What makes a modern workplace? Nine strategies for success

What makes a modern workplace? Nine strategies for success

A roundup of expert insight into how employers can attract and retain a new generation of workers

Richard Humphreys |


To attract and retain a new generation of employees, today’s businesses need to not only equip workers with tools that help them become more productive, creative and secure, but also transform their culture. Here we outline nine strategies for success:

1. Offer flexibility
According to Andrew Dacombe, director of colleague systems at UK telecoms provider TalkTalk, there’s a strong move in the UK to offer flexible work options. “We need to provide these options if we want to attract the best talent,” he said.

With this in mind, the company has provided employees with Microsoft 365 Enterprise as part its ‘Greater Place to Work’ programme to modernise its work culture and technology. “The programme is underpinned by technologies to enable flexible, fluid working styles, the centrepiece of which is Microsoft Enterprise 365, which comprises Microsoft Office 365, Windows 10 Enterprise and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security,” Dacombe said.

2. Embrace intelligent computing
We are at the edge of a major technology shift towards more intelligent computing – one fuelled by the rise of data, sensors, the cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning and mixed reality.

According to Julia Atalla, a senior director in Microsoft’s Surface team, the disruptive force of these technologies is fuelling more agility and efficiency in everything we do. “It’s powering transformations that remove the seams and friction, and helping to create a culture that empowers businesses and their employees to achieve more,” she says. It’s a powerful change. When applied in new ways, these technologies can shift behaviour, inspire ideas, accelerate progress and really transform businesses.

“We look at the holistic picture of what is happening within your workplace – inside and outside of your office space – and how technology can enable your employees to create and collaborate in new ways,” Atalla explains. “It goes beyond productivity. When your employees are engaged and thriving, your business also thrives.”

3. Invest in B2B commerce
There are so many ways B2B commerce can not only add new revenue streams, but can actually transform the way an organisation does business.

Karie Daudt, vice president of marketing and customer experience at Insite Software, says that in many cases companies are only tapping a tiny percentage of the true potential of their commerce systems. “For us, the benefits of superior e-commerce platforms and solutions go far beyond the websites, beyond the transactions, beyond the shopping experience, and actually beyond commerce itself,” she says. “When done well, B2B commerce can meet its true goals of lowering costs, increasing efficiencies and providing B2B organisations with new ways to interact with all the different kinds of ‘customers’ they meet along each unique, complex buying journey.”

4. Understand what digital transformation really means
According to Simon O’Carroll, marketing director at Mercato Solutions, many people confuse digital transformation with the process of simply digitising data. But, he says, there is a very important difference.

“Unfortunately, business adoption and understanding of easily accessible transformational tools is extremely poor. Organisations need to take the opportunity to move away from ‘stop the world’ implementation and change processes, instead identifying agile platforms to allow them to work towards delivering solutions in weeks, not years. And with a worldwide developer shortage, they also need to use platforms that are flexible and easy to configure, that can dynamically change to support market conditions and also support independent growth and change for different business silos.”

5. Design personalised and contextualised user experiences
Marc Wilkinson, DXC Technology’s chief technology officer for Workplace and Mobility says that IT teams must design personalised and contextualised user experiences for today’s tech-savvy workforce and create the future digital workplace.

“Today, employees work wherever they are, using wearables, multiple smartphones, tablets and laptops to access various apps and websites,” he says. “And they don’t think twice about bypassing IT in favour of preferred devices and channels. If IT doesn’t embrace and wisely lead this next-generation workforce, it could run the risk of becoming a commodity.

“What’s needed is a richer experience delivered with a more nuanced touch – one in which IT is an invisible agent of change seamlessly arming the users with the modern technologies and capabilities they want, while maintaining high-quality, high-performance and secure services.”

6. Support creative teamwork
Worldwide online payments company Paypal is implementing Microsoft 365 to support creative teamwork.

“PayPal is building workplaces of the future – digital, collaborative, agile, and mobile – to capture the opportunities of the future,” said Ron Markezich, corporate vice president for Microsoft. “From programmers to engineers to marketers, the company is engaging and retaining employees through a comprehensive set of tools that are flexible enough to accommodate different workstyles. And it’s ensuring the same high level of security and reliability to protect the company’s intellectual property.”

7. Learn from startups
Agile, inventive, ambitious: start-ups are often known to be one step ahead of larger companies. According to UpSlide, the modern CFO can learn a lot from them.

“The ability to manage technological change is a priority for CFOs in 2018,” explains a recent UpSlide article. “The financial officer of the future is younger – almost 50% of start-up CFOs are under 39, compared to 11% in traditional companies. Hence, the use of new technologies and the digitisation of processes are a necessity. 58% of financial officers believe they need to “build their understanding of digital, smart technologies and sophisticated data analytics”. It will be particularly critical that they build their understanding of two disruptive technologies: blockchain and robotics process automation (RPA).

“More and more CFOs strongly believe that technology could, indeed, be an opportunity rather than a threat. The amount of data, the velocity of communication and potential risks have been a source of stress and vertigo for many years. Though a growing part of the finance community now believe that digital tools can be used to drive cost efficiency, manage strategic risk and even an opportunity to focus on high added value tasks and create value. A vision that we share and thrive at UpSlide!”

8. Recognise that communication is key
Communication and collaboration is critical at Endress+Hauser, an instrumentation and process automation company based in Switzerland.

However, with a communication landscape which had been developed over many years, the company realised that it could benefit significantly by moving to a modern, digital working environment that supports communication and that is enjoyable for employees.

The company chose Microsoft partner GAB Enterprise IT to implement Office 365, which has proven to be transformational. “With Office 365, Endress+Hauser  benefits from higher performance, future oriented programs, greater mobility and better connectivity,” explains Thomas Wimschneider, managing director at GAB Enterprise IT.  “The data is securely stored in the cloud and can be used on approved company devices worldwide.”

Find out more about the implementation in the video case study.

9. Learn to manage both the technical and the human sides of transformation
“If you don’t step back and look at the organisation as a whole then you end up with pockets of the business starting the transformation process and other departments resisting change,” explains Mike Constantine, GCI’s chief technology officer. That’s part of the complexity of digital transformation, and something that we’ve had to resolve ourselves.”

This is something that Adrian Thirkill, GCI’s CEO, is also passionate about. “The technical side of things is easy compared to the cultural change,” he says. “At GCI, I like to think we’ve invested a huge amount of time and effort in practicing what we preach and developing a culture that actually attracts talent. This means nurturing a great group of people who feel comfortable working wherever they are because there’s a happy integration of work and home life. It comes down to being flexible and having trust.

“So, for example, I don’t mind if one of our employees is taking a call on the school run. Or if one of our workers in Devon takes a two-hour lunch break to go surfing. It’s about results at the end of the day – if they deliver results then I’m happy, and if they have the flexibility they need then they’re not going to leave the company. This approach also means we can attract talent from across the whole of the UK as we are no longer bound by where our offices are located. It’s win:win.”






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