The connected workforce is a quintessential 21st century HR phenomenon. Chances are you’ve heard this term before, but don’t know exactly what it entails. The good news is, that’s about to change. In today’s blog we’ll bring you fully up to speed: Here are 3 Must-Knows about the Connected Workforce.
1. How we got here
As with most things, the connected workforce didn’t emerge overnight. There are several underlying developments within HR that led us here, the most notable ones being:
- The consumerization of HR through SMAC (we’ll get to the meaning of SMAC in the next paragraph), and
- The rise of the blended workforce.
I. The consumerization of HR through SMAC
This is an HR trend we’ve seen for awhile now. At work, people expect an experience similar to that what they’re used to outside the workplace. This means, among other things: Constant connectivity, mobile functionalities, a customizable user experience and a certain playfulness.
With the arrival of SMAC – an acronym for Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud – the road to a truly connected workforce has been opened.
A good example of a business application that just gets it when it comes to the consumerization of HR through SMAC is Slack. The cloud-based platform is mostly known as an instant (group) messaging app for teams. A mobile version is, of course, available and when you open the app it greets you with a quirky welcome message like ‘Always get plenty of sleep, if you can.’
II. The rise of the blended workforce
Alright, first things first: What is a blended workforce? Exactly what its name suggests, a blend of full-time employees, contractors, freelancers and contingent workers. All these people somehow work for the same organization, doing what they do best. A rare situation you think? Far from it! According to a study by Ardent Partners – called the 2016-2017 State of Contingent Workforce Management – the blended workforce makes up for almost 40% of an average company’s personnel. This happy mix of internal and external workers is one of the results of our changing perspective on labor, work and talent.
Needless to say, for this blended workforce to function, it has to stay super connected. Not just with each other, but also with the various (cloud-based) company systems.
What the connected workforce is about
At a basic level, the connected workforce is about (online) employee communication via all kinds of tools. It’s also about enabling remote working and the accessibility of company docs, apps, and systems. At a more advanced level, however, the connected workforce is about more than just practicalities.
It’s about “combining SMAC technologies in an innovative way so that people can work smarter and faster” writes a group of PWC employees in a 2015 report. “The power of the connected workforce,” they say, “lies in its potential to connect various elements of a business ecosystem, including data, computing devices, apps, enterprise solutions and stakeholders.”
Now, in ordinary human language you could say that the connected workforce is a combination of all of the above. This means, a group of workers (in its broadest sense), that uses 21st-century technologies like Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud as its building blocks. Just like kids play with Lego to make new creations of their own, the connected workforce plays around with SMAC elements to create – and share! – valuable insights and innovations that improve the business.
An example (still using Slack). Let’s say fashion retailer X picks up on a lot of negative feedback about a certain clothing line via its different social media channels. The customer service team shares this feedback with their colleagues from product development via Slack. The international product development team uses the Slack platform to discuss and come up with an easy-to-implement solution. The details of both the issue and the newfound solution are saved in a shared folder in the company cloud, hence making the info accessible for everyone in the organization.
Although this is a simplified example, it shows us how individual SMAC elements can be combined to share valuable information, think of new solutions and eventually solve business issues.
Why it matters
At the end of the day, all businesses have the same goal: to maximize profits. They achieve this goal through the optimization of systems & processes, as well as the performance of their team.
In that regard, a well-functioning and connected workforce that knows how to use the most innovative technology is crucial for success!
That success is twofold. On the one hand your workforce can use technology to make their working lives easier. Think of virtual meeting rooms that allow them to ‘meet’ no matter where they are. Or software that automates time-consuming, tedious tasks such as manual data entry.
These relatively simple tech tools have a big impact on your people’s happiness and engagement. Which – and this brings us to the second point – has a positive impact on the ideas they’ll come up with, their willingness to work and eventually the business results.
How to get started
It’s 2017, going social and mobile is inevitable. As an organization, you can now store all your data in one place – thanks to numerous cloud services – and generate valuable insights on your workforce.
How to get there though? Baby steps. Talk to the different stakeholders first, both the C-suite and your employees that is. And who knows, you may be positively surprised. After all, almost everyone is used to working with apps that are SMAC – so there might be more support than you think!