Showing posts with label accounting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accounting. Show all posts

Monday, April 19, 2021

Creating Business Advantage with Technology-Enabled Flexible Work

Transcript of a discussion on how a global business process outsourcing leader uses a “Cloud Campus” to improve remote worker productivity and their end users’ experience.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Citrix.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.

As businesses plan for a future where more of their workforce can be located just about anywhere, how should they rethink hiring, training, and talent optimization? This major theme for 2021 and beyond poses major adjustments for both workers and savvy business leaders.

Stay with us now as we explore how a global business process outsourcing leader has shown how distributed employees working from a “Cloud Campus” are improving productivity and their end users’ experience.

To learn more about best practices and advantageous outcomes from a broadly dispersed digital workforce, we are now joined by José Güereque, Executive Vice President of Infrastructure and Nearshore Chief Information Officer at Teleperformance SE in Monterrey, Mexico. Welcome, José.

José Güereque: Thank you, Dana. Good morning all. Nice to see you.

Gardner: We are also here with Lance Brown, Executive Vice President Global Network, Telecom, and Architecture at Teleperformance. Welcome, Lance.

Lance Brown: Great to be here. Looking forward to it.

Gardner: And we are here with Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Business Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix. Welcome back, Tim.

Tim Minahan: Thanks, Dana. Great to be back.

Gardner: Tim, when it comes to flexible and hybrid work models we often focus on how to bring the work to the at-home workforce. But this new level of flexibility also means that we can find and attract workers from a much broader potential pool of talent.

Are companies fully taking advantage of this decentralized talent pool yet? And what benefits are those who are not yet expanding their workforce horizons missing out on?

Pick your talent anywhere

Minahan: We are at a very interesting inflection point right now. If there is any iota of a silver lining in this global pandemic it’s that it has opened people’s minds to both accelerating digitization of their business, but also opening their minds to new ways of work. It’s now been proven that work can indeed occur outside the office. Smart companies like Teleperformance are beginning to look at their entire workforce strategies -- their work models -- in different ways.


It’s not about should Sam or Susie work in the office or work at home. It’s, “Gee, now that I can enable everyone with the work resources they need, and in a secure workspace environment to do their best work wherever it is, does that allow me to do new things, such as tap into new talent pools that may not be within commuting distance of my work hubs?”

This now allows me to even advance sustainability initiatives or, in some cases, we have companies now saying, “Hey, now I can also reach workers that allow me to bring more diversity into my workforce. I can enable people to work from inner cities or other locations -- rural locations -- that I couldn’t reach before.”

This is the thought process that a lot of forward-thinking companies are going through right now.

Gardner: It seems that a remote, hybrid, flexible work capability is the gift that keeps giving. In many cases we have seen projections of shortages of skilled workers and gaps between labor demand and supply. Are we in just the early innings of what we can expect from the benefits of remote work? 

Minahan: Yes. If you think way back in history, about a year ago, that’s exactly what the world was grappling with. There was a global shortage of skilled workers. In fact, McKinsey estimated that there was a global shortage of 95 million medium- to high-skilled workers. So managers were trying to hire amid all that.

But, in addition, there was a shortage of the actual modern skills that a lot of companies need to advance their business, to digitize their business. And the third part is a lot of employees were challenged and frustrated with the complexity of their work environment.

Now, more flexible work models enabled by a digital workspace that ensures employees have access to all the work resources they need, wherever work needs to get done, begins to address each of those issues. Now you can reach into new areas to find new talent. You can reach skills that you couldn’t before because you were competing in a very competitive market.

Now you can enable your employees to work where and how they want in new ways that doesn’t limit them. They no longer have a long commute that gives them added stress in their lives. In fact, our research found that 80 percent of workers feel they are being as, if not more, productive working remotely than they could be in the office.

Gardner: Let’s find out from an organization that’s been doing this. José, at Teleperformance, tell us the types of challenges you faced in terms of the right fit between your workforce and your demands for work. How have you been able to use technology to help solve that?

Güereque: Our business was mostly a finite structure of brick-and-mortar operations. When COVID struck, we realized that we faced a challenge of not being able to move people to and from the work centers. So, we rushed to move all of our people, as much as possible, to work from home (WFH).

At-Home Workers May Explore Their Options. 

Technically, the first challenge was to restructure our network, services, and all kinds of resources to move the workforce to WFH. As you can imagine, that came in hand with security measures. Security is one of the most important things we need to address and have in place.

But while there were big challenges, big opportunities also arose for us. The new model allows us to be more flexible in how we look for new talent. We can now find that talent in places we didn’t search before.

Our team has helped expedite this work-at-home model for us. It was not embraced in the massive way it is right now.

Gardner: Lance, tell us about Teleperformance, your workforce, your reach, and your markets.

Remote work: Simpler, faster, safer


Brown: Teleperformance is a global customer experience company based in France. We have more than 383,000 employees worldwide in 83 countries serving over 170 markets. So it’s a very large corporation. We have a number of agents who support many Fortune 500 companies all over the world, and our associates obviously have to be able to connect and talk [in over 265 languages and dialects] to customers.

