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3 Technology Trends Shaping the Future of the Digital Workplace
Digital Friction
Digital Workplace

3 Technology Trends Shaping the Future of the Digital Workplace

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7 minutes read time
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Published on Apr 17th, 2023
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Written by Janine Marchi

There is not doubt the release of ChatGPT has taken the world by storm this year. In fact, according to an analysis by Swiss Bank UBS, ChatGPT is the fastest-growing app of all time. Whether or not ChatGPT is ready for the enterprise, there’s an opportunity to leverage ChatGPT and other technology to help improve work processes and the overall employee experience.

Research from Workgrid indicates that today’s employees are spending an unnecessary amount of effort to use technology to get their jobs done. This unnecessary effort is defined as digital friction. The digital friction employees face is causing productivity and engagement issues, leaving employees dissatisfied.

Better use of technology can help employees overcome digital friction and get their jobs done more efficiently. It’s not necessarily about adding or taking away tools, but using technology that aims to help employees with tasks, workflows, and business processes that don’t require learning new user interfaces.

A recent report by Gartner®, “Strategic Roadmap: What is the Digital Workplace of 2027 and How Do I Get There?” looks forward to the future state of the digital workplace:

The future state of the digital workplace is centered on new technological capabilities, new process efficiencies and vastly different requirements for skills and talent within the organization. As a result, your digital workplace strategy will need to reflect the changing technology, talent and process landscape. Any investments made by digital workplace leaders must aim to continually improve the EX on the path to better business outcomes.

Strategic Roadmap: What is the Digital Workplace of 2027 and How Do I Get There?

So, what types of technologies will shape the digital workplace today and in the near future?

Let's look at three examples that have started to appear in the digital workplace. We'll explore how they work and some practical examples of how you can get started improving the digital employee experience at your organization.

  1. Superapps

  2. AI: Everyday AI and Generative AI

  3. Nudgetech

Improving the employee experience with Super Apps

Super apps are described by Gartner as "an application that provides end users (customers, partners or employees) with a set of core features plus access to independently created miniapps. The super app is built as a platform to deliver a miniapps ecosystem that users can choose from to activate for consistent and personalized app experiences.” The super app concept is being touted as a solution to digital friction.

In short, super apps can consolidate multiple services into one app experience. A widely known example is WeChat, a Chinese social media app which allows users to not only send messages, but also access several third-party services like ordering food, hailing a cab, or sending money to friends. All these different services are integrated right into a single app. Sounds convenient, right?

Now there may not be as many official super apps in the U.S. yet, and according to Forbes, super apps may never take off in America. But the key principle of consolidating multiple apps and services into a single app for a purpose-driven experience is a goal that enterprises should strive toward.

Think about any process you may have recently experienced in your personal life. Many of the apps we use every day have multiple services running on the backend, but as users we have the luxury of one single experience. An airline app is a good example. You have one mobile app to book flights, manage upcoming trips, manage your airline perks, and have access to other convenient travel functions from third-party services (e.g., hotel booking, car rentals, etc.) It's likely that many of those features are separate systems on the backend, but you as the consumer get to benefit from one single, easy-to-use interface.

In the digital workplace, we are seeing more and more companies building digital experiences that bring together separate services or data from multiple applications into a single experience. They may not be official super apps, but the principle of delivering services and data together to streamline the experience is being mimicked.

Rather than forcing an employee to jump to and from multiple apps, data and services from business systems can be integrated directly into existing digital workplace channels such as your intranet or collaboration streams (i.e., Microsoft teams, Slack, etc.)

Liberty Mutual Insurance is an example of a company who earned notoriety for their digital workplace, delivering an integrated employee experience by implementing Workgrid’s digital assistant on their corporate intranet.

With the digital assistant, Liberty Mutual brings together employee services and data from over ten separate systems including but not limited to their payroll, time management, expense management, procurement, performance review, IT service management, and HCM systems.

Read more about Liberty Mutual's intranet success story: Case Study

New AI Models to Simplify and Assist People in their Jobs

Artificial intelligence is transforming how people use technology to do their jobs. Today, employees interact with AI broadly, mostly as features within personal productivity applications.

Employees may have recently started to notice small enhancements to the existing software they use every day that help them perform day-to-day tasks. For example, software may use AI to suggest words to help finish sentences or make design suggestions for a PowerPoint presentation. This is known as EverydayAI and it doesn’t require much input from employees.

The fact that EverdayAI happens directly in the systems employee's use is a huge bonus because they don’t have to go to another app or even think about if they need assistance. Intelligent suggestions are presented to them in a timely, relevant manner, and in-context to the task at hand.

GenerativeAI (the model Chat-GPT uses) on the other hand is a type of artificial intelligence that can produce various types of content from text, imagery, audio, and synthetic data. The technology has been around since the 1960’s but wasn’t easy to program. Earlier versions of ChatGPT required submitting data via an API and required developers to understand and learn complex programing languages. Fast forward to 2023 and ChatGPT is available as an AI-powered chatbot application built on OpenAI’s GPT implementation. According to TechTarget, ChatGPT is defined as “an  AI chatbot that uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue. The language model can respond to questions and compose various written content, including articles, social media posts, essays, code and emails.”

ChatGPT has the opportunity to add tremendous value across an array of use cases, but at this stage many companies are weary to implement it, as they evaluate how to best use the technology in an ethical way that does not put their company and company’s data at risk.

