Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a number of forward-looking conversations with L&D professionals about learning in the digital workplace; and in particular about learning within a digital workspace set-up. A digital workspace is a concerted effort by organisations to provide their employees with a personalised environment to enable each individual to organise their digital tools and sources of information in an efficient manner to allow them to maximise their personal productivity.
As the desire for deeper integration of our systems grows, moving to a digital workspace concept gives us the chance to explore how we can make accessing a variety of tools as seamless as possible. For L&D and HR, this should also mean making learning and performance management more visible on a day-to-day basis.
In the pre-digital age, our non-digital workspaces could actually be quite efficient. On our desks in front of us we’d have our typewriter (or simple word processor), our diary open to today’s page, a dictionary and thesaurus – sandwiched between two bookends – alongside the trusty books and reference manuals we consulted all the time, with the key sections flagged by bookmarks, scraps of paper or sticky notes. It was generally easy to find the things we needed on a day-to-day basis; and there was always the landline telephone we could use to speak to someone if we needed anything else. In a pile of papers on our desks or in our top drawer would be this year’s learning development plan, a full-colour training catalogue and our performance appraisal workbook.
Then we went digital and those tangible things that kept us productive turned into a variety of software programs, online document storage areas, systems that we’d forget were there; and where we’d have to remember different sets of log-in details. And faced with more information we could ever hope to use, suddenly looking for stuff got harder. Out of sight became out of mind. The digital workspace seeks to get things back under control and platforms such as SharePoint 2013/2016 now offer opportunities to make this a reality.
Expressed simply, the idea is that when a user logs in to their desktop – or more likely arrives on a new landing page – they are presented with the various tools and sources of information they need to do their particular job, side-by-side. If we assume that our employees always set out to do a good job, then you could propose that their digital workspace needs to enable them to address the question: “What will make me successful today?”
My vision for the optimal digital workspace would offer a user a number of zones on their homepage.
My Work Tasks will provide them with quick access to the software programs they use daily, perhaps even providing previews of current tasks or work-in-progress. My Knowledge will take the user direct to the information resources they use on a regular basis. And that doesn’t just mean a direct link to the intranet home page, but ways to access the particular pages of information they use frequently. My Network will allow users to quickly connect with their peers or external contacts for support. And firmly back in the L&D and HR space, through a “viewfinder” to the underlying system, My Performance would ensure the user’s performance management objectives remained visible and easily updatable and My Learning would similarly keep the user’s current learning schedule front-of-mind.
A digital workspace is all about enabling the user to work with an integrated workflow that spans all of these five areas. In my proposed workflow, I am attempting to make direct links between an individual’s performance management objectives, the work they need to do on a day-to-day basis and the learning and other resources they need to ensure they can meet both of the former. Given the increasing focus on making performance management an ongoing process and the need to create personalised learning approaches to enable people to better do the job they are doing, the digital workspace should have these as two of its goals.
In my workflow, the user has clear visibility of their KPIs and aspirations, hopefully both addressed in the objectives of their current performance management records, which would appear on their personal dashboard. The digital workspace should ensure that these aren’t something that are only looked at a handful of times each year, by when it’s too late to make up any lost ground. Having sight of them should also help the user to prioritise the tasks they do and spur them to look for learning solutions and other support to help keep them on track. It should also mean they can quickly and continuously update them with progress reports and feedback as it’s received. The user needs to also have an at-a-glance view to the learning they’ve selected, so that they can remain on top of this and work it into their daily schedule.
In order to have a successful day, the user also needs to have seamless access to the tools that will help them to remain organised to undertake the tasks at hand effectively and efficiently. They will also need fast access to the most relevant sources of information and speedy ways to tap into the knowledge and expertise of others. Sources of information they use most frequently need to be uppermost on their dashboard. All of these “lenses” into the tools and services they need also need to be easily customisable and flexible, to adjust to the user’s requirements and increasingly accessible via a number of difference devices.
Ultimately, the workflow through the digital workspace should enable the user to finish each day with a measure of what they’ve achieved – from productivity tools that allow them to mark “a job done”, through measures of learning completion and updates to KPIs and other performance management objectives.
A digital workspace offers a great opportunity for L&D and HR to finally place what they offer at the heart of each employee’s day-to-day activities. So now is the time to engage with your colleagues in IT to see where this sits within their strategy. In my experience, they are often looking for internal partners to help make the business case for this change and you might find you are instrumental in seeing this realised, with a very aligned and shared agenda.