The Future of IT Is Hybrid: Four Tips for CIOs to Find Success

A major lesson most CIOs have learned in the past 18 months is the importance of being agile and open to change. The teachings of this lesson will remain important as we head into the rest of 2021. However, one business trend that probably won’t change is employees’ receptiveness to hybrid work.

Hybrid Work Is the Next Normal

According to a study we conducted in partnership with Pulse, the majority (52%) of IT and engineering leaders anticipate that their team structures will follow a hybrid model until the end of the year. Close to a third (31%) believe their team structure will continue to be fully remote, while only 17% believe they’ll be in-office full time.

TELUS workplace structure graph

While the majority of organizations will continue to operate remotely for the remainder of 2021 in one way or another, enabling a “digital-first, remote-first” mentality is critical for success. It’s also clear that “anywhere operations” models remain vital for organizations to retain talent.

According to a Morning Consult survey, almost 40% of polled Americans would quit their job if their bosses weren’t flexible about their organization’s work-from-home policies. Similarly, an April survey by FlexJobs found that 58% of 2,100 respondents would “absolutely” look for a new job if they couldn’t continue remote work in their current role. Only 2% of its respondents said they wanted to work in the office full-time.

The Great Resignation is upon us. Here are four things for CIOs to consider as they empower their organization for hybrid work and retain (and gain) great IT talent into the next normal.

Your Team and the Power of the Cloud

It’s easy to peg remote work as a trend or fad caused by the pandemic, but the technology behind it is something IT teams have leveraged for years to support colleagues in different offices or countries.

Companies and their IT functions have done this by using cloud platforms, virtual desktop interfaces (VDIs), and collaboration tools and apps that can be accessed from anywhere that has a secure internet connection, allowing for “business as usual” — even in unusual circumstances.

Organizations need to implement technologies and infrastructure that allow work to continue seamlessly.

Leveraging this technology beyond IT and across the organization will allow teams to continue to be productive. Organizations need to implement technologies and infrastructure that allow work to continue seamlessly, even outside a physical office.

Cloud-based systems that securely centralize customer information and internal tools are just an example of operations that will allow for business to be accessed, delivered, and enabled from anywhere.

Finally, it will be imperative for CIOs to provide team members with tools powered by cloud technology to enable effective and efficient collaboration. That way, everyone is on the same page whenever there’s an issue. Beyond the scope of work, these collaboration tools also empower team members to connect more effectively with each other, promoting engagement and connection in a remote or hybrid working environment.

Read more: Cloud Cost Management: Tips & Best Practices

The IT Help Desk

According to Gartner, 25% of customer service operations will involve a chatbot or other virtual assistant daily by the end of 2021, further creating a world in which businesses aren’t limited by “regular” hours of operation. Automating support services (such as IT and HR inquiries) with the use of chatbots may be the key to getting team members the support they require swiftly, with 24/7 availability, as we work remotely.

When we implemented a chatbot to support password resets and account unlocks on behalf of our IT service desk, our team members were able to access their accounts in half the time while their IT service desk colleagues were able to focus on taking on more complex tasks.

Further to this, we also saw that our IT service desk team members were more engaged post-chatbot implementation, largely due to their ability to focus on more challenging work, and we experienced reduced attrition levels overall.

The Importance of Security

Security in the remote age is tricky, no matter the industry. Each business, depending on the output, will deal with security differently. At TELUS International, a key part of our work-from-home approach is leveraging a virtual desktop interface (VDI) to securely connect employees to work on any device from anywhere that has a secure internet connection.

As the VDI is hosted in a secure cloud environment, it can be deployed quickly and easily through a unified approach, thereby streamlining the workload on IT teams during the deployment process and beyond.

While the ability to work from anywhere is possible, security should never be an afterthought.

CIOs should be aware of their team members’ place(s) of work in this new hybrid-work world. While the ability to work from anywhere is possible thanks to cloud solutions, security should never be an afterthought. Technology leaders must educate themselves and their teams on the dangers of weak security.

Teaching safety and security best practices such as always locking computers, keeping network passwords encrypted, and ensuring devices (personal or not) are up to date with the latest security updates can be the difference between a normal and a very bad day at work. Take the time to implement these learnings — your staff and end-users will thank you in the long run!

Read more: How a Cybersecurity Incident Hurts Your Brand

Conduct Frequent Check-Ins

If the wellbeing and engagement of your entire team was a top priority before the pandemic, it should be even more so now. Technologies accessed through the cloud and supported by the IT team can allow the rest of the global team to feel connected to one another despite the distance.

Now that many aren’t in a physical workspace, it’s important to offer opportunities to connect virtually and develop closer connections. Don’t underestimate the value and impact of a virtual coffee chat!

Having leadership that cares for its team has never been more important as we continue to work remotely. We conducted a study in 2020 that found that the vast majority (90%) of U.S. workers agree that someone can be a great leader whether in-person or virtually.

According to respondents, these are the top components of a thoughtful remote check-in from a manager or company leader:

  • A manager asking how they can help the employee (60%)
  • Sharing updates on the state of the business (51%)
  • Creating employee development plans and suggesting new learning opportunities (47%)

As we embark on this next normal, ensuring your team knows where to find you will help them remain connected and engaged at work. And in turn, this will motivate them to provide thoughtful and helpful support to one another as well.

CIOs Must Be IT Cheerleaders

For companies to be successful in the future of work (and life), they must equip their IT teams with technology that will support their work, no matter their location. CIOs must act as their IT teams’ cheerleaders, gauging what technology is working well, and which isn’t working, to effectively enable their teams.

As the world continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, brands should take this opportunity to create a workforce strategy that encompasses the best of different technologies (and the workstyles they empower) to better prepare for the future.

Read next: 9 Key Considerations When Building a Global Data Science Team

Michael Ringman
Michael Ringman has built his career on implementing technology services, especially developing public and private cloud solutions for retail, government, technology and finance verticals. As CIO at TELUS International, he is continually amazed by the dedication of his team members to find solutions and make things work – from frontline agents to IT specialists, he believes they’re all in the business of customer service. Prior to joining TELUS International in 2012, he was VP of Global Infrastructure at TeleTech, and before that, a Network Consultant for IBM Global Services.

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