics of the site, what elements of the site do your employees spend the most time on. Getting these answers will help shape and develop how you communicate with your workforce, what features are necessary, and which ones you can consider removing or investing more time in.   

8. Improving / ensuring continued user adoption and engagement  

Your comms portal is a living breathing part of your organisation, after launch you need to ensure that your audience is kept engaged with interesting and useful content. Therefore, keep your users in mind - refer to your user journeys if you need to and encourage participation in groups, crowd source ideas - and always share successes.      

Andy Ward, CEO at Bluesource 

Image Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Andy is CEO at bluesource, an IT services company he cofounded in 2000 - that now has over 400 clients.