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- Nancy Goebel, CEO of DWG.
2022 brought more twists and turns. It was a year of economic change, of hybrid tugs of war, quiet quitting and the continuing great resignation. So, what’s next and what could this mean for those leading and shaping the digital workplace?
Since 2014, DWG leaders have reflected each year on what’s come to pass and then looked ahead at key trends. With an average 70% success rate of predictions turning into reality, DWG’s annual forward look has become a north star to help guide and inform the thinking of digital workplace leaders everywhere.
In this podcast, host Nancy Goebel reviews the successes and surprises of 2022, and unveils DWG’s 10 predictions plus a super prediction for 2023. What’s next for digital inclusion? Will more organizations unlock opportunities in the metaverse? Will HR claim stewardship of the employee experience? And could the digital workplace get a home, a heart, a brain and courage?
In an unpredictable world, Nancy shares insights to sharpen your thinking, so do join us to unwrap the limitless potential of the year ahead.
Show notes, links and transcript for this episode:
[00:00:02.890] – Nancy Goebel
Each year, DWG leaders reflect on the past year and look ahead to key trends that are likely to shape what’s coming next. And it’s just such a delight for me to be able to unveil DWG’s predictions for the Digital Workplace in 2023. Over the next 40 minutes or so, not only will you have a chance to get a flavor for why we do these predictions, but also get a retrospective on our track record since they were launched in 2014. And then, of course, dive into our ten predictions plus a super prediction. And you’ll be curious to see what are some of the things topping our list.
[00:00:46.320] – Nancy Goebel
Whether it’s the top skills for Digital Workplace teams, whether the Metaverse will move from hype and to reality. Whether HR will take a more prominent role around the employee experience and what is the next territory ripe for the Microsoft effect? And lots of other things as we gaze into the future and look ahead to the coming year. So I hope you’ll join me for an interesting vantage view of 2023, and I very much look forward to catching up with you on LinkedIn or the social platform of your choice when you’ve had a chance to digest these predictions. Think about the challenges for yourself and your team.
[00:01:30.400] – Nancy Goebel
And of course, if you have questions and want to talk through about how these predictions could apply to your organization, we certainly look forward to hearing from you. Happy listening, as always to Digital Workplace Impact which is brought to you by Digital Workplace Group.
[00:01:53.010] – Nancy Goebel
This is Nancy Goebel, deputy CEO at Digital Workplace Group. And this is Digital Workplace Impact. I’m so delighted to have a chance to catch up with you to unveil DWG’s 2023 predictions for the digital workplace. I just can’t believe it’s that time of year again. DWG is certainly a buzz with planning for the year ahead, whether it’s shaping up our 2023 member research program, rolling out our year end member survey to get feedback on how to improve our services and help members make the most out of the insights, knowledge base, and expertise and peer connections that we have.
[00:02:33.560] – Nancy Goebel
At our fingertips are calendar of events, both in person and virtual. And so, of course, these things couple very nicely with our predictions for the year ahead. And often when I’m chatting with members and others in our wider circles, the first question people ask is, well, why have the predictions? And I’d say that we’re in close contact with our members as well as our technology partners and practitioners around the world. We see digital workplace in action.
[00:03:06.820] – Nancy Goebel
Through our benchmarking, we explore what good looks like throughout the year, looking at live tours, our research program, of course, this podcast series and our day-to-day advisory activities. And these things in combination give us a really unique vantage view of what’s going on in our industry circles. And so we’re often asked to share what’s hotting up and the predictions are kind of a nice twist on that and give us a platform for unlocking a mix of reflection, comparison and even a degree of ambition. I often like to say that DWG is part connector, part knowledge broker and part coach, and the predictions give us a powerful launch point for all three types of conversation. I think it’s fitting, especially having taken over the predictions from Paul Miller, DWG CEO and founder, to have a look back at our historical performance for the predictions.
