There’s an old adage that counsels people to work smarter, not harder. In the age of workplace digitalization, though, that age-old truism has taken on new meaning. Today, the workplace is, indeed, “smart,” but not in the traditional sense.
Rather, today’s “smart workplaces” are those in which technology is enabling employees to perform at levels never before imagined. In fact, the smart workplace isn’t just changing how employees work, but they’re also redefining the nature of work itself.
This article explores the ways in which smart workplaces will shape the future of work and discusses how (and why) you should turn your business into a “smart” one.
What Is a Smart Workplace and Why Should You Care?
Fundamentally, a smart workplace refers to any business environment in which the majority of facilities, operations, and materials have been digitized. Simply put, it is a company in which the power of technology has been unleashed either to perform the duties that human workers once fulfilled or to increase the functional capacity of human workers in their current job roles.
The result is an ideal marriage between human and machine in order to optimize productivity and efficiency while reducing human error. Smart workplaces feature a range of technologies based on the organization’s unique technology requirements.
In most cases, a smart workplace will encompass automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
Streamlining Processes and Optimizing Operations
The greatest advantage of a smart workplace, perhaps, is the capacity to eliminate inefficiencies and dramatically accelerate workflow. For example, workflow automation allows technology to perform necessary and relatively simple, but no less time-consuming, tasks that would otherwise fall to human workers. This, in turn, leaves human workers able to attend to more important and complex tasks that cannot be automated.
For instance, a recruiter may need to quickly fill an unexpected job vacancy and may have identified a pool of nearly 100 prospective candidates. Even using a template to send out an invitation to apply email, the process of emailing each of those 100 prospects could take hours or days. With the right automation software, though, a “smart” recruiting tool could get the job done in mere seconds.
Similarly, the use of chatbots and related automation tools can also ensure unprecedented levels of customer service while also streamlining processes. Chatbots, for instance, can use machine learning capabilities to ask customers essential questions, evaluate their responses, and direct them to the department, agent, or agency that can best serve them.
This not only enhances the overall customer experience but also eliminates the need for human agents to expend often significant amounts of time defining the customer’s issue and collecting the necessary information. Rather, through automation, customers will be placed immediately with the agent who can help them and, at the same time, the agent will receive the material they need to serve them without having to collect it.
Improving Planning and Decision-Making
Digitalization doesn’t just make your workplace more productive and efficient, but it can also make you a better leader and decision-maker. For example, by integrating technologies, from workplace sensors to AI systems, you’re going to enjoy next-level data analytics.
You’ll be able, for instance, to collect data in real time on inventories, sales, losses, shortages, surpluses, and other key metrics that enable you to make sound business decisions. AI systems can even use machine learning to identify operational problems within your organization or to predict future company needs or industry trends. That means that you’re going to have all the information you need to plan for the short-term and long-range success of your business, using smart technology to eliminate often devastating knowledge gaps.
Bringing Your Team On Board
For all the demonstrable benefits of a smart workplace, however, digitalization doesn’t just happen. You will need to put in some sweat equity to prepare both your business and your employees.
For example, some employees may resist the adoption of the new technology because they simply don’t understand how it will benefit either the company or themselves in their ability to do their job.
This is where patience, empathy, clear communication, and robust training come into play. Your employees will be more likely to come on board with the digital transformation. The key is to provide tangible proof of the benefits of smart technology to tasks such as project management, internal and external communications, recruiting, and personnel management.
Even as you educate your employees on the benefits, both individual and corporate, of digitalization, you will also want to ensure that you are equipping them with all the training and support they need to utilize technology effectively.
Above all, you will need to be wary of falling for hype over substance. The promise of smart workplace systems is immense, but only if you choose the tools that are right for your company, your staff, and your customers. That means that you will need to be strategic, judicious, and mercenary in your integration of smart systems in your workplace.
The good news is that the test to determine if a particular smart device is right for you is whether or not you can explain, and then prove, the benefit(s) it will provide for a specific department and/or job. If you can’t do this, then it’s best to move on to a smart tool whose value to your company is clear, specific, and demonstrable.
Smart workplaces are, indeed, shaping the future of work, making employees and enterprises alike more efficient and productive than ever before. Through AI, machine learning, automation, and IoT, human error is eliminated, inefficiencies reduced, employee performance is optimized, and customer experience is better than could ever have been imagined.
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor