How HR Drives Innovation In The Digital Workplace

“How HR can help as the digital workplace alters our understanding of how people work, communicate, and collaborate.

The greatest mistake the media ever makes is assuming the digital workplace is a technological revolution. It’s not. It’s a people revolution. A revolution in where we work, the hours we work, and how we relate to co-workers, customers, and partners.

They’re all changing – and opening up fresh opportunities at every turn.

22 million UK workers have the right to request flexible working.img-collaborating

And which department knows people best? Of course, it’s the HR function. It’s a people and process thing, not a technology thing. Tech is the enabler, not the driver.

That’s why – as innovation turns new ideas into best practices at breakneck speed – Human Resources isn’t just a passenger along for the ride; it’s in the driving seat. Today’s HR/digital workplace professional isn’t so much offering innovative work practices, as helping employees understand how to get the most out of them.

Let’s take a look at how HR pros are navigating these immense changes – starting with the key idea, which isn’t about work at all.

The core concept: freedom

The idea uniting all remote and flexible working, and the innovative ways individuals in the digital workplace communicate and collaborate, isn’t about work. It’sfreedom.

While some people prefer a strict 9-to-5 – and a desk with their name on it – they aren’t the majority.

And this group is shrinking fast as Millennials become the biggest section of the workforce. (Younger staff – like the Millennials and Gen Z – aren’t just asking for flexible arrangements, they’re expecting them.)

As much for Generation X as for Y and Z

And in any case, wanting a highly structured work environment remains fully compatible with digital workplace philosophy. You’re offering people a chance to work in the way that works best for them. Imposing conditions is the opposite of what the digital workplace is all about.

Instead of old-school rules about expected attendance and pay docked for being late, today’s employment contracts are more aligned with what the company actually needs: get the work done, and HR won’t worry too much about where and when you do it.

A single small airline estimates its digital workplace saves 2.4 million pieces of paper.

It’s an empowering attitude, one that treats people as adults. Why should you care whether someone works 4 hours a day or 12, if they’re executing their job requirements brilliantly?

People aren’t slacking off when they hit their home office or kitchen table. Quite the opposite. Their output is higher, and of better quality, than they ever produced in the office. Freedom to adapt the working practices that fit them, and the trust they enjoy from their employer, simply make them happier and more motivated.

“Wherever they are, whenever they want to do it – that’s it for me” – Subhendu Maji, ICS

Work is no longer about earning a crust and watching the clock. It’s about fulfilment: work as an expression of who we  are. Working the dream not living the dream, and digital workplace innovation makes that dream a reality.

HR doesn’t just drive adoption, it also drives understanding

Even empowered workers often think remote and flexible working are just nice-to-haves. Often, they don’t think about the strategic implications for the company. HR is central to changing perspectives about what the digital workplace really means… so the benefits accrue not just to the employee, but the employer.

“In a truly collaborative environment, everyone participates and contributes to their company ecosystems.”
Andy Main, Deloitte Partner

Let’s say you have 20 sales executives around the country. What if half their sales calls could be video conferences instead of in-person, letting you go into a hot prospect with a dream team of six instead of one? What if hot desking reduced your resourcing requirement from 20 workstations to 15, saving thousands?

What if your project manager could hire a hot team from Silicon Valley, without budgeting for plane tickets? And what if your executive searches could go global, broadening your hiring pool?

“This is another example of the ‘flipping of work’ – from work as drudgery and suffering (the protestant work ethic of the past) to work as passion and fulfilment (the digital work ethic of the present and future).” – Paul Miller

Getting the most out of the digital workplace is, above all, a task of listening to what your employees really want. For most, it isn’t a case of working from home or avoiding a commute. It’s about feeling valued for their output. Feeling their IT supports them instead of hinders them.

These issues are behind a great many of the hassles HR and IT professionals face – office stress leading to employee attrition, an explosion of Shadow IT when workers get frustrated with a narrow list of approved technologies. Help your people understand what communication and collaboration technologies can do for them, and the bottom line will benefit too.

Understanding lets innovation off the leash

That’s when the digital workplace starts to shine: when employees realise it’s not about managing their time, but about doing better business. You’ll know when they understand this because they’ll start coming up with new ways to work themselves.

A global network services provider estimates digital practice led to a $1.05bn saving.

A gang of interns become a smooth team using mobile technologies to run a project. Marketing staff go 360 on campaign concepts working with Sales. The Exec team turns boring quarterly Board meetings into ongoing conversations. People are full of useful ideas – if you give them permission to execute.


  • The HR function needs to show how flexible working isn’t just about working from home.
  • The digital workplace is an opportunity for business improvement, not just employee happiness.
  • HR and IT are a dream team for driving adoption of innovative technologies for the digital workplace”


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