Mental Health Awareness (Part Two): How technology can help HR drive employee wellbeing
This is Part Two of Two of an article by Emma Morris, SAP SuccessFactors Manager at Delaware. In recognition of the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, the folks here at Business Chief want to remind you to take care of your mental state, focus on self care and - if you're struggling - consider talking to somebody. Stay healthy, folks.
The Role of Technology
Technology should be in the background rather than the forefront but it needs to be an enabler. This is key to achieving the business case around the drive for well-being in the workplace today. After all, well-being should never just be a tick-box exercise. It has to be about more than just compliance. The fact that someone says they have attended an online training course is great, but just clicking on it, going off and making a cup of tea before coming back to it later, may not add that much long-term value.
Moving forwards, there are perhaps greater dividends to be won from proactively engaging with people using Pulse-type surveys to just check-in with people to ask how they are feeling on any given day, or using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be able to read patterns and create algorithms around human interactions and movements, and then proactively reach out to employees.
A good example may be the organisation saying: we notice that you have a lot of work travel coming up that you have booked via the corporate agency: have you considered the annual leave you will take after that? This approach is so much better for an employee’s well-being than the employee internalising the frustration and having to cancel leave because of a heavy workload, without anyone from the company ever intervening or actively engaging with them. By using the intelligence acquired through analytics, employers can spend their time being more ‘human’.
Flexibility is always key here. Some people like to connect and engage in-person. They want a water cooler conversation or a cup of tea and a quiet chat. Other people would prefer to have a web chat or a text message exchange. They want to give their problem to a computer and receive an automatic solution. The technology has to be clever enough to evolve with that.
In HR, more specifically, the general trend has been to use technology to support employee and management self-service. Today, we continue to see a lot of innovation in the areas of mobile technology. We are increasingly seeing HR professionals using mobile apps to do quick tasks on the run, for example. The latest technology in this area allows you to quickly approve annual leave, check in and ensure you have completed your timesheets, even if you are travelling and offline.
This kind of capability is available in today’s workplace. Looking to the future, though, we see a growing emphasis on bots and using machine learning to predict upcoming events. As an example, an employee wants to apply for maternity leave through the organisation’s HR system. This employee ‘life event’ triggers the HR department to start offering certain content specific to that employee, so for example, asking: have you thought about childcare vouchers? Have you thought about the return-to-work programme or our part-time working options?
This is the level of sophistication that companies such as Amazon and Netflix have reached today, with little fanfare. The provide their users with relevant, timely information in a personalised manner. Most people are familiar with it happening in their personal lives, receiving recommendations from retailers, and reminders to arrange medical appointments. So, if there is an absence of this kind of technology in their work life, it may suddenly start to feel quite jarring.
In the workplace of the future, employees will expect employers to not only care about their well-being and mental health, but also take proactive action to protect it. Putting the right culture in place is key. Every employee should feel involved and understand how they can help achieve the overall well-being strategy. Technology can be the catalyst in delivering this. Implementing the right systems and solutions enables businesses both to drive through new well-being initiatives and measure their effectiveness organisation-wide.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.