Modern Workplace: The Effects of Technology on Communication

Mark Woodrow, Customer Success Director and Change Management at Engaged Squared knows that digital disruption and technology has had a huge impact on businesses, employees and customers.

The essence of communication and collaboration has not changed but the virtual platforms in which we conduct ourselves has. Here we explore how technology has evolved and where it’s headed.


How tech has evolved

The biggest developments in technology over the past few years have been the advent of social media, the arrival of the cloud, and of course smartphones.

All these things have changed the way we communicate professionally and personally and as such have changed the way we expect others to interact with us.

Strong relationships are a fundamental part of business success, years ago a big chunk of an organisations budget was allocated to travel and expenses for staff. Whether they were attending customer meetings, training sessions or conferences, if they wanted the information and the relationship building opportunities those sessions offered, they had to be there in person.

That’s not to say face to face sessions aren’t still happening, they are, but not as frequently. The evolution of technology has allowed us to communicate with one another much faster and anytime, anywhere. More recently tools have been developed that allow us to collaborate much more effectively without having to be in the same room, state or even country as one another.

When computers first started being introduced into homes, schools and businesses in the 80’s, we could plug in as much data as we liked, it was all there for us to easily navigate under one roof. Fast forward 30 years and the amount of people in the world that can plug information into systems and access one another’s data is incredible. The challenge we now have is the amount of data and communications we have access to across these digital platforms. We are so bombarded with information that it is overwhelming, especially for employees and customers.

And this is where personalised and targeted communications come in, how can we give User X access to the information they need without them having to sift through tonnes of information that isn’t relevant to them in order to do their jobs more successfully.

“Employee engagement is super topical at the moment and top of mind for all business leaders” says Mark. “Engaged employees stay with the company longer and are more productive. Therefore workplace communications need to become more targeted and personalised”


The tech that’s leading the way

“Connecting people to people is really important in business,” says Mark. “And that’s true more than ever today now that people aren’t sat next to each other.”

“Social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn have become a key part of doing business. This starts from recruitment, with businesses checking out candidates’ LinkedIn or Facebook profiles before hiring.”

“Twitter came in a couple of years after Facebook,” says Mark, “and it became a place where you could share thought leadership and photos instantaneously.” Twitter in fact marked the first real entry into communicating via social media for work-related reasons.

While LinkedIn was initially a digital CV, it’s evolved into becoming more about groups, company profiles and sharing relevant and interesting articles. “Whereas Twitter was always easier for sharing but harder to establish groups,” recalls Mark. “If you wanted to be noticed you had to do it in bite-size pieces”

Today we’re seeing a convergence of platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as between Yammer and Teams.

With that has come a blurring of what is social and what is work-related or social enterprise as some call it. When in fact what has actually happened if you consider the likes of Yammer and Teams is that we have taken all of the good parts of products over the years and put them into one easy to navigate solution.


Make sure communications are effective and in line with your business strategy

Some organisations are wary of having employees communicate via social platforms like Yammer, Twitter or LinkedIn but actually if used right they can be valuable to a business.

“If you don’t embrace these ways of communicating, staff will bring something in off their own bat,” Mark warns.“ The secret of successful social app use, he says, lies with a company’s business strategy, make sure you introduce communication tools in a way that suits your business and then educate your staff on how these systems should be used to ensure correct adoption.”


Don’t let your legacy system hold you back

Sometimes organisations can hold off adopting new tech because of the expected expense of updating old legacy systems. But, as Mark says, old legacy systems aren’t necessarily incompatible with embracing social apps and other tools.

“It doesn’t have to be a costly exercise involving a whole platform revamp,” he says. “Maybe you already have systems in place that can be enhanced for a better user experience. For example, we did some work with RMIT who have multiple systems and faculties. They haven’t ripped out and replaced tech, they’ve overlapped it. And they found they were already paying licence fees for tools they weren’t utilising. This year there’s been a good uptake in using Teams and Yammer.”


The future

So what does Mark think is in store for businesses in the future when it comes to technology and its effect on communications in the workplace?

  • Less email While everyone has an email address and is comfortable using it, Mark believes that there will be less and less email as businesses embrace new tools like Microsoft Teams. Though this will be a slow process as the majority are so wedded to their email system.
  • Less paper People were talking about paperless offices years ago, and it still hasn’t happened. And Mark doesn’t think paper will ever go away. But, as he points out, “What’s changing is that we’re putting things into the cloud, so we don’t have filing cabinets. The use of paper is dwindling to very specific uses.”
  • End user, not tech, is the key It’s easier to install new tech than it is to get people to use it! Don’t just implement technology because it is there or you think it’s the latest must have, companies such as the Modern Workplace Alliance are there to look at what the end user needs and then secondary what technology will enable them to do that better.


How we can help

If you’re interested in finding out how communication within your organisation can be enhanced with the power of technology, take our Modern Workplace Assessment.


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