The digital workplace is for all kinds of employee

The concept of intranet largely evolved over the last years to become a digital workplace but some old habits still die hard. Some businesses are unable to harness a large part of the benefits they can expect from a digital workplace because they wrongfully exclude lots of employees from it.

The intranet is a work and life space

Before going further it’s important to summarize the the evolution of intranets. At the very beginning intranets were top-down communication channels. Over years, it followed, even with delays, the evolution of internet. It hosted business applications, services (HR applications…), then became collaborative, conversational and social, bringing the user at the center, allowing him to create and manage spaces where they work and communicate. What used to be a communication tool is becoming a work and life spaces provided businesses get that rather than a tool it’s a new way to organize, work and live together. As a matter of fact, in large businesses  or in businesses with lots of employees working out of the office, it’s the only place where everyone can meet.

Everyone. Not really in fact.

Since they’ve always seen their intranet as a digital communication means, businesses develop bad habits.

Thinking the intranet as a digital communication tool causes many biases

First, the “communication” side. Information meaning power, not everyone needs to be informed an not the same way. For a long time some employees had a very limited access to information and even no information at all. In other words : le lower in the hierarchy the least need to know. This approach is more and more questioned by the need to foster relationships and create more engagement at all levels but is still a pain for many organization. Fortunately, in 2016 excluding employees “a priori” is not something are thinking about anymore. But when a roll-out is made complicated by the work context of some employees,  some categories of employees will always be considered as less critical.

It also lead to not seeing the intranet as a work space. And those who need permanent access to work tools and information are not always those we think about in the first place.

Second, the “digital” side. For a long time intranets avec been thought as something one uses on a desktop or laptop computer. So businesses found logical that employees who don’t use computers at work have no access to the intranet (and even no email address). People who don’t work in an office need less information and have little communication needs. Second consequence : access from tablets and Smartphones are not a reality for many employees.

Beyond offices most businesses are digital deserts

Bottom line : lots of employees are excluded from the benefits of the digital workplace : nomad workers, people not working in offices, manual workers.

Beyond offices, businesses are often digital deserts. Factories, construction sites, blue collars are left out the digital transformation of the work environment. Not so long ago, even nomad white collar were falling in this category. Depending on the business, up to 75% of employees :

• Lack information

• Are disengaged

• Have no means to communicate or collaborate.

Contrary to a popular belief, these need do not depend on the kind of job or degree level. On the contrary I’ve seen many businesses trying to make digital real for all get as much or even more benefits by making it easier for blue collars to share expertise, experiences, tip and tricks etc. Moreover it seems that such dynamics suffer from less political or statutory barriers with these too often forgotten populations.

There is no population that won’t find a work-reladed interest in the digital workplace provided it’s not thought as a communication tool only but as a work related one.

• Today in many airlines, flights attendants have their technical documents, flight and passenger related information and customer relationship tools on tablets.

• Mailmen are being equipped with tools empowering them to better manage the customer relationship, optimize their work and even deliver new services.


I also invite you to have a look at what Barclays did 3 years ago for employees in branches, who did not even have email addresses. “MyZone” on mobile totally transformed the employee experience, the quality of the service delivered to employees and raised employee engagement.

So the digital workplace should be for all employees, provided it’s designed based on user needs, addressing three dimensions

• engagement (communication, collaborations)

• services (administrative services…)

• job (job to be done)

This should lead to an “APPification” of the digital workplace with a vertical catalog of applications based on jobs and functions and a common engagement environment. Like the customer, the employee is a market of one and needs his own application mix.

Knowing that, one can still think that the digital workplace is a white-collar-only matter. But it would be a huge waste.


Photo Credit  : Frustrated Employee by alphaspirit via shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

Recent posts