• March 15, 2017

Is Your Company Competitive? 5 Key Questions to Ask About Any Digital Workplace

The old ways are good enough, they’ve always got the job done. This is the attitude that many companies still seem to take towards digital tools. No need for anything fancy. Everything’s fine as it is.

The truth, though, is that digitalization is the most important element of a company’s competitiveness. Other, vital parts of the bedrock of a company’s competitiveness are its employees. Ultimately, employees are each and every company’s most valuable resource and the source of its competitiveness.

So how should one go about building up a digital workplace and strengthening competitiveness? Before acquiring the tools, it’s necessary to figure out how they should be used. This is what you could call a strategy. A well-functioning strategy always has a goal that the company must keep in sight. First the strategy, then the measures. First the goal, then the tools.

As the research firm Gartner has shown, companies should consciously determine their digital workplace strategy rather than simply acquire new technologies. Companies are now competing for the best employees. Others are working at becoming more international. Companies also want the ability to react quickly and effectively, and flexibility and the capacity to adapt to fast-paced changes in the world. What’s more, they want to be attractive places to work, both now and in the future.

All these goals can be met by creating and following a digital workplace strategy for your business. If you don’t already have such a strategy, it might be time to think through the following questions to assess the digital capabilities of your company.

1. Is my company stiff and old-fashioned?

Work is no longer tied to a particular place. Thanks to digital platforms, employees can get their hands on the information they need independently of time, place, and particular digital device. Files that are stored in the cloud can be accessed from one’s own work computer, laptop, or smartphone. Correspondence is easy through many different channels, such as Skype, smartphones, and various messaging services.

The best talents demand flexibility. The digital workplace enables fluent communications and teamwork, even though the employees may not physically be in the same place. This also makes it possible for the best professionals in the field, including internationally, to contribute to a company’s success.

Agility is increased by changes in leadership styles as well since digital workplaces are not very hierarchical. Just about any employee can spontaneously put together a team that will reach the desired end results.

2. How do I ensure that my employees remain committed?

The challenge for companies is to attract the best talent to their payroll. At the same time, however, holding on to the best employees is becoming increasingly difficult. The key means of ensuring employee commitment are the right tools and working methods.

To ensure employee commitment, it’s necessary, in addition to having inspiring ways of working and offering sufficiently challenging work tasks, to also give employees enough autonomy, direct feedback, and meaningful work. Without all these, motivation is bound to suffer.

Millennials and post-millennials rank opportunities for career and personal development as the most important benefit of a job – even more important than salary. This being so, employers would do well to invest in employee development in order to keep their best talents fully committed to the company.

3. I’m not neglecting skills development, am I?

Some companies may think of the development of their employees’ skills as a support measure, rather than as something that is a necessary contributor to the company’s continued profitability. For this reason, company managers often fail to see the benefits of investment in employee development, and so neglect to invest in it enough. Development of employee skills, however, should be made a core part of the company’s strategy – that is, it should be central to a company’s operations.

It’s dangerous just to presume that all millennials and post-millennials have good digital skills. The skills of young people have polarised: some of them are highly adept, whereas many others do not have the digital skills needed at work.

The challenge for companies is to make sure that all their employees get the necessary digital know-how in order for them to work competitively in digital business environments. At the moment, undeveloped employee skills are the biggest obstacle to competitiveness. But this obstacle could be easily overcome with adequate and sufficient training.

4. How do I know I’m not training staff unnecessarily?

In the past, the development of an employee’s skills was measured by the amount of time he or she spent in formal education and training. The number of hours spent on education and training, however, do not correlate directly with the development of skills – nor with increased effectiveness and efficiency of business operations. It would be more important to measure the impact of training on business: how much has been invested in change, and how much has this investment produced?

In today’s world, it’s important to identify and acknowledge the skills that come through hobbies. According to the 70:20:10 model, as much as 70% of learning occurs through doing, 20% through mentoring or coaching, and only 10% through formal learning. The skills acquired through playing online games, therefore, are just as valuable as what’s learned at school. It can be shown with the aid of various digital platforms and portfolios that the skills developed through gaming have been applied to and taken advantage of in projects done outside of school.

5. Am I taking advantage of global opportunities?

More and more one hears of companies being founded as international companies, even though in the early days, at any rate, their operations are local. And in an increasingly global business world, digitalization is a life-or-death matter. The customer or client field can be the whole world when knowledge and information travel in real time between people and continents.

And for small countries like Finland, the possibilities offered by digital work are absolutely priceless. Our remote Northern location is not a problem when digitalization has made it possible to communicate independently of any particular time and place. For this reason, it is possible for Finland, too, to be a breeding ground for internationalized companies in different fields.

In the digital world, expansion into global markets is easily done. In earlier times, a business would have had to hire many people for this, and maybe build production facilities in various countries. Now, by contrast, a promising idea can be brought to market in many countries even without physical investments.

Safeguard your profitability in the future also

A digital workplace is, at the end of the day, a strategy for ensuring that a company remains well-functioning and profitable in the future also. It does not mean simply tools but also a plan that influences every single aspect of how a company does business.

A digital workplace is never built on technology alone. It also demands leadership, and commitment to the development of the full potential of the company’s employees. Leaving behind the old models and embracing new ways of thinking are the necessary conditions for success.


Janne Hietala

Board Member at Valamis and Haallas, Technology Enthusiast, Investor

Janne has worked with the top visionaries of NASA, Gartner, IBM and other distinguished industry and academia developing an epochal digital learning concept.
Janne started his first company at the age of 21. He joined Valamis in 2008 at the age of 25. Previously, he has lead the company’s global sales and spent two years in London establishing Valamis strongly in the UK market. While there, he completed his Executive MBA at the London Business School, one of the top-ranked business schools in the world.