SocialChorus: 2020 workplace predictions
Nicole Alvino, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at SocialChorus, discusses with Business Chief her workplace predictions for 2020.
The battle against “fake news” in the workplace will come to a head
In 2019, we saw the proliferation of “fake news” spill out of the political sphere and make its way into organisations. Companies are now battling new frontiers we’ve never seen before - from the fight against deepfakes, to “digital water coolers” running rampant among employees, to the spread of social and collaboration platforms that make it easy for anyone to spread disinformation. And all the while, employee engagement is only becoming more critical, as organisations must effectively engage and retain employees to win the war for talent. In 2020, these forces will come to a head for business leaders as they look to combat the infiltration of “fake news” and deliver a unified message to employees. Organisations will risk losing trust and transparency with their workforce or turn to new strategies, such as creating a single source of truth for company communications, establishing “truth ambassadors” as trusted sources and building mechanisms for transparency and feedback.
Expect increased investment in employee engagement to keep up with digital workplace challenges.
Amid the digital workplace shift, current technologies will be exchanged for new ones and new solutions adopted internally, as organisations race to create a more connected, engaged and productive workforce. The employee engagement space will be one to watch as investment continues in collaboration and “productivity” tools like Slack, which are often touted as an answer to this issue of employee engagement. But with so many devices and employee preferences in play, the type of peer-to-peer communication offered by these tools doesn’t deliver the alignment that companies are really after. Companies will need to focus on a multi-channel strategy and delivering information, from benefits updates to compliance training to company news, from a unified platform to reach all employees. These types of employee communications platforms will allow managers and supervisors to communicate quickly and seamlessly with team members whether they are behind a desk, in the field or on a factory floor.
Ethical leadership will make or break the bottom line
Throughout 2019, a myriad of factors have forced companies to recognise the importance of ethical leadership. From employee protests and walkouts to GDPR and the data privacy troubles of companies like Facebook, ethics has become the crux of both employee satisfaction and business success as employees demand more out of their employers. Especially with forecasts predicting a potential economic slowdown, in 2020 we will see the C-suite grasp ethical practices as a competitive advantage, revamping and restructuring corporate social responsibility programmes and efforts to demonstrate their commitment. Ethical leadership will no longer be an option, but an imperative that directly impacts the bottom line, pushing companies to build ethics into policies and practices, place a renewed focus on company culture and seek ways to measure the impact of their efforts.
IT will become more user experience-focused and drive the employee experience. IT can no longer be all about point solutions and ensuring governance, compliance and ticket velocity; it must connect to broader business objectives, as the need to recruit and retain top talent becomes more imperative. As the workforce continues to evolve and organisations shift toward the digital workplace, IT will increasingly focus on employee adoption, usage and the end-user experience, delivering technology and strategies that meet employee demands and rising expectations. That means everything from more automated processes to mobile-first platforms so employees can work faster, smarter and better, wherever they may be. In the coming year, we will see more technology-focused initiatives aimed at supporting a culture of transparency and collaboration and driving organisational alignment, all of which are central to improving the employee experience.
Employee engagement strategies will centre on the multi-generational workforce
We’ve all heard the talk of millennials and Gen Z taking over the workplace, and organisations can no longer ignore this seismic demographic shift when it comes to the employee experience. Businesses today are facing an employee engagement crisis, grappling with more factors and distractions among employees than ever before - from decreased attention spans to the proliferation of chat tools, social platforms and consumer-like technologies that have changed how employees consume information. With so many varied preferences, behaviours and devices across generations, organisations will need to adopt a multi-generational, multi-channel engagement strategy in order to win employees’ mindshare in 2020. This type of approach allows for flexibility, targeting and personalisation so businesses can deliver the right message to the right demographic - and retain workers before they go elsewhere.
IT hiring initiatives will become more “soft skills”-focused and personality-based. To succeed in digital transformation initiatives, the workforce must be flexible, creative and motivated to drive change. While IT has traditionally focused on solving problems in the quickest and most cost-effective way, this hasn’t left much room for creative problem solving, in turn stunting team collaboration and company growth. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, only 2 in 10 employees agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work, and this is costing businesses between $960 million and $1.2 trillion a year. In the coming year, IT leaders will increasingly look for employees who can see the bigger picture and work with a sense of purpose on top of knowing the tricks of the trade. Creative employees who can take a larger business problem and present a technical solution, or who can come up with “what if” scenarios to develop new solutions, will help teams become more collaborative and goal-oriented and improve the employee experience through technology.
Insights from employee communications will deliver organisational intelligence
Communications and HR teams will adopt a data-driven approach to employee engagement and communications, one that focuses on micro-moments and behaviour instead of relying on annual or even quarterly surveys. They will implement quantitative methods that correlate effectiveness of communications with business performance – from reduction of safety incidents to delivering business transformation to sales. This will allow leaders to get a real-time pulse on their organisation that will be invaluable to predict and enable high performers, as well as predict and intervene on retention issues.
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.