Employers Place Tools for Collaboration at Center of Hybrid Strategies: The past two years would have looked very different if it weren’t for the availability of collaboration technologies that proved crucial for businesses working from home. Not only did they help organizations pivot at a moment’s notice, but they made it possible for colleagues, clients, and customers to connect and collaborate from anywhere in the world. They’ve embraced these technologies by inspiring them to buy into the hybrid movement. It’s critical, though, that leaders emphasize the user experience that these tools provide so that teams across locations can continue to quickly — and visually — share ideas. This will enable organizations to be more efficient and productive and reduce the frustrations that employees have experienced using them throughout the pandemic.
When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.
As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Simon Haighton-Williams. Simon is CEO of Adaptavist, the digital transformation firm working with over half the Fortune 500. Since 2010, he has led Adaptavist’s hyper growth in over 60 markets and oversaw its rise to become a Deloitte Technology Fast 50 company.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.
I’ve been CEO of Adaptavist since 2010. In that role I’m responsible for Adaptavist’s global growth in our diverse customer base including more than half of the Fortune 500. We’ve grown from a handful of people to over 500 people spread geographically across the world. I’ve been in and around technology software development since the ’90s and have worked across both the private and public sector. I’ve benefited from a wide range of experiences across industries that vary from finance to telecoms; and from corporate to start-ups. Throughout my career I have always been curious — operating both strategically and sometimes within the details. I’m never too far away from where organizations, people and technology intersect.
Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?
It’s probably easier to predict how things will be different. The Great Resignation illustrates how the power of the employee is dramatically rising and driving long-lasting change in the workplace. It’s significantly raising essential questions about the quality of the employee experience, including how organizations are engaging their staff and focusing on wellbeing in this new digital age. My company recently surveyed more than 1,600 knowledge workers across the U.S. and found that many share a feeling of invisibility, and secondly, burnout is rife.
But there’s a growing trend where employees are no longer settling for these kinds of work environments. They’re demanding better experiences and are more willing than ever to seek new opportunities if their current employer doesn’t provide them. I can only imagine how this will progress in 10 to 15 years, especially considering how digital the workplace will have become by then. Hopefully, by the 2030s enterprises will have completed a long journey to ensure that their continued digitization isn’t impacting productivity, employee engagement, and staff wellbeing.
With that said, I think that on the surface businesses will look very similar to how they do now. They’ll remain agile. They’ll operate around their customers’ needs by solving the problems of today with consideration for the future.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Organizations need to improve their employees’ digital experiences to succeed in the future. This new wave of SaaS deployments are meant to make today’s workers feel more connected than ever. But in many cases, it’s achieving the opposite. Organizations must learn how to connect these disjointed tools and create operational harmony.
With more work done across applications and systems today, and more people using different tools, employers need to integrate the applications and procedures that teams use to improve overall business efficiencies and productivity. The only way to do this is with planned integration. By integrating disconnected tools, organizations are afforded a fantastic opportunity to bring best-of-breed tools together with their unique business solutions to have the best of both worlds.
But tools are only one challenge. Cultural and process changes are also key and where we’ll see real operational harmony. It’s not enough to have a set of values as a company that your employees just quote and read verbatim. These values must exist and occur through workers’ actions, and influence their processes, ways of working, and therefore their culture.
What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?
C-suites have invested enormous resources into technology to make their teams more efficient. But there’s a massive gap between these technologies’ touted capabilities and employees’ actual experiences when using them. One reason for this is that organizations have spent too much time focusing on tools and processes to boost productivity and less time on arguably the most crucial component of their business — the people. Our research shows that 45% of global workers say they’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of tools and software they have to manage while remote working, while just under a third say their management’s expectations of them need to be more realistic.
These inefficiencies particularly affect those working in software development. They’re working within an industry where they’re expected to release software at twice the rate as they were pre-Covid, and they’re expected to do so while relying on remote collaboration tools. Organizations in the space can dramatically close these gaps by adopting a DevOps mindset. I’d go as far as to say that DevOps has gone from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have in 2022, as companies feel the pressure to adapt faster and become more agile while preserving the employee digital experience. Otherwise they risk slowing down production because of their own internal friction, causing inefficiencies with slow turnaround, poor quality, little teamwork and a lack of accountability.
