The Covid-19 crisis, lockdowns and the advent of large-scale remote working have highlighted things that do not work, and accentuated the lack of alignment between activities and teams: senior managers and directors based at the head office (white collar), managers in the field (frontline managers) and finally staff in the field (frontline workers, deskless people, blue collar, emailless people etc.).
A gulf has also opened up in the tools used: emails for 90% of head office leaders compared with 27% for frontline managers, who use Whatsapp messages or calls.
Many companies therefore find themselves facing the challenge of bringing their different groups of workers into alignment, despite them favouring radically different communication technologies and software.
The major risk for businesses with these new ways of working is losing contact with employees, and losing their culture.” Cyril de Queral
What major developments are being seen in businesses at the moment?
CQ: The revolution currently taking place in the world of work is immense, and it’s fascinating to watch. This change will find its way into the history books! We had already experienced more extensive use of remote working prior to the Covid-19 crisis during the transport strikes or the yellow vest protests. In many countries, notably the United States, remote working was already widespread before the pandemic.
But since the pandemic struck, there’s been a seismic shift, with the majority of tertiary sector businesses offering a significant proportion of remote working to their employees. Stellantis, one of the largest industrial companies in France, is offering its employees several days of remote working. After several months of intensive remote working, we’ve seen that the ideal approach is hybrid working.
DK: This transformation will only be truly successful if we can manage not to widen the gap between white and blue collar workers; it is crucial that all employees should be united in the process, including those who cannot be described as digital natives.
To what extent are those populations included today?
DK: I was talking to a member of the Bouygues Executive Committee, and this is what he told me: the only 2 ways of getting information to employees on sites are the managers and the screens set up in the site cabins. A recent study by Lecko shows that 52% of frontline managers say they miss important information from head office… Imagine the amount of information coming from head office that never reaches the ears and eyes of the frontline workers…
The people who suffer from this digital divide are, however, crucial to the business…
DK: They are essential in hitting targets! Take the example of Luca De Meo, CEO of Renault, who presented his 5-year strategic plan last January. What jumps out from it are three key metrics around profitability, free cash flow and operating margin. They will doubtless have an impact on engineering work, but will undeniably be lived out in the plants. Those targets, if they are not internalised by workers on a daily basis, cannot be met.
It goes without saying that the daily alignment of all stakeholders in these 3 figures alone is necessary.
The challenge therefore is alignment. How do you ensure the digital wave reaches these less connected people?
CQ: Actually the challenge is to get all employees on board, not just those who are comfortable with digital tools, not just those who sit in front of a computer, but also those who are active in the field.
Many companies find themselves facing the challenge of bringing their different groups of workers into alignment, despite them favouring radically different communication technologies and software. So the strategic choices involved in digital transformation will have a direct impact on the worker experience. If the business makes sure all information is accessible and reaches all target workers where they are, then the job’s done. Our role is to offer solutions to include everybody within the business, not just white-collar workers at head office…
What are the best tools for including less connected people in this new organisation?
CQ: The major risk for businesses with these new ways of working is losing contact with employees, and losing their culture. The solution is to set up a communication and employee experience platform where communication and the sharing of corporate culture are restored to their rightful place, but with innovative new features.
The digital workplace is becoming a necessity, and transforming itself into a virtual company office. This is new place for meeting and communicating, despite being physically remote. This collaboration and communication platform is vital, to guarantee engagement among workers, to ensure good communication, to maintain links and develop the corporate culture.
DK: In this context, communication screens can be a key factor in a successful digital transformation within companies. Indeed, those screens are non-discriminatory: they affect all people passing by, with 65% greater impact than paper. But most of all they are a magnificent tool for bringing people up to speed on the information being sent round via internal tools such as an intranet or employee advocacy. By connecting those tools to screens, the screens become a Drive-to-Web channel that will encourage workers to get involved in digital workplaces.
At Powell, how do you support companies in getting their field workers connected?
CQ: We have an extremely clear and simple answer to that need: the most-used digital tool today is the smartphone. 70% of the world’s population has a mobile phone: that’s more than 5 billion people. So we offer access to the company’s digital workplace via a mobile phone. We put frontline workers onto a mobile application that’s very easy to use and dedicated to their needs. The agility shown by these employees on their smartphones helps them to feel completely at ease with our application; they are included in the work of building the company’s future.
How do you avoid workers getting drowned by the influx of information and tools?
CQ: This is another one of the biggest difficulties faced by businesses, and one that we hope to solve at Powell Software using our software platform. We believe that these days you have to use Artificial Intelligence and the power of search engines to present workers with relevant contextualised information. The applications to which an employee has priority access must be the ones they use the most. The dashboard and digital workplace need to be contextualised for each user. So we ensure optimal productivity and targeted access to the information, irrespective of the worker’s own workplace.
DK: The secret is to select information with high added value and to repeat the message! Repetition is something that’s well known by all marketing managers the world over, but in the corporate world it has a tendency sometimes to be forgotten. It’s not good enough to hope that messages will impact workers; you need to work to find the way to make it happen. Interconnectivity between the tools in a business is key, whether they’re work tools (digital workplace) or information tools (digital signage). Their interconnection is the key to automation and thus repetition to maximise impact.