by Paul Chapman

How CIOs can empower today’s digital native workforce

Mar 27, 2018
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

Find ways to attract and retain a digitally native workforce.

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Credit: Thinkstock

The last thing any CIO wants to hear is “I’m leaving this job because the company’s IT infrastructure and policies make my work too difficult to accomplish.” If you’re not preparing for this issue, you should be: a 2017 Gallup poll found over half of employees will change jobs for a position that offers more flexibility and company-wide communication and collaboration. I believe that technology can either enable or hurt these employee satisfaction requirements, which are only going to get more demanding. The number of employees with similar values will continue to grow as our workforce adds digital natives who’ve come to expect and rely on technology’s benefits since birth. Today’s employees’ productivity depends on the technology empowering their shifting workplace environments. Removing technological friction to enable a modern, digitally native workforce is critical to not only attract and motivate staff—but also retain them.

It’s commonly understood that the modern workforce is a mobile one—yet, just having a work from home or mobile device policy is no longer adequate. The physical office environment has changed as rapidly as technology has advanced. Office spaces are more open and social, enabling opportunities for spontaneous meetings and collaboration—paralleling the growth of collaborative software tools. And while 43 percent of employees work outside the office walls, they still expect to easily connect with their counterparts using software. The workplace is no longer a specific destination where employees gather, rather it is much more a state of mind: 83 percent of workers don’t think they need an office in order to be productive. 

We, as CIOs, need to make sure the technology powering our companies evolves in tandem with our changing workspaces and employee’s work styles. To empower this digital native generation, we need to focus on making software more intuitive and seamless. Leveraging employees’ behavioral data and patterns can enable IT teams to create the work environments the new generation of employees expect. At Box, this has been a central focus of our workplace and product development as we’ve looked at our data to inform the new ways we can enable employees to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Like many companies our employees would for one reason or another lock themselves out of their work accounts after three failed attempts. Unlocking their accounts took up the bandwidth of my IT department and was also a pain for our staff who could be on the road or working on weekends. By automating active directory unlock using two-factor push notifications, we were able to resolve thousands of tickets a month, ensuring that all employees could continue to work after a lockout and saving them countless wasted hours resolving a simple issue. 

For employees trying to navigate, book and gather in appropriate spaces to work or collaborate with each other—the process can be cumbersome and waste unnecessary amounts of time. We worked with Teem to provide our staff a data-driven approach to booking conference rooms. Along with core integrations with tools like Alexa and others—which provides employees a modern and simple “touch, text or talk” way to book rooms—the partnership also utilizes location and beacon information to help staff navigate and track usage of rooms. Given that conference rooms are in such high demand—and critical for collaboration—we wanted to ensure that time spent in conference rooms weren’t wasted by an employee who reserved the room but didn’t end up using the space. Our solution was creating a check in system, which mandates that employees check in within eight minutes of the meeting start time or the room would become available for other employees to book. As a result, we saw a 20 percent reclaim rate to booked rooms where the original attendees didn’t show, and instead a new set of employees were able to use the space. 

We also looked to automation to empower our mobile workforce to communicate more easily. There are dozens of enterprise chat services, but email still remains a priority tool. Though email still has many disadvantages: searching and identifying the right emails—whether it be time-sensitive or have a particular document—remains arduous. Applying advancements in automation across image classification, natural language processing and sentiment analysis to email can dramatically reduce the impact of this pain point. Leveraging data and these automation toolsets, an employee can find an email by simply describing it. 

Needless to say, prioritizing data starts from day one. From Hewlett Packard to VMWare to Box, at each organization I’ve spent a lot of time in the environment looking at how to provide better insights, better analytical capabilities, to make better informed decisions. The longer you wait to change workflows the more difficult it becomes over time to attract, hire and retain talent. As this new and oncoming workforce continue to change the framework of the workplace environment, it’s our job as CIOs to embrace this change in a similar way, finding solutions and strategies that adapt and enable the most productive workplace dynamics.