Empowering employees: Fostering change and innovation through digital workplace strategies and technologies

By Kathy Tingate, Director Human Resources, Microsoft Asia Pacific

How can companies stand out in an increasingly competitive market? What can they do to attract and retain talent in the digital age? How can digital technologies help organisations better understand their employees’ needs and priorities?

These were some of the questions discussed at sessions hosted by Microsoft in partnership with LinkedIn. Titled Rethinking How to Empower Your Employee and held in Singapore in March 2017, the events gathered human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) professionals from organisations across various industries from both the commercial and public sectors.

I was part of panel discussion, along with Jay Clem, Bart Bischoff, Jo Grubb and Grace Kerrison from LinkedIn, we examined the different ways fast-paced disruption and technology affect the employee experience, and discussed how organisations can use the latest innovations to support their employees during these changes. We also shared Microsoft’s own journey to empower our employees.

Putting people at the heart of digital transformation

For Jo Grubb, Global Adoption and Change Management Specialist at Microsoft, an organisation’s digital transformation will only succeed if it makes people both the agents and the beneficiaries of change.

“The focus today is very much on the ‘digital’ instead of the ‘transformation’,” she said. “It’s fine to be excited by promising new technologies, but it’s essential to remember that their main purpose is to make life better for users. Digital transformation is about changing business culture in a digital era, and it brings with it many opportunities.”

Jay Clem, General Manager of HR IT for Microsoft Worldwide, agreed. He believes digital innovation gives employers an edge by increasing their long-term ability to attract and retain valuable people. Citing Microsoft’s own HR journey over the past five years, Clem demonstrated just how crucial it is to develop a corporate culture in which employees value their work, and their organisation and what it stands for.

“The internal surveys we conducted revealed that employees do value being part of an innovative company,” he explained. “But even more important to their day-to-day satisfaction is their sense of purpose. People need to know that what they do matters, and in most cases, that means having the opportunity to positively impact their surroundings.”

Redefining organisational processes with digital technologies

Grace Kerrison, Global Clients Director of LinkedIn Asia Pacific, pointed out that LinkedIn’s 467 million members already widely use social and digital technologies in their daily personal activities. “The digital age has integrated the personal and the professional,” she said, “It’s important for organisations to give their workforce a sense of trust and empowerment that they can’t get anywhere else.”

How can companies achieve this? By ensuring digital tools and channels make internal workflows and processes more engaging and rewarding, said Clem.

For him, success in the digital age is determined by an organisation’s ability to redefine the employee experience. “It’s all about improving digital collaboration and helping people build a common sense of purpose,” he said. “At Microsoft, we noticed that regular one-on-one meetings between team members and their managers had a great impact on work satisfaction, directly improving employee retention. The less connected people feel to teams and managers, the more likely they are to leave an organisation.

“That’s why we put user-friendly technologies at the heart of our HR operation’s redesign. On one end, we developed online and mobile platforms for people to effortlessly connect with one another. From PTO booking to annual reviews, managing projects, milestones and relations, it is a quick and easy process. At the same time, we made sure that our HR technology captures valuable analytics on employees’ specific behaviours, needs and preferences.”

Bart Bischoff, Director of Productivity and Digital Collaboration Solutions at Microsoft Worldwide, demonstrated the innovative way Microsoft is helping customers transform their employee onboarding processes. The Responsive Career Guide solution accompanies employees throughout their onboarding life cycle, providing support and guidance throughout their first 90 days in the organisation and beyond.

Focused on delivering connected and accelerated onboarding experiences, the framework allows new employees to engage with peers, mentors and resources in real time, enriching their learning experiences and accelerating their ramp-up time. Using communications, collaboration and social capabilities to connect people, information and resources, the solution also reduces onboarding and training costs.

Bischoff said, “This people-centric approach to our digital workplace strategy allows us to improve both productivity and satisfaction. Using the behavioural analytics that we gather during the implementation of a new system, we can streamline the process and improve the user experience even further. This gives employees a more dynamic and collaborative solution, and empowers managers to make smart, data‑ and insights-driven decisions.”

Developing a strong sense of purpose for all

Grubb concluded that a successful digital transformation process is a catalyst for more than just a technological upgrade. It pushes organisations to rethink business models, ensuring people, culture, technology and the bottom line are equally relevant to workers.

“Our own digital transformation experience taught us the importance of leaving purely transactional processes and activities behind,” she told guests. “Empowering employees through innovative technologies not only enables them to conduct more strategic and value‑added activities, it also aligns their personal values and interests with the organisation’s, ensuring they become valuable agents of organisational change.”

A digital workplace strategy is essential to a business’s ability to attract and retain talent and empower their employees. To find out how your organisation can embrace digital transformation and move towards the future, consider these digital workplace resources:

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