Building a people-first workplace on a foundation of digital ethics
- Posted on November 9, 2021
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
As the world continues to shift around us, our clients are seeking to embrace continual change by adapting corporate culture and technology to improve employees’ working lives. They’re aiming to build and maintain a new harmony, by helping employees simultaneously exhibit strong performance and personal well-being. But this will require employees to rely on integrated technologies and data more than ever before.
At the same time, employees’ expectations have evolved. They want to know their company is looking out for them and that there is an equal opportunity for them to get ahead, whatever their circumstances. They want their organizations to respect the “human” aspects of their life with assurances that the personal time and space they need will be available to them. Beyond title and salary, employees are seeking empowerment, development, equity, autonomy, and work/life balance.
Viva: Protecting and propelling your people
According to the Harvard Business Review, the primary challenges with remote and hybrid work are communication difficulties caused by distributed workforces, less frequency in knowledge sharing, and employees feeling disconnected from their work and the organization.
Fortunately, there are now tools and technologies to address some of these obstacles. At Avanade, we’ve been fortunate to work closely with Microsoft’s Viva and Teams product suite, which is helping our employees (and those of our clients in organizations around the world) better connect, collaborate, learn, and grow. The key is making sure these capabilities for engagement are ethically responsible.
Microsoft has taken the lead when it comes to privacy – building Viva with data protection right from the start. For example, it offers capabilities such as differential privacy to ensure the data it uses is aggregated and deidentified within the Viva Insights reporting platform. Avanade uses these and other capabilities to support clients when building an employee experience ecosystem on robust privacy and ethical foundations. And that means we’re able to address valid questions from employees, such as:
- Will tools designed to improve efficiency act like “big brother” and invade privacy?
- Could some products unintentionally exclude or further isolate certain individuals?
- Will online environments potentially expose some workers to bullying and abuse?
- Will notifications and alerts infringe on people’s personal time and attention?
- Will perpetual connectivity negatively impact employees’ mental health?
Failure to address these issues could result in employees refusing to engage with tools and systems that reflect substantial investment, drastically reducing ROI. But more importantly, without confronting these, you’ll miss the huge opportunity to create a culture of cohesion and high-performance.
Beyond risk reduction, this is about building trust
While it’s important to comply with relevant regulations and appropriately manage operational and reputational risks, it’s even more important to create an environment in which employees feel valued and respected. Building trust will move employees toward better engagement, which can ultimately attract and support the retention of the best talent.
But achieving this requires commitment and an ambitious vision:
- Don’t just reduce privacy risks, empower employees to voluntarily offer their data in exchange for guidance to improve their experience and performance.
- Don’t just meet basic accessibility and inclusivity requirements, create a culture that attracts and fosters diverse talent.
- Don’t just create new channels for communication, create safe spaces for all employees to share and collaborate.
- Don’t just adopt every new feature and function, roll out systems that are intentional and reflect your corporate values, employee expectations, and industry (extending to workers’ council and union) requirements.
We work with our clients to listen to the needs of their employees and to be proactive in changing their approach to their Workplace Experience. As part of our Digital Ethics practice, we offer guidance to help customers implement these tools with human-centric policies and clear expectations for responsible engagement. For example, we’re working with organizations across the globe to embrace workplace analytics tools like Viva Insights in a way that protects and reinforces employees’ privacy, by providing recommendations for privacy policies, access controls, governance, and clear employee communication.
This is just the beginning
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that embracing continual change is non-negotiable for any workforce strategy. There will be more challenges and crises, workers will continue pushing for more empathy and freedom, and all the while, technology will continue evolving to meet these changing needs.
Paying attention to the ethical implications of our technology will be an ongoing necessity, not just a one-time assessment for a new product roll-out or implementation. Evolving technologies will continue to drive, support, or disrupt our corporate cultures, and it’s up to us to make sure we’re changing things for the better.