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CIO and CHRO: Why their relationship matters

Leon Gilbert, Senior Vice President and General Manager - Digital Workplace Solutions

With workforces becoming increasingly remote (or at least hybrid) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration has never been more important to business growth and success.

The creation of a successful digital workplace relies on collaboration across the board. Individuals, teams, and departments – but it starts and ends with the c-suite.

Two leadership roles that, even a few years ago, wouldn’t have crossed paths are those of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) and the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). Yet, with the workplace undergoing a relentless amount of change over the past two years, these two positions have found their destinies increasingly intertwined.

They’ve even been referred to as the new ‘power couple’ of the c-suite. So, what’s changed that has thrust these two c-suiters together, and in the wake of the pandemic, how can organisations ensure this new relationship blossoms and thrives?

Technology’s impact on the employee experience
Let’s face it, staff happiness has not always been a top priority for IT teams. Their remit was to equip staff with technology, making sure everything worked, keeping the tech safe and secure, and responding to service desk concerns and field issues. Employee wellbeing typically fell under the umbrella of the HR department.

However, as mental health considerations become more prevalent in the workplace, IT leaders are increasingly looking at technology’s effect on employee wellbeing, and ways they can improve the employee experience to create a happier and more productive workplace.

After all, technology’s impact on employee wellbeing has never been more pronounced. In the large, remote work has improved many areas around staff happiness, whether that’s financial, physical, or mental – as well as productivity and reduced operations costs (such as office space etc.).

But, it’s also raised the bar when it comes to employee expectations. Understandably, they want their technology to work seamlessly, whether they’re working at home, or commuting into the office a couple of days a week.

What’s more, if companies don’t embrace the hybrid working model, and do everything in their power to equip and enable their people to work remotely, then they’re more than happy to down tools and join a company that will.

The dynamic duo: Why everyone’s talking about the CIO and CHRO
This all means CIOs are now increasingly focused on how they can keep improving their company’s use of technology to boost the employee experience, keeping their people happy, and attracting fresh talent. And data sits at the centre of it.

Using technology, CIOs can capture more experiential data to help understand and rectify potential inefficiencies or predict potential employee burnout. For example, they can now track whether staff are stuck in too many back-to-back meetings, how often calls don’t run the allotted time, or when junior/mid-level employees aren’t having enough one-to-one meetings with line managers.

They can then respond with suggestions on how to more effectively balance meetings to prevent burnout, or send prompts to line managers to organise more catch-ups. And, using the right technology, these suggestions and prompts can seamlessly integrate with HR teams to make their job easier too.

There’s an increased understanding that poor application of technology doesn’t just result in disgruntled or disillusioned technology, it directly impacts key KPIs related to business growth, such as productivity, retention, and employee engagement.

The CIO and CHRO are also more focused on experience level metrics, something that few even bothered with before the pandemic. Now, many RFPs for new technology solutions or services come complete with an employee experience layer.

Listen and act: Perfecting the feedback loop
Of course, the relationship between CIO and CHRO isn’t a one-way street. Through exit interviews, employee surveys, and rejected job offers, HR teams gain valuable insight into why employees may not be happy, some of which could be technology related. Fast and unfiltered information flow between the two departments has never been more important.

For example, depending on how smooth the onboarding process is, HR can gather feedback from a new employee and relay information to the CIO on whether the technology aspect of the experience had a negative impact of the employee’s productivity or wellbeing.

Armed with this vital insight, the CIO can make changes to the onboarding process to ensure a better employee experience – and because smooth onboarding is a shared goal between the IT and HR departments, making positive changes becomes that much easier.

Importantly, if businesses are building this relationship from scratch, they don’t need to jump in at the deep end straight away. Start small by having someone from IT sit in a HR meeting to help develop staff surveys or to reevaluate the exit interview process.

Another critical consideration may sound obvious, but the success of the CIO/CHRO relationships relies on not only listening to their employees, but acting on their feedback. Purely listening to your employees will not result in a better employee experience – companies need to commit to taking action once they gather insights and data.

That’s why smart CIOs know that pulling the voice of the employee into their technology is one of the best ways to elevate the employee experience across the organisation. Speak to HR about how tech is driving employee engagement, chat with the CFO about how tech is increasing productivity, and let the CEO know they’re helping retain top talent for the business.

Employee-first culture: Success starts at home
The old business adage rings true here, success starts at home. A good employee experience invariably results in a good customer experience. So, treat your employees like your best customers, and their efficiency, productivity, and happiness will trickle down to how your customers experience your brand.

And, ultimately, the CIO and CHRO possess one shared goal: improving the employee experience. By coming together to ensure people not only have the right tools to do their job efficiently, but also technology that’s creating an employee-first culture strong on mental health and physical wellbeing, then companies are setting up a digital workplace that will thrive in the coming years.

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