We sent more than 220,000 of these associates home in a very quick time frame at the onset of the pandemic.

Our company is all about being simpler, faster, and safer -- and working with Citrix allowed us to meet all of our transition goals. Remote work is now a simpler, faster process -- and it’s a safer process. All of our security that Citrix provides is on the back end. We don’t have to worry as much with the security on our endpoint as we would in other traditional models.

Gardner: As José mentioned, you had to snap to it and solve some major challenges from the crisis. Now that you have been adjusting to this, do you agree that it’s the gift that keeps giving? Is flexible work here to stay from your perspective?

Our company is all about being simpler, faster, and safer -- and working with Citrix allowed us to meet all of our transition goals. Remote work is now a simpler, faster process -- and it's a safer process.

Brown: Yes, from Teleperformance’s perspective, we fully are working to get our clients to remain at WFH -- for a large percentage of the workforce. We don’t ever see the days of going back to 100 percent brick and mortar, or even mostly brick and mortar. We were at 90 percent on-site before the pandemic. Now, at the end of the day, that will become between 50 percent to 65 percent work at home.

Gardner: Tim, because they have 390,000 people, there is going to be a great diversity of how people will react to this. One of the nice things about remote work and digital workspaces is you can be dynamic. You can adjust, change, and innovate.

How are organizations such as Teleperformance breaking new ground? Are they finding innovation that goes beyond what they may have expected from flexible work at the outset?

Minahan: Yes, absolutely. This isn’t just about can we enable ourselves to tap into new talent in some remote locations or for disenfranchised parts of the workforce. It’s about creating an agile workforce model. Teleperformance is on the frontlines of enabling that for its own workforce. But Teleperformance is also part of the solution, due to their business process outsourcing (BPO) solutions and how they serve their clients. You begin to rethink the workforce.

We did a study as part of our Work 2035 Project, in which we went out over the past year-and-a-half and interviewed tens of thousands of employees, thousands of senior executives, and probed into what the world of work will look like in 2035. A lot of things we are talking about here have been accelerated by the pandemic.

One of those things is moving to a more agile workforce model, where you begin to rethink your workforce strategies, and maybe where you augment full-time employees with contractors or gig workers, so you have that agility to dial up your workforce.

Maybe it’s due to seasonality, and you need for a call center or other services to be able to dial up or back down. Or work locations shift, moving due to certain needs or responses to certain catastrophes. And like I said, that’s what a lot of forward-thinking companies are doing.

What’s so exciting about Teleperformance is they are not only doing it for their own organization -- but they are also providing the solution for their own clients.

Gardner: José, please describe for us your Cloud Campus concept. Why did you call it Cloud Campus and what does it do?

Cloud Campus engages worldwide


Güereque: Enabling people to WFH is only part of what you need. You also need to guarantee the processes in place perform as well as they used to in a brick-and-mortar environment. So our cloud solution pushes subsets of those processes and enables control -- to maintain the operational procedures – at a level where our clients feel confident of how we are managing their operations.

In the past, you needed to do a lot of things if you were an agent in our company. You needed to physically go to a central office to fulfill processes, and then you’d be commuting. Today, the Cloud Campus digitalizes these processes. Now a new employee, in many different countries, can be hired, trained, and coached -- everything -- on a remote basis.

We use video technology to do virtual face-to-face interactions, which we believe is important to be successful. We still are a very human-centric company. If we don’t have this face-to-face contact, we won’t succeed. So, the Cloud Campus, which is maintained by a really small team, guarantees the needed processes so people can WFH on a permanent basis. 

Gardner: Lance, it’s impressive to think about you dealing face-to-face virtually with your clients in 83 different countries and across many cultures and different ways of doing business. How have you been able to use the same technology across such a diversity of business environments?

Brown: That’s an excellent question. As José said, the Teleperformance Cloud Campus gives us the flexibility and availability to do just that. For our employees, it just becomes a one-on-one human interaction. Our employees are getting the same coaching, counseling, and support from all aspects of the business – just as they were when they were in the brick-and-mortar office.

Planning a Post-Pandemic Workplace Strategy? 

We are leveraging, like José said, video technology and other technologies to deliver the same user experience for our associates, which is key. Once we deliver that, then that translates out to our clients, too, because once we have a good associate experience, that experience is the same for all of the clients that the associate is handling.

Gardner: Lance, when you are in a brick-and-mortar environment, a physical environment, you don’t always have the capability to gather, measure, and digitize these interactions. But when you go to a digital workspace, you get an audit trail of data.

Is that something you have been able to utilize, or how do you expect that to help you in the future?

Digital workspaces offer data insights

Brown: Another really good question. We continue to gather data, especially as the world is all digitized. And, like you said, we provide many digital solutions for our clients. Now we are taking those same solutions and leveraging them internally for our employees.

We continue to see a large amount of data that we can work with for our process improvements and our technology, analysis, and process excellence (T.A.P.) teams and the transformation our agents do for our clients every day.

Gardner: Tim, when it comes to translating the value through the workforce to the end user, are there ways we can measure that productivity benefit?

