Is the CIO the New Change Agent for the Digital Enterprise?

 In Employee Experience, Future of Work

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How Does the CIO Make Life Better for Employees?

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) play a critical role in shaping the digital workplace. As digital transformations become more frequent and impactful, CIOs will be at the center of all technological change. 

Company culture is often identified as a leading barrier to digital transformation for business leaders. As Kristin Moyer, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, explains, CIOs will be as responsible for culture by 2021. CIOs can make life better for their workforce by making a positive impact on culture and technology. 

The Current Responsibilities of CIOs 

A lot has changed since the days of IT keeping the servers running and launching digital initiatives that power entire organizations. The responsibilities of CIOs have expanded. 

CIOs now have a substantial impact on organizational performance. Anyone in this position is responsible for shaping the way an entire workforce interacts. What is on the current CIO agenda? 

  • CIOs are now responsible for company culture. CIOs are already responsible for addressing technology strategy and acquisitions, compliance, cybersecurity, training, budgets, and collaborating with other senior executives in driving the business itself. Now, they will be responsible for building company culture also. Because  CIOs are responsible for leading digital workplace changes, they are responsible for helping employees understand and adopt new technology. This can often be difficult as people are inherently resistant to change. CIOs can create culture by promoting an environment where workers are encouraged to learn, change, and grow. This will help employees to positively embracing ongoing digital transformations.
  • Driving digital workplace initiatives. Technology has changed the way we work. With the addition of so many new tools that alter legacy processes, maintaining an aligned organization is a complex undertaking. Luckily, many new digital tools can help. According to CMS Wire’s State of the Digital Workplace Report, digital workplace technology purchases are led primarily by C-suite leadership (70.9%), IT (66.9%), and HR (22.5%). It predominantly falls on the CIO to bring in new technologies that simplify workflows and unify the entire enterprise. 

 

Why CIOs Are so Important

Communications is critical; in fact, the way CIOs and other executives communicate with the workforce is the heart of any digital transformation. Internal communication shapes the way all employees engage with their jobs, coworkers, and organization. In order to keep employees informed, you need to have the technology to reach every worker. This means optimizing communications for your employee’s experience. 

Susan Gerock, CIO at Washington REIT, sat down with SocialChorus for our Culture, Comms, & Cocktails podcast and explained why CIOs should care about employee communications. As she said, communications is primarily about “meeting people where they are.” 

“That’s so much of what makes for good communication,” said Gerock. “It lets people work where they want to work, it lets people consume information in the way they want to consume it, in the time they want to consume it. It gives them that flexibility to blend that life experience with the work experience. And that’s what we try to do with technology at WashREIT, is to deliver on that employee experience at the same time while giving them the freedom to communicate in anyway and from anywhere.”

Having the right digital toolkit can positively impact your employees experience at your enterprise. The CIO is in a unique position to influence the employee experience because he or she leads technology acquisition decisions at an organization. Communication is the foundation for building the right toolkit. Choosing the technology that will empower your workforce means meeting your employees on their preferred channels, devices, and mediums.  

Why CIOs Care About Employee Engagement and Communications

Companies that Communicate Effectively Rise above the Rest

Communication plays a large role in shaping the employee experience. Enterprises that communicate effectively enjoy higher levels of workforce engagement. As engagement increases, teams become more informed and connected with their organization. 

Research by Watson Wyatt Communications indicates that communication drives business performance and organizational success. Communication even impacts financial performance. Watson Wyatt found that enterprises that communicate effectively experience a 57% higher total return to stakeholders. Better communication can also lower your turnover rate as employees are happier and less likely to job hop. With all these positive effects, it is highly valuable to invest in you communications strategy. 