[00:04:14.590] – Nancy Goebel
In 2014, we unlocked the first generation of digital workplace predictions. Before that, for some years, Paul had been running predictions for the intranet and on average, Paul’s predictions achieved over a 70% success rate, or roughly an average of seven out of ten. And there have been a couple of standout years, such as 2018 when his predictions hit a sweet spot or a success rate of 85%. And then, not terribly surprising, the low came at the height of the pandemic when priorities suddenly pivoted and the prediction success rating went to a 60% realization rate. Looking at where we are for 2022, I actually gave us seven and a half out of ten, or a 75%.
[00:05:08.870] – Nancy Goebel
There were a couple of areas that clearly saw some challenges. One is that business intelligence didn’t quite have its full coming of age. Progress was certainly achieved, but it’s certainly not an area where strides were achieved universally. We talked about networked learning becoming a 4D experience in the digital workplace through discourse, through didactics, through discovery. We certainly saw that there were some distractions to add to the deed dimensions that got in the way of achieving that in its fullest form.
[00:05:50.770] – Nancy Goebel
The other is that Microsoft Viva was going to be the best thing since sliced bread in the hybrid culture wars. And of course, we know the marketing machine for Microsoft was out in full force. But we are seeing that our members are sharing with us that they still think that Viva is still a long way from delivering on the promise of Viva, although there have been some strides made and then last but not least around digital connections fostering meaning and belonging to help spur recruitment and retention. And again, an area where progress was made but gave us some half marks in those areas because clearly there’s a way to go and ditto for knowledge management taking center stage. I’d say the ones that caused the most discussion or debate when we did the unveiling of both the retrospective for 2022 and the unveiling of 2023 with our members was the frustration around the lack of progress around knowledge management because of the great many distractions caused by quiet quitting and the hybrid conundrum and the great resignation.
[00:07:06.730] – Nancy Goebel
And then of course that Microsoft effect that I was talking about earlier. The other areas caused a bit less discussion. But thinking about 2023, you will come to see as you read the blog post that there are a number of key themes that we’re putting on the table for the new year. So prediction number one is that the digital headquarters moves into a steady state evolution while employers and employees continue the hybrid working tug of war. And just as background here during the pandemic, of course we know that the digital workplace became the essential workplace.
[00:07:46.050] – Nancy Goebel
It is certainly embedded in key aspects of wide-ranging resiliency plans that allow organizations to carry on functioning regardless of major weather, political health, or other events. And we’ve seen that organizations have increasingly embraced a digital-first mindset and are looking for opportunities to take that further still, such that the digital workplace really has become the digital headquarters inside of the organization. The challenge to solve now is really how these digital headquarters and physical workplaces will coexist in a more meaningful and flexible way amid tug of war between employers wanting people to return to the office on scale, versus knowledge-based workers wanting flexibility to decide when it makes sense to come to work on a given day. We know that over the last number of months, there have been points where people have turned up to work based on company expectations, and they came back and didn’t necessarily have a purpose to be in the office. And so many organizations are still struggling to get the balance right for hybrid working.
[00:09:02.930] – Nancy Goebel
What we are seeing is that this is going to be a continued period of experimentation well into 2023, and as employees keep up the pressure to ensure that when they do come into the office, it is for meaningful conversation, connection and collaboration. Prediction number two is centered around digital inclusion going well beyond the accessibility basics. We saw a level of authenticity enter the workforce setting as the pandemic unfolded. And with that, of course, a wider definition around what digital inclusion means came into the fold. In reality, we bring our whole selves to work.
[00:09:48.240] – Nancy Goebel
And work needs to be a place where everyone feels like they are part of the organization, regardless of where they’re sitting on any given day. And for a long time, digital inclusion was largely focused on a narrow slice of accessibility. And many organizations have evolved from proprietary software development to best of breed digital workplaces so that now there’s an even greater expectation that we will provide digital spaces for all. And this means much more than just providing integrated assistive technologies like real-time transcription or screen readers and really broadening out to ensure that the connections, conversation and work that happens within digital spaces truly embraces the broadest mix of cognitive, language, cultural wellbeing, identity and other important considerations that allow people to express themselves more fully so that they can deliver their best work and be brand ambassadors for the organization that they’re a part of, among a great many other things.