Leveraging a DevOps strategy, however, organizations can accelerate delivery and maintain quality, ensuring continuous development with consistent feedback loops. Uniting software development and technology operations helps organizations smooth the path from ideation to production, creating an end-to-end pipeline that includes every stakeholder in the process. At its best, it changes the way people think across an organization in all aspects of development and operations and subsequently changes the way everyone works.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
How we live, work, and function as society has undergone a complete overhaul, and included in this is how organizations and their staff have embraced the most significant working transition in history. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds, but we do know that a distributed hybrid model is part of this future.
This has drastically influenced the future of work in several ways. Perhaps the most obvious is how it has changed the way we collaborate. Already, we’ve seen a considerable increase in cloud and managed services spending, which is a direct result of distributed teams needing a way to share ideas quickly. But where this global remote work movement has been most influential is perhaps in the opportunity it’s created for enterprises to incite a cultural transformation and accelerate their agile journeys.
Working from home has shunned a spotlight on the value of cross-functional teams, enhanced communication, continuous iteration, and flexible workflows, all of which are byproducts of agile workplaces. An agile enterprise utilizes its network of groups to increase company understanding and swiftly and confidently make critical decisions — something that’s in stark contrast to traditional businesses that operate under a structural hierarchy where teams are siloed and productivity is stagnant.
Over the past couple of years, the challenges thrown at leadership teams have caused them to realize the benefits of having an agile mindset. More companies are shifting from a culture where every department controls various moving parts that influence profit and performance to diffuse power. Everyone is constantly learning; it could have a colossal impact on the future of work.
We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?
There are three key drivers of success for this new era for work: the successful integration of third-party and bespoke tools; tools, and infrastructure architected to support cross-team value streams; and the introduction of more visual collaboration tools and increased workflow automation.
With more work being done across applications and systems, and more and more people using different tools, work needs to be done to integrate the applications and procedures that teams are using to improve overall business efficiencies and productivity. Connecting data across organizations streamlines operations and enables smoother, more innovative means of unlocking business-critical information.
While we’ve seen many organizations struggle with pandemic-driven requirements for change, others have taken it in their stride and relished the opportunity to transform the way they operate. However, one thing is clear: organizations already using flexible tools and services have had the power to steamroll ahead and seamlessly transition to different ways of working. Those that were not had a jarring and disruptive change forced upon them. Organizations should now be looking to build new levels of flexibility and the resilience to rapidly adopt changes.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
With the reality of post-COVID collaborative working drawing nearer and nearer, I’m optimistic that we will see enterprise leaders align their focus and ensure stability in the new workforce. I’m also excited to see employees’ resilience when it comes to the changes that come with the future of work.
For many organizations, their culture and use of tools meant that those who were not in the same physical location as the people they were working with, were less able to input and collaborate fully. There was an imbalance or divide in the way they communicated. The ‘accidental’ benefit of everyone being remote is that communication, collaboration and decision making can be the same experience for everyone. It’s been two years since COVID-19 thrusted us into this new way of working and I expect collaboration among teams to be working better than they were back in 2020.
However, technology tools have come a long way and with the right culture and mindset in place, there’s ample reason to believe teams will render an efficient and beneficial working environment.
Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?
Full-time remote work environments have had significant ramifications on employee mental health and morale, a reality that enterprises are growing more aware of it. 1-in-5 global workers actively looking for a new job say they’re doing so because their mental health and well-being have been negatively impacted in their current role. Indeed, as it turns out, workers are placing more value on their wellbeing than on their salary and job title.
Fortunately, team leaders and their colleagues can turn this around by taking actions as simple as introducing more one-to-one meetings, which Adaptavist found significantly boost morale for 54% of global workers. Company leaders showing more empathy for what their workforce has gone through during Covid-19 would also go a long way, with a quarter of employees from around the world saying this is something they’ve lacked.
Again, these problems can be solved by excellent communication and equipping staff with the right tools they need to succeed. And as organizations move from survival to revival, it’s the perfect time for them to reevaluate how they communicate with their employees and whether they’re empowering productivity through technology or killing it.
It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?
Leaders need to know that culture can’t exist without people. While developing an agile mindset is the end goal, this is about making a cultural sea change through technology adoption and team behavior — people can’t embrace agile if the organization itself stifles their actions.
With that said, leaders need to learn how to operate in an emerging ecosystem built on complex situations and multiple interactions. Beyond this, they need to understand the factors that make their teams effective: clarity of mission and purpose, boundaries, conflict management, and diversity of thought. Without team science in play, there are no guarantees people will allow diverse thinking to flourish, handle conflict appropriately, or even be able to make healthy decisions.
