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Gartner Digital Workplace Summit 2018: 3 key takeaways

  • Posted on October 8, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
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The recent Gartner Digital Workplace Summit explored many topics around empowering and engaging employees in the digital age. As I listened to the keynote speakers and talked with other delegates, three things stood out for me as the most important takeaways from this year’s event – here’s my take on them:

1: The fear factor is preventing meaningful change
We say it every year, and every year it’s just as true: the pace of technological change is still accelerating.

The technology futurist Sophie Hackford used her keynote to show us a world where AI analyzes satellite photos of car parks to predict when stores will close down, and another algorithm analyzes pictures of people and scores them on how attractive they are.

The power and intelligence of these new technologies are growing at a blistering pace, and there’s so much innovation happening so fast that it’s understandable many people are worried.

CEOs worry about their business being disrupted by a technology they never saw coming. CHROs and COOs worry they don’t have the skills in place for the work they’ll need to do in the future. And employees worry they’ll be replaced by AI.

What’s clear is that, given the accelerated pace of change, organizations must adapt quickly. We can’t simply sleepwalk into doing the same things we’ve always done, with business leaders focusing on siloed departmental priorities and little attention paid to how to engage employees.

The time has come for C-level executives to partner together to create an organization-wide plan – true transformation will only happen with top-down sponsorship.

2: ‘Digital Dexterity’ will be vital
Of course, a top-down program for workplace transformation will only succeed if it puts the needs of employees at the center.

With the rapid pace of technological advances, a lot of change is being pushed onto employees. Traditional change enablement programs simply can’t keep up, and organizations need to think differently about how they empower their employees to manage change.

This is where Gartner’s recent concept of Digital Dexterity comes in.

Gartner defines Digital Dexterity as “the ability and desire to exploit existing and emerging technologies for better business outcomes". Put simply, in organizations with the highest Digital Dexterity, employees can leverage new technologies in creative ways. They don’t need extensive change enablement programs: instead, they have the ability and ambition to apply a combination of technologies to improve business outcomes.

For example, Digital Dexterity could be creating a no-code application to solve a specific business issue that will never get to the top of the IT queue. Or it could be using self-service cloud resources to analyze vast quantities of data and extract useful insights.

But Digital Dexterity relies on a new kind of workplace culture. Instead of a narrow focus on training people to use specific tools, it’s essential to build an organization-wide learning culture, where constant micro-learning and reinforcement happen as part of day-to-day work.

3: A great Workplace Experience is about more than just technology
One thing that I felt deserved to get more attention at the Gartner event is that the workplace experience, while enabled by tech, is really all about people.

Creating a great workplace experience is about more than just switching on the latest tech and hoping for success. It’s about becoming value-obsessed. That means having a top-down, silo-free approach that spans IT, HR, Operations and more, as we’ve already seen. And it also means shifting focus from the tech to the employee.

Just take a look at Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace report. The survey shows 85 percent of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. That’s a sobering number for any business leader.

And remember, this is in a time of huge technological advancement. For the past decade, we’ve been sold a dream that some piece of technology or other will change everything, and employee engagement will soar. The fact is, technology alone hasn’t moved the dial one bit.

It’s vital to make the employee our priority, perhaps (dare I say it?) even more than the customer. We need to listen to employees and build experiences for them that help them excel. It’s become very clear that we aren’t going to raise shockingly low engagement levels by turning on technology.

This is a fundamental part of Avanade’s Workplace Experience vision, and we’ve seen how effective an employee-focused approach can be, both in our own organization and from working with our clients.

To learn more about our approach, visit our Workplace Experience page and discover how you can create a digital workplace that engages your employees and empowers them to deliver better business outcomes.

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