[00:11:02.470] – Nancy Goebel
And so, based on the ongoing role of hybrid working, it will also mean that organizations can attract a wider and more diverse pool of people because they’re less constrained by location and recruiting new talent, whether it’s entry level or mid-career, can allow for a wider approach to bringing in variety of profiles and capabilities into the mix. Prediction number three is looking at the Metaverse as the new digital archipelago of workplace experiences. Now this is an area that definitely sparked a lot of questions during our member preview session. In the simplest terms, people wanted a definition of the Metaverse, and we talked about it in the context of it being the next incarnation of the Internet using augmented and virtual realities.
[00:12:06.500] – Nancy Goebel
And it’s certainly something that is still in its early days of usage within the digital workplace, but certainly not new to avid gamers. And Metaverse adoption so far is greatest in high tech and professional services. However, we are starting to see some pockets of experimentation in other industries. And so for that reason, I’m couching the Metaverse as that digital archipelago of digital experiences. We know that Facebook was the first to set their flag on an island branded Meta, but there are many more islands to explore.
[00:12:50.350] – Nancy Goebel
Organizations like Avenade have been experimenting with new ways to connect with their employees, whether it’s through applications for meetings, learning, recruiting experiences, and other applications. I would highly recommend that if this is an area of interest to you, that you tap into episode 109 of this podcast and it’s entitled How the Metaverse is changing Avenade’s workplace. Sticking with the island metaphor, you can think of the Metaverse as one where there are many clusters of islands like Avenade doing lots of good work, and yet there are still many that are undiscovered ones to watch. Will be those organizations experimenting with digital twins to test and improve products and process and facilities in the Metaverse before adapting them in the physical world. There are a number of applications already in use across manufacturing, urban planning, healthcare, hotels.
[00:13:59.950] – Nancy Goebel
But here’s another area that is fodder for experimental ground. It is certainly early days for digital workplace uses of the Metaverse, so we’ll get to see many more pockets of testing and learning well into 2023. Onto prediction number four, the most important skill for digital workplace teams will be navigating change. No question. What it means is that wayfinding will need to be powered by psychodynamics.
[00:14:32.160] – Nancy Goebel
And so to put that in context, if we were to roll the clock back ten years, twelve years to the earlier days of the digital workplace, we would recognize the fact that a lot of the heavy lifting for digital workplace teams at that time was really centered around designing and building apps, intranets, portals. Often these felt almost like intergalactic efforts that spanned two years, three years or more and required a lot of complex and precise planning and staging and deployment. So really it all boils down to the fact that 90% of the effort involved was about standing up the technology and the remaining 10% was about some level of training and communications. Fast forward to present day, we come to the office and there’s a new version of something that has changed what seems like virtually overnight within our digital workplaces. And that’s both the beauty and the challenge of working with cloud-based solutions, with software as a service.
[00:15:39.870] – Nancy Goebel
The implication, however, is that digital workplace teams need to be experts in helping people find their way as change unfolds, both planned and disruptive change. Not only does this mean operating as continuous learners, as digital workplace professionals, but also helping others understand, accept and embrace, excuse me, change at scale on a rolling basis. And the challenging part is that includes team members, stakeholders, business leaders and employees at large. And so key to this is really enhancing digital workplace teams change management toolkits in a way that couples wayfinding know how. With those psychodynamics, people need to not only stand what’s changing, but how this supports what they’re doing and why.
[00:16:38.510] – Nancy Goebel
And they need to be motivated to act or to make decisions. And a missing ingredient has been helping people to move through those changes by better understanding not only how they work, but also the emotions, the motivators, the unconscious patterns of behavior that they carry through day to day. Prediction number five. This one is really centered around recruitment, onboarding and early days retention. And really what we’re looking to see here in 2023 is that businesses will create digital spaces mixed with in-person connections.
