Jason Averbook, Forbes
Many of us would describe ourselves as digitally connected to our personal lives. We know what our friends are up to (and what they had for lunch) in near real time. Often the books we read, music we listen to, products we buy and even relationships we enter into are fed to us from the cloud, based on our habits and preferences. As a culture, for better or worse, we are becoming “plugged into” or connected to our own lives.
Yet as employees, many of us can’t say the same about our workplaces. Without question, organizations are improving when it comes to accommodating a virtual workforce, as most have accepted the idea that employees can work efficiently from anywhere. However, the impetus for employees working from home or a remote office is often rooted in company-centric benefits like cost savings, productivity gains, or access to global talent.
To support these virtual factions of workers, HR is compelled to provide ways for remote employees to connect with headquarters. What’s often still missing is giving thought to connecting employees with one another. The notion that “face time” equals being “plugged in” at work is still prevalent, but cloud technology is changing that. And let’s face it: even those who work in a physical office daily would probably claim that their manager and co-workers don’t know exactly what they’re working on, past/current project contributions, newly acquired skills, or career interests. Likewise, most employees would tell you they aren’t really sure how their day-to-day activities are contributing to the organization’s mission or business goals. Being connected isn’t necessarily a matter of proximity.
Why is the lack of employee connection a concern? Without question, HR has learned during the past decade that employee engagement is a key source of competitive advantage, driving high levels of customer satisfaction, knowledge sharing, business agility and bottom line profitability. As the workforce becomes more dispersed, the need to provide systems to encourage and facilitate true collaboration and connection becomes critical for HR and the business. Here, cloud technology has the potential to bring a consumer-grade experience to the business.
And while the cloud offers transformational technology to incite change, there are other drivers of this revolution, altering the world right before our eyes. Here are a few key factors to consider.
- As the world becomes smaller, in a technical and economic sense, we have more people working together globally than ever before. This isn’t just working in the same company, but rather on the same projects, supporting the same customers, being managed by each other and communicating on a real-time basis as if they shared a physical office. Many ask if technology is driving change, or whether change is driving technology. My answer is always consistent; it is a combination of both. We live in a world today where co-creation is key, and new ways of thinking and leveraging tools are not concepts being pushed by a “faceless” business, but by the very workers themselves who must feel empowered to continue employment within an enterprise. Here, HR has an opportunity to support today’s enterprise business models with cloud-based technology that connects people around the world like never before. If your enterprise can’t support global, you might as well not exist.
- Today’s workforce is reaching the point where employees have grown up with an inherent understanding of how to use tools and technology to move the world forward. Employees are using these tools to meet new friends, raise money for charities around the world, and even start movements that lead to the demolition of social, economic, and political walls that have existed for decades. Will the same individuals that are changing the world for the better outside of work with cloud technology become voiceless when their place of work has legacy software processes? Organizations that fail to provide their workforce with an arsenal of tools to connect, network, and create the future might as well close their doors today. Here HR has an opportunity to create and support an aligned, networked, and connected workforce with a massive competitive advantage over those who are still struggling to determine if this new world is a trend, a fad, or simply something to ignore. Put quite simply, if businesses ignore this massive shift in the way we work, chances are their customers will soon ignore those same businesses.
- Cloud technology has changed the cost structure, the efficiency and the ability for businesses to become more agile than ever. The arguments here are still being proven out, but I believe in the end will create a world where cloud computing becomes the norm for all businesses globally. Where there is still work to be done and where the larger impact will be realized is how cloud computing will change the future of work forever. The way these technologies will change the lives of anyone who “works” is not yet fully imagined, and is only limited by the boundaries we put around it. The interconnectedness and networked nature of a global economy will thrive only if we break down the walls we have built based on technologies of the past and realize that the future of work is already here. Failing to embrace the revolution that is upon us only limits the opportunities and growth for both the businesses and employees.
Finally, we live in a world today where truly for the first time, business leaders are not afraid of technology. It wasn’t even a decade ago that the majority of business leaders, if not in the IT department, would run the other direction when technology came up. We have officially reached an era where the understanding of technology, and its impact, is not solely the function of a department called “IT,” but rather Information Technology has become a part of each and every one of our responsibilities.
HR knows better than anyone how workers want to work, how they think and communicate, and the outcomes the business is trying to achieve. In this new era of the cloud computing when all we need to access these collaborative new technologies is a device we can purchase at a convenience store, and can begin to use without training of any kind, boundaries are eliminated and possibilities become endless. If HR and business leaders resist this kind of thinking, the disadvantage they will find themselves at is much greater than that of legacy technology holding them back. Ignoring the cloud will truly will limit the organization’s survival in this new world, in a very short period of time.
Now is the time for HR to get the everyone in the organization plugged into the cloud.