Looking back on 2020, one thing is certain: COVID-19 has permanently changed the way we work. Earlier this year, CIOs and IT departments were responsible for keeping organizations online and running as the world went into lockdown. The CIO role and the IT department finally began to receive the recognition they have long deserved for the critical role they play in organizations.
10 months into the pandemic and with a new year just ahead, leaders are looking at a future unlike anyone could have predicted at the start of 2020. Many organizations are heading back into the office, or will be sometime in 2021. But that return to the office won’t be what it was previously. Global Workplace Analytics is predicting that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.
Remote work is becoming more accepted as “normal”, so this will cause what Forrester is referring to as the “anywhere-plus-office hybrid” model.
This presents a challenge that business leaders, especially the CIO, need to solve in 2021.
In addition to reviewing the remote work solutions that were implemented to ensure they will hold up for the long-term, the CIO needs to create an environment conducive to hybrid work – both in terms of technology and workflows.
Let’s address what a hybrid workforce will look like and what IT needs to do to address it.
The Hybrid Workforce
A hybrid “Work From Home” model is one in which some employees work remotely while others work on site. In this model, teams or departments may be split between working in the office and working remotely. For example, the IT team may be working in the office while the HR department works remotely. Additionally, there may be certain roles within each team that could permanently work remotely, either part-time or full-time.
There are many benefits to a hybrid workforce. First, the hybrid model opens the potential for hiring talent outside of the local area. There is the potential to increase employee productivity because team members can work how and where they are most productive, whether that’s at home or in the office.
However, a hybrid workforce has its cons as well. Communication will require extra effort, employee experience initiatives will need to be designed to meet both the in-office and remote employees’ needs, and enhanced transparency is a must regarding what work is being completed and who is responsible for that work is a requirement.
How to Enable a Hybrid Workforce
While there are so many advantages to hybrid work, there are also risks. Left unchecked, organizations may be introducing already existing bad work habits into a company with an increased reliance on technology for day-to-day collaboration. Leaders have to ensure they have strong, outcome-focused foundations in place in order to succeed with a hybrid workforce.
Here are three areas to pay attention to if you are moving toward a hybrid workforce.
Workflows & Automation
Automation is often the first topic that comes to mind when the topic of remote work comes up. However, you can’t successfully automate until you’ve optimized your workflows. No matter what your business is, workflows will have to change to meet this new workforce model. Some organizations may find that entire workflows have changed because their revenue streams changed. Other organizations may be looking for more automation because they experienced layoffs.
It’s essential to review current workflows and map existing value streams with other leaders in the organization. First, just map what currently exists – but then you’ll need to notate where you have team members working remotely, who will be working in-office, and what stages of the value stream require team members to be in person. Be sure to take into account communication (which I will cover in the next step) and mapping what those communication needs will be. This process may sound tedious, but it will help enormously when you start implementing these revised workflows for a hybrid workforce.
Once you’ve mapped your value streams and recorded your workflows, you’ll be able to identify where you have opportunities for automation.
While this might not seem like an IT initiative, organizational communications includes technology, such as online workspaces like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Mapping communication techniques is just as important as mapping workflows — especially with a hybrid workforce.
The CIO is one of the few leaders in the company that is capable of eliminating silos so they have to be at the forefront of solving the communication challenge. CIO should be sharing the mapped value streams and detailed workflows with the entire organization — not just within IT. Getting buy-in from other departments is crucial for success and it will allow you to have a conversation around the appropriate communication structures in a value stream.
This is where you can turn to technology to help. For example, you can automate reminders or even automate emails and notifications to be sent to the team throughout those workflows. You should also take into consideration that communication needs will include both virtual and in-person options. How can technology make this stream of communication feel seamless? What automations, reminders, tools, and options can you put into place that will get buy-in from the entire company?
EX, otherwise known as employee experience, is another top priority for the hybrid workforce – and it isn’t just the responsibility of HR. Gartner predicts that CIOs will be as equally responsible as HR leaders for organizational culture change in 2021.
Getting employees to embrace a hybrid workforce model means getting them to embrace digital and technological solutions. The CIO must engage with the workforce to understand what tools they enjoy, where there are frustrations in the way employees work, and identifying opportunities to make it easier for a team member to do their job.
Try shifting the focus from productivity (output focus) to engagement (outcome focus). Engagement is about getting the work done. It’s how a team member feels connected to their work and their teams. Highly engaged teams can be a competitive advantage in terms of developing new products, attracting and retaining customers, and growing the business. And studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive.
CIOs must start working with HR leaders immediately ( if they haven’t already) to start surveying their teams and understanding their technology needs for how they engage with the company, their customers, team members, and accomplish their work. One useful exercise would be to develop Employee Journey Maps, which are similar to customer journey maps. These maps should encompass both remote workers, in-office workers, and those using a hybrid model. Look for where there is friction in the journey map with how employees get their work done. It’s an opportunity to identify and implement process improvements, underpinned by technology and automation, to eliminate that friction.
The future of work is bright. A hybrid workforce model can open so many opportunities for organizations to save money, increase productivity, and grow the business. But you have to approach it from the right perspective. Building strong foundations for a hybrid workforce will allow you to innovate faster and grow quicker in the future.Share