[00:17:18.430] – Nancy Goebel
And so when we look across the talent pool for recruitment, onboarding and retention, what’s concerning in this purview is that typically half of new hires fail. And there’s been countless research on this. And this issue is one that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic because many people had to figure out how to navigate organizations from a distance. And when you translate that 50% failure rate to the cost of attrition, which can be upwards of two to two and a half times the cost of salary for that pool of new hires, the opportunity cost and the real costs are quite high. Many organizations have plans to fix their end-to-end recruiting, onboarding and early days retention to support more effective search and culturation process through the first six months of employment.
[00:18:21.430] – Nancy Goebel
And key to this is really getting the balance right between the virtual and the inperson activities in a way that builds lateral connections, team collaboration, leadership access, corporate context and working knowledge of how to get things done. And so the corporate aspects of onboarding and the business aspects of inboarding need to work in tandem with guided experiences not only for the new hire, but key here pause for effect is the hiring manager as well. In a lot of ways, the latter has been almost a blind spot in the process for many organizations to date. And in order to really break the back of some of the retention challenges. Supporting leaders and managers through recruitment onboarding and those early days of retention is taking on importance on scale and getting the balance right again.
[00:19:28.410] – Nancy Goebel
Physical versus digital is going to be key. Prediction number six. HR will claim stewardship of the employee experience at large. So for digital workplace leaders, that means they need to bring their passion for connection, curiosity, and experimentation to a new level. And I know that this was probably one of the more challenging predictions when we talked about it with our members, maybe even bordering on controversial. But I think the reality is that when you see the pressures that we do around recruitment onboarding and retention, it’s hard to ignore the fact that HR needs to sharpen its strategic focus around people and cultural transformation.
[00:20:21.600] – Nancy Goebel
And as part of that, heads of HR, taking on a stewardship role around the employee experience feels like a very natural part of the equation. And that’s not just from a digital workplace point of view. Rather, it’s the widest scope looking at the future of work with long term hybrid working as an anchor tenent in many organizations. If digital workplace teams need to help their organizations with wayfinding and the pace of change that’s accelerating, then for leaders, we need to see them really harness their passion for connection, curiosity, and experimentation. Looking at each of these in turn, connection is about helping HR work alongside all of the other stakeholder groups as a way of reducing the friction points across functions and process to deliver end-to-end experiences as new technologies like artificial intelligence and the metaverse take hold.
[00:21:29.150] – Nancy Goebel
From a curiosity standpoint, leaders need to reinforce the importance of being continuous learners and to cultivate an environment in which the why questions can be asked. And that’s in order to inform not only courses of action and understand the impacts, but also to uncover new thinking and approaches. And along the way, digital workplace leaders need to share the story and share the understanding that feeds that curiosity loop. And of course, under the banner of experimentation, helping HR and others become more comfortable with the idea that we test, we learn, we fix, and we move forward. Experimentation is a natural part of the creative process, and building that into the culture of hybrid working will be an even more important step as we move into the future of work.
[00:22:31.010] – Nancy Goebel
Prediction number seven ESG programs will pressure digital workplace teams to clean up their act. And so what that means is really that it’s time to start addressing dirty ecosystems. Jack Amend, who’s the founder of the Web Neutral Project, has said that the Internet is essentially the largest coal fired machine on the planet. And when you stop and think about environmental, social, and governance, or ESG investing, it is used to screen investments based on corporate policies that encourage companies to act responsibly. And in 2023, we will start to see a new level of conversation around ESG in the workplace.
[00:23:19.330] – Nancy Goebel
Many chief digital officers have plans in place to measure, track, reduce and offset carbon footprints for their external digital properties. And if the customer experience is enabled by the employee experience, it stands to reason that it’s just a matter of time before your organization’s ESG leadership knocks on your door to ask you about your levels of content pollution and the carbon footprint of your internal digital workplace properties. So the challenge to you is better still, why not proactively approach your ESG team to get that process underway? Like humans, data emits carbon, and according to Gerry McGovern, 90% of data is rubbish and out of use within three months of creation. So does your organization really need 15 employee profiles?
