Creating a Digital Workforce Strategy

In my previous post on defining Employee Engagement, I shared some of my experience in how I frame conversations on the topic. The term “engagement” means different things to different people, thus the perspectives I shared were purposefully designed to help me focus conversations. The term “strategy” is even more ambiguous, and as someone who implements solutions, ambiguity is never my friend. Not surprisingly, my approach to answering the question on how to create digital workforce starts with focusing the conversation on a select few topics. Let’s start by acknowledging that your workforce is already digital.

Your employees already have a digital device, the ever-popular smartphone. For me personally, it’s less about “creating” and more about “connecting”. But connecting employees to the organization (and each other) oftentimes requires a secure login. Companies that have a large field workforce may love the idea of connecting employees, but if their workforce experiences high turnover, the simple act of managing thousands of logins becomes overwhelming. More and more of my conversations start here. In other words, the new barrier for many organizations looking to creating a digital workforce is user provisioning.

Building consensus on what part of your workforce to focus a digital strategy on is a good place to start. For those with a large workforce, automating the provisioning and de-provisioning of user logins through user lifecycle management software can also be an option. Sometimes the answer is a combination of both with the same goal in mind; to connect your employees with the tools and information they need, oftentimes through the only device they have, their smartphone.

The driver for a digital workforce is enabling field workers, store employees, and other non-laptop/desktop computer employees. These employees tend to be the hardest to reach and engage. But doing so, can increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. When defining a digital strategy, the best place to start is by envisioning the experience you want employees to have. What information do employees lack today than can be made available on their device? What new interactions do you want to encourage? A recent client shared a simple example where out of hundreds of stores, they have very few store employees who are experts on a particular class of antiques. The strategy conversation was how to connect those employees as a community so all employees could benefit.

Finally, it’s important to recognize that a newly enabled digital workforce brings new security and compliance concerns to the table, especially when increasing collaboration is part of the strategy, and that collaboration takes place on employee smartphones. Many clients already own a set of tools to manage security and compliance, so in most cases it’s just a matter of making sure the right people are included in conversation. That being said, enabling a larger digital workforce places greater emphasis on compliance, oftentimes with a variety of specialized software products. The challenge many have begun to face is developing a holistic approach to security and compliance that enables a broader more comprehensive digital workforce strategy rather than constrain it.

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