How CIOs Can Manage The Great Resignation

Tech leaders will need to hone all their skills for talent acquisition and retention as we move into a truly hybrid post-pandemic workplace, says AJ Sunder, chief product and information officer at RFPIO Inc.

We all remember the pre-pandemic, in-office workplace (right?). And after fits and starts, the often all-remote pandemic workplace also became second nature. Now, as companies begin to bring people back to the office but still allow for some work-from-home (or anywhere, really), tech departments will need to adjust again to make operations as seamless and effective as possible.

That’s the message from AJ Sunder, chief product and information officer at RFPIO Inc., a tech company based in Beaverton, Oregon, and he has ideas for how to get there. Sunder spoke with StrategicCIO360 about what can cause employees to leave, which soft skills are important to cultivate and how AI can help.

What are some approaches CIOs should be taking to retain top talent?

This current period of employee migration will be studied for years. One thing is clear already—there isn’t one dominating factor driving this phenomenon. CIOs have to look at all the various factors they control when retaining employees or attracting new talent.

It could be as simple as evaluating whether their employees have what they need to do their job well. Making sure their team members have the right devices, internet connectivity, home office tools, access to information, collaboration tools, etc. Even simple points of friction every day can have a cumulative effect on employee morale over time that could become a contributing factor in their departure from a company.

When attracting new talent, making sure your company is projecting a positive impression of your digital strategy could become a factor in the prospective employee’s decision-making process. For instance, your website, your job board, the tools your HR team uses, the video conferencing tools used for the interviews, and the quality of communication throughout the process all play a role either consciously or unconsciously in candidates’ minds. Properly enabling your HR teams, recruiters and hiring managers becomes vital.

As CIOs look to hire for the hybrid workforce, what are some key soft skills that are essential for new hires regardless of industry or company size?

If there was ever a challenge that cannot be solved top-down, it is this challenge of creating an efficient, workable, productive hybrid work environment. I believe the one soft skill that matters, above all else, is empathy. Understanding the challenges of fellow employees depending on their choice of office vs. remote, will help serve them better. Once we get that right, everything else will fall into place.  

Companies that offer flexibility to their employees will benefit short and long-term. For example, at RFPIO our products and team are constantly evolving because we give our employees the space and agility to explore and succeed. In addition, do not be afraid to try something new, especially as it relates to workplace lifestyle and culture. If something isn’t working, pivoting to a better solution might seem tedious at first, but can have a long-lasting, positive impact on company culture and employee morale.

Recently, major tech companies have begun to issue return-to-office dates as businesses—both large and small—make the shift back to working in person. However, many companies will also allow some of their employees to work remotely, embracing a hybrid workplace. What are some specific tools and practices CIOs should adopt that can assist with hybrid workforces?

As we transition to a hybrid work environment, CIOs have to prepare for new sets of challenges as teams need the ability to seamlessly switch between the office and home while still delivering their best work. These unique challenges are ones that CIOs have not had to deal with over the past two years with a predominantly remote workforce.

For instance, solving for the challenge where half the team is in a conference room around a table and the other half is dialing in for a meeting. The need to create an environment where every voice is heard and can work together seamlessly is essential. CIOs play a key role in enabling this through technology and tools.

In addition, CIOs need to keep in mind they cannot expect to get this right the first time. Switching to remote work wasn’t smooth sailing. We constantly had to evaluate what was working and what wasn’t and made tweaks along the way. Hybrid is going to be no different. Closely monitoring the transition back to the office and seeking feedback from their teams can help with smoother operations.

The good news is a lot of the lessons we learned in the last two years have helped lay a strong foundation and provided insights into how we move forward embracing the hybrid workforce.    

What role does AI response management play in helping remote and in-person employees work more collaboratively and productively?

Employees having access to up-to-date, accurate and consistent information is one of the key challenges CIOs have to solve. According to a McKinsey report,employees spend nearly 20 percent of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks, which impacts productivity and a company’s bottom line. When information is not centralized, the amount of information transfer that happens between team members through unplanned, organic channels is immeasurable.  

With an all in-person workforce everyone is accustomed to figuring out how to get the answers to their questions. We can just walk up to someone’s desk or have a hallway conversation. With an all-remote workforce we have learned to use the appropriate tools to ask such questions in the right channels.

With a hybrid workforce, this protocol we have been following for the past two years is going to start to break down. All leaders, not just CIOs, have to be aware of the effects of fear-of-missing-out.

A reliable, AI-based intelligent response management system can play a significant role in addressing this problem. Having a system that can provide answers to employee questions on a myriad of topics can be invaluable for the organization. Especially when that tool can be seamlessly integrated into different applications employees are already using on a daily basis, utilizing this platform becomes more intuitive. Furthermore, employees will no longer have to spend time looking for internal information and tracking down colleagues, rather they will be able to easily access all of the information they need through the application.

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