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The Future of the Workplace Is Characterized by Technology and Lots of It

Posted on April 05, 2023 by Kiarra Louis, Initiative Support Coordinator with The Patterson Foundation
Digital transformation is upon us, and that includes the philanthropic world too. In one way or another, all sectors are adopting and integrating digital technology in how they function in terms of administration and communication, but especially in how they engage and connect with people (internally and externally). At The Patterson Foundation (TPF), creating greater access to digital technology that connects people, organizations, and communities in new ways has emerged as an aspiration with broad potential for our work in philanthropy. That aspiration, combined with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), led to the creation of TPF’s Digital Access for All (DA4A) initiative. DA4A explores the impact of digital technology on individuals and communities and the efforts of multiple sectors working to enhance access to technology.

Given TPF’s work in this space, I was thrilled to learn more about the Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG)’s 2022 State of Philanthropy Technology survey from TAG’s Executive Director, Chantal Foster, and TAG’s Survey Committee Member, Tess Hanrahan of the Hewlett Foundation.

In July 2022, TAG conducted a survey to understand the technology environment, practices, and perceptions in philanthropy. The survey compiled results from 277 grantmaking organizations throughout North America, the EU, and the UK. Topics include technology budgeting and staffing, workplace trends, cybersecurity, and more. You can find a summary of the survey here.

As I attended the webinar on the survey, I found myself linking each finding to one or more of the three essential elements (connectivity, devices, and skills and support) that emerged as critically important through TPF’s in-depth research and interviews with national thought-leaders in the digital access arena.

When COVID-19 hit, individuals, employers, and communities had to examine their own digital assets and preparedness to compete and participate effectively in an altered world. Educational institutions switched from in-person to online courses within weeks and finished the term virtually. Workers who could work remotely transitioned to their “home offices” and mostly remained out of the office and employed. Foundations and grantmakers also had to find alternatives to the traditional in-person workplace model, some of which they continue to embrace. According to the survey, 77% of respondents indicated they plan to move to a hybrid/remote workplace for 2023 and beyond. 76% of respondents said they adopted collaboration tools, such as Slack or Teams, to adapt to these changes to facilitate a hybrid workplace model.

However, what does a smooth transition require? Connectivity, devices, and skills and support.

Thousands of people across all socioeconomic levels in our Suncoast region lack access to the high-speed internet necessary to work remotely because it’s unavailable or unaffordable, they don’t own a computer, or they have limited skills to navigate devices and the internet. To support nonprofits during the pandemic, some funders were willing to adapt and expand their grantmaking to pay for nonprofits’ Zoom licenses and paperless payment systems and provide technology and training to support them and their constituents.

However, there is a need for ongoing support in digital access, even within one’s organization. Despite adopting hybrid workplace models, 36% of organizations said they had not changed their training to support these changes. Other organizations have evolved by adopting new tools and training, such as launching webinars, hosting training sessions or digital office hours, or subscribing to digital learning tools to help their staff succeed. Why all the effort or changes? Why not do business the way we’ve always done it? As we say at TPF, the world moves at the speed of change. Change is happening fast, and our world is moving just as quickly. Technology skills and support are essential for employees to ensure they can use the necessary devices and programs to perform jobs effectively and efficiently and have the confidence and support to troubleshoot issues as they arise.

Digital transformation is happening, with benefits to individuals and organizations. To maximize and amplify its impact, now is the time to identify how to evolve with the transforming workplace without leaving anyone behind.

As an agile organization, TPF’s DA4A team has begun exploring what digital transformation looks like for us while exploring new possibilities that lead to meaningful changes and positive transformations.

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