Building a digitally inclusive workplace

Source: Hays Journal Issue 17 - click here for more information and to get your free copy

Michael Affronti, SVP, Product and Design at Enterprise Communications and Collaboration Platform Fuze, explains why companies must facilitate digital inclusivity in the workplace.

Digital inclusivity means providing employees with the technology they require to do their jobs effectively. While some require specialised tools, others require simpler approaches – yet they still need to be able to share information with each other.

Traditionally, new communications tools have been built for information workers only. People outside of that space, and particularly frontline workers, were often given substandard tools, no tools at all, or very specialised tools that only worked for very specific tasks. When they wanted to share results with the rest of the organisation, the ability to communicate across different channels was often left out.

Now, it’s incredibly important for organisations to consider a digital inclusivity strategy that allows all workers to use, and benefit from, the best tools for them while being able to share things with their colleagues.

In the recent Fuze report, Workforce Futures, we explored some of the challenges that organisations are finding themselves facing by not including employees in their digital strategies. Here are some of our key findings, and some tips for organisations looking to improve digital inclusivity.

1. 77% of workers want to incorporate work outside of the office into their job

Most people want a high degree of flexibility and I think what has changed is that, in the past, that was a privilege that was earned. That’s a very rigid way to think about flexibility. Because many workforces are spread across the globe, you have to think about flexibility differently. Employees want to be able to work when it is most effective for them.

Leadership teams and managers should be challenged to make sure they effectively offer that flexibility. This means setting clear expectations for your people to meet without feeling they have to physically report in.

One of the things we do at Fuze is that we don’t just talk the talk to our customers about this, we actually live these values and experiment with our own internal culture. For example, we have a ‘work from anywhere’ policy that’s written into our HR guidelines, and in certain countries, including the US, we have an unlimited vacation policy.

2. 38% of employees say they are provided with technology that doesn’t operate correctly outside the office

The days of just deploying software and expecting employees to use it and be happy with it are gone. One of the things we do as part of our sales process is to help our clients interview different departments to find out what tools they’re using and the gaps they have in communication itself.

It’s vital for employers to remember that app stores for mobile devices represent the single biggest threat to any technology they want to try to deploy for their employees. The access people have to convenient and fit-for-purpose software in their personal life means they expect the same quality in programs they use at work.

You need to find out what they are using and what works best for them. Data collection is key. Don’t underestimate the value of getting a few key employees from a couple of departments and sitting together for an hour to find out what is working well and what isn’t.

Use those conversations to come up with a strategy. This may include technology changes, or it may include cultural changes. Either way, encourage staff to be a part of the solution, as opposed to dictating to them. At Fuze, we find out who the ‘super users’ of software are in each of our departments and ensure that they’re involved in the decision-making processes around new technology.

3. 52% of workers aged under 35 are sceptical about AI in the workplace, while just 36% of over-55s are

Leadership teams need to have a perspective today on how they think automation is going to impact their workforce. They need an automation strategy, but not necessarily an AI strategy, as most businesses are pretty far away from understanding the implications of an actual artificial intelligence platform. But, as explored in Issue 16 of the Hays Journal, they should have a basic understanding of how automation from available machine learning platforms might affect their organisation.

At Fuze, we’re starting to use machine learning, which I think of as a stepping stone to real AI. To keep our internal user base on board with this process, we’ve explained the stepping stones we’re taking to first experiment with machine learning and how we could potentially move to AI-based solutions.

We’re trying to demystify it. Organisations that don’t do that run the risk that people will feel like these things that could impact them are getting decided and they’re not going to know about it until it’s too late.

This combination of digital inclusivity and AI is really powerful because it allows for the repetitive work to fall away over time. Over the next few years, the thing I’m most excited about is how efficient information workers can be in the organisations they work for.

This creates space for them to be more creative and to be more productive at a different level.

All statistics from Fuze’s Workforce Futures report. You can download the report here: www.fuze.com/workforce-futures