IBM: Empower your most valuable asset - your people
The acceleration of a digital transformation by organisations during the global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in employee burn-out and stress, reports IBM.
Business must now help their employees keep up with these changes in technology. This is the message from IBM who surveyed 3,800 C-Suite executives in 20 countries across 22 industries for their report On the Fast Track to Digital Transformation, Businesses Must Help Their People Keep Up.
“Executives need to focus on two critical areas on behalf of their people: processes and technology tuned to empower the people who use them and empathetic, transparent leadership,” said the author of the report Mark Foster who is Senior Vice President of IBM Services.
The paper shows six in 10 organisations have accelerated their digital transformation during the pandemic and two-thirds have completed technology initiatives that had previously encountered resistance.
“A sense of urgency needs to carry over to any company’s most valuable assets - its people - as the users of that technology. We found that even as companies have rushed to adopt the technologies necessary not only to survive but thrive as business enterprises, too many of their employees feel stressed and even overwhelmed,” said Foster.
The biggest hurdles to progress are:
- Inadequate skills
- Organisational complexity
“It’s one thing to nimbly retool and modernise the workplace. It’s quite another proposition to expect workers to quickly adjust to the upheaval in their lives and livelihoods,” points out Foster.
But there appears to be a gaping chasm between what executives think they are offering their employees and how those employees feel.
IBM’s survey found 74% of executives think they have been helping their employees learn the skills needed to work in a new way. And yet, only 38% of employees agree with that.
Executives said employee well-being is among their highest priorities. A total of 80% of employers said they are supporting the physical and emotional health of their workforce but only 46% of employees said they felt supported.
Empowerment and empathy
The report points out that the move to remote work can also undermine the personal connections that help define many corporate cultures. And the quality and reliability of work-from-home tools may lag significantly behind people’s needs.
“Leaders need to listen closely to what their workers need in terms of digital tools to be productive and serve customers well in this environment and to actually provide those tools,” said Foster.
One example is Nationwide Building Society who have been supporting their frontline teams with a virtual agent - Arti - who handles over 10,000 online chat queries freeing up employees to deal with complex issues.
Flexibility, adaptability and compassion
The pandemic has meant that many employees now work from home while and overseeing the education of their children. One idea that has taken hold at IBM is their “work from home” pledge.
“This started from a grassroots initiative of IBMers listening to colleagues with empathy and the desire to make work (and life) a bit easier. The pledge reassures and reminds everyone that working remotely requires flexibility, adaptability and compassion.
“How they are treated now will have an outsize impact on perceptions and value in the future. Clearly, there is massive opportunity for leaders who can get this right,” said Foster.
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.