Trump, Brexit and The Digital Workplace - yes, I'm going there

March 13, 2017

Much has been discussed about why the results of the last US Presidential election and the UK referendum on leaving Europe were a surprising result but many of the analyses have agreed that a large part of both was a protest on the current state of affairs and a feeling that voices were not being heard. While I have my own feeling on both of the votes, the interesting thing for people working in the Digital Workplace realm is how similar things could happen in their own space. Both campaigns saw a large amount of polarisation of opinions with people tending to show a huge pull one way or another and not being willing to enter debate on middle grounds that much.

Squeezing the middle

The risk for Digital Workplaces is that the same polarisation occurs. It is easy to focus on the people that are technically savvy and happy to change their tools on a regular basis. They often have the latest phones and many apps on them, distracting them left, right and centre. They will have accounts on all the major social networks and probably have some in some of the smaller ones too. They will be happy to understand where they use each one, knowing that LinkedIn is best for work connections but you wouldn't link with your Mum while sharing your Facebook account with your boss may be a risk not worth taking. Taking this to work, they are comfortable that they could use Jira, Planner, Outlook or Excel for planning work and different tools work better in different situations. If you have a large development tracking enhancements to a product, Jira works beautifully. If you're keeping track of your daily tasks, pulling tasks out of your mail and in to an Outlook task is just fine (in fact, Cortana can even now pull these out automatically -

At the same time, Digital Workplaces need to consider the people that are delivering meaningful work using email regularly, who are happy with their current set of PowerPoint templates and are meeting all their objectives. It is easy to sound dismissive of this but the highest paid traders and salesman who bring in the biggest accounts are usually not the people who collaborate most on a corporate network. They know and understand their network and what they need to do to get things done. They can still be helped by the Digital Workplace but to keep pushing new tools on to them will only make them more against the changes being encouraged.

So how do you help make sure that everyone can benefit?

Firstly, make sure you know what your overall strategy is. It's unlikely that getting as many people on Yammer as possible is actually the aim - you are more likely want to be able to help facilitate connections between areas of common interest. That may involve getting as many people as possible but is not the overall aim. The best way to set out this strategy is to agree on a one line vision statement. To many people, this feels cheesy and cliched but the discussion helps to ensure that all who are closely involved are comfortable that they are thinking the same way.

This leads on to defining your personas who are in the workplace. These should certainly fit your own organisation rather than from a boilerplate template but try to have no more than 4-5 and they could fit:

• Enthusiastic engager
• Follower of the pack
• Quiet observer
• Not interested

Do not spend too long discussing the nuances between these at this stage as the next step is to identify how you will place everyone in the organisation in to one of these personas. Obviously, sticking a post-it note to a wall for each person is not realistic for most larger organisations and you are unlikely to have a single group together that can know everyone. Instead, focus on metrics. Work out what you think people in each of the personas do and then identify metrics for that. One trick I have found useful with this is to think firstly of some natural fits that I know for each of the personas and then some people that blur the edges. Think about how the measures would identify these people and then either refine the analysis or the personas.

Once you have a way of identifying people to each persona, you can start on a plan of how you will engage with each group. This could be communications, training, meeting face to face or just leaving as they are. It could be changing the tone of some of your material to better suit different personas or even delivering different tools or enhancements to those tools. For example, people who have used SharePoint regularly get used to some of the quirks of one editting and webparts but if people only occasionally work with changing their content, it is not easy to know what to do. Products such as WalkMe offer a contextual help to people where they can ask simple or trickier questions and be guided through the right process. This will soon start to be supplanted by bots which understand who you are and what you have asked before, tailoring responses accordingly.

So there you have it all - your vision, your personas, your metrics and your actions to take. You can sit back, relax and maybe sip a cool gin & tonic happy in a job well done….or you could go back to your measures and see if you are helping each persona enough. Are you seeing a shift to the more engaged and a drop in the number of not engaged? If not, why not? Time to get back out there and speak to people, get some feedback, review what people are doing instead of what you had hoped. Much like politics, it never really ends, just moves on to the next thing.

Some may find this depressing but this is where opportunity starts. The chance to take new ideas to help people be more connected and productive, to make life easier to do the simple things so they can focus on the important things.

Could the same be applied to the US elections and Brexit negotiations? Not to the same degree but the same logic applies. Try and understand what it is that people are finding hard and help with that. Easy, right?

March 13, 2017 in Digital Workplace Help me to help you