The future of work: Building a people-first culture to drive an innovation-led organization

New Hampshire-based Ian Pitt, CIO at Progress, tells us CIOs have to keep an eye on how the future of work is changing and make sure their organizations are adapting across the board.

The future of work has become a somewhat ambiguous term over the past several years. So much in fact, that if you ask a dozen different CIOs to define what the future of work means to them, it would result in a dozen completely different answers.

Many C-suite executives, especially CIOs, may be inclined to place the greatest emphasis on the role of technology in defining the future of work. One thing most people can all agree on, however, is that the future of work is about embracing change in business culture and ways of working to move forward together with technology.

The truth is that the future of work has always been here, rooted in history. Mankind has gone through many eras and events that have forced people to wake up and think about doing something different. When we first left caves and started hunting animals – a new form of work – we had to learn to work together.

We had to collaborate to make sure that those working days were successful. In today’s modern world, the same principle holds true: we can’t just throw technology at a problem or project and expect that to solve it. In reality, it’s culture and collaboration (with the assistance of technology) that drive forward innovation for organizations.

So, at its core, the future of work is really about finding the right balance between technology, culture and collaboration and how we bring them together to help an organization grow and stay ahead of the challenging curves that are thrown at us.

Cultures that foster inclusivity, engagement and belonging breed innovation

Ian Pitt, CIO at Progress

In today’s rapidly evolving business and economic systems surrounding the future of work, innovation management is complex but critical for an organization to survive and thrive. Keep in mind, innovation often happens at the intersection of people and business.

That’s why in our new world of work, culture cannot simply be defined as ‘the way things are done.’ It is more about understanding the common set of behaviors, beliefs and underlying mindsets that shape how employees interact and collaborate. Cultural competence, innovation management and people-centric values ​​are all crucial factors that will separate high-performing global tech companies from the rest in the future of work.

When people feel respected and needed in an organization, they are more likely to feel engaged in their work, encouraged to participate in creative activities, motivated to innovate, excited to contribute to solving problems in a better way and ultimately catalyze people-centric innovation.

Focusing on creating a secure and stable work environment that is conducive to deep-trust relationships and focuses on the individual on a personal level is a great place to start when defining the culture of a global technology team in the future world of work.

While the role of the modern CIO in the future of work cannot be understated, creating the type of people-centric company culture that ultimately drives innovation must come from the top down in order to be effective. Unless the company as a whole makes it clear that everyone is free to innovate and encourages that innovation, it’s not going to happen.

That can be as simple as making sure there’s enough people on each team for everyone to complete work projects on time, to implement more creative solutions such as holding ‘innovation days’ in your organization where anything goes.

The best tech companies pull together people from different functions and encourage them to collaborate on meaningful projects that drive the culture forward collectively.

Collaboration and culture are even more crucial in the world of remote work

Work is no longer a place we go. Now, work can be done virtually anywhere. Technology has enabled an interconnected workforce – one in which cross-cultural communication and collaboration have the ability to unlock the future.

As we work across locations, time zones and borders, our access to diverse talent and potential for innovation have never been greater. But expanding your global workforce in the future of work brings complexity as well as opportunity.

In an anywhere/anytime work model enabled by technology, company culture and work environments will need to focus efforts on becoming more collaborative, inclusive and accessible. To attract and retain talent, technology companies will have to capture the best of both the at-home experience and the in-office one, balancing the flexibility their employees are demanding with the business needs of their organization.

Company cultures should quickly evolve to take full advantage of both environments, encompassing the best elements from both. Tech companies that do not adapt may struggle to maintain a unified culture, feeling of belonging and sense of purpose among their employees with dire consequences in respect to innovation and success.

Everyone should work together to ensure no group is left behind by technological evolution. This means advancing areas such as skills development and coming up with better support systems for workers.

The future of work is omnipresent and constantly evolving

There are definitely future parts of the future of work, clearly from the language, but a number of companies and CIOs are looking too far into the future and neglecting the present and shorter-term future. They take it solely as being a 10-year journey or a 20-year journey.

While it’s great for every company to have a mission and plan for longevity, those companies that only think 10 or 15 years down the line are missing a giant opportunity to make sure they’re constantly adapting.

In the same vein, taking a look back at an organization’s history and business evolution to date can help us reflect back in terms of what’s happened in the past, and it can actually help us drive forward into the future.

Of course, companies aren’t going to wait for era-based events to come along and change the way they’re actually going to work, though. The future of work is happening now.

This is illustrated by the rapidly changing ways that we conduct business as usual in nearly every department, sector and facet of our organizations – from AI-enabled cybersecurity threat detection and cloud-native networks to global hiring practices, remote onboarding and hybrid office policies- so we have to stay on top of those changes and make sure we factor them into every part of how we’re redefining the future of work within our organization.

No matter how well you think you understand what market you’re in, CIOs have to keep an eye on how the future of work is changing and make sure their organizations are adapting to that across the board.

Over the next several years, we will continue to have deeper, fundamental conversations around reimagining the workplace and the future of work. The key to ensuring these conversations lead to meaningful innovation and success within your organization is ensuring the right balance between culture, collaboration and technology is deeply rooted within the company’s future of work.

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