As VMSA Live 2017 approaches, with technology taking center stage, we’ve focused many of our recent articles on the digital future of staffing. We can no longer deny the tremendous role technology now plays in the entire workforce lifecycle. Artificial intelligence is helping us pioneer enhanced employee experiences and streamline the sourcing process. Virtual reality may hold the key to a new level of diversity and inclusion. Smart technologies are allowing HR, procurement and contingent workforce professionals to optimize their own productivity and mobility. Many processes may now be carried out from any location, at any time. This brings us to the reality of “digital talent” in an increasingly agile workforce. With offices becoming more virtual, new management attitudes will be required to succeed.
Barriers and Gateways to the Agile Workforce
In her latest article for Forbes, Karen Higginbottom explains how agile working is transforming organizational cultures: “The demographics, attitudes and physical make-up of the workforce has changed dramatically over the past decade, which in turn has influenced organizational culture. Agile working is defined by the Agile Future Forum as a set of practices that allow organisations to establish an optimal workforce and provide the benefits of a greater match between the resources and the demand for services, increased productivity and improved talent attraction and retention.”
For traditional business leaders, however, some challenges arise. First, managers must learn to shift away from past command-and-control hierarchies. Higginbottom cites research from Workplace Trends that suggests physical workspaces are occupied only 55 percent of the time in most companies. With more talent operating outside the brick-and-mortar offices, agile leaders must focus on clearer communication strategies, trust, direction and decision-making that transcends across the entire business.
- Provide tools that facilitate interactions with virtual talent and internal workers. Analyze how your employees function as teams and utilize technology to unite them.
- Create processes that enable front-line talent to respond swiftly to challenges, customer demands, and rapid changes.
- Ensure that every worker on a team understands his or her distinct role in achieving goals as a unified front. Make certain that goals are regularly defined and understood.
- Work to reduce, and eventually replace, paper-based systems. Digital communications have evolved at an amazing rate. Increase reliance on electronic signatures, digital files, collaborative documentation systems and cloud-based storage.
- Senior leadership alignment is crucial. Executives play a powerful role in ensuring collaboration and standardization across the enterprise. They provide tremendous insight to identifying and breaking down barriers that otherwise hinder agile work.
- Senior leaders also help influence the tone and adoption of agile cultures. Although formal structures and hierarchies must be loosened, the tradeoff comes from on-demand work at any time, any location. Performance in service delivery increases, along with customer satisfaction.
The Human Resources for Managing Digital Talent
As Business Insider writes, the virtual office is actually becoming the new norm. The agile culture “encompasses employees who work remotely, travel internationally on business and those who rely on the internet to do their job. Many of us are digital workers these days.”
Citing a new report from Oracle, titled “The Digital Employee and You,” Business Insider points out that, “Digital employees have come to expect flexibility and data-driven responses from all services in their lives, and HR support is no different. They demand more from their HR than the generations of workers before them.” By embracing the needs, platforms, technologies and solutions that digital talent demand, workforce leaders can generate unrivaled levels of productivity, performance and efficiency.
Productive relationships are forged with digital talent when workforce leaders learn their preferences and adapt. Forcing mandated communication methods on virtual workers can stifle their engagement. Each employee has his or her desired form of interaction: phone call, email, text, online messaging like Skype, video conferences and more.
“Digital employees tend to respond more positively to personal attempts at reaching out to them,” Business Insider explains. “So only send them relevant, meaningful information.”
When talent are not physically present in an office, an element of uncertainty can creep into the relationship. Remote employees, to the benefit of the business, tend to work odd hours or operate across time zones. They don’t want to be out of the loop in terms of input, progress, performance or goal attainment.
Managers should be prepared to back up their statements or evaluations with evidence. “Get hold of as much data as you can, triage it, and then use it to assess and anticipate the digital employee’s needs and to substantiate any recommendations you may make to them in feedback sessions,” recommends Business Insider.On-demand communication technologies, however, offer an incredible boon to overcoming perceived challenges. Savvy HR professionals and managers can use these tools to provide frequent, ongoing feedback to talent, which helps digital talent form a strong connection to the company.
Digital talent treasure flexibility. Their on-demand, project-based nature fuels the output of modern businesses. That also means they need on-demand access to vital information. As we wrote in February, smart technologies are allowing HR, procurement and managers to optimize the productivity and mobility of their workforces. Many processes may now be carried at from any location, at any time. This is particularly vital in sustaining a thriving agile culture.
- Timesheet approvals and tracking
- Widespread communication with workers, colleagues, MSPs, staffing providers and other partners in real time, from any office
- Video interviews, webinars, live-streaming conferences and even video-based recruitment marketing
- Performance monitoring, feedback and reviews
- Offers of incentives such as digital gift cards, shopping discounts, performance awards and more
- Access to benefits and pay stubs for talent
- Virtual learning and skills development tools, available in educational videos, digital curricula, forms and more
- Wearable devices to track wellness, safety and performance
Unite Digital and Physical Talent with Technology
Bring digital talent into your concrete world. The most progressive organizations have already become early adopters of enterprise social networks. Facebook at Work, HipChat and Slack have gained a following within companies of all sizes. Last year, for example, Slack reached two million users. Through these mobile platforms, virtual and onsite workers can easily communicate and collaborate in real time. Combined with breakthroughs in streaming video apps, an integrated work culture arises.
Live video and messaging systems -- such as Periscope, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and others -- are dramatically changing the way talent interact and learn. That’s a key finding in a study of more than 4,000 international employers by the BlueJeans Network. Over 70 percent of respondents believe video can improve the way they communicate with colleagues. Another 69 percent feel that live video systems in the workplace will bolster retention across all levels of the organization.
Agile Cultures Require Agile Management
Our business cultures are becoming more digital every day, across industries and companies. These trends aren’t just going to continue, they’re going to grow. The marketplace today is ferociously competitive. Shifts and fluctuations occur rapidly -- and globally. To stay ahead of the game and continue innovating, companies must not only become digital, they must transition to cultures of agility. A virtual workforce ensures that pressing projects can be completed in real-time, from any location. By rethinking bygone management structures and embracing the fluidity of digital ecosystems, we can develop high-performing virtual teams that deliver real results.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please join me at VMSA Live in Phoenix on Wednesday, April 5 at the Tech Pavilion.