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5 Things CIOs Need to Know About Work, COVID, and the Path Forward

Newsflash: COVID-19 has turned our strategic plans and economy completely upside down.

Oh…you already got that memo?

Well, let’s take a moment to do a deep dive further into this topic as, while the immediate fallout may be obvious, the ripple effects can catch us by surprise if we are not fully prepared. Instead of plunging blindly through the decisions ahead of us, let’s do a quick recap of the past few months, so we can make purposeful, thought-out plans.

Leadership is Key 

More than ever employees are looking to their leaders for guidance. Difficult times naturally have that effect. And this need is not limited to what is said during online calls and meetings but also in the messages we put forth in our emails and social media presence.

So what does it take for a leader to create a united workforce that moves towards a common purpose?

Consider the difference between engaged employees who feel supported and those who live in fear while the C-suite makes decisions behind closed doors. To this end, determine your company’s message and remain consistent – not necessarily to one particular goal but to how, as a united team, the business will move forward and help your employees to be engaged and stay invested.

Remote Work is Here to Stay 

And before you stop reading after another obvious statement, let’s also take a moment to flesh this out. Remote work is here, but is it here to stay for your business? Has your business’s remote work experience come from a place of survival or has it turned into an opportunity to troubleshoot the brave new workforce? This too shall pass, and we will move forward after this strange experience.

Are you taking time to lay that groundwork for success? These are questions that need to be thought through now, instead of requiring us to scramble later. Dave Finnegan, Chief Experience Officer at Orvis in 2018 offered with foresight “We recognize that the workforce for the future includes a non-office structure, especially for IT developers. Studies have shown that results are best achieved when they are working remotely.”

The Employee Experience Remains Critical                    

As you consider remote work, remember that one of the most alluring benefits for employee retention can be freedom and flexibility. In a recent McKinsey survey, organizations should focus on four areas: safety and security, relationships, culture, and purpose. With 81% of technology leaders anticipating an increase in their remote workforce post-COVID, this could result in fiercer competition among employers to retain their best employees.

Has your team begun planning how to retain (or to grow) your workforce during this upcoming time of fluctuation?

Technology is Crucial

In watching some successful and failed responses to COVID-19, Phil Crawford, Global Chief Technology Officer at Godiva Chocolatier, was able to create an informed plan for the company’s response in Europe and America. The first step was to onboard the necessary technology platforms and the entire company devoted several weeks to training so that their teams could securely work from home.

Like Godiva, nearly all organizations are facing some level of disruption to their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the CIO has become a key player in the associated crisis-response plans. How has your organization aligned toward adoption of these enabling technologies?

What was once considered beta or something to be considered for the future has now become mainstream. Whether it’s accessing data through the cloud, virtual learning for on-boarding of new employees, or connecting with colleagues through your new favorite video conferencing platforms – we’ve all had to adjust over the last several months. However, before we pat ourselves on the back for our agility, it is important to ensure we’re maximizing the benefits of this tech.

Do your online/offline hybrid meetings feel more like a rendition of Lord of the Flies or are they running like a well-oiled machine? This tech is here to stay, so we need to make sure we are using it effectively and planning for its long-term applications.

New Opportunities Are Being Created

Lastly, if we stick our heads in the sand, then we can’t spot the opportunities that might come our way. Are things insane? Yep. Are we stressed out of our minds? Of course. However, times of upheaval can also be times of great innovation and progress when managed effectively.

Already the gig economy is making leaps and bounds by (re)capturing the skilled workforce market. So, based on your field or industry, what adjustments or opportunities are available? Remember that businesses like General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Disney, HP, Hyatt, Trader Joe’s, FedEx, and Microsoft were all born and evolved during times of recession. Who knows? If you do your work now, perhaps your company could eventually be on the same list as these titans.

These are the questions we surely need to ask… and keep asking. This is a time of fluctuation, which will in turn be followed by more fluctuation. There is little certainty right now, but CIOs, in this tech-centric workforce, this hot mess of a world is your oyster. So ask questions, dig deeper, and let’s prepare for a better tomorrow.

Jacquelyn Adams, TNCR Contributing Writer
Jacquelyn Adams, TNCR Contributing Writer
Jacquelyn Adams is an award-winning engineering leader who focuses on the future of work and reskilling workforces. She is a recognized professional consultant, writer, and speaker for multiple industry-leading institutions.
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