CIOs lead on employee experience in a distributed workforce
Heavy reliance on technology to maintain productivity during the coronavirus pandemic has elevated the role of chief information officers, who must now reimagine employee experience for a hybrid world
With the rollout of vaccines and easing coronavirus-related restrictions worldwide, company leadership teams are now looking to the future. Chief information officers (CIOs) are working to reset strategy and rebuild organisational resilience for a post-pandemic age.
For over a year, legions of employees worldwide have been working from home on a full-time basis, thanks in large part to the heroic efforts of IT teams to equip them with the tools, data and support needed to stay productive.
A study by Cardiff and Southampton universities suggests home working in the future is likely to boost rather than reduce productivity. The broadly positive results of the world’s largest-ever experiment in remote working raise interesting questions about what the future workplace will look like, but it’s evident that enabling remote working will be an ongoing focus for the CIO and their team.
The need for companies to accelerate their response to market changes is a top business priority, according to 1,000 global IT leaders surveyed by Forrester Consulting for a study commissioned by Elastic. Accelerating their shift to digital business and improving customer and employee experience was also in the top five priorities.
More than half the IT leaders surveyed said enabling employees to work flexibly and remotely will improve the adaptiveness of the business. To become more adaptive, 63 per cent said they are evolving their data architectures to reduce data silos and democratise employee access to data. And 60 per cent are actively investing in employee experience to improve the productivity and performance of a distributed workforce.
“Building a resilient organisation that can adapt flexibly and pivot quickly is all about people,” says Kim Huffman, vice president of global IT at Elastic, whose solutions for enterprise search, observability and security are built on a single technology stack to enable users to instantly find actionable insights from any type of data in real time and at scale.
“Workforces became distributed almost overnight, which changed the needs of employees and put a lot of pressure on CIOs to ensure employees could continue to collaborate, connect and engage. Many CIOs still had on-premises systems and datacentres, so it rapidly accelerated the move to cloud infrastructure and platforms.”
CIOs also had to change their security posture. Millions of people who worked in offices were now remote, so CIOs had to change how they manage their fleet and protect their data. A lot of this ties into the employee experience and their need to have unfettered access to company systems and information, regardless of where they decide to work, enabling them to play a satisfying, productive role as part of a resilient distributed workforce. Providing all this in a secure, productive and effective manner has been very important for CIOs.
It’s not just at the CIO level either, but an entire mindset shift. “I call it the adaptive enterprise,” says Huffman, “which means gearing up our organisations and the people within them to be as effective and productive as possible. The fastest way to pivot to business and market changes is for IT leaders to make sure employee experience is at the core of the IT strategy and that means giving them the appropriate data and technology tools to work productively.”
With a growing number of organisations keen to be more agile and flexible, Elastic has been working closely with customers to support them through the journey of adapting their employee experiences to remote, distributed working.
The company’s solutions provide CIOs with a set of easy-to-use, powerful applications to give their employees a consumer-like search experience to help manage, secure and monitor infrastructure and make data and documents findable.
The Elastic Workplace Search product, in particular, is a one-stop shop solution for the virtual workplace, boosting productivity by enabling users to unify all their content platforms, including Google Drive, Confluence, Slack and Salesforce, into one personalised search experience. And, in response to the growing cyberthreats faced by organisations during the pandemic, Elastic took decisive action to integrate its end-point protection and security features into its free Basic tier.
“Elastic is focused on everything related to searching data,” says Huffman. “Search is foundational to a wide variety of experiences, including employee collaboration, which is what makes Workplace Search so valuable.
“Organisations have an abundance of content sources and applications, and looking for information and content can be like finding a needle in a haystack at times. Workplace Search is an effortless, low-cost way to boost employees’ productivity and experience by unifying all the content platforms they use, making access to data and information as fast as possible. We have released features in our products that enable organisations to do more at a lower cost, which our research shows many CIOs are having to manage.”
Having spent the better part of a year reacting to market changes, CIOs will soon resume a more proactive posture as they take a driving seat in reimagining employee experience for the hybrid ways of working that will emerge post-pandemic. To do that effectively, CIOs should lean into the relationships they’ve built with other leadership team members, such as heads of human resources. Truly mastering employee experience in a hybrid world will depend on having shared accountability across the executive team.
“CIOs’ position has been elevated; we have a seat at the table and are uniquely positioned now to work with the business and drive the change required to embrace the new world of work,” Huffman concludes. “We are going to start hearing less about complex digital transformations and more about digital business models where automation and data-driven strategies are employed to drive rapid time-to-value and increased agility to the business.”
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