[00:24:21.160] – Nancy Goebel
And do you need them for all of the enterprise social platforms that businesses want to have a play with? And how many of the 1500 plus communities in your organization have gone quiet and are sitting fallow? There’s quite a lot. That is low hanging fruit that would not only simplify the employee experience, but then also allow you to run double duty and clean up your dirty ecosystem. So think about all of the energy that’s required to power devices that are in use now just as part of normal hybrid working.
[00:25:04.640] – Nancy Goebel
And start to think about the cost of disposal at a time when we work with planned obsolescence. When you start putting not only your content and apps universe in the mix, but add the emissions of data in the hands of your employees and leaders in the digital workplace, it’s likely to create another follow on question from your ESG leader either pick the carrot or pick the stick. Either way, it’s time to clean things up. And where will you start first? And while you are chatting with your ESG leader, why not also instigate the conversation about eco anxiety, something that employees are feeling due to the ongoing energy crisis, and have a conversation about how your organization will support them via your digital workplace?
[00:25:57.050] – Nancy Goebel
On to number eight. Well, digital workplace teams will be challenged in new ways to show continued impact, and meaningful metrics will be at the heart of that conversation. So we know that you can look at the carbon footprint of a digital workplace as contemplated in prediction number seven, and that’s one aspect of measuring impact. We also know that recessionary and inflationary pressures are straining budgets. And so digital workplace teams now more than ever have to show tangible impact on the employee experience.
[00:26:36.400] – Nancy Goebel
And central to that is understanding what meaningful metrics need to be in place, not only to understand how to manage the digital workplace day-to-day, but also to target the highest and best use of investments to ensure value for cost. Going beyond the basic vanity metrics has been a long-standing challenge for digital workplace teams. I’d say, thankfully, we’re starting to see technology providers take a more active interest in capturing more meaningful metrics and also thinking about how to visualize them so people can take in that information and make more data-based and thoughtful decisions. So the combination is important to ensure that those right actions are taken, that there’s a look at not only efficiency and effectiveness, but also sentiment, among other metrics that matter. Importantly, versions of these metrics are also in the hands of employees, firsthand via the likes of Microsoft and other tools.
[00:27:43.180] – Nancy Goebel
So employees, teams and leaders can start to affect their own work days by thinking about whether they have enough focus time to plan, to prioritize, to execute their daily work. And in time, those insights will measure a wider scope. Okay, we’re coming into the home stretch, we’re at number nine, which is all about AI capabilities leapfrogging a better definition of productivity. And to go along with that, Microsoft is showing us that digital coaching will come at a premium. So let’s unpack that.
[00:28:20.820] – Nancy Goebel
AI is another area where digital workplace teams are experimenting on a growing basis. And you might find it surprising to hear that AI will leapfrog a broader definition around productivity. And I say that because typically we’ve looked at productivity impact, but employees are now being asked additionally to share how they feel about their productivity levels alongside those hard measures. Meaning that the definition of productivity now needs to look at both the what and the how of work. And we’re starting to see the likes of Microsoft and other technologies building in smart nudges and prompts.
[00:29:06.610] – Nancy Goebel
That, when all told, really start to add up to a level of digital coaching around driving productivity and effectiveness. And based on what we’ve seen coming out of Ignite in 2022 and other technology conferences, the more advanced levels of digital advice and support are designed to take performance collectively to the next level. But guess what? Those will be priced to the premium. Number ten. This one’s really about innovation scaling with the help of digital assistants.
[00:29:45.290] – Nancy Goebel
So one of the consequences of hybrid working is that knowledge workers have been spending more time in meetings than pre-pandemic. And I can’t tell you how often I hear people say that they’re double or even triple booked throughout the day. Well, organizations will face new pressures around rationalizing the volume and efficacy of meetings, not only to allow for more head space for reflection and planning, but actually to allow for innovation. It’s only by creating performance capacity that employees can be freed up to create new things, whether they’re products or services, alongside making things better, cheaper and faster. Microsoft and others in the tech space are hyper aware of such needs.
