It could be easy to mistakenly think that the relationship between the enterprise network and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) is a new one. HR and IT are long-time collaborators.
But connecting a remote workforce, delivering digital user experiences and offering a hybrid working environment are new concerns created by the pandemic.
While it’s certainly true that COVID-19 helped propel connectivity front of mind, the CHRO has needed to work effectively with the network for as long as employees have been using computers.
However, you can see why the relationship has escalated in recent years.
HR and IT unite
Technology is no longer just a functional tool for employees. It now shapes every aspect of an employee’s work experience – from how and where they work, to how productive they can be, and how safe they are doing it.
All of this means that the CHRO should already be just as invested in the network as the company’s CIO, especially if they want the ability to weather the ongoing Great Resignation and win the escalating war on talent. While this seems both logical and necessary, it isn’t always the case.
As they look to their role in the future, the matter is not how the CHRO can develop a relationship with the network, it is now how they can take control of this relationship and empower themselves and their employees, so that they can drive the network, instead of simply being reliant on it.
Below, I focus on three steps that will help CHROs to achieve this.
Create systems that facilitate BYOD
Technology has become so integral to both our work and home lives, particularly during the pandemic – which means that, naturally, everyone has an opinion about it.
Imagine being a Gen Z employee who has grown up with Apple devices, only to be handed a Windows laptop and an Android phone on your first day of work. Or a more experienced employee who has spent 15 years using PCs, and has just been issued a MacBook in their new job?
Increasingly the choice of devices, tools, and systems has a huge impact on an employee’s work-life experience, performance, and productivity. And companies will find that it is difficult to attract and retain talent unless they are willing to provide the flexibility for employees to work how they like.
But how do you manage this? Because it’s not a simple question of device range.
First, how do you ensure that all the devices can connect seamlessly, both remotely and in the workplace? Keep in mind that after almost two years of working exclusively in their own, largely home, environment, where they have full control of the setup, employees now have much higher expectations of – and resultingly less tolerance for — IT issues in the workplace.
Next, how do you secure everything with new devices being added and removed each day?
The answer is with a network that is built for BYOD and supporting the remote workplace (or microbranch) as well as the office. This means a flexible infrastructure that supports plug-and-play remote access points secured through an automated zero-trust security model that provides role- and device-based network access control.
Build an infrastructure ready for the future
The workplace of the future is more than a space that can facilitate hybrid work. It needs to be set up to deliver what employees value most – both now and in the future.
Hybrid work is a good place to start, though. Yes, your network needs to be able to support people working both from home and coming into an office environment, and bringing their own devices when they do.
But it also needs to support the new, more collaborative, and social ways of using the office – the ‘hotelification’ of the workplace. This means having easily bookable meeting spaces, both private and communal, where employees can work together with both in-person and remote colleagues. And it means automated security solutions to manage the increased number of clients and guests who visit the office, for either meetings or demos.
Providing the workplace of the future also involves crafting an enhanced, differentiated experience that will encourage employees to choose to work from the office – or indeed, to choose your company to begin with. It might simply be about doing a flawless job on providing those collaborative meeting spaces. Or, it could also be through having a smart, hyper-connected, and automated building that creates a perfect working environment that can’t be achieved at home.
Increasingly, today’s more environmentally conscious employees are also demanding that their workplaces are sustainable. With so many employees choosing to work only for companies that align with their values, this is not something that CHROs can choose to ignore.
The network can help here as well, by allowing the business to track and reduce energy utilization, carbon emissions, and physical resource usage.
When it comes to achieving this tech-enabled, flexible working environment, it’s clear to see why this needs to be a cross-departmental project, with the CHRO, the CIO, and the chief real estate officer all working together seamlessly, potentially as part of a joint ‘Digital Workplace’ task force.
Get creative for HR to leverage digital solutions
Alongside IT, HR is one of the departments that has been thrust into the spotlight over the past couple of years. While once relegated to a more behind-the-scenes role, HR now needs to be more present and visible than ever.
To start, mental health and well-being have become greater priorities for both employees and their companies. Then, while hybrid working clearly has many benefits, it has created a new challenge around inclusivity. Namely, how do we ensure that employees who cannot, or will not, return to the offices still feel included, supported, and integrated into the company culture?
While these are all complex issues, CHROs should feel reassured that there is a whole host of new digital solutions that can help, from communication apps that help boost team bonding to new digital platforms that support wellbeing initiatives – all of which, however, rely on a strong network.
By working closely with the CIO, CHROs can gain a better understanding of what innovative solutions are viable from a network infrastructure, security, and data privacy standpoint, and then work to implement them for the benefit of their HR teams and the wider company.