Are you wired-in? What it takes to be a Tech and Comms HR leader
The wired-in leader
Our human-focused leadership research found that leaders need to develop their skills and shift their behaviours to support remote working, reaching out more to employees as individuals and learning new ways of managing teams. This has proven to be true as many companies move to a hybrid model of working and individuals have become clearer and more vocal about what they expect from their leaders.
For leaders at all levels, communication is a core skill and one of the most important skills they can develop. Effective leaders are able to formulate logical and compelling arguments and understand that communication is about more than words. Communication that provides context, clarity and direction is what takes employees on the journey and enables a leader to gain buy-in and support.
As many have learned, during times of disruption communication is all the more important. Effective communication creates coordinated change in a volatile, uncertain and increasingly complex world. Technology is an enabler in communicating with and leading your people; it creates the conditions and culture that allow the team to thrive and to share a collective responsibility in individual and organisational success. This can take many formats, from holding more frequent catch up meetings using Zoom and MS Teams to re-purposing existing apps, such as those originally used for customer service, to become a communication vehicle to all staff. Leaders must learn how to make best use of the available tools at the right times; communicating strategic goals so as to align the workforce to a common purpose, especially where there is a distributed organisational structure.
A great lesson from the COVID lockdowns has been just how important it is to make sure the messaging meets the needs of the audience. Remote and hybrid working has made leaders think carefully about the need to communicate and the way in which they do this, using a wider range of media in order that every employee feels included. This is equally important for those groups who have to go to a physical workplace but are geographically distant from their leadership.
Successful leaders, especially in this pandemic era, accept that technology is our friend. It enables a leadership style which embraces change, learning, communication and diversity. These are leaders who understand how technology can aid them in managing people, helping them build teams and manage workflows across a range of channels and in any location around the world.
The workplace has changed irrevocably after the COVID crisis and those changes will have a significant impact on the workforce skills and capabilities that business needs. As well as the dramatic increase in remote working we need front-line employees to work with new tools. This means upskilling, so that they learn new skills to flourish in the new workplace ecosystem, and reskilling, so they have the capabilities to move into different or new roles. This will be key to success in the future.
It is clear that technology, AI and digitisation is and will play a big part of our futures; we can already see this in decision making and in the move to automated processes. This requires leaders to shift their mindset, to think about how to combine the strengths of technology and people, to achieve results through an engaged workforce.
The technology has been available for some time, but it took the pandemic to push leaders to fully embrace such capability. Organisations who have adapted to more flexible technology platforms are better able to provide an effective hybrid working infrastructure and create a culture that employees want to be a part of.
Preparing for the new world
New uses of technology are here to stay, as they have enabled us to keep working through the pandemic, to be more effective, more profitable and to exchange information and communicate effectively while working remotely. AI, digitisation, automation and the rapid development of technology determine competitiveness and, in many cases, survival.
Technological change has also become a driver of educational and leadership development in every organisation. Leaders shape corporate culture and if employees are to adapt to change and welcome technological innovation their leaders must embrace the change and practise what they preach. For some, the challenge of an increasingly tech-centred workplace can be hard to process. Successful integration of new technology into our working lives begins with a robust program to educate employees around what change is, what it isn't and what it means at the sharp end for them and their jobs.
Organisations will need people with the appropriate skills to develop, manage and maintain automated equipment, robotic and digital processes. They will continue to need workers to do the jobs that machines cannot handle, while workers need the skills that enable them to access employment and career development.
People-centred leadership concentrates on working smarter, not harder, and exploits management software and platforms that help improve collaboration, enabling delegation of responsibilities and workflow management to stay on schedule. Communication is critical to an organisation's success and by harnessing technology to support your people you can improve employee engagement and position your team for improved productivity and profitability.
Joan O'Connor is head of leadership practice at management consultancy 10Eighty