If there is one word that sums up the future for businesses of all types and sizes, it is uncertainty. Though austerity measures and increased profitability are phrases that feature high in many boardroom conversations too!
This could create a degree of hesitance in putting together ten or even five-year business growth plans. Even looking two years ahead currently provides a rather cloudy prospect.
If you are trying to grow your organisation and make predictions using traditional and long-standing business practices and systems, you are already playing “catch up”. Your more digitally intelligent rivals are a few – or possibly many – steps ahead.
If you have already completed or begun your transformation into a digital workplace, you have laid strong foundations to cope with whatever may come. You have built the levels of integration, control and communication that make your organisation far more agile and responsive. With the amount of data you can now collect, curate and interrogate, your digital workplace gives you solid ground to build on.
So, what is the next step? When creating a five-year plan for a digitally “intelligent” company, what areas should be priorities?
Possibly the most crucial challenge to address in your business development planning is how to attract the brightest and best talent. This runs alongside finding new ways to harness the potential of an existing inclusive and well-motivated workforce.
There are no signs that shortages in certain pivotal skill sets are about to be miraculously solved. In the next five years and beyond, organisations will continue to scramble to recruit for STEM-related posts. Data management and analysis will continue to be the defining principle of control and prediction, and the hardest job to fill.
The last thing your organisation needs is to fall short on targets due to unfilled vacancies. All areas of your business, from senior management to HR and IT need to collaborate to talent map the existing workforce and spot gaps, opportunities, and challenges. The five-year plan must include up-skilling people, constantly recruiting, and investing in diversity and inclusion in order to build technological acuity for the future.
This scenario also makes it imperative to constantly develop new ways to “unlock the potential” in existing workforces. How can your intranet software facilitate greater collaboration and communication? Is information flowing smoothly end to end, providing enough insight to keep everyone engaged and contributing going forwards?
The value of your existing staff in fuelling creativity and business improvements should never be under-estimated. If your business plan doesn’t factor in the views, perspectives and ideas of your entire team, you could be missing out on potent business growth insights.
The digital workplace has made this process infinitely possible, with even your remotest employees connected and accessible.
Digital workplace tools like corporate social networking are great at connecting remote employees
It may come as a surprise to some, but the employee experience underpins much of the above.
In the battle to recruit and retain the brightest and best – and to keep staff engaged and productive – your workplace needs to focus on the pleasure factor. Retailers – especially those with physical stores – are investing heavily in “buyer experiences”. Website companies put huge emphasis on “user experience”. On a similar theme, forward-looking companies are putting money behind efforts to improve the employee experience.
Is your company truly inclusive and holistic in its culture? Is it a place that recognises and rewards achievement across a multitude of areas? Making staff feel supported and appreciated makes commercial sense if you want them to bring their “whole self” to work. Preferably you want their “best self” too.
This includes looking carefully at the needs of the increasing numbers of remote workers you have. A digital workplace does not have to be a clinical and “arm’s length” one. Intranet software should not be a one way, cold and logical communications tool. Though workflow management and e-forms do free staff up to concentrate on their primary functions, there needs to be some warmth. Building in a social element into your intranet – and emphasising the ways you “protect and celebrate” remote working – should be important.
Planning ahead involves using your new levels of data management for more assured and confident predictive analysis. Knowing more about your workforce, suppliers and customers doesn’t solely rely on your new levels of data intelligence though.
Are you just getting to grips with the sophisticated, demanding, socially-active, outspoken and technology-wielding “millennials”? If this is generation Y as some pundits state, what are generation Z going to be like?
What seems certain is the emphasis on “individuality” will reach new levels in the coming years. Generation Z will expect and demand personalised services – and employment practices. Their attention span could well be shorter and their loyalty somewhat fickler. They know they have rights to privacy, security and recognition; and don’t forgive lapses.
These are also people who can’t remember the days before technology ruled their lives. Though they can use it to multitask with ease, they also seek interest beyond their many devices and soft skills to keep them placated.
Any five-year business plan for a digital workplace needs to provide the tools and systems for older, more traditional employees, as well as these for more tech-savvy generations.