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Digitizing your workforce – why, how and the benefits that follow

Sudhir Nayar
7th May 2018
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Gen Y and millennials are flooding the workplace - be it corporates, government or small businesses. Today’s young employees bring to their jobs new expectations for work styles and workplaces. These expectations, along with a corporate emphasis on creating a culture of collaboration, are changing how work gets done. Of course, this is not limited to Gen Y. Employees of all ages today increasingly want more choices for where, when, and how they do their work. Simply put, they want to create a better work/life balance, so they can more easily handle all of their responsibilities.

If you’re building a future-ready business, it’s important that your workplace is ready for the digital world. Before you get started on the journey to digital transformation, it is critical to get the buy-in of your entire workforce, across generations. The question you might have is, why should you have to invest in a digital workforce in the first place? I give you two compelling reasons besides the significant cost savings involved.

1. Find and retain the right talent

If you’re serious about attracting and retaining the right talent, then you need to invest in creating the right infrastructure that enables a digital workforce that is already thinking about getting bots to do mundane tasks such as taking meeting notes. The freedom to not be in office and still get your work done influences people’s decisions to take on or quit a job. A digital workforce is also a happier workforce, because of the autonomy it grants, and feels more valued.

2. To increase productivity, creativity and loyalty

A disengaged employee is an expensive liability. The Workforce Experience 2020 report by Cisco shows that this results in significantly higher absenteeism, errors and defects, and worst of all, accidents. At the same time, a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that companies considered ‘pioneers’ in mobile/digital enablement saw significant boosts in productivity, creativity, satisfaction and loyalty compared to companies that were not. That’s 41 extra working days in a year that could be used to do other work.

The question, then, is not about why you need to transform your employees into an efficient, digitally enabled and empowered workforce, but how.

1. Make your workforce more collaborative

Imagine a traditional sales force selling handpumps, or an after-sales service team that carries out repairs on tractors and farm equipment. Or a cement dealership that has a regional office with smaller field offices that it controls remotely. When employees don’t need to or don’t have to sit inside offices to complete their duties it also means that they don’t get to interact with their colleagues too much; they are also at risk of accidentally being kept out of the loop because interactions are limited to basic updates on work done.

Now imagine the same teams equipped with tools that let them interact with colleagues instantly, say via video chat to share trouble with a new type of equipment breakdown problem. A problem in the field is instantly examined, analysed and solved; the required replacement part is then ordered instantly using the same communications platform and dispatched from the warehouse or supplier immediately. The customer is happy because downtime has been reduced, the employees are happy because they learned to solve a new problem, the company retains a valuable customer, and so on up the value chain.

Today, cloud computing enables a host of such solutions that can be deployed to teams that are spread across the globe, let along a small region.

2. Help your employees understand how these new tools will help them too

Getting your employees’ buy-in becomes easier if they understand how new tools and ways of working will make their job easier too (and not just help the company do better). The more comfortable they are using these tools and understand how the technology works, the more engaged and productive they will be.

It is therefore important to invest in training your workforce and get them to see for themselves how going digital is a big advantage for them too, how it frees them from mundane tasks, leaving them to focus on work that will benefit the business and improve their job satisfaction at the same time.

3. Make it easy for external experts to work for you without compromising on security

Already, a great percentage of full-time staff can work remotely – they can login, access data, update records, etc., all online. At the same time, the “gig economy” is also gaining traction. This is nothing but companies hiring, often via an online platform, specialists, freelancers and consultants for specific projects because they have the talent that can add value to a business, but don’t need to be employed for the long term. Once the projects are completed, these specialists will move on to other companies. The gig economy is expanding because it allows employers to increase a flexible workforce, reduce fixed costs and source the right talent. “Full-time freelancers” like it because it gives them autonomy, location flexibility and work-life balance. [source]

With a greater number of temporary workers on board, online security becomes non-negotiable. It will be critical for businesses to balance access with the right set of controls in place to ensure that their data and their systems are only as open as they need to be and yet as secure as they can possibly be.

To ensure that you have the right defences in place, it is best to work with a managed service provider who can provide you what you need. Once you have these in place, you can not only let your employees work remotely but also employ consultants, freelancers and temporary specialists to work for you – offsite or onsite – with complete peace of mind.

4. A solid network as the foundation of digitisation

Once a business goes digital, a lot of data is generated and analysed. This is when you need to ensure that your IT infrastructure is robust enough to handle data volumes, threats, pressures, etc. and is also able to derive insights from all of these to give you insights that help you make better business decisions.

To discover more on how you can take the first step to creating a mobile workforce, explore Cisco Start here.

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