Communication Culture and the Digital Workplace

Cristina Filipe Araujo (former employee of Bayer)

Should your company go for a digital workplace? And, if so, how should you approach this huge process? What about the communication culture? These were questions that Cristina Filipe Araujo brought up for discussion during her presentation at Intranätverk 2014.

Cristina Filipe Araujo has had the position as Web Global Manager in Bayer for seven years. While working for the Crop Science unit in France, she implemented a new intranet for the entities based in the country. Her most recent experience, before moving to Gothenburg for new challenges, was regarding the digital workplace. Cristina began an in depth analysis of how a digital workplace could benefit Bayer, which focused not only on technology but also the company communication culture.

Creating a big supermarket

Jane McConnell once said: “The digital workplace is much more than technology. It lives at the intersection of people, organizations and tools.” This was something that Cristina bared in mind during the process and, therefore, put a lot of focus on the human dimension of the digital workplace. The analysis began with determining how people inside Bayer communicated as well as their behavior towards the technology and functionality already in place. According to Cristina, it’s important to look at a digital workplace as something that goes beyond collaboration tools and the intranet. It’s actually about creating a big supermarket where everyone could find anything at any place or time.

Cristina Filipe Araujo presenting at Intranätverk 2014 in Gothenburg
Cristina Filipe Araujo presenting at Intranätverk 2014 in Gothenburg

Three communication pillars

At the time, Bayer had three communication pillars. The first one was about giving accurate information to the employees, which was mainly done through the intranet in forms of newsletters or articles. The second pillar concerned knowledge management and included stuff such as Wikis and E-learning. The perhaps most important pillar, according to Cristina, was the third one about collaboration sites. Here, SharePoint played a big part, but there were also a lot of technologies developed independently from each other. This resulted in the lack of a global messenger policy as well as a global governance policy, and the coordination between departments didn’t work properly. All these independent solutions also created confusion among the employees since they didn’t know how or where to share information. While analyzing the prospect of a digital workplace, Cristina therefore decided to review the way the employees worked together.

Communication culture

Cristina explains that the ultimate goal of the digital workplace was to support the daily business. Bayer was in great need of a platform focused on business objectives and communication, and the idea was to build a digital workplace customized for these needs. When analyzing the current behavior of the employees in regards to communication, Cristina also considered the culture of the company. Why? Because the company culture can have a great impact on how communication is carried out. If you’re interested in finding out more about the connection between culture and communication, please have a look at Cristina’s presentation at Intranätverk 2014 in this video.

Open for everyone

A vital point when considering the digital workplace, according to Cristina, is that people know the value of information. It’s also important that everyone can be the actor of information by sharing and commenting etc. However, the culture of all companies isn’t compatible to the concept of a digital workplace. In Bayer, for example, there is a lot of regulation concerning the information, which makes it difficult to act freely. And Cristina explains that for a digital workplace to function properly, it has to be open for everyone. Some sort of control is of course necessary, but the hard truth is that too much control will become a barrier.

Global governance

When dealing with a lot of different technologies and a lack of coordination between them, which was the case at Bayer, Cristina found it very important to set up a global governance of the systems. This would fully place the digital workplace as a strategy point to support business.   In order to accomplish this, Bayer had to break silos between the departments responsible of these communication issues. Cristina explains that departments such as Internal Communication, IT and HR had to collaborate in a way they hadn’t done before. Last but not least, the managers also had an essential role. Cristina explains that when working with a huge project such as a digital workplace, it’s vital that the employees understand the concrete value of the digital workplace for the business. Therefore, the use of information managers is essential – not only to inform the employees, but also make them understand that a digital workplace will benefit them in their work. Getting everyone on board will make the process a lot easier.

Design your own Digital Workplace

Before you decide to go for a digital workplace, there are several things that need to be considered. According to Cristina, in order to create a successful digital workplace, it has to fit within the company culture. This means that each organization has to define its own purpose with a digital workplace, and then try to reach that goal. Cristina also points out that the business value of the company should be put in focus. Technologies are, of course, important, but the success of the digital workplace is more about supporting the daily work of the employees. In the end, that is what will benefit the business the most.

Bio Cristina Filipe Araujo

Cristina Filipe Araujo is an experienced digital communication manager. She’s been at international companies such as Bayer, Citroën and Volvo in France and Spain, working with Internet and intranets. As a web project manager for many years, she has inspired and implemented new intranet strategies & technologies for several companies. Since a year back, Cristina lives in Gothenburg, ready to take on new web project challenges.