Sunday, 31 January 2016

Breathing new life into Employee Engagement

YDLook beyond engagement, toward its sustainability,” says Willis Towers Watson‘s Yves Duhaldeborde (pictured right). The Director in the Human Capital Talent and Reward, spends countless hours on employee research. He designs the methodology, interprets the data, extracts the insights, and links them to business strategy. He also takes an intense interest in topics such as diversity, innovation and risk.

I wanted to talk with him to explore what engaging organisations are currently doing or not doing. Duhaldeborde shares his view on the impact of internal communication, the rise of flexible working practises, and the move away from the most traditional ways of measuring data. Plus, the role of management and leadership in making engagement “sustainable”.

Gloria Lombardi: Based on your research, what’s your definition of employee engagement? When we put it under the microscope, debates can emerge around the meaning of the term. But, controversy is a good thing, as long as it keeps the conversation open and challenges the thinking.

woman-690036_960_720Yves Duhaldeborde: Until recently, our company’s definition has considered a trio of elements.

First, is the pride and willingness to recommend the organisation to others. This is about employee advocacy and relates to the emotional attachment of the individual with the business.

The second is having the alignment with the organisational values and business objectives. It has to do with the rational part of engagement.

The third is going the extra mile. It is the behavioural aspect of engagement. The employee does a bit more of what the company is asking her for.

However, in the past five years, we added two more elements to the trio: enablement and energy.

GL: Tell me more. What do enablement and energy mean? And why are they so critical for organisations to consider? 

park-bench-771653_960_720YD: From our research we started to see some companies having higher levels of engagement, but not sustainable all the time. For example, employees were suffering from burn out; they were unable to maintain their level of engagement. From that discovery we realised the need to add enablement and energy to the three elements. That addition would contribute to sustainable engagement, which is critical.

As an organisation grows or faces times of change, staff might begin to feel their health is at risk. They can become tired, be under pressure and less motivated. Or they may lack the resources to do their job effectively. Yet, employees have to have the energy to keep up with the work, especially in volatile times. Additionally, they must receive the necessary tools and management support to be able to give their best.

All together, these were the reasons why we started to recommend businesses look beyond engagement, toward its sustainability. The employers that not only generate but also sustain employee engagement are the ones that thrive.

GL: Some professionals in the field of employee engagement research are joining the school of thought that the traditional yearly staff survey is not effective any more. Or at least not as it was in the past. After all change happens quickly today. If the results come 12 months later, they might not reflect the current organisation’s and employees’ needs. 
Additionally, the rise of new technology is offering the opportunity to have real-time feedback from staff. So, should we still wait the whole year? 

human-810030_960_720 YD: It is an important point. With new technology employee research can move much quicker. There is no doubt about that. If I think of when I started 15 years ago, it would take me up to five weeks to produce the results. Now, potentially within a week, everything is available. And, that process continues to move quicker and quicker. And, it is not just about data, but also the insights. You need to be able to see the trends and what companies need within very short periods of time.

Businesses overall don’t want to wait for 12 months before they have the new data to act on. Systems now allow to conduct always-on survey-based research and pulse checks. Predictive analyses and benchmark comparisons are available almost instantly upon survey close. Managers can see how things are evolving week over week.

Having real time tools is a great opportunity. Yet, organisations need to be mindful of what data they are collecting and how they are measuring it. It is easier to collect data. But companies have to be reflective and careful about what that information means. And how they should tell the end story to the business.

Two statistics professors of mine, Judith Singer and John Willett, used to say, “You can’t fix by analysis what you have bungled by design.”

GL: You have just made the important remark of narrating “the end story to the business.” We are entering internal communication here. Based on your research, what’s its link to sustainable engagement?
arrows-796134_960_720 
YD: We always see a link between high levels of engagement and great internal communication. Employees want to be kept well informed about what is going on in the business. They want to know why they are doing what they do. Communication is required to motivate people to have that sense of purpose and direction at work and to feel the connection with the organisation on an on-going basis.

