Building collaborative workplaces in an age of mobility

From the large enterprise to the small-to-medium business, mobility is transforming the workplace. Until recently, rising demands of the millennial workforce’s use of personal mobile devices to access company data encouraged widespread bring your own device (BYOD) policies.

A new state of mind is trending across today’s workforce and will influence those that follow. By 2020, millennials will represent almost half the workforce [1], and they want to work wherever, whenever, and with connected mobile devices that are fun and easy to use.

By the same token, employers around the globe now recognize mobility as a strategic tool to recruit top talent, automate processes and improve operational efficiency. But how does one envision a workspace that is collaborative, flexible, project-oriented, and unbounded by time or geography?

According to HR Director for Microsoft APAC, Kathy Tingate, workspaces—that people access from anywhere on any device—must extend from unified communications and enterprise social media to business workflow applications, chatbots, document management and file sharing tools.

HR Director for Microsoft APAC, Kathy Tingate

This was an excerpt from her keynote speech in February (20) to over 400 HR professionals and business leaders from the IT/ BPM industry.  At SLASSCOM People Summit 2018, Tingate delivered a breakout session keynote around building collaborative workspaces and also took part in a panel discussion on transforming the way we think, work and connect.

Armed with over 20 years of experience working within Financial Institutions, Professional Services and Technology, Tingate is highly competent in change management, cultural transformation, leadership and talent management, learning and development, workforce planning and diversity and inclusion.

Placing people at the heart of transformation 

Hinting at Microsoft’s own HR transformation journey, Tingate believes that organizations need to encourage their employees to adopt a learn-it-all mindset and focus on building an inclusive work culture to nurture creativity, innovation and productivity.

“For the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side. But whether this multi-generational workplace feels creative and productive or challenging and stressful is, in large part, up to their organizations. That’s why Microsoft nurtures a culture that encourages learning it all as opposed to knowing it all,” she said.

A key area of Microsoft’s culture transformation was reviewing the systems and processes that drive behavior including its employee performance review system. All line managers would rate their subordinates’ performances on a scale from top to bottom based on a bell curve (stack ranking). “This meant that some employees would always be classified as ‘poor’ regardless of their impact as per the nature of a bell curve,” Tingate said.

Microsoft nurtures a culture that encourages learning it all as opposed to knowing it all

This approach led Microsoft to implement a system that would focus on employee impact and contribution through a process called Connects. It allows line managers to focus on the impact a particular employee is making instead of forced ranking peers against each other. “Whilst differentiation is still important, Managers now have the flexibility to allocate rewards in the manner that would best reflect the performance of their teams and individuals,” she revealed.

Equally important is creating an inclusive workforce. But unconscious bias—the stereotypes that shape our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner—can work against this in inadvertent ways. “Building an inclusive organization is very much about the actions and behavior of our employees and leaders. It’s why we have all our employees complete training on unconscious bias,” she said. 

Redefining collaborative workspaces with digital technologies 

Technology’s impact on people has led to shifting business models, hybrid structures, silos exploding, war for talent, and new ways of working in the digital era. But in the presence of promising new technologies, it’s important to remember that their sole purpose is to make our lives easier. 

The changing nature of innovation is transforming spaces into open, flexible locales where separate professions and disciplines more easily converge to unlock creativity and productivity. With the bulk of the workforce expected to be millennials by 2020, it will be important for organizations to give their workforce the necessary tools and channels to succeed.

How can companies achieve this? Tingate believes that it’s by ensuring that these digital tools and channels make internal workflows and processes more engaging, rewarding and collaborative.

Employees can also harness predictive models and consistent reporting tools by leveraging broad and deep data. “With MyAnalytics, we are transforming productivity and improving work habits by giving employees the means to improve reach and impacting communications by making smart, data‑ and insights-driven decisions,” Tingate added.

Artificial Intelligence is another avenue reaped with endless possibilities

She also pointed out how HR professionals can use Microsoft Teams to manage recruitment and employee onboarding activities while keeping track of candidate information, communicating hiring decisions and sharing new employee documents internally.

ALSO READ: Modern workplaces in Asia: The best of times

Artificial Intelligence is another avenue reaped with endless possibilities. In January, Colombo-based Microimage launched a multi-channel virtual assistant (or chatbot) built on top of the Microsoft Bot Framework, LUIS API and Azure Cognitive Services, allowing HR professionals to engage with peers, mentors and resources in real time.

The solution allows employees to consult with the chatbot and request a range of services from leave management to company policy inquiries at any time and location. The chatbot can also be integrated into third-party HCM platforms.

Forming a workplace strategy  

Today, 80 percent of business leaders in Asia agree that every organization needs to transform to enable future growth. But just 29 percent of Asia’s organisations have a full digital transformation in place [2]. 

A people-centric approach to a digital workplace strategy allows for productivity and creativity to co-exist. But with 15 percent of employees saying that they are engaged at work [3], organizations must re-examine their workspaces for improvements.

Tingate asserts that Microsoft’s digital transformation experience has taught her the importance of the collaborative workspace. In response, she revealed six steps businesses could take to ensure their workplace strategy prioritizes collaboration and new technologies:

  • Vision: Have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve
  • Personal: Understand the users who will be involved and affected by the process
  • Scenarios: Identify the workflow and processes that will be affected
  • Use cases: Align your users’ values and objectives to the digital transformation process
  • Classification: Define the terms and taxonomy that will be used for matter management
  • Change plan: Understand the changes that will be required in technology, processes and people so you can develop action and communication plans to drive adoption

A carefully planned workspace that promotes productivity and creativity based on your business’ unique working style and culture can cater to both. No matter the size of the business, a well thought out workspace can promote happiness and increase fellowship within an organization



[2]    The Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study was conducted involving 1,494 business leaders in 13 Asia Pacific markets. The 13 markets include Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. All respondents were pre-qualified as being involved in shaping their organizations’ digital strategy, and are working in firms with more than 250 employees.

[3]    Gallup, State of the Global Workplace 2017 Report


Tags: , , ,

Related Posts