Business leaders now face the challenge of re-engaging a workforce in a fast-evolving landscape that’s more digitized, diverse, and dispersed than ever before. The time is now for companies to adapt, or risk creating a culture of disconnected employees and collaborators.
InVision Chief Product Officer Jeff Chow recently sat down with our guest speaker from Forrester,VP and Research Director James McQuivey to talk about how technology and culture are shaping the way we work and how leaders can embrace new possibilities during this time of change and uncertainty.
Below, we share excerpts from the Q&A session that covers an array of topics, including the current collaboration challenges faced by companies, and the role that technology can play in ushering a new era of teamwork.
You can also watch the entire discussion here.
JC: How can organizations keep the momentum of positive change vs. reverting back to old comfortable norms?
JM: The first step is to recognize all the good things that the workforce and the organization have accomplished. Take a moment to stand in awe of all that you have been through, all that you have endured, yes, but also all that you have done to innovate, to thrive rather than merely survive. This is important because it allows you to be intentional about identifying the good parts of what you have done in the past two years. Go ahead and bury the dark parts of the past two years, but preserve the lessons learned. Did you learn to be more adaptive? Were managers more empathetic? Did executive leadership respond to the organization’s needs with more courage? Make a checklist of “things we want to remember about ourselves,” and put that on the virtual wall.
I would encourage CEOs to discuss the list in public settings, not just to the organization, but to outside audiences. That way, the leaders feel some ownership for everything that has changed. This is crucial because if the organization slides back into old behaviors, it will usually be because the leadership wanted it that way or at least allowed it to happen. A CEO who publicly thanks the workforce for their inspiring accomplishments and feels a bit of (deserved) pride for their role is going to actively participate in preserving the best parts of the new.
But it won’t be enough to just celebrate and preserve the accomplishments of the past two years. Otherwise those new things become the old, static norms pretty quickly. The goal is to continue to identify methods and processes that will improve the organization going forward. And to identify what it is about the technology infrastructure and the culture that will facilitate those ongoing innovations. No rest for the weary, I realize, but at the same time, there’s nothing more engaging for a workforce than knowing that the organization is committed to improving things for their employees and customers. That’s the opportunity today’s leaders have in front of them. It’s unparalleled in recent history and I’d be surprised if even half of organizations successfully seize it.
JC: What is tech doing right/wrong when it comes to making collaboration tools more universal for all individuals, teams and workflows?
JM: Tech spent the early part of the pandemic focusing on security. That was necessary and appropriate and will continue to be crucial in 2022 and beyond. Next, tech leaders committed to ensuring that a baseline of collaboration tools was in place that could replace the value of in-person collaboration. They meant well and for many cultures that was probably the right first step, but most organizations realized that merely replacing hallway conversations with asynchronous chat was woefully inadequate for making remote work really work. The smarter leaders immediately turned to figuring out why people weren’t even using the features they already had available to them. This meant measuring collaboration tool adoption and use, not to monitor employees and see that they were working but to see whether the tools were helping them be effective. One of the most consistent drivers of employee engagement is whether they feel like they have the tools, resources, and information they need to be successful.
“One of the most consistent drivers of employee engagement is whether they feel like they have the tools, resources, and information they need to be successful.”
At first blush, this suggests giving people the technology tools they need. But we found that very often the tools were there, they just weren’t being utilized effectively. Though there are better and newer tools to add, you can’t expect an organization to get the full value of newer tools if you haven’t even helped employees get the value out of the tools they already have. That’s about training, sure, but it’s really more about culture. Does the organization promote the use of collaboration tools in a way that removes barriers to productivity? Tech leaders can play a role here by identifying underutilized features and going to select groups in the organization and saying, “Help us help you get more out of this tool,” engaging in a group effort to improve tool utilization and then sharing the lessons learned to other teams or across other tools as well. That is less about the tech and more about tech and culture leadership.
JC: How can teams effectively collaborate remotely when historically being together was a key part of their process and success?
JM: Early in the pandemic, many teams did what they could to stay connected. This was a smart instinct to act on, but it also happened under a somewhat false premise, the idea that our connections were naturally going to weaken given that we weren’t face to face anymore. But the evidence suggesting that remote connections inevitably decay is very thin and usually comes down to C-level executives simply asserting that remote teams can’t collaborate effectively and everybody else going along with it.
In fact, there’s good evidence that the dynamics of remote collaboration can actually encourage faster idea generation and more inclusive representation of voices that might feel intimidated to raise their points in an in-person environment. That’s why the first thing to do is say goodbye to the idea that collaborating remotely is a poor imitation that everybody wishes they didn’t have to do. Instead, remove the pressure of that false premise by calling out the values and benefits of remote collaboration.
“…the first thing to do is say goodbye to the idea that collaborating remotely is a poor imitation that everybody wishes they didn’t have to do.”
We can collaborate asynchronously, we can use collaboration tools to preserve ideas across sessions, we have higher-resolution idea capture if we do it right, all of which makes it easier to come back to a project or thread and quickly get back to improving it. Of course, this only happens if managers encourage using collaboration tools this way.
JC: How can collaboration help with Agile Transformation, a hot topic among enterprises?
JM: The goal of this tool utilization, culture adaptation, and process evolution is not to be good at remote or hybrid work. It’s to be good at work, period. Being good at work today means becoming an agile organization, one that is continually transforming in response to changing market conditions, supply chain factors, and employee experience facts. Put the right tools in the hands of employees in an organization that’s ready to do everything we’re talking about here and Agile transformation practically happens on its own. The value in employees’ heads — which according to some estimates accounts for half or more of the market capitalization of public companies — is largely untapped without creating this environment where ideas multiply and turn into operational reality swiftly.
Stephanie Darling is the Editorial Content Manager at InVision. She has a background working with arts and culture organizations, and she loves all things food, dogs, and podcasts.