Additionally, communication has to clarify the employee value proposition. It requires a real effort to explain the ‘deal’ to talent: What are staff receiving against giving their best efforts? Why should they stay with the organisation rather than looking somewhere else?

Today, there are many job opportunities for the smartest workers. And, individuals are becoming selective and picky when looking for work. Businesses have to be strong at communicating why it is different and special to be with them.

GL: Which companies are getting it right in terms of making engagement sustainable? Could you give me some examples?

YD: There is a group of companies that we define as ‘high performing’. These businesses display high levels of employee engagement over time. They also show great financial results.

These organisations make the most of measurement and real-time information. They are specific about what they want to survey and act on the findings effectively. They are also remarkably good at narrating the end story to employees, globally. They ensure that staff have the correct understanding of the information. And, they encourage openness and transparency, which leads to great conversations and on-going dialogue between managers and employees.

GL: Touching upon the manager-employee relationship, “employees leave managers not companies” has become a sort of mainstream statement. Is it actually the management who are the main cause of employee (dis)engagement?

YD: Surely, the manager has a very important role to play. But, they are not the only factor impacting on disengagement. Sometimes we see managers who are responsible for everything. They have so much to do that it would be unfair to say that it is all down to them.

I always talk about the ‘extended leadership team‘: it is about having the managers and the senior leaders, together. They have to be well glued. Even great managers will not be sufficiently effective if they lack the connection and communication with the senior leadership.

GL: Allowing flexibly such as working from home has become an important way to meet employees’ everyday needs. It is changing life at work. Based on your latest research, what’s its impact on employee engagement?
Gen Y 
YD: Flexible working has a strong impact on engagement. That is particularly true with the young workforce. The Millennials demand flexibility and want to feel trusted in order to give their best efforts. But, the phenomenon is taking shape across the board too.

It is important to think that companies have a diverse workforce – from age group to gender, ethnic and cultural background. How can they get the best out of this diversity? Organisations need to be mindful and realistic. They need to challenge their perceptions and not to think that people are all falling in the same bucket. They have to involve employees in those discussions. We found that high performing companies engage in dialogue with staff. They discuss the different choices and possibilities. Ultimately, they end up with better solutions.

GL: Any final top tips on helping to make engagement sustainable at work?

YD: I will start from the end point: the customers. Without them there is no point in thinking of the business. But companies need engaged employees to serve customers exceptionally well. Organisations have to be clear when communicating with the staff about who these customers really are, how to delight them, and why this is important.

Secondly, recognition and rewards. It is about ensuring that employees are aware of receiving the best benefits for putting all their efforts into the daily work.

Additionally, developing management capabilities. Does the organisation have the right managers? Is the current management able to develop individuals here? I would insist on thinking seriously about it.

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This article originally appeared on StaffConnect 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lessons on Working Out Loud from GSK

LC"The way forward has to be internal social networking embedded in mobile apps, and the systems and processes of organisations." Lesley Crook (pictured right) has passionate opinions on collaboration. Some of her most revelatory insights come from her experience at GSK. Until last year, she was part of the Internal Communications Digital Team, helping the global healthcare company to embed better ways of working.

It was at that time she came across Bryce Williams’ and John Stepper’s philosophy on ‘working out loud‘ (WOL). That discovery inspired her to develop ‘Working Out Loud in A Network’ (WOLAN). It is a framework for communicating in an open and connected way through enterprise digital tools. 

Today at Enterprise Strategies, Crook is using it to encourage employees to embrace digital change, and support management in their strategic digital transformation.

Working Out Loud

networkMoving from email dependency to using GSK’s internal social network was the reason why Crook championed WOL. On the platform she made hundreds of new connections. “I was able to reach all corners of the company, including departments I didn’t know anything about. I found out some of the most amazing facts about what other colleagues were working on. I felt inspired to share and co-create their efforts on the network.” Internal communications was far away from the end point of selling the pharmaceutical products. By reaching out to Sales, Crook found incredible stories around making patients’ lives better that “deeply enriched my job.”

