Matthew Banks: Employees Don't Want More Tools, They Want Better Ones
Matthew Banks got his start in the world of software and technology, starting with a CIS degree from Indiana University. Being fascinated with the application of software to solve every day business problems, after college, he jumped into a fledgling start-up, NewsGator Technologies (later rebranded as Sitrion) in enterprise collaboration and communication in the beginning of 2007, helping Fortune 500 companies like Citibank and Merck enter the fray.
“I'm fascinated by culture and the intersecting systems that shape both our collective and individual experiences,” he said. “Digital is taking over the human condition and changing it more than anything since the written word.”
Banks is the strategic director of enterprise and partner sales North America for digital workplace solution provider Beezy. He joined Beezy in 2017, bringing over 12 years of experience as a collaboration and digital workplace expert, focused on business development, evangelism and sales. Joining the company was a no-brainer for him. "I know what it takes to build a world-class intranet solution and Beezy represented this unique combination of user-centric values and highly-performant engineering," he explained.
'The Glue That Keeps Employee Experience Authentic and Relevant'
Working in the digital workplace realm energizes Banks. "Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword — it is the reinvention of an organization through the use of digital technology to improve performance and reshape how companies are delivering value," he said.
But he cautions organizations to not skip the cultural change part of the equation. "Successful companies know how crucial internal communication and collaboration is in building a strong culture and shaping the behaviors that support organizational change," he explained. "There’s never been a more important time to be working in this digital workplace landscape. It is the glue that keeps the employee experience authentic and relevant."
Beezy is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s Digital Workplace Experience virtual event, which will take place Oct. 13 and Oct. 14.
We spoke with Banks to get his thoughts on creating and measuring digital workplace success, the importance of reducing friction and context switching for employees and more.
Intentionally Design Employee Journeys
SMG: What are the biggest trends driving the focus on the digital workplace experience right now?
Banks: Demographics continue to change the landscape of work. Despite the economic downturn, we are still in a very competitive talent market. Digital transformation is forcing organizations to reconsider how they deliver value, which is driving the need for innovation and agility.
Too many software companies naively follow tech trends in an effort to appear to be on the cutting edge. Employees don't care about bells and whistles. They don't want more tools; they want better ones. That said, recent improvements to the Microsoft Graph and the relative maturity of AI/machine learning technologies are proving to be very fertile grounds for delivering value to the enterprise. For example, there are efforts to mine work patterns in order to make sense of the exorbitant amount of content and code that is being produced daily.
SMG: What are the key ingredients for a successful workplace powered by digital?
Banks: A successful digital workplace requires these four key ingredients: A simple and scalable way to collaborate; a commitment to transparency using bottom-up communications, recognition and encouragement; self-services knowledge and actionable notifications to help speed up routine tasks; and dynamic, conversational and visually compelling content that connects employees to your company's mission, vision and values.
SMG: What are examples of how employees need tools that are intuitive, work together and don’t offer an overabundance of options —— such as enterprise collaboration?
Banks: Research has revealed that over the past decade the average employee's attention span has dropped dramatically from 3 minutes to 40 seconds. Our product innovation is focused on streamlining information, reducing context switching and making SharePoint easy.
I believe there's a deeper, more fundamental challenge at stake when it comes to crafting an award-winning employee experience. Intuitive interfaces, coherent navigation, and user-friendly design patterns are not, in and of themselves, enough to meet the heightened expectations of the millennial workforce. The bottom line is that users should have agency and control over their actions. For example, giving employees the ability to follow people, places and tags means that everyone’s activity feed is personal to them and their individual network. Likewise, giving employees the ability to post and share their ideas more openly brings people together and shows how you value creativity.
SMG: How do you measure the success of a digital workplace?
Banks: Measuring the effectiveness of a digital workplace is difficult. My grandmother used to say, 'The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.'
The first steps to take include identifying your goals, selecting metrics that measure those goals, and creating benchmarks to measure progress. I always recommend that customers invest in a comprehensive launch and adoption plan that includes baseline measurements and end-user surveys. Behavioral insights provide an accurate view of the messages that are most effective and the topics that are most valuable to employees.
SMG: What are the biggest lessons you want organizations to learn about creating a digital workplace that works?
The consumer-like behaviors, habits and applications that people use to communicate in their personal lives are migrating to the workplace. Winning in the marketplace is about transforming knowledge workers into digital champions by cultivating a culture of collaboration and encouraging them to freely share and publish content. For remote workers and frontline staff, it's about intentionally designing employee journeys, and empowering them with self-service tools that get work done.
SMG: If you were able to time-travel, what era would you like to live in? And what lessons from that period do you think could apply to the digital workplace?
Banks: I wrote a lot of history papers during my undergrad years and read a lot about the history of North America — specifically the interaction of different values and lifestyles: African, English, Dutch, French, First-Nations and Spanish; and the active role they played in shaping culture. I think there are some interesting parallels here in terms of a) how the digital workplace needs to support a number of different personas and personalities; and b) how employees’ collective perceptions of their ongoing interactions with the organization shape the employee experience.
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