The future of work is powered by technology that connects people
This article originally appeared on ReadWrite.com.
The future of work is all about people. It’s about enabling and empowering people to work their way—and to bring the best of themselves to work every day. Technology plays a key enabling role in this work. But the nature of work shouldn’t be driven by technology; it should be driven by people and their ingenuity and creativity—with the right technology enabling them to exercise their talents with minimal obstacles and distractions.
People lead, technology facilitates the future of work.
My advice to business leaders is to understand what propels people to do their best work and what inhibits them. Use technology to serve your people, not rule them. Use work management technology to connect people, share information, unlock communication barriers, and increase visibility between cross-functional teams who need to coordinate their efforts and align with the company’s strategy.
At Informatica, I lead a team focused on B2B demand generation, digital marketing, and customer success. We’ve recognized for some time that the concept of work and how it gets done is changing. The way we meet, collaborate, and support each other is changing. It doesn’t always happen face to face, and not always between 9 am and 5 pm.
Our work management technology is central to facilitating and organizing work as we adjust to constantly changing workplace dynamics.
There is an increasing appreciation that work happens within the context of everyone’s wider life, their family life, their leisure time, their personal commitments. Never has that been more starkly apparent than in the times we are living through now.
New normal prioritizes the well-being.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed working life for everybody. Priorities and perspectives have changed, and above all else, there is an emphasis on wellness. At Informatica, like many others, we have put our employees’ well-being first. When the crisis hit, there was a huge focus on ensuring our employees had the resources they needed to communicate, connect with each other, and work from home.
Adjusting to working life under Covid-19 has been a complex, emotional experience that has required a great deal of sensitivity to navigate. People are now living—and trying to work—in a range of different circumstances. Some are alone, some have children at home, some are caring for at-risk relatives, and others are dealing with the most serious impacts of this pandemic. It means that we have to bring an element of sensitivity and prioritization whenever we are talking to colleagues.
People’s well-being now bubbles up at the front of every conversation. It means that now, more than ever, we have to consider individual circumstances and how those impact people’s ability to work. Informatica’s leadership was very pragmatic about the situation as we all rearranged our working lives. They assured us that we were not going to work from home, but we were working at home during a pandemic, which has a very different feel to it.
Personal approach to customer messaging.
As a digital marketer in these times, working on projects like the transformation of our website, I personally felt an immense amount of pressure. We needed to use our digital tools more effectively than ever and to be more personal in our interactions with customers.
The challenge was finding a way to maximize digital return on investment during this unprecedented situation. We had to convince salespeople they weren’t going to be able to engage in traditional ways and were going to have to switch to online channels. And we had to get our messaging right.
Some companies and some sectors have been hit much harder than others, so we didn’t want to take a one-size-fits-all approach. You can target customer messaging using a chainsaw or a scalpel.
With the scalpel comes precision. When we considered the breadth of our customer base, we needed to talk to customers about the issues that mattered to them—in their vernacular. That added pressure on marketing teams.
Some people believe we reach more customers if we have broad “vanilla” messaging, but in reality, the extra work required to personalize messaging is worth it. You can’t be caring and altruistic about Covid-19 when talking to colleagues and employees and then not manifest that care and attention in the way you speak to your customers or prospects.
As a marketer, I am customer-obsessed, and helping customers underpins everything I do. Getting our messaging right at this critical time was absolutely vital to gaining and maintaining trust and confidence with existing and prospective customers.
Marketing insights inform conversations.
As a long-established business, we knew that if we went through the rigor of producing content that’s relevant right now, then organically, customers would come to us. So, we prioritized using marketing data to create more targeted messaging and conversations for our sales teams.
We are now informing sales about the topics that customers are concerned about and creating rich dashboards that enable sales teams to respond favorably to customers in different situations. It’s about engaging customers in meaningful ways in uncertain times.
Governance is important too. We don’t want to bombard customers, but we do want to give them multiple opportunities to engage with us. As a result, this crisis has ushered in a new era of creativity and curiosity that enables our sales teams to engage in the right ways with customers.
