Cultures without walls

Written by
Nigel Danson

31 Aug 2016

31 Aug 2016 • by Nigel Danson

Varied environments

With the majority of UK employers (94%) now offering their workforce the opportunity to work remotely and flexibly, physical workplaces may become something of the past. Given the changed landscape, the future of HR is becoming dependent upon the use of collaborative technologies to establish and build virtual, mobile cultures that will continue to deliver on strategic objectives.

With a trend towards globalised remote or flexible working, continual technological innovations and an ever-changing business demographic, HR must now rise to the challenge of delivering on strategic objectives for their organisation beyond the physical walls of an office.

This shift from being a primarily ‘face-to-face’ profession to the facilitator of the global mobile office has its own unique challenges. Our employees may be physically further away and have a growing spectrum of unique needs, but the value of keeping them engaged is more important now than ever before.

In its 2015 study, CBI found businesses linked higher levels of employee engagement to improvements in productivity and performance (80%), reduced absenteeism (45%) and increased retention (42%). Keeping our people happy is no longer about our corporate responsibility for individual employee well-being; it has direct, significant implications on an organisation’s ability to remain competitive. 


The future for HR, therefore, will be dependent upon its ability to establish and build mobile cultures without walls that can attract, retain and engage employees; moving from internal employee management to an age of technology-driven, virtual HR.  

Post-recession, the recruitment market continues to strengthen in favour of employees. This tougher climate for talent acquisition and retention is being compounded by the growth of the ‘job-hopping’ Millennial generation within the workplace – over a quarter of which now expect to have six employers or more, compared with just 10% in 2008 (Source: PWC).

Attracting and retaining this demographic requires a change in tactic. Rather than remuneration incentives, Millennials value training and development as their top desired benefit (22%) and flexible working / work-life balance as their second (19%).

Their ability to perform well is driven by company culture, and these digital natives have high expectations of the technology and tools on offer, 93% of millennials polled by Microsoft cited modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace. Selecting the right collaboration and communication technologies, therefore, is no longer the sole responsibility of IT, but a key element of our strategic talent management and employer branding.

A digital age

Selecting digital, cloud-based collaboration tools supports flexible and remote working, enabling us as businesses to offer greater work-life balance for employees whilst simultaneously improving productivity. HR must work with top-level management to identify the appropriate mobile tools and create a business case for embedding these within a business.

Employees need to be able to access all their applications and systems regardless of location or device – and without the traditional hurdles of having to connect via a VPN or the headache of server downtime outside of core working hours. The rise in Office 365 and cloud-based intranet, finance, HR and CRM systems shows this is a growing practice; however, the associated impact of juggling multiple applications on productivity needs to be managed. Pioneering seamless, efficient integration of multiple systems will be a rising concern for HR as the ‘app revolution’ continues.

On the flip side, out-of-hours access and the growth of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ cultures are on the increase; considerations for work-life balance as part of this ‘always on’ culture will require careful management. In time, HR will shift to become one of the primary facilitators of the digital workplace: identifying, implementing, embedding and reviewing technologies to support employees in their day-to-day roles, particularly for those based outside a physical office.

Traditionally the responsibility for building a company brand may have fallen under the internal communications umbrella; technology decisions will have fallen to IT; talent management to HR. But as the digital workplace continues to evolve, these roles are no longer mutually exclusive.

In order to remain relevant and deliver as a strategic business partner, HR professionals must play an increasingly active role as both champion and facilitator for engaging employees. With the growth of the remote workforce, this can only be realised by utilising a range of relevant digital tools to establish and build virtual workplaces.