Digital-divide between workplace and home, no one is talking about

Have you seen those sci-fi movies, where the characters keep moving in and out of parallel universes? That is almost how office-going people are living today.

One of those universes is outside the workplace. Here you can run a good part of your life on the phone. You have choice. You can expect speed. If you don’t like, so much as the look of an app, you can simply discard it. In this universe, your experience matters.

The other universe exists inside workplaces. This one feels like a time travel, 10 years into the past. It is difficult to figure out the login to the tools and navigate the complex and unpleasant interface. Not to mention, you can access it solely on your laptop and sometimes only on your office network. If you happen to work remotely, on field or client site, then your woes just increase. The entire thing takes so much effort that you avoid it for as long as you can, until HR serves its last stern warning. Your experience as an employee? No one cares.

We talk about the digital-divide between urban and rural areas. It is an irony how we suffer that very divide, every single day, between the technology eco-system an employee experiences inside workplaces, and the one they experience outside it; while we pat ourselves on our back for being technology-driven, innovative companies. It is not surprising that a KPMG study on the future of HR, found that only 40% of HR leaders admitted to having a digital workplan in place.

However, we will not get away with this for much longer, for one fundamental reason; that is, the employees of today are driven by experiences. There used to be a time, when people selected companies based on the brand name, stability and such factors. Today we select companies based on the kind of experience they will give us on a daily basis. Earlier, we relied on official websites for information on the company; its revenue, global presence.

These days, hardly anyone gets on the website because those are no longer the criteria for deciding on a workplace. We get on social media and read comments of ex-employees; we get on Glassdoor; we read comments and posts of the company leaders on LinkedIn – and follow the very hiring managers who interviewed us. This is because we care for our experience within the organization. Today a local start-up offering great employee experience may be preferred over a global brand. I have travelled across the country to hire from colleges. Over the years, I have noticed a distinct shift in the way youngsters perceive companies, based on how digitally enabled the selection process itself was.

My colleague and co-founder of DockablSamarth, wrote about the millennials not willing to play along the status quo of talent management systems. Millennials and now Gen Z, are surely the torch-bearers of seeking a better digital experience at workplaces. However, today the oldest millennial is already 38 years of age. All earlier generations have adapted to the digital eco-system outside workplaces, just the same as millennials. Therefore, I believe that the expectation of a better digital experience exists among all cohorts of employees.

Finally, the talent eco-system itself has shifted. Workplaces operate in the gig economy, where portfolio careers are becoming a norm and frequent job changes are no longer considered blotches on the resume. Employees, especially key talent, have choices and they are not hesitant to exercise it. CHROs must factor in this talent risk and the associated cost, while ignoring the digital experience of employees.

The digital divide between workplaces and outside it, is real. If organizations really care for talent, they must seriously consider bridging this gap. And for that, CHROs will need to step out of their alternate universes and step into the parallel world the employee lives in.