Empowering teams

But, the potential of WOL is much broader. For Crook, it goes from helping to fix business problems to supporting strategy alignment and helping staff to demonstrate the right behaviours and values. It also certainly drives real-time knowledge by capturing field workers’ conversations. And, its usefulness becomes enormous once WOL is embedded into systems such as reward and recognition work flows, or supply chain data warehouses or mobile applications, “just to mention a few possibilities.”

At GSK, Crook helped to curate some of the internal network’s success stories. “We published 10 stories on the intranet homepage under GSK Strategy, People Development. They remained there for 3 months for everyone to appreciate the business value of using the platform. They were published under People Development to spotlight the amazing hard work of the group owners who made their communities great successes.”

There was a diverse and perfect spread of enterprise-wide stories from R&D, Manufacturing, Marketing and Corporate programmes. A very good example comes also from Sales. For the launch phase of a new pharmaceutical product in 2014, the company needed to empower the field-based teams to raise questions, give feedback, celebrate successes and share their learning. “We needed to help them be visible to the brand teams, their co-workers and UK management.”

In the past, those communications would be saved up until team meetings. Or they would be managed through “random emailing.” That would probably mean wasting a great deal of valuable tacit knowledge and time.

mobile2But, this time the answer was collaboration. “Teams from across the country were able to share tips, advice and support in a timely manner on the internal network.” They used their mobiles to stay in touch with the business wherever they were. “The head office was fully in the loop and this enabled them to keep a finger on the pulse throughout the launch and post-launch.” Additionally, the leadership team installed a screen near their table to have continuous visibility of the interactions. It’s worth adding a word about data protection. They did not share confidential or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about healthcare professionals.
Ultimately, the success of the initiative acted as a catalyst for the product launches in Europe and Australia.

Mobile apps for internal communications

Mobility is bringing a new dimension into WOL. Crook explores it in her WOLAN model. “It is about integrating enterprise mobile apps with the conversations happening on the network.” For example, this is happening with internal news. “GSK developed a corporate news app and linked it to the social platform. Employees were always kept informed. At the same time they could post against the news as it pops up.”

The benefit? “Employee engagement,” she says. “It’s not just about one-way communication coming from the ‘lofty towers’ in the head office. It is about enabling staff to talk about the news and how it affects their jobs.” Equally important, it gives colleagues the chance to share further content that the organisation might not even know about. “That is actually where you get real-time and authentic news. It’s about turning the model of broadcasting the other way up: enabling grass roots initiatives to come up.”

Intelligent hash tagging

The WOLAN approach also fosters the use of hash tags to capture what Crook calls the “internal digital DNA”.

#“Hash tags that are viral and generated during conversations amplify what the organisation does and how it does it.” This exercise, she believes, brings the culture of the company to life. Plus, it gives more structure to employees’ comments, making them relevant and easy to search. The latter is particularly relevant for the mobile workforce. “The hash tags that appear on their screens will point them to what is trending within the business.”

It could be the community manager who starts championing hash tagging within their groups. But ultimately, she says, “everyone should be encouraged to work this way, just as they do when posting in their personal spaces on Instagram and Twitter – with no training.”

Crook virally introduced intelligent hash tags at GSK. She encouraged staff to use meaningful tags that linked to company and personal goals. For example, #liveourvalues, #workacrossboundaries, #releaseenergy, #driveperformance, #patient, #stakeholder and #KPI. Ultimately, tagging the discussions with that language enabled Crook to capture employees’ sentiments on important business topics such as strategy, projects, development and learning.

Wearing different hats

Working in an open and connected way requires a communicator to use “different styles at all times.” Crook talks about wearing six specific “hats.” For example, at GSK, she was a “detective” when capturing employee voice in private groups, and a “surveyor” when asking questions or running polls. She shared knowledge and co-created content with the “star ship enterprise” hat, but looked for stories as a “reporter.” Through wearing a “tiara” she was giving colleagues praise. And, with the “baseball cap” she was having fun, but with a purpose!

