In previous articles
, I have written about a strategic approach to the connected workspace, suggesting that this involves HR, IT, and real estate/facilities developing a shared focus on common organizational outcomes relating to the quality or value of employees and the way the workplace enables these people. More specifically, these outcomes are combinations of human, organization, and social capital
Human capital is the value that people provide to the business, based on their skills, motivation, and diversity across the organization. Organization capital is the value provided by the way people are organized, especially by the organization’s structure and processes. Social capital is the value created by the way people work together within the organization, based on their connections, relationships, and conversations. The connected workspace can act as
organization capital or as an activity creating human and social capital.
This common focus enables organizations to integrate their approaches to HR activities and the digital and physical workspaces in order to deliver the required organizational outcomes, and to provide a unified experience. One of the best ways of supporting this approach is developing an integrated approach to strategic metrics and analytics.
Developing Strategically Aligned Metrics
Connected workspace metrics should track progress through the organization value chain, enabling analysis of the activities undertaken by HR, IT, and real estate/facilities and the way that these lead to required organization outcomes and impact business results.
Metrics linked to business results generally focus on whatever aspects of operations, customers, and financials are most important for a particular organization, especially given its size, sector, and other factors. These metrics are important because the attributes lying behind them are important and, of course, are the real reason we have any sort of workspace at all. However, these metrics lie too far down the value chain — not to mention generally involve too many confounding variables — to be particularly relevant measures of the workplace strategy itself. Therefore, organizations should not try to measure connected workspace activities or organizational outcomes through changes in business impact metrics.
Metrics of shared organizational outcomes created by a connected workspace should instead focus on the levels of human, organization, and social capital created. These metrics often focus on results from engagement surveys, other surveys focusing on satisfaction with organizational systems and processes, and newer tools such as organization network analysis.
Digital technologies are increasingly enabling and informing these metrics; one example is the use of process mining to understand the effectiveness of organizational processes. In addition, digital analytics are replacing manual, subjective surveys. For example, businesses are increasingly conducting organization network analyses using metadata from emails or enterprise social networks and chat systems. Likewise, companies can observe people’s wellbeing and engagement via real-time, objective data from wearables and sensors, rather than having to ask them for subjective assessments.
For HR, IT, and real estate/facilities activities, metrics focus on quantity, quality, time, and cost. Digital technologies often replace measurement mechanisms providing these metrics. This obviously relates particularly strongly to the digital workplace. Digital workplace activities produce big data, which a business can easily and readily analyze to identify correlations.
However, digital analytics are extending into the physical workplace, with the development of the smart office over the last few years, and more recently, the use of tools to ensure a safe and appropriately distanced work environment.
As HR activities become increasingly digitally enabled too, they also can benefit from the same approaches as above. For example, now that more recruitment is taking place through video interviewing, HR has the opportunity to use AI-based approaches to analyze candidates’ responses to help with shortlisting the best people.
All these examples enable organizations to look for correlations between activities and organizational outcomes, and between these outcomes and business results.
While these shifts toward digitally enabled analytics are highly positive, organizations may need to identify other measures and data sources, too. For example, this might include an ongoing pulse survey asking staff about their satisfaction with polices around hybrid working, as this is often going to provide highly relevant information at the moment.
This blended use of digital technologies and other measurement mechanisms to provide data on the connected workspace is particularly important when wanting to develop a strategic approach to this topic. This is because digitally enabled metrics, despite their benefits, tend to focus on operational performance, rather than the type of attributes typically associated with strategic activities and outcomes.
For example, an organization can gain data on one aspect of the digital workplace experience by monitoring the number of people who complete a particular task online. This data is accurate, objective, reliable, and easily accessed and analyzed. However, it does little to inform a strategic understanding of how well the connected workspace supports and enables business results.
A more appropriate strategic measure might be how well the digital workspace enables people to develop or maintain the same depth of relationships with each other that they had before the pandemic, when they had the benefit of face-to-face connections, too.
An organization might gather this data by running focus groups asking staff about their relationships with one another. (They could use organization network analyses to identify the connectedness between people, but this will not really help understand the nature of the relationships across the identified connections).
Similarly, while digital tools often provide advanced, prescriptive analytics that help point toward the actions a company should take, these systems also mainly focus on operational activities. However, companies can still usually undertake basic descriptive and predictive analytics, analyzing potentially causal relationships between activities and outcomes, and outcomes and final business results, using data obtained through other mechanisms.
For example, HR could obtain sentiment analysis from focus groups run in different parts of a business (including by analysis of online discussions conducted by AI tools). It could correlate these findings with engagement levels in these different areas. This type of exercise would never win any awards for advanced analytical approaches, but might just lead to the sort of strategic insight a particular organization needs.
This integrated, blended approach to metrics and analytics I’ve suggested usefully supports an organization’s connected workspace strategy. Without this approach, metrics are likely to reinforce both existing functional divisions and operational perspectives. This will reduce strategic effectiveness, and make it more difficult for HR, IT, and real estate/facilities to deliver a connected workspace that provides the sort of impact that would be possible with a more strategic approach.