CEOs need to drive and not delegate digital workplace strategy

Updated: 14 Jun 2016


The Economist Corporate Network (ECN) report Drive or Delegate? Digital workplace strategy, talent management and the role of the CEO in Asia, identified that 47 per cent of CEO’s claimed to be actively driving digital workplace strategy, suggesting scope for more CEOs to take an active role.


The report, sponsored by Hays, is based on a survey of 500+ regional and country CEOs in Asia. The ECN defined digital workplace strategy to participating CEO’s as ‘the collection of all the digital tools provided by an organisation to allow its employees to do their jobs, foster collaboration, innovation and flexible working’.

The ECN report also found that CEO’s regard a digital workplace strategy as, most importantly, a means to transform the business from within and to increase productivity. Interestingly boosting employee engagement and managing talent more efficiently appear to be less important factors. This could be a consequence of businesses prioritising the digitisation of customer-facing operations over the employee experience in the workplace. 

“While business transformation is necessary, the employee experience should be a fundamental consideration when planning a digital strategy,” says Christine Wright, Managing Director of Hays in Asia. “Technology today enables greater flexibility for when and where your employees work, in real-time and across geographical locations. Employers must consider how staff engagement can be optimised with technology, to facilitate increased productivity in the workplace.”


“Employers focusing on attracting and retaining top talent should place emphasis on creating an attractive workplace; one which promotes innovation, information sharing and working collaboratively,” adds Christine. “Technology, or the lack of, that hinders productivity can have an adverse effect on a workforce and a company’s overall performance.”


The ECN report also found that 50 per cent of CEO’s utilise social media to engage with employees, but the CEO focus groups also believe that face-to-face conversations, as well as events like town halls and internal corporate get-togethers should not be banished as outdated.

“Finding the right balance between the traditional and digital is essential for employers to foster a cohesive working environment between a connected mobile generation and those that bring a traditional skill set,” says Christine.

A recent article in issue 11 of the Hays Journal explores why it is important to remember the power of the human touch. The article includes an interview with Matthew Jeffery, VP and Head of Global Sourcing and Employment Branding at SAP, who discusses the transition taking place across SAP as they move to the Cloud. He says, “We need people on the ground who are very personable and have all those traditional skills such as communication, presentation and trustworthiness. Those skills will never be lost; technology is the enabler, but people still need to be able to create it and help drive it.”


Hays shares these 5 tips for a successful digital workplace strategy:


  1. Drive & communicate: Implementing a vision of a digital workplace strategy requires a CEO to be clear in their message. The ECN report showed that CEO’s showing strong confidence in articulating the digital workplace strategy appeared to delegate less and drive more. Care should be taken to craft and communicate the message that a digital workplace strategy is an enabling tool for employees working towards a shared corporate vision.

  2. Digitise, but don’t lose the balance: It is possible that too much can be done via digital platforms; don’t remove human interactions completely. Encourage managers of remote teams to speak on the phone regularly and maintain a pattern of face-to-face contact at various points of the year – particularly during appraisals. In addition, equip them with management training and tailored frameworks for managing remote workers in terms of conflict management, recognition and motivation.

  3. Harness workforce data: Incorporating workforce data into your digital strategy adds an exciting dimension to your business. It will give you the ability to view your organisation’s talent pool from an analytical perspective. The benefit of mining such data for MNCs, in particular, can bring the business much closer to managing global talent pools. Analysing workers, tasks and projects could become an essential component of developing local talent and boosting productivity in emerging markets.

  4. Manage expectations of a digital culture: Technology has blurred the lines between work and personal life and a 24/7 attitude towards when and where work tasks are carried out can be a risk. On the plus side, it enables greater flexibility for a work-life balance but; while a device is never far from reach, it can be difficult for someone to refrain from responding to a late night email or an IM from a colleague in another time-zone. To avoid added stress and employee burnouts, ensure your culture is fair and encourages downtime.


  1. Don’t ignore social media: The ECN found 70% of CEOs think it’s important for them personally to be using social media. Social media is ubiquitous and increasingly the primary form of communication between people within and outside of the workplace. CEOs need to use social media to avoid becoming out of touch and detached from their workforce. At Hays for example, our CEO Alistair Cox is a member of the LinkedIn Influencer community and regularly shares blogs on LinkedIn, as do other members of our senior management community around the world.


To read the full Economist Corporate Network (ECN) report, please visit

Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 31 December 2015 the Group employed 9,420 staff operating from 248 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2015:


– the Group reported net fees of £764.2 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £164.1 million;

– the Group placed around 63,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 200,000 people into temporary assignments;

– 23% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific, 41% in Continental Europe & RoW (CERoW) and 36% in the United Kingdom & Ireland;

– the temporary placement business represented 58% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 42% of net fees;

– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.

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