Design Thinking in Digital Workplace

Disruptive technologies of the 21st century have shifted customer behaviour and changed our economy – which means that older business strategies are going to be inadequate for this changing economy. Interestingly, we often overlook the need to transform our workplace accordingly given that it is at the centre of this disruption.

The workspace is no longer just a physical space. In today’s well-connected environment, it has become an all-enveloping environment which has made communications instant and access unlimited.
Since communication is key in the digital workspace, applications must be made available to help employees to reach out to colleagues from and beyond their immediate work groups. Traditional create-and-push information approach is no longer enough to meet the increasing needs of the digital workplace.

Read how PepsiCo used Design Thinking to reinvent their product.

The digital workspace is evolving to accommodate the growing needs of the disruptive economy. From integrating emails, instant messaging, and enterprise social media to creating virtual meeting tools and HR platforms, a digital workplace aims at breaking down all communication barriers and boosting productivity.

There are a lot of new technologies to choose from when it comes to transforming your digital workplace. It also depends on the existing systems that any organisation works on. While the decision-making body in charge mostly consists of stakeholders, it is people who use these applications who are the best judges. Though not recognised as the key stakeholder, the real user’s input makes a huge difference. If you are wondering how to effectively transform your digital workplace, consider Design Thinking.

Applying Design Thinking in the Digital Workplace

Design Thinking focuses on enhancing user experience through a solution-oriented methodology. It requires putting aside historical data and encouraging calculated assumptions about experiences that can benefit the user. Taking recourse to design thinking will ensure that your employees are put first and they truly benefit from the digital changes.

The key elements of design thinking are empathy and imagination. Creating a digital workspace through design thinking will require you to empathise with the user, use your imagination to ideate, create prototypes using your best ideas, and finally test the prototypes to choose the most effective solution to ensure maximum employee productivity and well-being through minimal changes

Understand and Define Your Requirement

It is crucial to research and find out the exact requirements while setting up a new process in a digital workplace. Understanding and identifying the pain points, blockers, and expectations is the first step in the process. Ask your end-user what tools do they use the most, and how they could benefit from any kind of change. Conduct extensive surveys to figure out the most commonly used features. Chief Information officers often analyse root causes of existing problems to solve digital workplace experience challenges. Gartner reports show that employees face various struggles involving workplace technology adoption, strategy and measurement. Depending on the end goal (productivity, project management, stakeholder communications, process improvement etc), design thinking can be implemented in setting up an effective digital workplace.

Design Thinking in Boosting Productivity

Understanding the key elements affecting productivity is crucial in order to increase it. Design thinking encourages you to treat your employees as your stakeholders. What this does is allows you to empathise with your employees and reimagine the entire process from their perspective so that you can identify the functions and blockers properly. The next step is to ‘assess, engage and change’ the existing process. New applications which make collaborating and communicating easy are essential for a digital workspace. For example, applications like Microsoft 365, and Google Suit makes working and sharing documents easy and seamless. Gone are the days when you would be required to work on a document and email it as an attachment to your team for feedback. With these applications, you can not only share it with multiple people simultaneously but also work on the files in realtime while they provide feedback. You can also combine MyAnalytics with these applications to check which tasks require the maximum time and optimise accordingly. Collaborations like these save a lot of time and help improve individual and team productivity. Implement these ideas and experiment to see which of these applications work best for your team. Prototyping is important to establish the best options and discard the fails. An iterative process of testing and filtering your options will eventually lead to establishing a fail-proof digital workplace for your organisation.

Design Thinking boosts productivity
Design Thinking in Managing Projects

The ability to “to reframe a problematic situation in new and interesting ways is widely seen as one of the key characteristics of design thinking” (Paton & Dorst, 2011). For project management, design thinking encourages collecting data around any problem. This not only helps to understand the problem but also define it.

Consider the backgrounds of your employees while designing and implementing projects. Understand if there are additional requirements to train employees to help them become acclimatised to the new digital tools. Influencing factors like work ethics, project contexts and skillsets should be individually evaluated since each of these factors can be optimised. Projects on process improvements involve extensive testing. Quality assurance tools like check sheet, Pareto diagram, control chart, histogram, scatter plot and cause-and-effect-diagram can help you track the progress of your plans. Continuous testing will help you eliminate the problems and achieve higher levels of success.

Understand All of Your Users, Not Just ‘Power-Users

Studies have revealed that in most digital environment, there is a disconnect between the IT department and the end-user. According to Sapho Yared, “It is common for an application to become very well suited for the power-users that are using it daily and making a lot of requests of IT. The power users become the key stakeholders.” However, the problem with that arrangement is that you receive only partial feedback for your applications. The best way to collect user feedback is by including all the users equally in the feedback process. Complete inclusion will ensure honest feedback which is not just from the key stakeholders but also from the rest of the employees who actually uses the applications.

Empathise with Your Digital Workspace Users

More often than not, organisations struggle to empathise with employees. The success of any digital workspace depends heavily on its practitioners. Inclusion is essential when your workplace is undergoing digital transformation. Extra care must be taken to provide field employees, temporary and contract workers with all the necessary information to cope with the change. `
A great workplace mandates employee empathy for all career levels across locations and departments. Collect data on user experience by sending out targeted surveys. Conduct interviews based on the feedback to understand employee concerns and requirements better.
Once you understand employee expectations, work towards providing them the best solutions and make the transformation convenient for them.

Design Thinking in Employee Satisfaction and Retention

Hiring the top talent in the market is not enough. Providing them with a conducive work environment and retaining them is equally important. Employee satisfaction is one of the key decisive factors of any organisations’ success. Installing internal social media tools can boost interpersonal communication and increase employee satisfaction. Studies have revealed that IT employees prefer using newer communication tools.
Conduct surveys to find out workplace issues on an individual level. Provide fast connectivity to enable instant messaging and collaboration. Communicate your organisation’s core principles to your employees. Understand and encourage cultural diversity in the organisation. Once your employees are assured that the organisation values and acknowledges their individual contribution, they will be more likely to give their best performance.

Build a Robust Digital System

Gartner research confirms that most of the organisations intending to transform their digital workspace lack digital dexterity to adopt new ways of working. Virtual collaboration and remote work is not supported in most of the cases even though these services are extremely important to keep the digital workplace running. In some cases, even though the data is available, there are not enough tools available to extract meaningful insights out of this data. Digital workplaces need to be equipped with the right tools and support for it to optimise functionality.

Design Thinking basics

IT companies often struggle with optimising design since it is not a skill that IT employees typically possess. However, that is not to say that IT employees have not succeeded with digital transformation. Embedding a non-IT digital native directly into projects from scratch increases their chances of incorporating design thinking in the process. Modern digital workplaces need to encourage fresh talents to lead the change as they come with a lot of fresh perspective. Transitions will happen smoothly only when agents of changes are willing to empathise and embrace innovation.

If you are keen on learning more about design thinking and its various benefits, check out Great Learning’s Design Thinking: From Insights to Viability course. This course has been specially designed for executives who are looking for ways to meet the rising challenges of the disruptive economy.

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