DWG’s expert blog: Ten great digital workplace articles from 2021

December 22, 2021 Updated: April 5, 2022 by

2021 has been another challenging year for everybody due to the pandemic; it’s also been another year when the digital workplace has proved utterly essential to supporting hybrid and remote working. Previously, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and ServiceNow might have felt like niche topics, but these days we see advertisements on mainstream television for them, and they’ve become very much part of employee life. Everyone has by now experienced being told they are on still on mute as they attempt to contribute in a virtual meeting!

Digital workplace teams have continued to play a very important role too. Here on DWG’s expert blog we’ve continued to publish articles and posts from a range of DWG experts across topics that support successful digital workplaces. Whether exploring new trends, explaining good practices uncovered in the DWG research programme, highlighting case studies from our Technology Exchanges, or establishing new thinking with Nature of Work, we hope you’ve found the expert blog both useful and stimulating.

Here is our regular annual roundup of some of our most popular articles from the year. Happy reading, happy holidays and our very best for a healthy and successful 2022.

Shimrit Janes’ seven books that helped shape Nature of Work

In 2021, DWGers have been talking extensively about Nature of Work, the groundbreaking book co-authored by DWG’s CEO and Founder, Paul Miller, and Shimrit Janes, DWG’s Director of Knowledge. Nature of Work uses themes, stories and language inspired by nature to provide a new framework for thinking about how we work. We’re thrilled that the book has been so well received.

In this thoughtful and personal article from Shimrit James, posted shortly after the book’s publication in January, Shimrit recalls seven of the books that influenced her own thinking and helped shape the writing of Nature of Work. From Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race to Close to the machine: Technophilia and its discontents by Ellen Ullman (a memoir from a 90s female coder), this is a thought-provoking reading list. Some of the titles might not be what you expect; Shimrit is a science-fiction fan and she duly includes a couple of works from the genre.

Nine takeaways: How Adobe is delivering personalized, digital experiences to Walmart employees

In 2021, the DWG Technology and Research Institute held a number of Technology Exchanges; these are lively sessions in which knowledge, ideas and perspectives are shared about different technology solutions, as well as advice on how to implement them. In this session, the team at Walmart showed us how they are using Adobe technologies to drive digital experiences for their employees. The post includes a recording of what proved to be an excellent session, as well as nine key takeaways.

During the session there are many insights for digital workplace practitioners who want to hear from the team behind what is possibly the world’s largest intranet, as well as see some leading solutions in action. Topics include content strategy, team structures, the approach to analytics, integrating data and applications, and more. Highly recommended.  

DWG Member Story: Prudential Financial, Inc

At DWG we’re proud to have some very prestigious organizations as members who join us and then excel in their digital workplaces. The experience of our members is very important to us and knowing that the digital workplace team have gained value from membership means everything.

In February, we were pleased to be able to publish an overview of the experience of Prudential Financial, a US-based Fortune 500 company and leading financial services provider, with more than 50,000 employees. Based on an interview with Priya Thummalapalli, then Prudential’s VP of HR Digital Strategy, the article covers what six years of being a DWG member had been like, giving an indication of the kinds of benefit an organization and digital workplace team can expect if they join DWG.

Five core truths about managing digital workplace programmes

Managing a formal, digital workplace programme is not easy and incorporates many different elements. It’s also an area where practices are still emerging and evolving. Because this is such a critical topic, we covered it in the DWG research programme, with senior DWG consultant Chris Tubb writing an insightful report into managing the digital workplace. The report explored aspects such as team composition, effective structures and applicable methods.

This post highlights some of its insights, including five ‘core truths’ of managing the digital workplace, such as the need to take the right approach, why you must have a strategy and how effective stakeholder management supports success.

Seven digital workplace takeaways from the 2021 DWG member survey

Every year, DWG conducts a survey of the membership to gain an intriguing snapshot of where leading digital workplaces are, as well as obtaining invaluable feedback about DWG. This post looks at some of the digital workplace insights from the 2021 survey, covering everything from the role of digital literacy to where we are now with the humble intranet.

