3 reasons CEOs need HR and IT to work closer now

The pandemic-related shift to remote work and hybrid work accelerated the need for collaboration between HR and IT. That's good news for CIOs and HR leaders working on these priorities.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and manage employees. Technology has become a lifeline as more of the workforce has gone remote. This abrupt shift to remote work has also accelerated the need for interdepartmental collaboration between HR and IT. We have seen that for an employee to flourish in a remote workforce, technology is a critical enabler.

In 2021, CIOs are also tasked with improving the worker condition.

Technology undeniably impacts the success of an organization and this has never been more evident than in the past year. In order to unpack the shifting priorities of the IT department in supporting a distributed workforce, WalkMe commissioned a survey by Constellation Research of 100 Fortune 500 CIOs,‘The CIO Outlook for 2021: Delivering Business ROI at Scale’. The survey found that in 2021, as well as prioritizing overall digital change and keeping the organization safe, CIOs are also tasked with improving the worker condition.

This means that employee well-being is now a core component of IT’s forward strategy, allowing IT leaders to utilize newfound “political capital” to take a more strategic seat at the executive table. This is also good news for HR leaders. Working closely with their counterparts in the CIO’s office to deliver change management initiatives at scale will boost their likelihood of delivering successful HR tech deployments and continue to safeguard the well-being of the workforce.

[ How can leaders shape an equitable hybrid work experience for all? Read also: Hybrid work: 4 best practices for fairness. ]

Let’s examine three priorities to focus on as the two groups work more closely for the good of the entire organization.

1. Software choices

When remote work became a key challenge in 2020, IT was confronted with an overwhelming number of platforms to manage in order to give employees the right tools when working from home. As a third of survey respondents stated, this remains complicated by the fact that workers are struggling with insufficient technology skills to manage their work remotely.

Low digital adoption is one of the major factors that affects the employee experience.

Ensuring that the right technologies are in place guarantees that employees remain connected. However, deploying new technology at speed and scale is no easy feat. As HR and IT have been historically siloed, each with different departmental priorities, the two departments have had to work closely together to ensure business as usual continues at the global level. Arguably the two most important departments for maintaining business continuity during the pandemic, both groups contribute complementary areas of expertise that are critical to addressing employee experience. The need to work together to overcome challenges, while collaborating and respecting one another, has never been greater.

One role of the HR department is to facilitate communication and collaboration. The role of IT is to ensure that the right technology is in place so employees can do their best work. Over the past year, the two departments have had to align their priorities and responsibilities, and HR now plays a major role in the software deployment process.

As important as it may be to collaborate on adding new software to meet a set of predefined and strategic goals, the implementation phase is only one factor. Digital adoption is business critical to employee success, and employees often underestimate the potential of software to make their lives easier.

In fact, low digital adoption is one of the major factors that affects the employee experience. Even before the pandemic some people felt like they were grappling with too many software applications throughout their working day, and those who struggle to navigate the complexities of new digital experiences end up frustrated, disconnected, and burned out. This leads to employee turnover, which negatively impacts the HR department and the company as a whole.

2. Communications and training

The rapid acceleration of digital transformation in response to COVID-19 demonstrated both the resourcefulness of software companies and the resilience of the workforce. However, as the remote work ecosystem has evolved, it has fragmented. For the employee this fragmentation has become a mental and technological burden. Employees must navigate multiple complex software platforms to perform everyday tasks.

The "forgetting curve" can lead to employee frustration.

What’s more, without user-friendly technology, employees struggle to be productive, especially since IT may not be as accessible remotely. Employees may fail to access information in their moment of need, and furthermore, may fail to receive adequate training on new software. Although HR should be leaning on IT for their expertise in software deployment, employees also have to be trained and onboarded onto new platforms. Without an effective training and onboarding program employees will remain unable to utilize software to its full effect.

User training is critical to ensuring high adoption rates of any platform or system, but providing effective training is no easy task, especially with the majority of the workforce working remotely. When employees don’t perform a process regularly, they often forget how to complete all the steps in the process before the next time they need to apply them. This is only human, but this so-called “forgetting curve” actually damages productivity. It can add to employee frustration and lead to an influx of IT support tickets.

One solution that can be deployed to ease the burden for the worker – not to mention the team leads collaborating on the project – is contextual learning. Training tools with contextual learning capabilities have algorithms that can analyze context-sensitive factors, such as the actions the user is taking, their position in the company, the goals of the department, and even the time of day, to provide tailored support. Digital solutions that enable contextual learning can provide real-time direction and support to help users complete processes efficiently. The need for training is still addressed, but in a contextual, iterative way.

3. Focus on the human factor

People are the most valuable asset to any organization. The challenge is taking a process that is important for company goals, yet seemingly disconnected from the daily workflow, and making it a top priority for all employees. Too often employees are expected to adapt themselves to technology rather than the technology adapting to them. As automation and guidance take on a greater significance in implementation strategies, we’ll begin to see a renewed focus on the employee experience.

The migration to cloud services has demolished barriers between departments. Leaders across HR and IT departments are beginning to share their goals and strategies with their colleagues throughout the organization. Staying focused on the human factor will enable a successful implementation with high adoption rates, allowing the user to manage all of their initiatives in one place while reaching their goals.

Technology can help streamline the day-to-day, freeing up employees’ time to focus on the meaningful work they have to do, keeping them engaged and productive – and most importantly, happy.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Rafael Sweary, cofounded WalkMe, the leading digital adoption platform, in 2011. Previously, Rafi was the cofounder, CEO and then President of Jetro Platforms which was acquired in 2007. Since then, he has funded and helped build a number of companies both in his role as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Ocean Assets and in a personal capacity.