As we mentioned above, 20% of global workers are leaving their current roles to seek new opportunities; however, that’s the cohort of workers leaving for mental health reasons. Things like work environment, pay, and the perceived value a worker brings to their team still determine whether an employee stays or goes. As such, for enterprises to get their company culture where they’d like it to be, they need to assess their current situation. When enterprises know where they’re at regarding their employees, technology usage, and culture, they will know where they need to go.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
- Organizations Unlock Flexibility for Knowledge Workers: More than ever, employees demand flexibility in when, where, and how they work. The last two years have illustrated to workers that they don’t need to sacrifice missing family events or working out regularly to do their job well. In fact, research recently released by my company shows that nearly half of workers would favor a hybrid or remote-only work setup post-pandemic due to this type of flexibility. By cutting out the average 40-plus minutes of commuting time, employees now have the flexibility to take some of their non-work-life back while also dedicating more time to their job. This is why I think flexibility will be as common as a 401K in the years ahead for knowledge workers, and employers must continue to reach to unlock flexibility for their employees in new ways. Leading-edge companies will realize that means giving their employees the ability to work on their personalized schedules from anywhere in the world as long as they are getting the work done.
- Leaders Will Need to Show Empathy For Their Workers: With the hybrid workplace here to stay and a worrying number of people reporting feeling anxious and frustratingly unseen by their colleagues, it’s clear that company leaders need to step up and take action. After all, it’s an issue that’s significantly affecting them too — 44% of those who say they feel invisible “all the time” are in management roles. The reality is that ignoring the problem will only worsen and contribute to a well-reported burnout issue impacting workers across demographics and industries. The good news is that optimizing communication — particularly virtual communication — can go a long way towards fixing this problem. This means prioritizing and promoting good digital etiquette practices across every digital platform an organization uses and, importantly, encouraging management to lead by example to deliver meaningful change.
- Employees’ Digital Wellbeing Takes a Front Seat: We know now that workers are placing greater value on their wellbeing than on their salary and job title and that it’s a primary reason why they’re leaving companies. And although the digital tools they’re using to work have many benefits, there’s downsides too. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Slack messages, Zoom invites, and emails workers have dealt with in the past couple of years. Focusing organizations on value creation, rather than time spent, has always been a good idea, and in a hybrid working environment it has become vital. And as organizations move from survival to revival, it’s the perfect time for them to reevaluate how they communicate with their employees and whether they’re empowering productivity through technology or killing it.
- More Companies Adopt a DevOps Mindset to Boost Efficiency: Today, a DevOps mindset is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ in the software space as organizations are under pressure to adapt faster, and become more agile. A recent GitLab survey found that 60% of software developers release twice as quickly as ever before. This stat showcases the importance of DevOps for companies who otherwise risk slowing down production because of their internal friction, causing inefficiencies with the slow turnaround, poor quality, little teamwork, and a lack of accountability. With a well-thought-out DevOps strategy, organizations accelerate delivery and maintain quality, ensuring continuous development with consistent feedback loops. Uniting software development and technology operations helps organizations smooth the path from ideation to production, creating an end-to-end pipeline that includes every stakeholder in the process. At its best, it changes the way people think across an organization in all aspects of development and operations and subsequently changes the way everyone works.
- Employers Place Tools for Collaboration at Center of Hybrid Strategies: The past two years would have looked very different if it weren’t for the availability of collaboration technologies that proved crucial for businesses working from home. Not only did they help organizations pivot at a moment’s notice, but they made it possible for colleagues, clients, and customers to connect and collaborate from anywhere in the world. They’ve embraced these technologies by inspiring them to buy into the hybrid movement. It’s critical, though, that leaders emphasize the user experience that these tools provide so that teams across locations can continue to quickly — and visually — share ideas. This will enable organizations to be more efficient and productive and reduce the frustrations that employees have experienced using them throughout the pandemic.
I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?
“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough” said Mario Andretti the racing car driver.I like this question because it reminds me how much I value seeing just what can be achieved and how well it can achieved. We learn at the limits.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.
Having lunch with Mario Andretti, one of the most successful racing car drivers (one of only three drivers ever to have won races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR), would be an immensely entertaining and motivating meeting. He’s famously quoted as saying ““If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough”. I’d ask him how pushed himself harder, to his very limits, to execute better. I believe that we only truly learn what we are capable of when we push ourselves to see just what’s possible and learn at the limits.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
Connecting with me on LinkedIn is always good with me https://www.linkedin.com/in/simonwilliams/
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.