Adapting to the New Status Quo: Flourishing in a Hybrid Working World

Chief Technology Officer, APJ, Workday

As we continue to work through the external macro economic factors that are currently shaping the global economy, the world is beginning to return to normality after the upheaval of the last two years.  It is only now that we can reflect and start to understand just how significantly the workplace has evolved post-pandemic.

Many businesses around the world have started to encourage and, in some cases, enforce that their employees return to the office. The negative reaction from employees to a proposed shift back to the way things were in early 2020 shows that there can be no return to the ‘old normal.’

According to Workday’s recent research, ‘Employee Expectations 2022’, employees now prefer the hybrid model of working. The need to balance  the demands of home and work, mental health benefits, and even financial benefits all weigh heavily on employees and the idea that they return to the office five days a week is becoming anathema to many of them.

As a result, forward-thinking businesses that embrace agility and want to both attract and retain the best talent understand that they need to implement hybrid working policies that allow employees to choose how, when, and where they work. However, doing so is not a straightforward process and for a successful transition, businesses must be able to effectively adapt and challenge the status quo to successfully collaborate using the right mix of operational change and technology.  

Underpinning this shift to an agile workplace is the ability to understand the sentiments of the workforce through technology, enabling organisations to listen, react, coach, and also learn. Driving employee engagement leads to better productivity, which in turn drives revenue growth and happy employees, and in turn customers. As witnessed over the last two years, technology has shifted from being an enabling function to a strategic one underpinning scale, change, growth, integration, and security.

Making the right investments in technology will help companies navigate the possible headwinds over the next 12-24 months. We believe that there are 5 key components to consider in selecting a technology solution to support organisations seeking agility: 

  1. Reliable and highly scalable cloud infrastructure as a core foundation
  2. Flexible architecture that scales and meets both performance and innovation objectives 
  3. Extensible and able to integrate across multiple technology stacks to support business agility 
  4. Secure technology at the core and auditable to ensure continuous compliance 
  5. Implementation of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence as a foundation for insights

Securing the right technology infrastructure and software solutions is critical, but it is only one part of a successful transition to a more agile business. Leaders will need to review and update existing policies whilst considering new ones if they are motivated to build a business that will thrive in this new normal. In doing so, we believe they will need to demonstrate six core characteristics, namely: 

  • Leveraging Insights: Prioritising employee engagement is critical for businesses to maintain long-term productivity increases within a hybrid environment. Understanding what the workforce wants is key to adaptability and retaining growing talent. Technology can be used to assess employee sentiment in almost real time. For example, Workday’s Peakon Employee Voice helps leaders understand what their workforce is thinking, provides a platform to engage them in new and more efficient ways, and also guides the organisation on its path to adapt.
  • Enabling Continuity: The pandemic has shown that every business needs to model ‘what-if’ and the ‘art-of-the-possible’ scenarios to plan for and minimise disruptions. Against a dynamic business landscape, there is a need for businesses to remain agile and pivot if necessary with data-driven insights to guide them.
  • Ability to Adapt: In addition to business continuity plans, businesses must be able to rapidly innovate to roll out new processes and policies quickly and easily, a key example being the ability to add employee vaccination status to HR records during the pandemic. This calls for businesses to have in place the right tools that provide relevant insights whilst allowing them to communicate with employees effectively across channels that work for them anytime and anywhere without the added bureaucracy and red tape.
  • Support their Employees: In today’s hybrid workplace, physical and mental well-being has never been so important and finding ways to support employees is critical for a successful business environment. From being able to share health and safety protocols easily to having tools that help them understand employee sentiment, business leaders will be able to listen, make better decisions and lead with empathy. Enabling a positive end user experience for employees inside an organisation is just as important as creating a great end user experience for customers.
  • Security by Design: The rapid rise in cybersecurity incidents globally has aptly illustrated the challenges facing businesses of all sizes. Organisations must implement a robust security eco-system that protects both employees and data and is built to withstand rigorous audit and checks without impacting the user experience. Creating a secure omni-channel experience will allow the workforce to collaborate securely from anywhere, anytime, and from any device.    
  • Collaborate anywhere, anytime and on any device: Hybrid work practices has meant that end users have to be able to work from anywhere, no matter the time, location or device.  Ensuring an omni-channel experience inside collaboration applications is critical to ensuring a seamless user experience for employees when they need it.

Retooling organisations so that these characteristics become part of their DNA is not easy and requires complete cooperation across the business, finance, and IT teams to create organisations that are ready to tackle any upcoming challenges. With shared KPIs, this combined team is able to make a massive difference to the performance of an organisation that is ready to digitise, transform, and close the digital acceleration gap to outperform the competition. 

The office of the CFO has a decisive role in helping the business manage uncertainties and make the best decisions for the future, with building scenario-based outcomes and planning possible futures becoming a core need. 

The office of the CHRO needs to consider the evolving labour market, particularly around enhancing the employee experience in a hybrid work environment. This will enable companies to drive growth in a post-pandemic world.  Delivering a seamless onboarding process for new talent and the ability to move quickly will be paramount as the process for hiring the best talent becomes more competitive. 

The office of the CIO must connect the business with an overarching technology strategy leveraging the cloud, which will enable businesses to respond effectively as the market shifts. A cloud-first strategy, security, and extensibility will become fundamental drivers in determining the scale and speed at which organisations grow and adapt to any given future.

Through collaboration, these leaders can set the organisation on the right path to navigate the future of work in the new normal and overcome the challenges that can derail a business by adapting quickly to new scenarios. Of utmost importance will be digital agility, which will be needed to fully engage, manage, and harness the hybrid workforce. 

The agile leaders of today must also be wary of pre-Covid organisational culture and existing waterfall-led objectives. It is imperative that businesses have in place a culture that embraces the speed of change, understands the skills and motivation of its workforce, and has smaller agile teams in place and ready to go. 

The opportunity for businesses that make the transition to becoming more flexible and agile with the ability to quickly adapt will be enormous. They must do so by not only attracting and retaining the best talent but also embracing transformation, simplification, and automation opportunities that arise within the business and IT landscape through an innovation-first approach.

Given that disruption is already happening, organisations must continually innovate to create value and drive better business outcomes. More and more companies are acknowledging that innovation needs to be an ongoing business strategy, and that it is their workforce that produces those disruptive innovations. CIOs must ensure that the right tools and technologies are implemented across the organisation to unlock the potential of their workforce.

With the evolving business landscape, tools and technologies must also be able to keep up with the needs of the workforce. With single performance service-level agreements and SaaS-based cloud native in-life automatic upgrades in place, organisations can avoid issues such as extended downtime and running outdated systems, allowing them to focus on driving new revenue streams and growth.

Businesses today are at a critical turning point and having a solid, adaptable business and IT eco-system will be a game changer, differentiating organisations that thrive in the new post-pandemic world from those that simply survive. 

In summary, an organisation’s ability to adapt to the new status quo will determine how well it can flourish in a hybrid, fast-changing working world.