Build a better team to enable a hybrid future of work

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The acceleration of digital work has been transformational, but also disruptive. In the last year, the pandemic triggered the rapid adoption of digital tools across all organizations, upending their ways of working.

While most organizations identified digital workplace (DW) programs as a business priority, Gartner research showed that most employees felt that using information technologies for work took more effort than it should at least weekly.

About the author

Tori Paulman is is a Research Analyst in Gartner.

This disconnect revealed the key tenet for any successful DW program: business leaders who want to improve digital business outcomes and drive digital dexterity within their organizations must prioritize human experience, keeping it at the core of their program.

If companies are looking to enable a hybrid future of work, they will need to build a better DW team by identifying the DW leader spearheading the DW core team, understanding new ways of working from other departments, and spotting emerging trends.

The digital workplace core team: Identifying the DW leader

Establishing a core team is essential for any business practice. Whether it’s in finance, sales, or HR – at the heart of any successful business result is the people delivering it.

For the DW team, the core leadership will be IT. However, this doesn’t mean that the CIO should be the person leading the team or taking on the responsibility of the DW leader.

Instead, there should be a dedicated leader for the DW who holds ultimate accountability for the strategy, execution, and success of the digital workplace program.

This is critical for a successful team because – unlike IT leaders – DW leaders have a combination of strong technical proficiency, business process, and interpersonal relationship acumen. DW teams are tasked to manage IT resources, as well as understand the different business processes while also building relationships with employees to see how they’re engaging with new tools and ways of working.

Therefore, the DW leader must work with business stakeholders to understand the vision of the future and to paint a compelling picture of digital transformation across the business.

Understanding new ways of working requires critical team members

DW leaders looking to build effective programs and enable a successful hybrid workforce, will need to understand how technology can play a crucial role in supporting new ways of working. To achieve this, engage with other business practices to secure the participation of key players, including the HR leader, corporate real estate leaders, and the business unit leader, among others.

These key players are essential when shaping successful DW programs. They can offer new perspectives and feedback, as well as help DW teams identify organizational and department goals – alongside digital gaps and opportunities. Moreover, they're critical for ensuring adoption among employees.

For example, HR is the only department that has a deep understanding of current and future workforce challenges. They’re also key to delivering new ways of working. For instance, they help decide which technologies to use and how they can be used to boost employee motivation; they play a key role by identifying the value of technology and recognizing the impact it has on the overall employee experience. As such, DW teams that leverage the partnership with HR will benefit greatly from their insights.

The same is true for the relationship between the corporate estate leader and the DW team. Since the pandemic, ‘the office’ has taken on a new meaning. According to Gartner research, 73% of employees want to come to the office slightly more than one day a week.

Technology forces such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and mixed reality (augmented reality and virtual reality) are introducing myriad new possibilities for creating smart workspaces. At the same time, these new workplaces can improve employee experience, further demonstrating the valuable relationship between corporate real estate leaders and the DW teams.

Finally, the business unit leader can describe the challenges facing employees in the front line. They can offer a clear vision of the benefit they expect from new DW tools and how these can help employees – and the wider business – achieve their goals.

Ensuring that the core DW team is continuously working with other critical players from the organization – beyond the ones already mentioned – will be essential to helping deliver digital transformation and dexterity across the business.

The DW will always be a source of innovation and progress for organizations. It's in their DNA to always encourage participation to anyone who can have an impact in the digital transformation of business. That's why most DW leaders are always on the lookout for members who can represent a wide range of people and issues that will shape the future of the workplace. Engaging with these key players will be critical to effectively spot the emerging trends that will shape new ways of working.

In the last year, we saw how the acceleration in digital adoption came with its hurdles, leaving gaps in knowledge and skills for business leaders to bridge these through hiring and technology investments.

Consequently, DW leaders are playing a more important role than ever before in shaping the future of the workplace. But for DW programs to truly improve digital dexterity and business outcomes, they'll first need to build an effective core team, understand new ways of working, and spot emerging trends by being always on the lookout.

Tori Paulman is is a Research Analyst in Gartner's Digital Workplace - Content and Communications team.