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Today's workers want a hybrid office, with all the flexibility that promises. The right technology to support this new workplace reality is key.
The right hybrid workplace technologies can support employee experience, lower retention, support recruiting and help organizations maintain -- or get -- a competitive edge. The pandemic sparked exponential changes about remote work and demonstrated how productive it can be. Now, as some companies choose to move away from remote work toward hybrid models, technology issues become more complicated. As an HR leader or CIO, you need to understand what tools are important to the future of work.
What is a hybrid workplace model?
The hybrid workplace model is a blend of in-person and remote workers, where in any given week, employees may split their time between coming into work on-site and working from home.
As an HR leader or CIO, you will want to partner with other leaders in the organization to decide which strategies will support the blended workforce. Here's a look at hybrid workplace technologies that will not only help employees remain productive from their preferred work location, but will also ensure the organization's data is secure while enabling employees to access the data they need.
Applicant tracking system
Two components should be top-of-mind when you consider recruiting. The first is the need for software that supports a remote workforce: Your applicant tracking system should allow recruiters, managers, candidates, interviewers and approvers to perform all their actions remotely. The second consideration is your talent pool. With a hybrid workforce, you are no longer confined to hiring employees within a specific city, state or country. As an organization, you may want to update your recruiting strategy to determine how best to take advantage of this new opportunity.
Team collaboration tools -- or team collaboration software -- refers to the myriad types of software and online services companies and their employees can use to track progress on common projects, independent of physical location. Team collaboration tools include cloud storage, document synchronization and file-sharing tools, instant messaging and online whiteboards, to name a few.
Part of the larger category of collaboration tools, a number of applications can help support ad hoc communication between employees. These applications can also be used to share information with all employees or support groups of employees working on a common project. Slack and Microsoft Teams are well-known examples of such tools.
To support the remote worker, an organization will require an application to store and share electronic files rather than relying on paper-based files. File-sharing tools enable teams to quickly distribute and transfer files and provide access to other members. These applications remove the transfer process from email, relieving inboxes from the distracting flood of files and notifications. Shared files can be anything from documents to videos or even software.
With a document management system in place, you can control who within your organization can see, edit and delete files. To ensure all employees have the same access to the information they require, there may be a need to digitize existing files and those that continue to require a wet signature, such as those for government agencies.
Human capital management
Human capital management (HCM) software is critical for any modern organization. It generally includes core HR, talent management, workforce management, service delivery and other technologies such as analytics. Although it is available on premises, a cloud-based HCM is a key hybrid workplace technology.
Having an HCM system that is available remotely to all employees is paramount to ensuring that the data is accessible and maintained by employees, managers and HR.
Office capacity management tools
Social distance recommendations and capacity restrictions continue to exist in many parts of the world. These naturally affect workplaces, and you must be aware of applicable safety guidelines, including potential capacity limitations in your organization's workplace. To ensure the organization remains within the acceptable limits, you need a way to count employees as they enter and leave your office space. Look for capacity management tools, such as those that employ registration tools or occupancy sensors for larger workforces.
Office cleaning automation
As more workers return to the office either permanently or as part of a hybrid workforce, you need to rethink your approach to office cleanliness. Keeping workers safe requires more stringent cleaning protocols. Besides a focus on social distancing and capacity limits, your organization may need to turn to AI, automation alerts, smart technology and robots to help support office cleaning needs. For example, applications exist that can notify the office cleaning staff when a meeting has ended or an employee is no longer using a hoteling desk. In addition, more organizations are turning to smart technologies and robots for office cleaning support. And technologies such as UV light technology can help disinfect office spaces.
Employee learning applications
According to a number of surveys, today's workers are looking to leave their current job behind -- up to 40%, by some estimates. Many organizations, on the other hand, are hungry to hire and finding it difficult to do so. Supporting the employee experience, compliance needs and cultivating workers' skills through learning applications is key for any organization today, including hybrid workplaces.
Learning management systems and learning experience platforms can facilitate anytime, anywhere training and capture completion information. You should also investigate other learning technologies to support the hybrid workplace employee experience.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile use was growing exponentially. When the pandemic hit, mobile tools became lifelines for keeping workers connected, executing technology implementation, and pivoting to a new normal. Whether employees are working in office or working remotely on a particular day, they need certain capabilities for getting their work done. These include connectivity, the ability to look up organization information and the ability to provide approvals. Mobile software and tools are key to ensuring this productivity.
With the potential for new employees to be in 100% remote positions, you need to rethink your approach to onboarding and may need a cloud-based onboarding application that provides flexibility and security. For example, an onboarding application can help you share information with new hires such as policies, training material and information about your organization. It can also provide a location-independent way to introduce new employees to their teams and ease them into the company culture.
Performance management tools
In an environment where the employee-manager relationship is remote or only occasionally in person, employees need clear goals and regular check-ins to ensure they are receiving timely feedback. Managers can easily get into the "out of sight, out of mind" mentally, leaving the employee on their own and unsure if their performance is meeting expectations.
Technology is critical in supporting this aspect of the hybrid workplace, but continuous performance management is a strategic approach first. That means top leadership and your HR teams should have clear messaging around best practices and methodologies to support managers' training in giving feedback.
If your organization plans to offer hoteling, where employees reserve a desk for the days when they are in the office, you will need a way for employees to reserve the workspace. You may be able to use the same application used for booking meeting rooms. However, if your organization offers numerous hoteling options, you may want to find more targeted or intuitive applications to facilitate the reservation process.
Flexible work environments require a sophisticated approach to security. Many organizations have relied on VPNs, but some security experts believe these leave organizations vulnerable to bad actors, since in many cases, VPN authentication gives a user unfettered access to the corporate network. In response, many organizations are looking at alternative remote access methods, such as zero-trust network access.
Video conferencing software
The use of video conferencing grew exponentially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These collaboration tools offer a flexibility and connection that was arguably unmatched by other tools. To that point, video conferencing will also be instrumental in enabling remote and in-office team members to connect. This is especially important to connect team members during hybrid meetings.
Vendors are working on features that specifically target hybrid workplaces. For example, video conferencing vendors have said individual framing will be key in hybrid workplaces. This feature treats meeting participants equally and is meant to help workers read conference room attendees' facial expressions and body language.