Larger headcounts across both employees and contractors will mean more complex organisation structures and new logistical challenges. As a result, training and sustaining an effective workforce, and maintaining a cohesive culture across teams will become more difficult.
In response, digital technology is becoming increasingly critical when it comes to training, talent development and retention, productivity, collaboration and engagement.
Online learning, for example, is playing a greater role in training programs, providing opportunities to reduce costs of delivery and allowing the deployment of content on a greater scale. As an example, one large resources organisation has shifted 95 per cent of its training delivery to online learning, creating both scale and efficiency in its training model.
Granular training modules and a well-implemented learning management system make it possible to design targeted, role-based programs, reducing non-productive time wasted on duplicate or unnecessary sessions, and mobile learning also opens up opportunities to deliver training on the go and on-demand.
Digital options are also important adjuncts to the physical world for building staff engagement – helping to make leaders’ presence felt, creating a shared identity, and influencing change towards common goals. They are also particularly important for connecting workforces across large operations in multiple locations, and provide channels for peer-to-peer interaction that can strengthen connectivity and a common culture.
Collaboration is essential for productivity and, even across dispersed teams, it can unlock latent talent and innovation and cut time wasted in accessing tacit knowledge. Importantly, collaborative employees are also satisfied employees. A Deloitte survey found that satisfied employees were involved in higher reported levels of collaboration, collaborating 28 per cent of the working week, compared to 12 per cent for less satisfied employees.
In Deloitte’s experience, the use of an internal social network can be a powerful tool for flattening the organisation, making leaders more accessible and driving collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Taking an omni-channel perspective is also important. Some interactions are best delivered one way or the other, while in many cases the preferences of the employee should shape how approaches to communications, engagement and collaboration are designed.
Understanding the needs and wants of each role is an important first step – placing the user at the centre of the solution. So know your people, the work they do and the locations where they work. For operations workers who have little or no time in front of a computer for example, some lateral thinking is needed to define the role of digital in connecting the workforce. Some organisations are now delivering their intranet over the Internet to allow access from employee’s own devices in their own time.
But technology forms only one part of the solution for creating a connected and collaborative environment. Issues such as workplace culture and management structure are reported as more significant inhibitors than the technology itself.
One of the key drivers for the success of my firm’s internal social network has been a leader-led approach to changing behaviour – where the continued active presence of our CEO, combined with a groundswell of adoption among employees, has encouraged the broader leadership team to get involved in the conversation, or risk being left out.
In the end, connecting a workforce is not simply a matter of handing out tablets to teams and opening up access to external social networks. A strategic approach requires an understanding of the concrete benefits for productivity as well as the less tangible impacts on engagement and collaboration.
Michael Scott is a Deloitte Consulting partner and leads the Deloitte Digital practice in Perth.