Crook’s classification might sound unusual in some respects. But the point she makes is something to consider. “People always operate in disparate ways when WOL. As a consequence, storytelling itself becomes diverse and takes richer forms depending on the context.”

The future of WOL

“It is going to be a slow burn of evolution, rather than a revolution.” Crook believes that some organisations will be ready to take enterprise social to the next level not before a good few years.
Socialmedia 
There are some challenges to face. They may be different for each company. The “command and control” management structure still exists inside some companies. Some businesses might be strong on external channels such as Twitter or Facebook, but their internal digital transformation is still in its infancy. “Many senior leaders value external social media and are appreciating the value of employee advocacy. However, they don’t use the same technique internally. They don’t take the time to be visible and hear the employee voice.”

And, if you think that it is just a generational thing, think again. It’s about mindset. As Crook puts it: “People of all ages are comfortable with it. Passionate about it and totally get it. Other people are not. Tools are getting simpler. But WOL is about having management and employees work differently just as they have done with internal email, file shares and instant messaging.”

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Collaboration – when social technology meets the “tiny work”

cover-615x868The meaning of collaboration has being pondered by many. Every year, some beautiful books are emerging through that thinking. ‘Collaborating in a Social Era‘ by Oscar Berg is a wonderful addition to the collected wisdom. It is a beautiful reflection on the relationship between social technology and collaborative communication. The result is a clear reminder of the new working practices that organisations are choosing to apply, or not, today. Yet, they are entirely changing how employees interact with the company they work for.

That “tiny work” that matter

Many authors summon some of their best thinking and unleash it on a framework. It might be an elegant theory of how dialogue works. Or the best way to become a more diverse organisation. Berg offers ‘The Collaborative Pyramid’. The model sets out an ambitious plan to explore the building blocks of collaboration. It includes eight layers that build on each other from the bottom upwards. It covers activities as diverse as making oneself visible, discovering people and forming a team.



berg_CollaborationPyramid
One of the most relevant observations is around what he calls “tiny work.” This concept is strictly closed to ‘Working Out Loud‘, originally mentioned by Bryce Williams in 2010. Many activities in the lower five levels happen “below the surface.” Usually, they are not visible, or recognised or valued by management. For example, the communications that let people know each other and build relationships. Or community building activities that help to build trust and alignment to a shared purpose. That “tiny work,” however, is the key to collaboration. The author unpacks the challenge:

“Due to the low visibility of knowledge work, a lot of information, knowledge, and talent are put to waste. To avoid having value-creating activities mistaken for waste, we need to develop a better understanding of what activities create value and why. In many organisations, social activities among employees are still treated as unwanted productivity drains, even though they are essential for collaboration and employee engagement.”

And therein lies Berg’s timely point on social technology and its promise to enable the “tiny work” to get its worth back.

The power of social technology

The rise of social media, as we know, has inspired the design of tools that enhance the collective intelligence of groups. This interplay, Berg notes, offers daily benefits to organisations. For example, it bridges structural holes to ensure that information flows. It creates virtual proximity and connects an isolated workforce. It enables teams to self-organise and deal with challenges when they arise. And it eliminates the transaction costs that incur when processes are bureaucratic.

“By applying the thinking and principles behind social technology when we design organisations, processes, and ways of working, we can avoid a lot of the negative things that happen when an organisation grows.”

The author goes on to illustrate the fascinating interdependence between social software and communication. He mentions the history of society and the relationships among its individuals:

“Let’s put it into perspective. Since the dawn of humanity we have invented many physical tools that extend our physical capabilities. More recently we invented computing to extend our mental capabilities. Now, with social technology, we can design tools that extend our capabilities to communicate and socialise with each other.”

