March 2, 2021

Leaders of Tech – Our Annual CIO & CTO Round Table

A discussion on reinvigorating employee engagement to support accelerated transformation...

What started as a discussion on supporting accelerated transformation, quickly and rightly became a discussion on supporting the employees who deliver transformation and the people impacted by this transformation. We would like to thank the 10 CIOs & CTOs who joined us for a discussion last week. We would also like to thank Gartner and in particular Rob O’Donohue for joining our discussion and helping with facilitation.

2020 has forced unstoppable transformation on almost every industry. Ways of working will never be the same and 2021 will no doubt see further accelerated transformation. With this immense pressure comes a heightened sense of responsibility for employers. How do we support our employees, colleagues, and as an industry how do we combine our learnings to level up the industry as a whole and look out for each other through this rapid period of change? Communication is key and creating a culture of awareness is critical.

Below are some of the questions we discussed and some of the key takeaways. We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and questions in the comments below.

What are some organisations doing to support their employees?

We discussed some hacks that can help with remote working and the added pressure we have encountered in 2020.

  • Virtual commutes – Remember when we all commuted to and from work? What did you do in that time bar wish you did not have to commute? Listen to the radio, podcast, or read? Did it involve a cycle, a walk, or even a run? The idea is simple - clear a time in the morning and the evening to have some time to yourself. Read a chapter of your book, listen to the radio and if possible go for a walk and get some fresh air. The time spent on your commute was not always pleasant but it did create a formal start and end to your working day which is dangerous to remove completely. It is far too easy in the evening to just continue working. Remember that time you had to leave the office to catch the train or you would be late home! Bring that discipline back into your working week and separate the working day from your family time or personal time. If you are a night owl you can always jump online again for an hour later on in the evening but it is productive to take breaks and keep structure.
  • A separate bank of holidays – Some companies are offering additional leave to take separate to usually holidays. These are personal days to be used to have a break from work. Not all companies can offer this but if you can, it has shown to increase productivity.
  • Walking meetings – Difficult on a rainy day and less tempting in December but if you have a weekly 1-1 why not suggest using that time to go for a - walk and talk meeting. It’s a break from screens which are overused, a chance to get some fresh air and exercise, and studies have shown that walking leads to increased creative thinking which will help with problem-solving. It also leads to a more honest exchange, walking side by side (even if virtual) creates a more peer to peer feel for the conversation. Give it a try but remember to give people ample notice and avoid more than 3 people, it’s best in a 1-1 scenario.
  • Flexible working times – Not just working from home but a flexible approach to work and tasks. We have seen in Mason Alexander, and many others, a shift away from hours and days worked to outputs and outcomes. How can we work smarter, not longer? How do we celebrate what we are good at and move away from a prescribed “role” with a list of tasks that one must be a master of all and work more collectively towards common goals, sharing our strengths. Time of day can be a big factor too, some people work better in the morning or later in the evening, the benefit of working away from an open-plan office is that you have the ability to manage your own time to a certain extent and to also plan around your personal and family commitments.

What are some of the benefits found in our new ways of working?

Getting people in the same room! Availability for not only executives but any group of people was always tricky. Thanks to various tools we can get people from all over the world into the same room at the same time with ease, strange then to think Zoom launched in 2011 and MS Teams in 2016 or that Cisco webex is 26 years old! Yet business travel spending has grown worldwide from 839 Billion in 2009 to nearly 1.3 Trillion in 2019. It is not just the “new” tools that have changed but our willingness to adopt new ways of working that has had the greatest impact.

We are all in agreement that you cannot completely replace face-to-face meetings with Zoom calls and in some meetings a physical presence is required. However, anecdotally we know of many people who have 50 or even 100+ flights per year who now have zero and their role has not changed nor has their productivity. We are certainly looking forward to traveling again, to conferences, to meet clients, and to spend time with people we work with around the world - but we will challenge the need to be somewhere in person much more now than ever before.

It was mentioned in the roundtable that the total reduction of wasted time from commuting across a team of 20-30 people was in the region of 600 hrs per month. This on its own was not the point but understanding that this equated to having an additional 2-3 people on your team with ALL the experience that your entire team has combined was powerful! This is not simply converting the commuting hours into working hours but time wasted on a commute.

Can people actually work from anywhere, what are the tax implications?  

We did not attempt to give or share any tax advice however, it was discussed that new solutions coming to the market all the time in response to demand. If you are working from anywhere as an FTE you must be in Ireland or where your organisation has an entity. The life of a digital nomad is reserved for the self-employed for now. We welcome any of our Tax specialist friends to drop in more information in the comments.

Duty of care vs accountability…

This is an important topic. Nobody can argue that the employer has a duty of care to employees however we are all adults and we do need to take on a certain level of accountability when it comes to looking out for each other. The world has never been without risk and we all need to take our health and safety seriously, it is important to do what you can to keep safe and we cannot simply rely on our employers. We also have a duty of care for our colleagues and the wider community.

This has been a tough year for people and businesses. Companies need people to try to get out of a “lockdown” mindset and focus on what they can do, focus on what you can control. A positive and optimistic mindset will help us remain productive and create a healthy sense of urgency.

Delivering an excellent experience in what you do has never been more important and while it’s a challenging year it is also an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile for your colleagues, your clients, and yourself!

Do people actually want to work from home 100%

No. The simple answer is the majority of people do not want to work from home 100% of the time. There are lots of reasons why but the takeaway is that if you do not offer flexibility and a hybrid model you will likely lose your best talent, the same is true if you demand 100% remote or in the office. You could however build a business or teams who join knowing it is 100% remote which is an interesting concept and great examples of where this has been successful.  

The voice of technology

Never has the voice of technology been stronger in the boardroom. Y2K was the last time, don’t miss your chance to deliver lasting impact. We agreed as a group that the majority of things we are seeing happening because of the pandemic are things we would have eventually seen anyway, just they were implemented and adopted in weeks and months rather than 5-10 years.

Looking forward

Hindsight is 2020, our choices, as we make them will tend to be the best possible choice at that very second, but quickly can prove unwise. However, there is nothing more damaging than indecision, it has a ripple effect across an organisation that can cause reduced confidence and poor communication which will impact the culture. One piece of advice from speaking to thousands of people from hundreds of organisations. Get your communications right. Make a decision and communicate it clearly and quickly and have the confidence to change your mind.

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?

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