The concept of the digital workplace has grown in stature in recent years as everything possible, from processes to tools, have gone digital. Effectively a virtual equivalent to the physical workplace, the digital workplace still needs to be planned and managed coherently; it’s fundamental to people’s productivity, engagement and morale and it is also… the future.

When companies began introducing corporate intranets into their methods of internal communications, some pundits described them as the ‘workplace of the future’. Intranets have offered platforms on which everyone in a company can interact for the good of the whole, sharing goals and culture, news and policy in an all-inclusive and digitally efficient way. They’ve made a start in reaching a digital workplace ideal, but they also have to evolve constantly.

Enterprise social networks are now included on many intranets, along with HR and employee self-service and training tools, enabling improved collaboration among employees and management. All this strongly points to the corporate intranet remaining a central part of any digital workplace agenda.

However, times are changing even beyond the scope of the all-inclusive intranet, with workforce separation – workers here, there and everywhere – needing something more than workstation-based intranet and Internet access; something mobile, something agile, something all inclusive – and what better way to digitize than by leveraging technology and processes most employees already know. Enter the enterprise mobile app.

An employee engagement app has the ability to reach even the remotest employees, such as lone field workers making repairs to a utility network in the countryside; an app on their smartphone can deliver a ‘mobile-intranet’ experience keeping them fully in the corporate picture, enabling interactive feedback, health and safety updates and more.

Such apps can even offer employee families the chance to participate more fully in the life of a company to which a family member belongs. Corporate calendars can be shared enabling spouses to plan family holidays more effectively as well as being able to monitor shift patterns and join in on corporate social interactions. And even where some employees might not be as tech savvy as others, the trend we have seen in our client companies such as transportation giant FirstGroup, is that the tech savvy download the app and use it initially, but then share their knowledge with other staff. These employees become eager to learn and have the app and its benefits on their own devices when they see what they are missing out on.

Another of our clients, a leading Dutch company with 1,500 employees, of whom only a limited number had company email addresses, introduced a mobile engagement app we’d developed for them; for voluntary uptake the app was downloaded by 1,200 of their staff, only 300 of whom had previously had company emails. The introduction of the app was a major step in the organisation becoming a digital workplace; replacing inefficient printed memos, newsletters and other paper-based corporate missives in the process, the added knock-on effect of the app has also been to take this company closer to ‘the paperless office’.

This shift to the digital workplace is further highlighted by many of our clients replacing their company print employee magazine with a digital App version, just like many consumer publications.

Forward-thinking companies can now see how an app can digitize the workplace and connect geographically dispersed employees. Best practice can be shared among staff; chefs across the country in a restaurant chain can share recipes and techniques to ensure a consistent customer experience from one venue to another. Bus drivers might drive the same route, but a smartphone-based app can now show them diversions and real-time route changes to enable them to keep passengers informed.

The digital workplace is the future; it adopts ways of doing existing jobs more efficiently and effectively through employing the very latest digital technologies, of which the mobile enterprise app is the new central part of a digital workplace agenda.

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