But, he also likes to caution that while “tools do matter,” it is critical to consider “for what and how we use them.” Ultimately, that is what makes them matter. The technology has to increase people’s capabilities, “otherwise has no reason to exist.”

berg-CapabilityFramework

A people-centric thinking

The above reflections bring Berg to a dynamic contemplation of digital transformation. Social technology usage continues to expand. That is a sign that companies are moving from “technology-centric to people-centric thinking”:

“Social technology will fundamentally have transformed the way we work, playing a central part in the digital transformation of enterprises. When all technology is being designed to fit with human nature and leverage human behaviour and the desire and need to socialise with other people, we no longer need to call it social technology.”

This change reveals a great deal about how people communicate in the 21st Century. Suddenly, even the things that we would have normally considered unimportant take a different meaning:

“When people make jokes about how some people share what they had for breakfast, they might not reflect on how fantastic it is that this is possible. Nowadays, people can share anything they like at almost no effort and cost, immediately and with global reach. They can start a conversation with anyone and almost any number of people. They can communicate directly with people regardless of where they are, or what position and status they have.”

Indeed, even a couple of decades ago, these interactions would have seemed shockingly strange. Perhaps, today the only thing remotely surprising is that it took so long.

Is it worth reading?

If there is something I have been seeing through all the people interviews and company case studies I write is that collaboration is what differentiates today’s agile and networked organisations. For communicators and change agents there is much here that fits their own agenda of digital workplace transformation. Let’s hope the book encourages more companies to make this way of working more common inside their business. This would act as a springboard for capitalising on new opportunities and delivering competitive advantage.

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This article originally appeared on StaffConnect 

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Digital workplace transformation – new mindset required

“It all starts with making the decision to change. But, it needs to come from the mindset. And it has to come from the leadership saying ‘We are going to do it’.” Jennifer Stevenson (pictured right) speaks from the heart about work collaboration. And she’s enthusiastic about using new ways of working to support business performance and employee engagement.

JS1The Digital Workplace Architect at the global management consulting and technology services firm Accenture, has been spending her career in innovation and social productivity. “I work specifically around digital workplace transformation,” she says. “I create strategies for companies by helping them to marry new technology with people and processes.”

I wanted to talk with Stevenson to explore the state of digital transformation at work: the trends, the challenges and the successes, and what organisations can do to adapt successfully. In this interview she shares advice on how to overcome the barriers, the relevance of leadership commitment, the role of corporate culture and cross-functional collaboration, as well as the opportunities given by mobile technology to enforce the employee experience.

Gloria Lombardi: We have just entered 2016. What are the key trends that organisations committed to a digital workplace transformation should look at? 

qdJennifer Stevenson: In 2016, organisations should be at a point where they have already adopted the digital workplace. From a trends’ point of view, they should now be looking at using their data as an asset – from business intelligence to big data, making sure to use that information to make smart decisions. It is about commoditising, mining, and leveraging data to push the business into new directions.

Yet, even if we are in 2016, many companies still haven’t even moved to a digital workplace. Those businesses will not be able to follow the trend – they are still a little bit behind. But, it will be doable for them once they catch up. Data will help them to move faster than they have done in the past. They will be able to start doing what a lot of other companies, including some of their competitors, are already doing.

GL: What is causing some companies to still lag behind the digital workplace transformation? What is preventing them to succeed in the same way that other organisations are doing?

JS: Many businesses think that employees are not ready to adopt a new way of working. But, if we take a step back, many people are already using a variety of digital capabilities in their personal life. For example, some people go on to Facebook or LinkedIn to reach out to people to collaborate; other users appreciate Evernote, OneNote, or TripAdviser. Those individuals are ready to go and use digital tools in their professional life.

qmThe key problem is that, often, the in house processes of an organisation are very antiquated. The company may have looked at finding the digital replacements of some specific work activity. But they have not changed the actual processes to take full advantage of the technology as well as of the new way of thinking of their employees. So, while they may have invested in tools and training, they are still working as a decade ago.

Processes are key – they reflect a general mindset around leadership and the way the business thinks of the change as a whole.

