I had just finished a call with a potential client, sitting in ‘my home office’ still in my pyjamas. The technical resource was in transit and took the call in his car. Everyone on the call leveraged on ubiquitous technologies, using laptops, internet and a video-conferencing application. The call lasted about an hour, there was a demonstration of the solution, and the potential client’s team asked all their questions.
At the end of the call, I reflected on how well technology has simplified work and broken many barriers. Within a week, we successfully had two calls with the potential client, which would have been impossible were physical meetings required.
This is one of the greatest forms of innovation; anything that makes one’s work easier, faster or more productive is innovation. Organisations often talk about investing in technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Virtual Reality, Employee analytics, etc. Obsessions with the next big idea in technology are the norm, and there is a continued focus on customer experience but not enough on employee experience.
Let’s for a moment imagine a fresh graduate, Sam, who is about to be employed by 4D partners, a mid-sized legal firm. A week to resumption, Sam receives a link to all the forms he needs to complete before resumption. A day to resumption, he receives an email with his official email details and a text message with his password.
On his first day at work, Jim, the buddy assigned to him welcomes him to the company and takes him to his desk. At his desk, a laptop, a welcome card and a gift are waiting for him. His line manager welcomes him and they have a quick chat. Sam is scheduled to go with him for a meeting at 11 am. To fully start their workday, Sam and Jim grab a cup of coffee and have a chat. Once settled at his desk, Sam opens his laptop and is informed to visit the office intranet, he logs into the system with the details he received the previous day. The office intranet is beautiful and well organised. He immediately visits the ‘Welcome to 4D partners page’, where he finds a library of all the information he needs as a new staff. He enjoys reading, he soon realises it is time for his meeting. At the first meeting, a lot of organisational jargons are used. He takes note of the words and acronyms, remembering he had seen a company wiki for jargons on the company’s intranet. After the meeting, he can visit the company’s wiki and get a full understanding of everything said at the meeting.
Sam’s line manager informs him that they will be having a crucial meeting with a client by 9 am the next morning. Sam goes to the team site on the company’s intranet, he goes to the client folder and reads up on the customer, the previous meeting’s notes and agenda for the next day’s meeting.
Before the close of work, Sam receives an email from HR welcoming him again to 4D partners and directing him to where all the company policies can be found. He is required to read and pass an assessment of the critical policies within a month. Sam is pleasantly surprised when he visits the policy page and discovers that all of them are in interesting video formats, not the long and boring policy documents he is accustomed to. At the end of the day, Sam is glad he choose to work with 4D partners, the employee experience is beyond his expectation.
Welcome back from the world of imagination. You see, one of the feedback I constantly get from friends who relocate to developed countries or have had the opportunity of working with global companies is the difference in tools provided to make work easier and pleasurable. A friend once told me ‘we were just too manual at my former place of work’. Research has shown that employees spend more than 25% of their time looking for information and doing manual things that could be automated.
Areas requiring simple innovations include employee onboarding, organisation intranet (company wikis, knowledge base), internal requests, approvals and feedback. Digitalising these processes have several benefits such as improved productivity and efficiency, less reliance on the physical availability of individuals, and collection of relevant data which can be used for improving organisational performance and employee experience.
Similarly, in a world accustomed to ‘Google’, employees are constantly frustrated by the lack of a ‘Google’ experience at work. It is often said that knowledge is power, but for an organisation, documented knowledge is power. Organisations lose a lot of intangible assets when employees are promoted or depart.
Innovation at the workplace must, therefore, start from the basics, making work pleasurable, easier and ensuring knowledge is a company asset.
Bureau, E. T. (June 18, 2019) “Employees spend more than 25% of their time searching for the information they need to do their jobs: Survey” The Economic Times.
HRD. (August 9, 2017) “From manual to digital: HR’s transformation” Human Resources Director.
McKeiver, Brian. (July, 2010) “9 Reasons Why Your Company Needs A Wiki” McBeev.