by Sara Alvarez Kleinsmith, thought leadership, Dell Technologies
Nature demonstrates by example that, at times, under great stress and pressure, outcomes can exceed expectations. After surfacing from the earth’s core through volcanic eruption, diamonds rise from duress to shine, serving as an inspiring allegory of the determination of the human spirit in times of trial.
The Covid-19 pandemic was like an eruption. It changed the way we live and work. The formation was quick and, in some ways, volatile. In 2022, there is an unprecedented opportunity to take the rough gemstones of the last two years and cut them, exposing their true brilliance to create something entirely new.
From a business perspective, this means firms now need to look forward rather than backward. Consider asking: What’s the best way to utilize the pressure of these last two years to transform work life so that it reflects light and garners value? Dell Technologies hosted a LinkedIn Live event on this very subject.
On the panel were Jen Felch, chief digital officer and CIO of Dell Technologies; Brooke Huling, vice president of Modern Compute Solutions Group at Dell Technologies; and Dr. Sally Eaves, author and senior policy advisor for the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research.
Each drew on insights from Dell’s “Breakthrough” study, based on a survey of 10,500 respondents from over 40 countries. The body of evidence demonstrates that leaders and employees are searching for greater connectivity, productivity and empathy in hybrid workplaces.
Put employees’ well-being first
At the LinkedIn Live event, each panel member agreed that as organizations move forward, they first need to address creeping feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. According to the “Breakthrough” study, 41% of businesses believe their employees struggle with burnout. Some are apprehensive about embracing emerging technology and new ways of working, while others crave deeper working relationships.
So, what can leaders do to close the connectivity and empathy gaps in a hybrid world? Gaining sufficient clarity to recognize these issues within organizations is half the battle. If leaders have gained anything from the last couple of years, it’s perspective. With that perspective comes an understanding that:
- Digital transformation doesn’t happen without people and their capacity to embrace change.
- People’s health and business health are inextricably linked.
- People are a company’s greatest asset-when they’re supported.
Protect flexible work with less flexible guardrails
The “Breakthrough” study revealed that flexible work doesn’t necessarily equate to equitable work or uplifting work; 58% of workers say they’re still not experiencing a better work/life balance, suggesting that businesses need to protect their employees from overworking by putting the necessary guardrails in place.
With a lack of consistent social and digital connectivity, some employees are searching for greater meaning at work. Meanwhile, 50% of respondents report that they are struggling to collaborate remotely or connect relationally and are looking to leaders to intercede. More than three-quarters want organizations to do at least one of the following:
- Empower workers to choose their preferred working pattern and provide the necessary tools/infrastructure.
- Provide greater clarity regarding an ongoing commitment to flexible working and the practicalities of making it work.
- Effectively and equitably manage remote teams.
Experts’ top advice on breaking through
The expert panelists at the LinkedIn Live event on the future of work provided some practical advice on how leaders can approach the above-mentioned opportunities.
Dr. Eaves urged companies to reappraise “soft skills” as “essential skills,” with emotional intelligence and empathy being at the core of organizational function.
Dell’s Huling challenged leaders to question, “Are we giving our people the tools that will make their lives easier?” She described how her working style has adapted and morphed over the last two years, and surmised that most employees have done similar. Leaders now need to accommodate these changes by pinpointing what team members need to thrive in the near and long term. The workforce is not a homogenous group, and laying down the foundations of the future of work requires an appreciation of the individual and their unique prerequisites.
These are just a couple of pointers. The LinkedIn Live discussion contains more sage advice, but here is a short summary for brevity:
- Brooke Huling: As leaders and technologists, we really need to be thinking through how we can arm our workforce with the things that will halt burnout. Talk to your team. Ask them how they are and what they need. It could be something as easy as help with setting up their system (if working remotely). Shift not only the technology but your culture, the way you lead, and you can start to bring that authenticity back in a really meaningful way.
- Dr. Sally Eaves: Don’t treat digital transformation as discretely digital and the physical office as discretely physical. There’s an opportunity for real integration here. As we go back to the office, look at the interplay across the digital and physical space. Be holistic. Focus on the people-machine partnerships. We need to equally focus on culture, leadership and processing skills. Democratizing access to skills is important, but building people’s confidence to apply their skills in the workplace is the game-changer. I often think about things like metacognition. I call it “a gym for the brain.” It helps people identify their learning style. As an organization, look at training that is personal.
- Jen Felch: As IT leaders, we have great technology available to us. The key is listening to our target audience. Maybe they need certain tools. Maybe they need asynchronous or on-the-job training. Maybe they need protected time to innovate. Their schedules might be so crowded they don’t have time to ideate and create. Everyone works differently. Now is the time to accommodate those differences.
For more insight, visit the link to Dell’s “Breakthrough” study and watch the recorded panel discussion on how to lead and support innovation to accelerate progress.
Lead photo by Sergey Turkin on Unsplash