How CIOs Can Improve the Employee Experience

  • Adopt the right technology. While this tip may seem intuitive, providing your workforce with the type of tools they need can often be quite challenging. Surveying your workers and discovering what technology they need to succeed is vital to improving your digital toolkit. Creating a comprehensive digital suite involves constantly adjusting your strategy. Measuring the impact of your tools can help you figure out where are the holes in your digital strategy.
  • Make your communication mobile. Meeting your employees on their preferred form of communication is vital to creating a positive employee experience. The vast majority of employees use mobile phones all the time in their personal lives, and they want to use those devices at work as well. As workforces become more distributed, it is important to have communications available on mobile. Having a mobile app is an easy and convenient way for your workforce to get company updates and stay informed. 
  • Personalize your communications.  As frontline workers continue to make up a larger segment of the global workforce, it is important that you convey that you care about their work experience. The more an employee feels noticed by an organization, the more likely they are to put greater effort into their work. Personalizing your communications to different workforce segments is a great way to keep people engaged and  motivated.

How CIOs Can Make the Digital Workplace a Reality

Your digital workplace drives business performance and organizational success. CIOs can create an amazing digital workplace by ensuring that their employees get the tools they need and adopt technologies easily. Here are six best practices for building a comprehensive digital workplace.  

  • Encourage culture change. Most organizations have not yet made the cultural and procedural changes necessary to ensure success with their digital transformations. Cultural change is vital because  employee engagement sits at the center of workplace transformations. Workforces are multigenerational, dispersed, and rely on technology to get their jobs done. Shifting attitudes towards change and digital skill acquisition will play a greater role in determining hiring. CIOs can help manage this transformation by encouraging the adoption of new skills and flexible work arrangements.  
  • Scale digital business. Digital has become mainstream. Gartner surveyed more than 3,000 CIOs and found that 33% of respondents worldwide evolved their digital endeavors to scale, up from 17%in the previous year. Scaling a digital business is a matter of increasing volume, scope, and agility. Increasing scope means providing a variety of digital services so more employees can use them. 
  • Allow employees to lead transformations. IT used to enforce technology adoption. Now, so many employees are used to using technology that they don’t need help with adoption. Instead, empower employees to have input into which tools they’d like to use. Your employees are your technology users; they should guide you toward choosing the best solutions for your company. CIOs have become technological curators; their role is  to guide their workforce and increase the ease of adoption. 
  • Be flexible about when and where employees can work. Work is no longer strictly confined from 9 to 5. Employees are increasingly working from home and on their own devices. With remote work increasing, IT can no longer realistically expect to control everything on their workforce’s devices. Locking out social media or other non-work related apps will only frustrate your workforce. Enabling employees to access data or files from their own devices and out of the office will enable your modern workforce to produce work on their own time. 
  • Partner with HR. While it can be easy to pass off cultural change to the HR department, digital transformations have blurred the lines between an organizational change and a technological reform. Company culture and technology go hand in hand. CIOs need to lead digital changes by providing oversight and awareness. CIOs can manage organizational technological changes by partnering with HR to ensure that digital tools are being adopted. 
  • Use your data. Every company  collects data on its workforce. To get benefits from that data, however, you need to use it appropriately and strategically. CIOs are in a unique position to have access to the entire organization’s data. They are able to understand and interpret that data in a way that benefits the entire enterprise. The difference is in how CIOs can communicate what steps the company needs to take based on what they are seeing in the data, improving the employee experience with a digital workplace platform that integrates systems, software, and communications channels. 

Recap: The CIOs Role in Communications and Technology

As the digital workplace continues to drive business goals and performance, CIOs will play a larger role in shaping the employee experience. CIOs can positively affect their workforce by encouraging a company culture that embraces change and a flexible, empowered approach to using technology. Best practices for CIOs include the following. 

  • Making user-led technology decisions 
  • Encouraging cultural change that embraces quick tech adoption
  • Using data to make organizational actionable insights
  • Communicating with your workforce to uncover their digital preferences 

 

Learn more on how CIOs can make an impact in today’s organizations. Read our new guide, Digital Transformation for CIOs: 7 Steps to Success.

 

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