An interview with Juanita Olguin from Coveo

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PHOTO: Tam Wai

Juanita Olguin discovered the importance of nurturing a diverse workforce during her first job and cashing out food service booths at an outdoor swap deal. From retirees selling as a sideline to high school and college students, the diverse group of salespeople challenged them to balance generations in the workforce.

“I learned early on that the workforce is multi-generational and you have to learn to work with different people from different backgrounds to be successful,” said Olguin. At a young age she worked in the “cool job” of paying stands and also recognized the importance of mentoring.

“My manager saw talent or potential in me and acted as a mentor. That was very meaningful to me and probably one of my core beliefs is that employees are super talented when given the right opportunities. Sometimes you have to coach and approach people who may not see their own potential. “

Olguin is Director of Product Marketing for Workplace Solutions at Coveo, a SaaS company and platform provider for digital experiences. Coveo is sponsoring the DWX (Winter Digital Workplace Experience) conference of the Simpler Media Group, which will take place virtually on Thursday, February 11th. Olguin and her co-moderator Rosanna Stephens, head of product management for job search and knowledge at Adobe, present “How Adobe unifies the digital workplace with AI-supported search and knowledge.”

We spoke with Olguin about the smart workplace, the challenge of employee communication and a holistic view of the employee experience.

Think differently about the digital workplace

SMG: In your opinion, how do the communication and commitment of employees contribute to the overall success of a company given the health crisis and the social unrest of the past year?

Juanita Olguin: I feel very strong in this case. Communication is the greatest challenge for companies and where it really needs to be improved. Companies cannot be successful if they do not communicate well and frequently with employees. And given that things change in the workplace so much faster – people get new projects or projects change – this needs to be constantly aligned to ensure that teams are working together towards the same goal.

When employees feel like they are being communicated and involved with them, they become more engaged. They are far more effective and willing to go that extra mile for their company and teams to achieve the same goals. Sometimes it’s nice to look at things on the opposite spectrum: without good communication and commitment, employees won’t feel like they know what’s going on, they’ll feel left out, and they’ll loosen up. Ultimately, this could lead them to leave the company.

SMG: In a recent Coveo webinar you gave – Rethinking the Digital Workplace of the Future – you said, “The workplace is mostly digital, but not smart.” What did you mean by that?

Olguin: For me it was a challenge today for managers in digital workplaces. We know that companies are largely digital. There is one application for everything: email, Slack, Google Drive, HR portals, help desk. There is a digital solution for all of these different areas, but there is really no way to connect these different systems and applications together in a way that makes people’s lives easier. There are definitely ways to unify and centralize. More importantly, organizations need to bring data and information together and use technology to proactively direct employee content or recommendations to employees instead of wasting time looking for information and asking other people.

We have the ability to roll over AI and smart technologies to all of these disparate systems and applications to help employees understand their day, role, and the network of people within the company they should be working with. Managers need to think differently about their digital workplace.

SMG: One of Gartner’s trends in 2021 is “smart composable business” – one that can adapt and adapt to any situation by providing easy access to information and insight for faster decision-making. How have companies successfully used this model in their workplace in a COVID world?

Olguin: People might expect smaller or midsize businesses to be more agile and adapt quickly. However, we work with large companies that are much more agile than these smaller companies. Because of their size, they have been forced to invest in digital workplace technology to balance their large workforce. Companies like Salesforce, Adobe, Manulife, and even Dell. They all could tell you without hesitation that they were absolutely ready for these changes and that the work didn’t skip a beat.

This is because these large companies have continuously invested in digital workspace areas over the past few decades. They have implemented a corporate intranet or invested in areas like knowledge management strategies to ensure that their global employees can work anywhere and however they want.

Ensure a healthy, productive workforce

SMG: What are some of the most important workplace behaviors that need to be changed and what barriers do companies face when making such changes?

Olguin: For example, one of the workplace behaviors that I think needs to be changed is an isolated work pattern where you have many different departments or even six different teams within a marketing organization. What happens in the end is that there is always an isolated effect. It’s not on purpose. I think because teams try to work and move forward quickly, they may not always keep the wider organization or other teams informed. The obstacle for businesses is: How can you ensure the right people are involved? Or how do you make sure that you communicate broadly and broadly about key projects in different areas?

Technologies such as AI and machine learning, which are emerging with increasing frequency, can help make suggestions or recommendations to people based on their work. With everyone working this fast, sometimes there are human errors in trying to keep everyone involved informed. For me personally, when I’m working on a project there are probably 12 people who need to have some level of knowledge about what I’m working on. And from a human perspective, I could only include nine of them. This is where technology can come in and say, “Hey, that person on your network should probably know about this project.” Or: “Would you like to send this information to them too?” I hope we can get there in the future so everyone has the right information based on their role on their team.

SMG: 2020 threw many organizations into remote work unprepared. Do you think most companies will be ready to make hybrid / remote workplaces the norm by 2021? What can those who don’t do to ensure a healthy and productive workforce?

Olguin: For those who are not ready or have not thought about it, they should follow a program map or program management method to keep everyone organized and in sync. I always speak on the intranet as this central point to make sure the staff know what is going on in order to bring them into line. And of course the intranet should be linked to other applications that are relevant for employees. But it’s important for those unwilling to understand the need for such a centralized communication forum, whether it’s an intranet or a collaborative community.

Also, make sure you have a steady flow of communication, whether it’s weekly meetings or a central Slack team. You definitely need to invest in the digital workspace and other areas to ensure that employees can logistically work remotely. This includes webinar technology, a laptop that can be used from anywhere, and the right security measures to make sure employees are safe when connecting – just the basics to give someone the ability to work remotely. You also need to invest more in communication or behavior management and things like intranet or knowledge management strategies to make sure your people can find what they need more easily.

Further development to meet employee expectations

SMG: How have expectations of employee experience changed due to COVID-19?

Olguin: Due to COVID-19 and remote working, the shift into the employee experience has really shifted. And I think it will go on. Employees want a flexible workplace, and that means they can work from home or go to the office if that is an option. It also means that you may need a few hours in the morning to take care of your children and maybe work a little later. Businesses really need to adapt to meet the changing expectations of employees as a result of COVID-19.

SMG: What is your advice to companies when it comes to developing their jobs?

Olguin: Take a holistic view of the workplace. Think of the employee experience as every single point of contact an employee has with the company – from the moment they are engaged to their interactions with teams, intranet, help desk, and benefits. All of these points of contact and experiences that an employee has had really shape his perception of the entire company.

Organizations cannot control everything, including an employee’s emotions, but they should focus on what they can control. And that’s technology and the digital workplace. You should always make sure that technology works for employees, is additive and valuable to employees, and is never why your employees are having problems.

SMG: What do you find most appealing about the future of the digital workplace?

Olguin: I am really excited about employee development and advancement. I think … there is so much untapped potential in the workplace. What I love about the workplace is that these advanced customer-centric technologies are now being used internally to help employees be productive and really reach their potential. I appreciate the fact that companies are starting to think differently about investing in the workplace and what it means and why employee experience is important.

I think many companies still have a long way to go in terms of employee experience. But at least they are starting to pay attention and understand what it means to invest in digital workplace technologies that allow employees to work more efficiently, be more productive, and connect them with the right people.

Register today for your free virtual pass for the 2021 Digital Workplace Experience conference series.

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