Relations between all members of the C-suite are vital to business success, but some would argue that with technology, talent and workplace culture all now recognised as essential for gaining a competitive edge, a strong partnership between IT and HR leaders may be the most critical.
Superficially, the two may not seem like obvious partners. The stereotypical, traditional view sees one relying on technical expertise and structured processes with emotional intelligence a ‘nice to have’ rather than essential; the other prioritises all human aspects of work but may struggle with data and analytics.
However, both CIOs and CHROs have faced similar paths to the executive table. From being seen merely as administrative functions, today both IT and HR are viewed as strategic contributors. Even more critically, their remits are blurring. There are two reasons why this is occurring:
1. Every company is a technology company
Firstly, in 2023, every company is a technology company, regardless of the industry in which they operate. Digital transformation plans that once took years are now occurring in months. Indeed, research shows that 97% of executives believe the pandemic sped up their digital transformation, and 79% said COVID-19 forced them to increase budgets for it.
In shift-based, ‘deskless’ work environments, technology plays a critical role in terms of workforce management and HR service delivery. It’s only with the aid of cloud-based, mobile technology that we’re able to efficiently schedule workers, share rotas with staff, allow them to bid on available shifts, generate reports, communicate and form deeper connections with team members, link timesheets to pay, and provide self-service functionality to employees and managers.
HR leaders therefore need to be technically savvy, with at least a moderate understanding of IT. They should be able to provide guidance and advice on issues related to the systems and applications being used by the HR team, including the data being collected and used, and how digital ecosystems (integrated systems across workforce management, payroll, talent acquisition, learning, benefits and more) can improve both the employee experience and business performance.
2. Technology is changing workplace culture
Secondly, as technology’s role in business increases, its impact on corporate culture cannot be denied. From the way people communicate and collaborate, to everyday tasks that once required face-to-face interactions, everything has changed. For deskless workers, those face-to-face interactions may have once included checking rosters pinned to a noticeboard, manually filling out timesheets and clock-in/out times, and meeting managers in-person to be informed of important company-wide health and safety updates. Today, most of those activities can be facilitated by mobile apps.
It’s no surprise that 70% of surveyed deskless workers report that more technology would help them do their jobs better. The parts of their jobs they feel would benefit the most from technology include communications, operations & logistics, onboarding, and training – all key components of the employee experience.
It’s imperative that IT understands how the tech solutions being used can reinforce and/or change (or even damage) culture.
It’s also apparent that…
- Technology is impacting job roles. For example, retailers during COVID-19 had to adjust to ‘click and collect’ processes. This added new tasks to existing staff, requiring training and updating of job descriptions. It’s not unusual for IT teams to allocate systems access and privileges according to the job description/role as provided by HR. In a rapidly changing world, the two need to be collaborating well for this to occur. It’s no coincidence that HR teams are adopting the agile principles first utilised by IT teams.
- Skills shortages are impacting IT teams. Purely from a talent acquisition and retention standpoint, it’s important that HR understand how these skills are changing, what can be done to either ‘buy’ or ‘grow’ these skills, and what IT professionals expect as part of their employee experience.
To navigate through and solve for these challenges, collaboration is required. How can the CHRO and CIO form a mutually beneficial partnership?
Breaking down silos: Enhancing the CIO/CHRO partnership
Both HR and IT departments need to stay informed of each other’s goals and objectives, in order to find alignment in delivering the ideal set of digital tools. The CHRO and CIO (and their teams) can help each other identify gaps in the way people are working and work towards closing those gaps, whether through a change in processes, systems or tools, or through upskilling.
Below are five tips to help break down silos and build a stronger CIO/HR partnership.
- Choose your business partner with care – CIOs and CHROs have had a similar path to the top level of business. There have been setbacks and frustrations along that journey. As such, on both sides, finding a partner with the right mix of skills, experience and respect can be a challenge. Choose a partner who wants to learn, is interested in a mutually beneficial partnership, and has the ear of the wider workforce and the senior leadership team. This will ensure the activities of both departments align with strategic business priorities.
- Engage your business partner in all phases of strategy – Related to the point above, an effective HR leader will be involved at all levels of business strategy. To some extent this includes IT strategy, where HR can provide insight into strategic workforce planning, the evolving expectations of workers and managers, and the role of technology. Sharing HR’s knowledge of how people want to work with IT colleagues can be invaluable; similarly, IT can share insights with HR about technology best practice and the skills and competencies that will be required operate effectively in the future.
- Develop a dynamic IT team – A Gartner survey shows that a lack of talent was cited by 64% of surveyed CIOs as the top barrier to adopting emerging technologies, ahead of implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%). HR must be involved to overcome this challenge. It’s not just about having an effective talent acquisition strategy that factors in current and future business and digital capability requirements; it also means taking a holistic view of talent – from hiring to development. It involves strategies to continuously develop existing employees, but also becoming a talent magnet for external talent.
- Improve internal relations – The breaking down of silos can be achieved through improved cross-team communication. One way of improving these internal communications is through regular scheduled meetings in which both HR and IT teams update one another on recent activities and outline where the other team’s input may be required. A cross-functional team, whereby appointed team members from each department keep the other team’s members updated with emerging technologies and people-related matters, can also be effective.
- Ensure the technology develops in lockstep with HR policies – There’s often a lag between new technology being introduced and the HR policies needed to help people understand the digital tools available to them, how they should use them appropriately, and ensure threats like cyber-bullying or data breaches are mitigated. CHROs and CIOs must work together to ensure these lag times are minimised.
Like all relationships, it takes time and shared values to develop a strong, resilient CIO/CHRO bond. The end result is worth it. By pooling their expertise, CIOs and CHROs can cancel out any knowledge/experience gaps, play to their respective strengths, and ultimately form a team the CEO can rely on.
For a comprehensive guide to strengthening the HR/IT alliance, download Humanforce’s latest eBook.