What is an intelligent workplace and how does it improve productivity and the employee experience?

How would you describe an intelligent workplace?

A company run by chatbots glued to their smartphones? One in which all employees have won a spelling bee? One with a coffee machine that tells you when you should switch to decaf? 

Here’s what sounds like a pretty good definition from Rachel McCormick at Accenture: 

The intelligent workplace, at its core, looks to re-energize the workplace towards a human-focused design — creating seamless transitions between working in person and remotely, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of both. 

What is an intelligent workplace? 

In 2022, with the business world coming off of a paradigm-changing pandemic, that definition makes sense. 

More companies are letting their employees continue to work remotely, and instead of focusing on workers having to be at their physical workspace in the office, they’re enticing top talent by offering enhanced workplace technologies regardless of where workers are located. And to make that feasible, they’re upgrading their digital security to protect the data being exchanged between people working remotely or in the office. 

Basically, an intelligent workplace means the successful application of a digital transformation strategy in the work environment. Empowered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), an intelligent workplace facilitates the automation of everyday work processes and enhances employees’ activities through seamless workflows. It provides easy access to the information that employees (and contractors) need in order to do their jobs. It uses social media to connect workers with colleagues in a way that people find natural. 

Getting further into futuristic technologies, it might even encompass employees having virtual assistants that remind them of upcoming deadlines and meetings, and direct them to conference rooms. And as technology progresses, who knows what other cool things it will do to upgrade the workplace experience?

In short, an intelligent workplace accomplishes two key things:

  • Harnesses emerging technology to create an excellent employee experience that promotes employee productivity and collaboration
  • Makes workers feel like from a daily experience standpoint, their personal lives aren’t all that different from their professional lives

So it’s all good as far as employees are concerned. But Is all the work and expense of providing an intelligent workplace worth it to companies? 

Research shows that organizations that provide a positive work experience for their employees outperform the S&P 500 and are more profitable, so that would be an emphatic yes. Plus, an intelligent workplace is a continuing win-win as word the company is a great place to work impresses prospective hires and boosts retention among current employees.

Intelligent knowledge management

A key component of a great employee experience is the ability to quickly and efficiently get ahold of the information they need in order to do their jobs. That means access to all the collected and stored corporate knowledge that exists here, there, and everywhere, either in silos or in one place: documents, support systems, meeting notes, HR details, marketing material, wikis. 

When you can optimize the information-gathering process for employees, you’re likely to see tangible improvements in the way people work and stay productive.

So let’s explore the perspective of an intelligent workplace as an extension of effective enterprise knowledge management. 

What again is knowledge management

It’s preserving and making available an organization’s intellectual capital, Which can lead to less re-creation of existing content, better employee efficiency, streamlined business processes, conceivably higher profit margins, and a whole slew of associated benefits.

Workplace knowledge management techniques have evolved in the past few years with the accessibility of intelligence-focused software and hardware. Everything information related has gone more digital: cloud applications, work-dedicated social intranets, convenient messaging apps, instant video conferencing. 

Working from home meets knowledge management

Despite the virtual nature of modern information, knowledge management systems have traditionally been utilized in more of an on-site corporate model. Before COVID-19, people working from home were not necessarily able to do knowledge sharing through the corporate knowledge network, or even access segments of the system, and this may have put some pressure on them to get back into the office on a regular basis.

But during COVID, the modern workplace had no choice but to change. And while employees were stuck toiling away in their basements and home offices, they got used to being able to access information in the digital workplace. For example, they liked having the ability to use collaboration tools to connect with colleagues and share project details while wearing their pajamas (with a button-down shirt or blouse on top).

An intelligent workplace…away from work

So with COVID, knowledge management has become less centered around a company’s physical offices and more on the fundamentals of safe, reliable availability of enterprise content regardless of remote work. And of course, with information management being more virtual, digital information security has become a higher priority than ever.

But as with the tenets of knowledge management, in a geographically dispersed intelligent workplace, the key is still easy findability of the right information. And the key to finding that right information is search.

Someone creating a marketing campaign about a new product could need to search for:

  • Documents, perhaps that are housed in an old silo
  • Marketing guidelines and competitive information
  • The names of key contact people on the development side
  • Links to trade show presentations and events
  • Online conversations and meeting notes about the product 

But regardless of what information they need, they must be able to easily search without the ability to walk into people’s offices or chat with coworkers in the break room about where to start looking.

It also helps if the company’s search functionality is intelligent, as opposed to traditional.

Intelligent search vs. traditional search

In an intelligent workplace, modern search encompasses the ability to interpret employee intent based on the search query. Whereas traditional search brings up the most popular search results for a given phrase, an intelligent search engine incorporates natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to help it understand specifically what each employee wants to find.

Looking for documents in PDF format or templates? You may be more likely to find them faster using intelligent search, which can scan documents and identify their type and structure to better provide you with the details you want. 

Intelligent search can also make seemingly “smart” observations based on what an employee searches for and their search patterns, then respond by providing “educated guessing” about what the employee is trying to track down. For instance, an employee may be looking for a site map for a corporate office they’ll be visiting. An intelligent search engine might ask if the worker also wants information about local amenities or company-related events in the vicinity. It’s like a tour guide that anticipates your questions.

So where can you start in terms of upgrading the IQ of your enterprise workplace search?

4 steps to smart workplace search

To provide intelligent workplace search that upgrades your knowledge management platform and gives your company a competitive advantage:

  1. Place all corporate content under one searchable roof. Even if you have information stored in different silos, you need to ensure that for optimal content management, everything is accessible by your search engine. Intelligent search means visibility and indexing of every document, chat string, and resource item. For example, your search engine should be able to access all conversations to date in your social-media portal, as well as all published technical documents and HR content.
  2. Personalize employee search information. You can analyze machine learning algorithms to figure out what employees are typically searching for. Then you can have their search results ranked according to what makes the most sense to them. For instance, if someone in Marketing is looking for product information related to a launch, in their search results, you can have marketing material appear first, followed by any potentially relevant other items.
  3. Combine personalization with recommendations to intelligently address employee needs. For example, by leveraging natural language understanding (NLU), a search engine might pick up on a nuance of the phrase an employee enters, then pose a question to them at the top of their search results to clarify. The employee’s providing the answer would then quickly lead them to the info they need. 

With recommendations, search results display what an employee regularly wants to see as they search. For example, let’s say a salesperson travels a lot on business and likes to read details about corporate events. If your search engine determines through AI that they typically submit an expense report after each trip, their search results appearing after an event could helpfully give them a link to the online expense form and remind them to fill it out.

  1. Update your search-results interface so that all retrieved information from your different systems appears on the same interface screen in a user-friendly way. For example, show relevant marketing material along with data sheets, or a customer’s service contract along with their customer-support call history. This is sure to simplify your employees’ lives and save them time.

Get smart with Algolia search

If you want intelligent search technology that lets work-from-homers and onsite employees alike find and access the information they need, we hope you’ll check out the proven benefits of our intelligent workplace search software. Your employees will think it’s a great step not just for their enjoyment and your success but for the future of work as they know it. Contact us and start thinking about the possibilities, or have your developers start building smart search functionality (for free) today.

About the authorCatherine Dee

Catherine Dee

Search and Discovery writer

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