CIOs must take a human-centered approach to remote work

CIOs must take a human-centered approach to remote work
January 7, 2022  |  BY

Over the past 10-15 years, the role of the CIO has expanded beyond being merely the gatekeeper of the company’s technology. CIOs have become key voices for overall strategic direction, and due to the pandemic, they must now be part of the overall discussion about the future of work for their organizations.

To do so, they should make culture a priority over everything else. We’ve all come to see how physical location doesn’t affect job performance, but there’s still a belief that “culture” only flourishes when people share the same space. CIOs can shift this mindset by getting other leaders to understand that culture isn’t about where we work, it’s about how we work with each other.

Just about every company these days uses collaboration tools that foster immediate communication and spontaneous interactions, yet but there is room for improvement. According to Gartner, 33% of CIOs claim that culture has yet to adapt to the remote work environment.

But CIOs were grappling with how to improve culture even before the pandemic. Specifically, many felt their inability to execute a complete digital business transformation was directly related to flaws with the culture.

Fortunately, an increasing number of tech leaders have realized that simple changes in behavior are essential to build a successful hybrid work environment, and by extension, a thriving culture.

They’re reaching those goals by first understanding the current IT culture before determining how it needs to adjust. They’re then defining the desired culture attributes that are needed to become more resilient, like improved accountability and deeper empowerment from the executive level.

CIOs are also looking to better recognize employee performance and accomplishments. Some are bringing attention to specific people and their achievements during department Zoom calls, while others encourage team members to praise their colleagues during these meetings.

Yet while CIOs are trying to bring their department’s culture up to speed with the new work model, they can’t forget to maintain healthy relationships with their fellow executives. For example, when COVID first began to affect workplaces, others in the C-suite looked to their CIO to educate them about technology initiatives. In turn, they developed stronger relationships, which provided the CIO with more sway for devising “return to work” plans. But a Gartner report found that 57% of CIOs are focusing on growing their teams, with just 9% focusing on growing parallel relationships.

Will this singular focus on teams hinder the development of relationships between executives? Every organization obviously has specific dynamics, but overall, prioritizing too much in one direction can have negative ramifications.

As such, CIOs must be aware of the health of various relationships, and do their best to nurture them, as much as they can. Ideally, this will eradicate imbalances and allow them to maintain influence across the executive level. CIOs will strengthen interpersonal relationships, participate in diversity initiatives, and actively reshape IT’s identity in the new hybrid way of work.

Distill all of these ideas to their essence, and what we’re really talking about here is taking a human-centric approach to culture versus the traditional office-centric approach.

A human-centric approach prioritizes flexible work experiences and empathy-based management, which not only increases employee performance, it boosts employee retention. These results are essential for CIOs to keep in mind, because as much as they may embrace the hybrid environment, they also have to adjust the work model to keep in step. Otherwise, culture is just an abstract idea, not the driving force that it could be for organizational growth.