Are CIOs responsible for corporate culture?

The task of building and reinforcing a company’s culture and values ​​has traditionally been the domain of the CEO, who would work with the HR function to ensure they are incorporated into people management policies, processes and systems. of the company. But the CIO is also becoming increasingly important in this regard, given the massive cultural impact of technology-enabled remote work, among other digital transformations, on the workforce.

As many office workers spend less time together in the corporate office as their companies adopt hybrid work models, technology is becoming an increasingly important part of the employee experience. A digital-first culture seems to be emerging in many cases.

Among more than 500 CIOs interviewed in a global survey conducted by Adobe and Fortune in April last year, 89% saw themselves as agents of change helping to improve the culture of their organization. How successful are they?

Most CIOs have reached their position because they have focused the considerable technical expertise they have accumulated on strategies and systems that support the achievement of business rather than cultural goals. It could therefore be argued that while CIOs are clearly agents of change, the responsibility for developing a culture that will optimize employee engagement should rest with a senior executive whose sole focus is people.

But Helena Nimmo, CIO of software company Endava, says CIOs at companies that have embraced hybrid working find themselves increasingly responsible for maintaining their company culture. Indeed, they are responsible for the technology that allows employees to work anywhere and stay connected to each other, as if they were all sitting together in the same building.

“In the new era of hybrid working, CIOs need to balance the physical and the virtual by implementing technology that improves employee satisfaction, while making their jobs easier,” she says. “This is a chance for CIOs to reinvent the relationship between people and technology by taking a user-centric approach to technology.”

Nimmo adds that they need to consider cultural factors across the organization, as employees in different functions don’t necessarily view hybrid working in the same way. “To become true leaders in the world of digital work and meet the diversity of their organizations’ needs, CIOs must put themselves in the shoes of all technology users and take on a role as representatives of the community,” says- she.

According to new research published by OC Tanner, a provider of employee recognition programs, ensuring employees feel aligned with their organization’s culture is crucial for talent retention. His research found that when people feel disconnected from their workplace, culture, and purpose, their likelihood of producing great work drops by 90%. They are 11 times more likely than the average employee to suffer from burnout and six times more likely to quit within three years.

CIOs must put themselves in the shoes of all technology users and assume a role as representatives of the community

The concept of hybrid working is of course not new. Many companies have operated successfully for years with employees mixing work from home and office work without experiencing unacceptable levels of cultural disengagement. But the acceleration of some organizations’ digital transformations over the past two years, brought on by the pandemic, has left their employees needing more support to adapt to the new tools and systems that have been thrust upon them.

There may also be a lack of cohesion between the HR and IT functions. Businesses increasingly depend on real-time data collection and analysis to better understand how their people are coping with the digital transition. This trend has highlighted the contributions of HR and IT. Despite this, a 2021 survey by Nexthink, a specialist in digital employee engagement, found that almost half (48%) of HR managers surveyed either admitted that they did not work well with their counterparts in the computer function either they weren’t I don’t know if they did it or not.

Nexthink HR Director Meg Donovan says CIOs should work more closely with HR to gather feedback from staff, as well as hard data on the performance of employee devices, apps and networks to identify any sources of frustration.

“They can then progress toward their digital experience goals, from improving employee perception of company technology to moving users to a new service,” she says.

The CIO has historically focused on ensuring that their organization’s technology remains fit for purpose, so that the business can be confident that its people will always have the right tools to do their job properly. But the acceleration of the fourth industrial revolution during the Covid crisis gives CIOs the opportunity to encourage knowledge sharing, improve collaboration and cultivate a greater sense of community. They have the chance to become true agents of positive change.

Jonathan Morris, co-founder and managing partner of executive search firm TritonExec, believes CIOs can go even further. They are well positioned to become “evangelists” in their companies, he says, by cultivating a consumer-grade employee experience using new technologies aligned with a digital-first work culture.

The impact that CIOs can have on employee engagement is “huge, as they can foster positive cultures by bringing tools, technologies, and systems that underpin human-centered design,” says Morris. “No employee wants to feel like they exist on an island. The role of the CIO is to shape their experience.

He also sees CIOs as critical to companies’ success in managing talent at the top level. These employees have “little to no tolerance for outdated technologies, mindsets and processes. Attracting and retaining them means creating environments where they can thrive. It’s critical to provide them with efficient systems and collaboration capabilities that don’t get in the way,” says Morris. “The CIO is therefore required to, at the very least, enable the type of culture expected by the best talent in its company.”