GL: Which types of approaches can an organisation adopt to overcome effectively the ‘processes’ barrier

JS: It is critical to realise that the initiative does not come from IT only. It needs to be a joint effort toward change between HR, Communications, Development, Project Management, Operations and Administration. The organisations that are driven only from technology will always struggle. It will always take longer for them as they don’t take into full consideration the people and processes aspects of the transformation.

But, technology is the easy part. Looking at the whole business and asking if it can handle the change would help them successfully move to a digital workplace. If all those pieces are not taken into account together, the initiative is never going to be successful. I see this time and time again – when companies do that, suddenly they move faster.

GL: What can we learn from the organisations that are effectively embracing digital transformation?

aqJS: Many successful organisations are approaching digital transformation in an aggressive way. They are very agile and open to experimentations. They are willing to test something new quickly to see if it works for them. If it doesn’t work, they would just move on. It is OK to try and it is OK to fail.

This is a new business attitude. Back in the days when they did a large project, it had to be successful. This is no longer the case. Now, they are adopting a novel way of working based on people and have a leap of faith to see how things work out. They take the piece that works, drop the one that does not work, and then continue on.

GL: Isn’t this type of attitude mainly due to the culture of those organisations? Not every business possesses the same entrepreneurialism. Any piece of advice? Perhaps, should companies focus more on their corporate culture?

JS: Yes. Part of the digital workplace transformation is actually about changing the culture.

dwmIt all starts with making the decision to change. But, it needs to come with a change of the mindset. And it has to come from leadership saying ‘We are going to do it’. If an organisation begins that way the initiative is going to go much faster rather than leadership simply dictating and telling employees that they have to change.

And, you have to have leadership not only saying it, but actually doing it. They themselves have to be more collaborative, reach out, listen to what people do, get on with social, share information, and bring people into conversations. They have to be just as adaptive as they are asking their employees to be. This is what happens in those successful businesses transformations: leaders actively engage with their employees. That it what makes a digital workplace.

GL: Could you give me some concrete examples of great leadership?

JS: Drawing from my own personal experience, Accenture itself is a great example. Leaders such as my Managing Director, Gary Taylor, actively engage on our enterprise social network. He is always posting and sharing information with other people. You can see him asking for input or making suggestions, such as: ‘Can we work on this all together?’ It is an active way of saying, ‘Let’ be more collaborative. Let’s create something. Let’s make people feel involved. Let’s share our knowledge so it can be a value for the whole business.’

GL: I would now like to explore with you the phenomenon of mobility at work. 

mobileJL: We are at a point in time where being mobile is no longer considered an add-on or a nice thing to have. It is an absolute requirement.

Mobility is ingrained into people’s life. Today, almost no one goes out of their house without some type of mobile device. We are all connected through our devices.

And, no matter the type of business a company is in, their staff will always want to utilise their mobile phones to do something that they can action when they want, wherever they are. If we think about it, often when people commute in the morning, they do what I call the ‘busy work’ – they check emails, corporate news or catch up with the latest business projects, for example.

So, for any company, to not have an actual plan for the mobile aspect of the business, it means that they will be left behind. For everything that they put out, they should be asking themselves if it is effectively accessible to their employees through their devices.

mqAdditionally, it is now very important to take into consideration the work environment itself, which is having a huge impact on how a business creates their digital workplace.

Organisations have to have a sound mobile strategy that allows staff to have the fluidity of moving and working wherever there are. In fact, I see more and more businesses that are investing in creating that relationship dynamically.

GL: The development as well as business adoption of employees applications continues to expand. Suddenly we ended up with a huge landscape of enterprise apps. That’s a good thing as it means more options and choices for organisations and employees. At the same time, how should a company go with pulling together a variety of apps in an aligned way

JL: A really good point. From a mobile point of view, simple is best. Not all applications need to have every single function, but at a very basic level they should be able to deliver something.

sqFrom an organisation’s perspective, companies should consider the most relevant applications for their employees. They should go to staff and do some research to find out which apps people do really want to enable their workflow, collaboration and communications.

