Workplace technologies and settings have changed drastically over the last few years, and many employees are changing their perspectives on what work should look like. As workers all over the globe explore new career opportunities during what has been named the “Great Resignation,” or the “Great Reshuffle,” how can company leaders create working cultures that encourage employees to stay?
Carter Busse, CIO of Workato, a leading intelligent automation platform and company, believes that CIOs and other tech leaders can support employee retention efforts by using technology to improve the employee experience. Busse shared his strategy for using technology to support Workato’s recruitment and retention in this exclusive interview with CIO Insight.
CIO Insight: What do you do in your current role as CIO of Workato?
Busse: I joined about 13 months ago, and I sought this company out because of their product. In my role here, I focus on internal technology for the business. So I have a data team for data insights from around the business, I have a team for application and automation, and I also have my employee experience team that we can talk about today, which is really focusing on creating a great employee experience with technology.
CIO Insight: What does Workato do as an organization?
Busse: We’re an integration-led automation company, or we often call it data-led automation. We want to be people’s enterprise automation platform across the business.
We do that in four different ways: we help companies with integration into cloud apps. We help customers focus on their business processes and apps they use every day, like Slack or Microsoft Teams. We help companies take the business processes they built on our platform and expose that with APIs. And then we also help people bring in their data, both product and business data, into a new data warehouse.
So we can help CIOs and IT leaders in varying business functions do different types of automation with our product. Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology solution with more of a task-based focus, and we want to be where we can automate the entire enterprise process with our product.
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COVID-19 and the “Great Reshuffle”
CIO Insight: How have you seen recruitment and retention strategies change since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and during the “Great Reshuffle”?
Busse: Previous recruiting strategies, for me personally and I think for a lot of companies, have been to recruit where you have offices. And now there’s a move to recruit where you can find the best talent. I think that’s one big strategy we have adopted here and that I’ve seen my other peers adopt externally. Trying to recruit and onboard a global workforce, not just in one office— it’s been challenging for IT leaders.
But then retention, too, is the big problem with what I call the “big reassessment.” People are just reassessing their careers, and as an IT leader, how do you use the technology you’re using every day to help with retention? We can’t necessarily control salaries, but how can we provide great tools and a great experience for employees so they want to stay?
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Recruitment and retention strategies for CIOs
CIO Insight: How can CIOs affect retention and retention strategies in their organization?
Busse: On the recruitment side, when a new employee signs that offer letter for us, there’s usually a two to three to four week period where there’s a lot of anxiety. Maybe they’ve quit the company they’ve been with, and now they’re trying to join our company and want to be successful.
What we’ve done is some automation with our own product to slowly onboard that person. We send messages like, “Hey, you’re going to get your laptop. Here’s a Google shop or a Slack shop, so you’ll know how to use that. Here’s some training.”
We can slowly get them prepared by dripping emails to that employee, which also serves to bring down that anxiety. How often have we seen where an employee signs an offer letter, and they don’t come on board because they’re disconnected and working on multiple offers? We really try to get close to employees with technology beforehand.
And then once they join, I feel like as a CIO, it’s partially about making sure we have a productive working environment with the lights on, but we also want to create a fun workplace where technology improves the employee experience. We’re using our own product and AI to make that working experience really nice. For instance, if someone needs a Jira account, they can type “I need a Jira account” into our Slack channels to get help.
The second thing is, how do you help people with their careers? How do you really empower them with technologies? Today, as CIOs, I feel like we’re in a position where we have to become more architects and enablers for the business to use technology.
How can we provide employees a way to really excel in their jobs? I think that’s providing administration rights to some of these tools to really empower them to do the work that IT used to do in a centralized approach. Workato is a fantastic low-code/no-code platform you can give to the business to empower them to automate their own processes.
And I’ve seen it happen here, at our own company, where we have individuals fresh out of college that are automating their internal business processes, and they feel really empowered when they do that. So, to summarize, it’s about keeping the lights on with modern technology, but also empowering people and making them feel like they can make changes without having to go through IT.
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Making tools accessible for your team
CIO Insight: What technologies or poor technical strategies can hurt employee retention and satisfaction?
Busse: What can hurt, and I’ve seen this happen a lot, is when you lock down access to certain resources. It’s a bit of a struggle for myself and a security person because some things need to be locked down so we can own the security process, but it can be very discouraging to employees. Everybody wants to be productive. They want to add value, and if you can’t provide the tools that give them what they need to do their job, they can get frustrated very easily.
I feel like Workato is a great tool for this. If a customer-facing employee has access to automation to do their own integration, they can actually improve their own job and improve the experience for the customers at the same time.
CIO Insight: How can CIOs and other executives create a remote working culture that is both supportive and productive?
Busse: With technology, it’s important to offer a great global communication platform, but it’s also about bringing in technologies that help people work according to their own time zones, while still feeling like they’re working together.
We’re moving to more of an Agile process internally, and an Agile process allows us to keep a global team working on the same projects in different time zones. There are also some process changes that need to happen; communication tools, project management tools, and automation tools are fantastic to use here to help automate processes between hours.
So we have the chats, we have the Zoom calls, we have videos, and that’s all really important. But also, there’s tracking, and we do this a lot with Slack. It’s taking the conversations in Slack and actually tying entire conversations to a ticket when it’s needed for tracking and support purposes.
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An insider’s perspective
CIO Insight: What are you most proud of that you and your team have achieved during this “Great Reshuffle”?
Busse: I am most proud of and love the fact that my team is all under 30 and they don’t have CS degrees, but they are completely empowered to automate within this company. And they have. We have over 1,000 automations running this company, and they’ve done this all on our product.
I didn’t know this when I started here 13 months ago: all the automations we had, how young my team was, how inexperienced in IT they were, but yet, they had built all these fantastic automations that are driving really cool go-to-market strategies and employee experiences.
CIO Insight: Anything else you’d like to add?
Busse: The CIO role is definitely changing. All technology used to be centralized around IT, and to get any technology things done, you had to go to IT and it was a pain.
I drove a lot of that as an IT leader 15 years ago, but we as leaders need to ensure that we provide the architecture and the governance and the guardrails to allow the business to kind of run their own IT. We have to, or else we will be slowly let go. And that’s where technologies like ours and other tools in the low-code/no-code environment are selling.
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About Carter Busse
Carter Busse, CIO of enterprise automation company, Workato, began his career as an IT Associate before forging a path to become Salesforce’s 70th employee and first IT leader. As a formidable business chief in Silicon Valley, he has a proven track record of building technology teams with intention.
In his 30-year tenure, Carter has assisted in taking three companies public — including Salesforce — and has served in senior roles for the likes of Accenture, MobileIron, and 8×8. Carter joined Workato in early 2021 and has been integral in uniting business and IT teams through intelligent automation that empowers both verticals to do great work, easily.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.