[00:30:36.220] – Nancy Goebel
And throughout 2022 we’re seeing that they’ve been encouraging and enabling not only ongoing use of meeting free days work sprints that are focusing on innovation and learning, but also headspace moments that not just to make time for mindfulness, self check-ins, reflection, focus time and even virtual commutes. And what you may not have seen yet is that they’re also enabling inspiration libraries to instigate fresh ideas. So if that’s what we’ve seen in 2022, of course it begs the question what’s next? Advances that help shift the focus of the innovative process from reliance on happy accidents and serendipity will be to drive a more curated collection of digital assistants that help spark not only aspiration and reinvention, but also inspiration. In combination these areas will include those targeted digital nudges and prompts, increased coaching, all of which are designed to help us tap into unexpected connections, context sensitive learning and collaboration support, as well as design spaces for creative play actionable ideation centers and even a growing set of low code no code capabilities that allow people to help build solutions for themselves and for their colleagues.
[00:32:21.230] – Nancy Goebel
And to make this all feel more tangible. I’m thinking along the lines of the Amazon model, which is constantly analyzing our patterns of behavior as a route to suggesting another item for us to consider, inspiring us based on actions taken by others, helping us to make connections to related products, and, of course, reminding us to come back to something we were thinking about earlier. Because there are so many distraction forces out there.
[00:32:48.680] – Nancy Goebel
And when you add these individual components together, you’re taken on an intelligently crafted journey that’s designed to help you try new things and come back for more. And so how do we tie this all together? Well, I think our best approach is through a super prediction, and ours for 2023 is that the digital workplace gets a home, a heart, a brain, and courage. So of course, you know that means we have been welcomed into the land of Oz. And looking at these predictions in combination, I really found myself thinking about one of my favorite films and having moved from the black and white days of the pandemic, it feels like we’ve stepped into color vision and that digital workplaces have landed in Oz.
[00:33:41.360] – Nancy Goebel
Of course, we still have a way to go before we hit the Emerald City, but we’ve discovered that the digital workplace has a home. We started with the idea that the digital workplace is the digital headquarters for organizations today. It has a heart. We’ve been creating spaces that welcome new hires and foster wider employee experiences that allow us to bring our whole selves to work while supporting more authentic leadership through connection and conversation. The digital workplace has a brain.
[00:34:14.620] – Nancy Goebel
Think about the metaverse, AI, meaningful metrics all need to play important roles in helping make sure that we can immerse ourselves in new experiences and access the right information and make better informed decisions and use data to help get our best work done. And last but not least, courage. And this is all happening at a time when change is moving with velocity. It takes courage for digital workplace leaders and their teams to be continuous learners and connectors and curiosity minded people and experimenters and wayfinders in a sea of change. Well, there you have it DWG’s 2023 predictions for the Digital Workplace.
[00:35:04.070] – Nancy Goebel
I sure hope that this has been an interesting listen for you. We also have a blog post that’s a companion piece for this set of predictions, and I do hope that you’ll reach out to ask questions, to engage in a chat, whether it’s about some of the controversial predictions to those that feel very much like scope for agenda setting for 2023, as you look at your priorities, those of your team, and the impact that you’re trying to achieve as part of the wider digital headquarters inside of your organization. And be on the lookout for our review of the 2022 podcast will be coming in due course, but otherwise wishing you the happiest of new years and looking forward to more great things in 2023. Thanks and bye for now.
[00:36:00.610] – Nancy Goebel
Digital Workplace Impact is brought to you by the Digital Workplace Group. DWG is a strategic partner covering all aspects of the evolving digital workplace industry and boutique consulting services. For more information, visit digitalworkplacegroup.com.
Learn more about DWG and our history, and the benefits of working with us.Read More
Book a free one-to-one consultation to discuss the current status of your digital workplace. Each consultation is followed up with a bundle of useful resources to help get you started.