Human Resources

The Modern Workplace
vs. the Digital Era

Published 15 July 2019

Contributor

Giacomo-Rozoo_400x400

Giacomo Rozzo
Workplace Strategist
Il Prisma, Italy

A New Digital Paradigm

While the world, invaded by digital, is looking for ways to slow down and for moments of respite from technology, the workplace has enthusiastically just entered its Rush for Digital Gold Era.

The key "Duos" of workplace digital transformation

Digital Ecosystems
&
Hyper-connectivity

Monitoring
&
Automating

Enhancing Tools
&
Spaces

But in a world bombing us with 220,000 times the amount of information we can handle, power resides in clarity and empathy.

Sometimes, though, you have to make a choice, like “when people design web pages, they often cater to the taste of the Google search algorithm rather than to the taste of any human being.”

― Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

As luck would have it, in this case, Google provides the human experience design that makes us feel it as a natural part of our life, instead of as an accessory to it.

Result: we get two sides of the same service, one asking something of us, the other giving something back.

Just like the first offices, born for the mechanistic and routinized Tailorist production model, some companies today find it appealing to exploit the digital monitoring and management options in order to create a hyper-performing workplace.

But as we discover the beauty of data-based efficiency for the workplace, our daily lives are already way beyond that. Personal data collection and mining is routine for the companies running our favorite services and products, and we are gladly willing to allow them to use this data as long as they provide us with amazing, seamless, natural services.

They learn from us while they mold our habits; we improve our life experience while we discover new ways of living.

It’s a value exchange system that seems to work great! (As long as our private data are not used to condition elections, of course… but this is just a tool and as we know, it can’t be considered good or bad in and of itself, can it?)

Why can’t we establish the same agreement with regard to our workplace experience?

Data collection could and, I think, definitely should be used to improve company efficiency while diminishing the burden on employees’ shoulders and in the meantime could and should improve employees’ personal empowerment, awareness and wellbeing. It could and should help companies build a strong sense of belonging to their mission and vision, and equally support employees connecting to each other and give authentic meaning to their own work-life existence.

As I see it, digital can definitely help corporate and personal interests and values merge, and help corporations and employees write down a win-win story.

In the end, as any good communicator knows, humans think in stories, not in facts and numbers. The more authentic the story, the greater the self-fulfillment.

The Natural Processing Workplace

Lately a growing number of companies are taking the hint and starting to talk about offering their employees and stakeholders a great experience. The workplace is trying to close the gap with the outside world by starting to think in terms of customer experience in the office: all kinds of services and perks are driving a new employee-centered workplace, but still, something way more basic is often lacking. You can see it on your own: How stable and pervasive is your office Wi-Fi connection today? How clearly can you hear your colleague speaking during an average conf-call?

While The Maslow Pyramid of experiential needs is being hiked to the top, where self-fulfillment resides, the basic needs at its “Base Camp 1” have sometimes been skipped all along.

What is still missing is a natural seamless digital experience, intertwined with our “physical” workflow. Exactly what we experience daily by streaming our Instagram feed on our living room TV while ordering food with an app and relying routine actions on our automated home management, based on our habits and locationing.

It all comes very natural to us.

That is because it has all been designed to be so, and in the meanwhile, it is designed to mold our very behaviors and brain.

Of course, in the workplace, a major complexity relies on a large number of individuals sharing tools and collaborating.

So how can you make this relationship work? Here are four hints coming from my experience:

  • Understand your company’s digital literacy before starting to digitize it.  How ready are your company and your people?
  • Design a quality experience with people in mind, not just the business. Real people, with their diversities of habits, culture, etc. To be followed as a leader, you need your people (most of them, at least) to trust you to care for them.
  • Support individual choice and environmental ownership, and make people, space and machines fraternize. Employees will work faster, more creatively and more happily. We all know by now that happy people are more productive (12% according to the University of Warwick).
  • Drive the change through a continuous change management process. Manage the change not only through managers but also by engaging the whole company. And keep doing it – things are changing all the time.

I call this approach Digital Humanism (term coined by Gartner in 2015). A little like with AI’s Natural Language Processing, in DH, formalism disappears; human experience is the reason why you invest in technology in the first place and instructions are not a rigid set of rules to be learned slavishly. In fact, the very process of learning becomes a common thread of the experiences of both people and machines that basically establishes a relationship of mutual interest.

A human-machine relationship where both learn and give back to the other in a very natural way. Welcome to the Natural Processing Workplace.

RECOMMENDED EVENTS

Smart Workplace Design Expo
17 - 18 October 2019
Taets Art and Event Park, Amsterdam

17 - 18 October 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands