Digital tools for a hybrid world with Jacqui Summons
I’m sure you’ll agree the pandemic increased our reliance on digital technology with many aspects of our daily lives moving to the online arena. From Teams calls with colleagues, to virtual exercise classes, to the (dreaded) Zoom quizzes with family and friends, we all became heavily dependent on various smart apps and video conference tools.
And for many businesses, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation by months or even years. However, whilst some industries have rapidly changed beyond recognition, others have struggled to do more than make incremental improvements to the way they’ve always done things.
I caught up with HR Leader Jacqui Summons to discuss how software tools can, in her experience, dramatically improve employee engagement, recruitment, and retention. I also asked Jacqui for some insight into the digital tools she thinks businesses need to make hybrid working successful.
Hannah: Hi Jacqui, do you think a lot of businesses are still quite traditional in their approach to technology in the workplace?
Yes, I do, in a world where we can drive down the motorway with just electric in the tank, pay for lunch with our face and phone, and ping cryptocurrency as you please, many employers by comparison have fallen behind.
For example, many employees still need to be sat at their work laptop to book annual leave, when in reality they want to be able to book this Friday off work whilst watching Netflix in the evening. And likewise, when they see a cheap flight to Malaga, they want to turn to their phone and immediately request the annual leave, and not wait days and days for their request to be actioned.
Expenses is another example of a business process that’s often rather archaic. We’ve all been there. You return home from a long business trip, you’ve finally unpacked your suitcase and what next? Expense admin. You find you’ve lost some receipts whilst others are crumpled beyond repair as you embark on a long-winded and exhausting expense claim.
So, what digital tools are available to improve these day-to-day business processes?
Technologies such as employee self-service enable employees to book annual leave via their mobile phone. Meanwhile, managers can often review their team’s booked leave at a glance – making the decision to approve or decline requests much easier. In addition, self-service technologies give employees the flexibility to submit expenses on the go.
These tools are a differentiator and people are beginning to expect this level of employee experience when they join a new organisation. In fact, you’re seen as being slightly old fashioned in your approach if you’re still relying on paper and spreadsheets.
And thinking specifically about hybrid working arrangements that many businesses have now adopted, do you think we have the digital tools to make this a success?
In my opinion, if hybrid working is here to stay, we don’t yet have the tools to work effectively in that environment. Currently, we’re only part way there.
For example, I personally find it increasingly difficult to know where my team are. Being able to track them – not because I don’t trust them but simply to be able to find out when they’re working and where – would be invaluable. I’d like to quickly and easily find out whether my team members are available for a quick conversation, are they busy on something or are they physically near me. Do they happen to also have a meeting in London today so I can have a quick coffee with them? There’s a gap here that I’m hoping someone will fill to give me the visibility of where people in my organisation are. A tool that enables me to arrange to meet up with colleagues outside the traditional methods of booking a meeting would be really useful.
That’s interesting – what else do you think businesses need to make hybrid working effective?
I think we need more tools to encourage people to take regular breaks whilst working from home because employees can end up on back-to-back Teams calls all day. People sitting at their desk for hours on end and having one meeting after another is one of the things that worries me most. When people were in offices this didn’t tend to happen.
My feeling is that if hybrid working is here to stay, we don’t yet have the tools to work effectively in that environment. We’re only part way there.
Thanks Jacqui – lots of food for thought here. I think many organisations are still in the process of figuring out what hybrid means for them and their employees. Having the right digital tools to enable employees to thrive in both home and office environments is central to making hybrid working a success.