While the results aren’t necessarily surprising, they still make for interesting reading; for example, confirming that use of Microsoft Teams continues its meteoric rise, and that internal communicators are increasingly getting involved in digital workplace environments. Given the dramatic events of 2020, I found it interesting that the pandemic had not significantly changed digital workplace priorities as much as we might have thought. The post includes more details on these survey findings as well as many others.

The hybrid workplace and return to the office; 10 approaches to consider

Elizabeth Marsh - starting the digital workplace conversations

In the digital workplace industry, ‘hybrid’ was possibly the word of 2021. Everyone has been talking about hybrid working and the hybrid workplace, and many organizations are actively introducing this going forward. A key question for digital workplace teams has been how they can best support hybrid working and the related return to the office.

In this post, Steve Bynghall considers 10 approaches for digital workplace teams that will help support hybrid working. These include: ensuring you listen to employees and gather related data to inform your plans; trying to ensure there is a choice of where employees work; and working closely with the real estate team. The post also strongly advises not using homeworking surveillance software, describing it as a ‘gross invasion of privacy’ that ‘sends out the message that employees cannot be trusted’.

Creating an award-winning intranet with Unily and Cathay Pacific

Another strong Technology Exchange from the DWG Institute was this session about creating an award-winning intranet with Unily for the airline Cathay Pacific. Unily is one of the leading intranet software providers; the Technology Exchange takes a deep dive into how the Cathay Pacific team went about creating and deploying ‘The Hub’ to a diverse, mobile workforce.

The session recording, which can be viewed from the blog, includes plenty of takeaways for practitioners, including how the team took a mobile-first approach, the importance of robust content governance, and how the intranet supported employees during COVID-19. Another great session well worth watching!

Isabel de Clercq on harnessing the power of connection

Spider web

The Nature of Work book features many fascinating case studies and examples from forward-thinking organizations, as well as quotes and perspectives from industry thought leaders. Research for the book involved a number of interviews and this interesting post is based on one of these, conducted with Isabel de Clercq, the Belgium-based founder of Connect | Share | Lead and author of two books, one of which is Social Technologies in Business. The post expands on aspects of the conversation there wasn’t space to include in the book.

The discussion with Isabel explores the power of connection, the role of social technologies, the impact of the pandemic, barriers that inhibit use of social technologies, and how we can make change actually happen. An interesting and thought-provoking article.

Evolving the elements of organizational readiness for 2021 and beyond

Organizational readiness is a critical theme in the digital workplace but also one of the most difficult – the ‘culture’ and ‘people’ areas of change are invariably the most challenging. It’s a theme we first explored in DWG’s research programme back in 2016 but then revisited in 2020, particularly in the context of the impact of the pandemic and the upscaling of remote working.

In this enlightening post, Shimrit Janes reveals some of the findings from her new research report on organizational readiness, including proposing a new framework to help teams consider organizational readiness based around three main elements – organizational systems, team cultivation and individual capability. Each element has a number of associated sub-themes too, including leadership, digital literacy and even the importance of teams socializing and playing together.

The hybrid workplace with Workgrid and AES

It’s that hybrid word again! In the final Technology Exchange of the year, we heard from the team at global power company AES Corporation and from employee experience technology provider Workgrid about how they are working to support the hybrid workplace.

A key theme explored in the session is ‘app sprawl’ and how too many apps and systems are negatively impacting employee experience. AES is battling this by developing a strategy for the digital workplace and introducing a pilot using Workgrid software, which aggregates common touchpoints with disparate enterprise systems into one solution, driving efficiency and removing frustration. Again, this is a very illuminating session, with a recording available from the blog post.

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Categorised in: Digital employee experience, Digital workplace, DWG Institute, Future of work, Intranets, Nature of Work

Steve Bynghall

Steve Bynghall is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer specializing in the digital workplace, intranets, knowledge management, collaboration and other digital themes. He is DWG’s Research and Knowledge Lead, a benchmark evaluator and research analyst for DWG.

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