Ultimately, a company should only roll out the apps that are business critical or the most popular ones. It is about simplifying, making it quick and easy for employees to do what they need.

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This article originally appeared on StaffConnect 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Mobile at work – looking ahead to 2016

You have probably just checked your preferred news app to catch up with the latest headlines, maybe that social media app to chat with your best friends. Or you have jotted down some thoughts on the notes app. Whatever you fancy to do, mobile has become the go to technology to meet your everyday needs. It almost feels like that.
 
st1Not just at home though – with 1.3 billion workers going mobile in 2015, this quite extraordinary revolution is radically changing the life at work.
 
And, according to ‘Looking ahead to 2016: the Enterprise Mobility Exchange analyst insight reportby VDC Research‘s David Krebs, 2016 will boost the role of mobility as the survival kit for instant knowledge and real-time collaboration inside companies worldwide.
 
Apps will be the epicenter of digital transformation
 
The next generation of enterprise mobile apps will become more intelligent. From the study, a consistent trend turns out: organisations are moving towards more dynamic applications that offer greater contextual information, environmental sensing and measurement capabilities. This trend will continue well into 2016. Krebs asserts that “mobile applications will be designed to interact more fluidly with other applications and respond dynamically to the surrounding environmental data.”
 
What will this mean from an employee communications perspective? Krebs describes four distinct but related forms of value creation:
  • Seamless integration of workflows across multiple channels
  • Greater levels of personalised services and interactions based on employees' preferences and needs
  • The autonomous communications between field workers and their mobile solutions will produce interactive analysis of the surrounding environment giving people the opportunity to adapt their work to the specific situation they are in. A variety of roles – from field technicians to maintenance engineers, warehouse staff and retail associates - will be benefitting from accessing data quickly and easily as well as capturing information while on the go
  • The ability to respond more intuitively to workplace interactions enabled by smart alerts
“With mobile becoming business-critical and more strategic across all industry segments, investments in mobile applications that allow employees to be equally productive, whether they are at their desks or mobile, are inevitable.”
 
Krebs’ statement is backed up by the report’s findings. Interestingly, following 'sale and marketing' (48%), the research shows that 'field services' (44%) is the second business unit where organisations are deploying mobile apps and focusing their investment for 2016.
 
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Employees apps will continue to rise
 
Indeed, organisations are aware that enabling a mobile workforce can bring them immediate productivity gains. As a consequence, the adoption of employees applications continues to expand.  According to the report, large enterprises have employed around 128 mobile apps so far and are expecting their deployment to grow by over 16% in the next year or two.
 
“Businesses continue to be drawn to mobile applications as they look for inventive ways to minimise costs while simultaneously improving communication and collaboration across their organisations.”
 
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…but there will be governance challenges
 
However, with the significant opportunities that mobile devices are creating into the workplace, come the challenges. This is particularly true to organisations that go beyond the use of applications like email, messaging and calendars.
 
One of the main barriers is that many companies have not created an effective mobile-first business strategy, which in turn reduces employees' satisfaction with the mobile initiative. To change this situation, writes Krebs, communication is crucial – organisations must address their internal silos and “open the dialogue” across all their line of business.
 
Another key concern remains governance: “Growing digital data regulations in various sectors, such as health care and government, mean that companies have to be sure they know exactly where their data is stored, who is transferring it, and what the level of encryption is for all of their content.”
 
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Looking ahead of 2016
 
Mobility is not an option anymore – it is the way people expect to work and communicate today. The mobile phenomenon will only continue to evolve with more advanced technology entering the workplace in 2016. This evolution will create a competitive advantage for those businesses capable of embracing it.
 
It is a challenging, yet fascinating, endeavour as Krebs’ paper shows. As long as enterprises care to think about the strategic and practical purposes of their business and are deliberate in choosing apps that meet their employees’ needs, so does come the opportunity to improve internal communications, transform workflows and boost productivity.

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This article originally appeared on StaffConnect