Everyone now recognizes that the blanket approach to customer communications can do more harm than good since it risks being insensitive to the circumstances different businesses find themselves in. We are better served to let people know that we are 100% sensitive to the times we are in and that we absolutely want to help them.
Mindset shift for customer success
I have stated before that my overriding ambition is to deliver such a great customer experience that we acquire every net new customer and win every deal. That ambition has not changed since the pandemic struck.
Given the size of my goal, I need my teams to shift their mindset from simply doing more work to focusing on doing the right work. If my team isn’t obsessed with removing friction from the customer experience, then they’re not doing the right work. Focusing on the right work maximizes our productivity, it gives us the best return on investment, and helps us get in front of the right customers.
Work management technology maximizes effectiveness.
This is where work management technology really comes into its own. Our Workfront platform enables everyone in disparate teams—and now in disparate locations—to share information, view progress against tasks, create content collaboratively, share ideas, and manage complex processes.
It helps people see how their work aligns with that of other teams and our overall customer objectives. It gives context to our work because we know what other teams are doing, so that together we can move forward in the most productive way.
For us, having a single work management platform that connects all our work results in better transparency, better visibility, better decisions, and better business outcomes. There’s a shared responsibility when, for example, you see someone on your team has a heavier load; you get the chance to redistribute resources and be selfless in the pursuit of your goals.
It’s a key way in which technology is enabling us to work more effectively and efficiently. It helps us to ensure that everyone in the team can focus on being productive, rather than just being busy.
Managing work one step at a time
The distinction between being productive and being busy is an important one when it comes to the future of work. At Informatica, one thing we have learned about effective work management is that productivity is enhanced when you put more intermediate milestones in front of people, rather than giving them a single ultimate goal.
By breaking down major projects into a series of smaller tasks, leading to a series of clear milestones, people can focus much more on what needs to be done now to complete each task. It’s about dividing up the conveyor belt of what has to be produced into smaller increments to enable people to be more productive on our journey toward each objective.
All these stages can be coordinated and managed via our work management platform. Everyone can see all the tasks involved and the progress against each one. This has helped us to become tighter and more agile as a team so that we work together in a coordinated way without duplication of effort towards clearly defined goals.
The future of work has arrived.
I stated at the outset that the future of work is all about empowering people to bring the best of themselves to work every day. And work management technology plays a key role in enabling people to do that. It connects them wherever they are and allows them to contribute and create—particularly now we are all physically isolated—in ways that complement their individual working circumstances.
In many ways, the future of work that I envisaged has already arrived. It has been ushered in sooner than anyone expected by the intervention of the global pandemic. It seems now that attitudes to work management and working practices have shifted so significantly that returning to the old ways of 9-to-5 office working might feel like a backward step.
How do we manage work without boundaries?
So what now for the future of work? If work in the future is without boundaries, if it transcends location and time and other previously held conventions about when and how work is done, how do we maintain a balance? If work parameters become boundless, then how do you compensate people for the work they do? If we no longer measure work by how much time you spend on it, how do we fairly reward people for their efforts?
As we have all seen vividly during the current pandemic, individual well-being must come above all else. Work cannot be allowed to take over people’s lives; we need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. To do this in the future, employers will need to invest in and deliver comprehensive health and wellness programs to ensure employees can achieve that balance.
When we are recruiting in the new world of work, conventional benefits packages and on-premises perks may become irrelevant. Instead, well-being initiatives will take on new significance, and how successful businesses invest in these programs will be an important differentiator of workplaces in the future.
Let’s continue to put people first.
Technology will have a pivotal role to play in enabling this new world of work. Centralized, shared work management platforms will be vital in connecting people, in facilitating effective collaboration, and in maintaining the focus on productivity among teams working in different locations and to different time schedules.
But people’s needs must remain at the heart of the way work is organized so that individuals can bring the best of themselves to work while maintaining a healthy balance in their lives. We will need to ensure that the compassion and consideration we have all shown towards each other throughout this pandemic is not put behind us but that it is used to inform the way we work together in the future for the benefit of our organizations and our customers.