Digital workplace

As we move to the end of the first quarter of 2021 (yes, already) the changes stimulated by a year of restrictions are already becoming permanent features of the modern African workplace. I wonder if you’re seeing them yet in your own businesses – or feeling them as a customer? If they’re positive, they need to be encouraged. And all of them involve human behaviour change, because technology alone doesn’t change much.

The first is a focus on a better employee experience. Hanging together during COVID definitely built levels of employee engagement in well-led companies. New technology was deployed where it was really needed, rather than where the IT Department said it should go. To make remote meetings easier, manage projects more smoothly, and to give more employees a voice. I’ve seen a number of dramatic transformations – not least a countrywide video town hall conducted smoothly and openly by a company that pre-COVID might have described itself as mainly analogue. Now that the channels are open, they need content. Meaningful, two-way internal communication that doesn’t just inform, but inspires. Here’s our change to wipe take down the company notice boards and crumple up the all-staff memos. No one ever looked at them anyway.

Forward-thinking leaders have also used the pandemic period to ask themselves searching questions about their company’s institutional knowledge and investment in learning. Many have found that the knowledge needed to run their business has become the preserve of too few (and too senior) employees. This has led to a rush to upskill the next generation of the succession plan – trying to catch up in months with a process that should have been rolling for years. But how to collate the information? Where’s that old Powerpoint we used to pull out, and what was did Waite say about reconciliations before he retired? Questions that may or may not be answered now, but will only be fully answered in the future by dedicated company digital academies. Carefully curated, with access managed by Talent Development on a planned basis. Designed to capture the imagination of new employees with an inspirational onboarding programme, then sweep them up the learning pyramid as their experience builds and roles change to embrace new opportunities.

To inform that growth journey, and mitigate the impact of much greater employee mobility, our best-run enterprises now consider an Employee Value Proposition an essential starting point. Sitting down to work out the reasons (apart from the prospect of a wage packet) why anyone would work for you can be a humbling experience. More so when you ‘reality check’ it with existing employees. But it’s a pain barrier worth going through.