, Singapore

Why tech leaders are key to a productive post-pandemic workplace in Singapore

By Tanya Heng

The pandemic has driven permanent changes in employee expectations of their employers, especially with regards to flexibility in their work locations and schedules.

Nearly two in three (65%) employees surveyed that they'd prefer to work exclusively remotely or in a hybrid model, if given the choice. More than half (56%) of employees that have already or plan to voluntarily change employers in 2021 cite the need for more flexibility in their schedule or work location as a main reason for making the move.

What does it take to keep your top talent or attract new candidates in this period of "The Great Resignation"? A proactive strategy with strong leadership from the CIO will be key to enabling a sustainable hybrid workplace.

Think back to March 2020. For many companies, the shift to remote work happened almost overnight amid new COVID-19 restrictions and mounting uncertainty. Business leaders across the C-Suite, particularly CHROs, stepped up to establish new flexible policies and ways of working. But the CIO and the technology function were essential to ensuring employee productivity during that period, supporting everything from cloud-based collaboration tools to new digital communications tools like AI-enabled chatbots.

In a recent global CIO study, 72% of CIOs in ASEAN including Singapore report that their teams played a vital role in their organizations’ response to the pandemic, and 76% of CIOs said they implemented remote work strategies. In fact, when asked which other C-Suite members will be most critical over the next few years, 51% of CEOs surveyed named their tech chiefs or CTOs - perhaps due to their critical role in enabling talent in this new era.

However, this study also found only 23% of CIOs expect remote workplace changes from the COVID-19 pandemic to become permanent. This possible blind spot could be a make-or-break issue in the current fierce war for talent. The hybrid work environment will be profoundly different than more traditional workplaces where location and presence are paramount.

As hybrid workplaces evolve, CIOs must be at the center of efforts to establish a productive, supportive, and enriching work environment. That happens across several dimensions.

Put the employee/user at the center

Leading CIOs have become major proponents of progressive end-user experiences. That means designing productivity and collaboration tools, many based on the cloud, to serve and enable the user first, whether they're working in an office, traveling or at home. One way we help clients change the way they work is via collaborative approach to fast-track innovation and drive meaningful, lasting transformation that uses design thinking to put the user at the center.

Use technology to empower people and innovation

Many leading CIOs are embedding exponential technologies like AI and automation into the core mission-critical processes of the enterprise, across key functions like HR, finance and the supply chain. These intelligent workflows are designed to break down silos and empower the employees using them to be more productive and prioritize the strategic work that matters most for the organization. For example, Burger King Brazil established an AI-driven virtual assistant to help answer employee questions and drive greater connection with each other and leadership.

The number of CIOs surveyed reporting high maturity in AI-enabled workflows increased 2288% compared to two years ago. In addition, 33% of CIOs surveyed cite process automation as the top opportunity for positive impact within their organizations.

Drive employee engagement at every level

Top CIOs are also increasingly focused on how they can personally drive employee engagement across the enterprise. CIOs in our study reported that ethics, diversity and inclusion, continuous learning and career development, and a collaborative environment were among the most important organizational attributes to engage employees.

The tools and systems CIOs create, and support can help drive the right company culture that serves employees' needs and aligns to the company's purpose. KBC Bank’s AI-driven learning and talent platform helps employees map their skills and compare them to the needs of the future, putting individuals in the drivers’ seat of their careers.

Part of what makes the CIO role so interesting is the combination of people and technology, of soft skills and hard skills. Whatever the future holds, the ability to adapt to the unknown, enable people and culture, and transform risks into opportunities will be indispensable.

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