Generally speaking, AI-based conversational interfaces can add a significant amount of ROI to an organization. Chatbots can help automate tasks and speed up the delivery of finding information across knowledge repositories and third-party systems. With the widespread growth of ChatGPT, we will likely see chatbots and conversational interfaces adopted at a higher rate.

According to Josh Bersin, a leading HR analyst, “While it’s still early days, I am convinced that the user experience for enterprise software is going to change radically. Instead of scrolling, searching, and pecking at buttons, we’re going to ask a question, get an intelligent response, and then click a button to do more.”

Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, stated that “the broadest and most impactful area of AI will be in general purpose capabilities that quickly enable the average professional to get their work done better and faster. In short, helping knowledge workers work more effectively to achieve meaningful outcomes to the business.” (How Generative AI Has Supercharged the Future of Work | Constellation Research Inc.)

Conversational AI at Work

If you don’t have any chatbots within your enterprise, it’s something to consider for employees. Conversational interfaces have grown over the years in terms of capabilities and can help employees find and consume information. Rather than an employee having to remember what system to log into in order to find information, they could ask a single chatbot question and the chatbot would surface information from multiple systems.

For example, an employee could ask a simple question such as “what is my time off balance?” or “when is the next company holiday?” In which the chatbot would pull directly from the time off application to deliver a response. Similarly, with access to enterprise systems, a chatbot could be leveraged for more complex or specific questions, such as “what opportunities are due to close this quarter?” surfacing information from the company CRM.

Advanced conversational interfaces deliver more than just conversations. They can also perform end-to-end tasks that automate processes, such as submitting IT tickets and delivering contextually relevant services based on the employees’ intent.

Let’s say an employee asks for their time off balance. It’s likely they are asking for their balance because they want to take time off. In this example below, the chatbot shows the employee their time off balance and then provides the ability to submit time off right from the chatbot interface, should that be the employee’s intent.

Furthermore, companies who offer conversational AI may also leverage their chatbots within existing digital workplace channels such as Microsoft Teams or Slack, creating more integrated experiences that give employees fast and easy access to assistance, whenever they need it.

Nudgetech to guide employees and build positive habits

According to Gartner, nudgetech is “a form of AI-enabled choice architecture designed to elicit behaviors aimed at accelerating targeted positive outcomes at the individual, team, and/or organization level. Nudgetech incorporates behavioral economic principles, hyperpersonalized through AI. Nudges comes with freedom of choice, and are often based on worker behavior data. Including workstyle analytics. These tools are available today but have not been broadly adopted. In the future state these will become integrated into team productivity applications.”

Nudgetech, based on the nudge theory, centers around using behavioral science to encourage people to make better decisions. Behavioral science studies show that effective behavioral change comes from incremental progress, with feelings of achievement. Nudgetech doesn’t have to be complicated or driven by AI, simply the act of creating workflows to nudge behaviors or actions is becoming increasingly common in the workplace.

This form of AI can be part of an organization's change management initiative. Organizations can start by determining what they want to change and then help nudge employees towards adopting a new behavior or performing actions that align to that behavior. For example, let’s say you wanted to increase employee recognition in your organization.

Nudgetech at Work

Perhaps this isn’t something that has been conducted well in the past, so you need to have employees get into the habit and develop a culture of recognition. Using data from an employee recognition software, you could identify how frequently recognition occurs and nudge employees to recognize an employee when a certain period of time has gone by without any recognition (e.g., one month, one quarter).

Another great example of nudgetech is using it to support employee boundaries. Since remote work took off during the pandemic, many employees struggle to separate work from home and end up working long hours or replying to emails regardless of the time. Microsoft Outlook nudges users to reconsider sending a message if it’s after a certain time in the evening. The message may say something like: “You are trying to send an email to Company ABC users outside normal office hours, do you want to schedule this to send in the morning?”

What’s great about this nudge is it’s being presented to the employee contextually at the right time. It doesn’t force the user to reschedule but nudges the employee with a suggestion of reinforcement of the company culture and helps remind them to consider their behavior.

Similarly, another example of nudgetech supporting employee well-being is ensuring employees take time off. Here at Workgrid, for example, we recently built a few apps that help nudge employees towards behavior that helps prevent burnout.

Research from Harvard Business Review showed that 92% of employees consider meetings costly and unproductive. Countless online interactions often lead to Zoom fatigue “ — a condition neuropsychologists say is a big contributor to technostress. In short, more meetings don’t help anyone reach their goals."

By leveraging data from Microsoft, Workgrid nudges employees when it's been over 80 days since they last took a day off or if they have more than 20 hours of meetings over a two-week period, offering suggestions like checking time off balances or blocking the calendar for focus time.

These slight nudges can really help encourage positive behaviors. The best way to get started with any type of technology that can execute nudges is to identify and prioritize areas that need improvement and then create steps to help people make the designed changes.

The more specific you can be and the more contextual you can make the nudge especially timing wise or in-app delivery the better chances of delivering the desired outcomes.

It's no doubt technology will continue to change and play a large role in the future state of the digital workplace, but with changing technology comes new processes and new requirements across your organization.

To effectively plan a roadmap for your future digital workplace, check out this Gartner® Report, “Strategic Roadmap: What is the Digital Workplace of 2027 and How Do I Get There?”

GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

Gartner, Strategic Roadmap: What Is the Digital Workplace of 2027 and How Do I Get There?, By Analyst(s): Christopher Trueman, Lane Severson, Tori Paulman, Nikos Drakos, Matt Cain, Joe Mariano, Stephen Emmott, Jim Murphy Published 28 October 2022 

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