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Getting Strategic About the Connected Workspace


image of colorful blocks with people icons to show human resources and management concept
Image: tomertu -
About 10 years ago, I used to attend and speak at “Enterprise 2.0” conferences where I would encourage a predominantly IT audience to think more deeply about people and culture. I would then return to my HR world and encourage these practitioners to get on board with new social and, later, digital technologies.
Today, it’s much more common to see aligned agendas from IT and HR — as well as Real Estate/Facilities — and for these groups to be cooperating rather than blaming each other for lack of interest in each other’s work. It’s great to see this growing multidisciplinary interest in the connected workspace.
Employee Experience & Beyond
An increased focus on employee experience has been the main driver behind this change. Technologies have moved on from guiding people through a process to enabling them to undertake specific tasks. People, as well as technology, are now much more crucial to business success, and rather than just focusing employees and other workers on set objectives, companies are looking to ensure that everybody can work at their best. Improved employee experience has been at the core of massive change within corporate real estate, too. For example, facilities planners are designating smaller and more flexible office spaces to help people work in different ways.
And it is now an integrated experience, or an integrated set of experiences, taking place along an employee journey. These are based upon the combined impact of the work, the organization, work colleagues, and the digital and physical environment people work within, which together make up the connected workspace.
However, still more important than the experience are the organizational capabilities provided by the connected workspace and the people working in it. These capabilities will vary by an organization’s unique circumstances and requirements, but commonly include agility, innovation, and customer focus. They are about the quality or the value of people and the way the business organizes and supports them. They enable people to implement processes and undertake activities that serve customers and produce financial and other business results. A capability in customer focus, for example, means that an organization is good at focusing on customers. This is not about a company’s business processes and activities around customers or its relationships with them (which is more of a core competency), but the capability and potential inherent in people and the organization to be able to maintain and improve the focus on customers.
Capabilities consist of human, organization, and social capital:
  • Human capital is the quality, value, or attributes of the people working for an organization, and includes skills, engagement levels, and diversity. (Note that human capital does not refer to the people themselves. People are people, not human capital. Human capital management is the management of people to accumulate human capital, not the management of people as human capital.)
  • Organization capital is the value of the way we organize people, and includes efficiency, effectiveness, and alignment.
  • Social capital is the value of the connections, relationships, and conversations taking place among the people, and includes coordination, cooperation, and collaboration.
The connected workspace enables each of these aspects of capability:
  • An organization can create human capital by using appropriate HR or talent management processes, developing communities, and having digital and physical workspaces that support wellbeing, engagement, and effective work.
  • Organization capital requires appropriately designed processes and structures — for example, vertical structures or horizontal (including agile) teams — with people who know how to use them, and a connected workspace that makes it easy to get work done.
  • Social capital needs support for individual, group, and organizational development; the opportunity to network within and outside of the organization; and a connected workspace that makes it easy to develop and grow ties — strong or weak — with different people. This provides a multiplier effect in which an organization can achieve more than the people or groups would be able to if working on their own.
This is the real reason the connected workspace is so critical today. HR, IT, and Real Estate/Facilities (in fact HR, Talent Management, Learning and Development, Internal Communications, Community Management, Knowledge Management, Organization Design, Organization Development, Experience Design, IT, Digital, Property, Workplace Design, and Facilities Management) all have different areas of activity, professional skills, and ways of seeing the world, but we all focus on delivering the same organizational outcomes. (Although digital technologies can provide a more direct route to business results through customer apps, etc., too.)
A connected workspace requires a connected set of disciplines at its foundation. We don’t need to merge all these departments, but we do all need to spend still more time together… within our organizations, and at external events, such as the upcoming WorkSpace Connect Summit, too.