Minahan: One of the key things that came up early-on in the pandemic was a huge spike in worker productivity. Companies settled into a hybrid work model, and that phase was about unifying work and providing reliable access for employees in a remote environment to all the resources they needed.

The second part was, as José said, ensuring that all employees can safely access applications and information -- that our corporate information remains secure.

A solid digital workspace environment provides an environment where employees can perform at their best and collaborate from the most remote locations.

Now we have moved into the simplify-and-optimize phase. A lot of companies are asking, “Gee, what are the tools I need to introduce to remove the noise from my employees’ day? How do I guide them to the right information and the right decisions? How do I support more collaboration or collaborative work execution, even in a distributed environment?”

If you have a foundation of a solid digital workspace environment that delivers all the work resources, that secures all the work resources, and then leverages things like machine learning (ML), virtual assistants, and new collaborative work management tools that we are introducing -- it provides an environment where employees can perform at their best and can collaborate from the most remote locations.

Gardner: José, most businesses nowadays want to measure everything. With things like Net Promoter Scores (NPS) from your agents and employees, when it comes to looking for the metrics of whether your return on investment (ROI) or return on innovation is working, what have you found? Have you been able to verify what we have been talking about? Does this move beyond theory into practice, and can it be measured well?

Güereque: Yes, that’s very important. As I mentioned, being able to create a Cloud Campus concept, which has all the processes and metrics in place, allows us to compare apples with apples in a way that we can understand the behavior and the performance of an agent at home -- same as in brick-and-mortar. We can compare across those models and understand exactly how they are performing.

We found that a lot of our agents live in cities, which have a lot of traffic. The commuting time for them, believe it or not, was around one-and-a-half hours – as many as two hours for some of them -- just going to and from work. Now, all that commuting time is eliminated when they WFH.

At-Home Workers May Explore Their Options. 

People started to give lot of value to those things because they can spend their time smarter -- or have more family time. So from customer, client, and employee satisfaction, those employees are more motivated -- and they’re performing great. Their scores are similar – and in some cases better -- than before.

So, again, if you are able to measure everything through the digitalization of the processes, you can understand the small things you need to tweak in order to maintain better satisfaction and improve all scores across both clients and employees.

Gardner: Lance, over the past 30 years in IT, we’ve been very fortunate that we can often do more with less. Whether it’s the speed of the processor, or the size of the disk drive. I’m wondering if that’s translating into this new work environment.

Are you able to look at cost savings when it comes to the type of client devices for your users? Are your networks more efficient? Is there a similar benefit of doing more with less when we get to remote work and digital workspaces?

Cost savings accumulate via BYOD

Brown: Yes, especially for the endpoint device costs. It becomes an interesting conversation when you’re leveraging technology like Citrix. For that [thin client] endpoint, all of the compute is back in the data center or in the cloud.

Your overall total cost of ownership continues to go down because you’re not spending as much money on your endpoint, as you had in the past. The other thing is the technology allows us to take an existing PC and make it a thin client, too. That gives you a longer life of that endpoint, which, overall, reduces your cost.

It’s also much, much safer. I can’t stress enough about the security benefits, especially in this current environment. It just makes you so much safer because your target environment and exposed landscape is reduced. Your data center is housing all the proprietary information. And your endpoint is just a dumb endpoint, for lack of better word. It doesn’t have a large attack vector. So you really reduce your attack vector by leveraging Citrix and putting more IT infrastructure in your data center and in your cloud.

Güereque: There is another really important factor, which is to enable bring your own device (BYOD) to be a reality. With the pandemic, the manufacturers of equipment, the PCs and everything, their time to deliver has been longer.

What used to take them two to three weeks to deliver now takes up to 10 weeks. Sometimes the only way to be on time is to leverage the employees’ equipment and enable its use in a secure way. So, this is not just an economic perspective of avoiding the investment in the end device, but is an opportunity to enable them to work faster rather than waiting on the delivery time of new equipment.

Minahan: At Citrix, we’re seeing other clients do that, too. I was recently talking with the CIO of a financial services company. For them, as the world moved through the pandemic, they saw the demand for their digital banking services quadruple or more. They needed to hire thousands of new financial guidance agents to support that.

And, to José’s point, they couldn’t be bothered with sending each one a new laptop. So BYOD allowed them to gain a distributed digital workspace and to onboard these folks very quickly. They attained the resources they needed to service their end banking clients much faster.

Güereque: Just following on Tim’s comments, I want to give you an example. Two weeks ago we were contacted by a client who needed to have 1,200 people up and running within a week. At the beginning, we were challenged. We wanted to be able to put 1,200 new employees with equipment in place, and weirdly our team came back with a plan. I can tell you that last week they were all in production. So, without this flexibility, and these enablers like Citrix, we wouldn’t be able to do it in such a small time frame.

Gardner: Lance, as we seek work-from-home solutions, we’re using words like “life” and “work balance.” We’re talking about employee behaviors and cultures. It sounds like IT is closer to human resources (HR) than ever.

Has the move to remote work using Citrix helped bond major parts of your organization -- your IT capability and your HR capability, for example?

IT enables business innovation

Brown: Yes, now they’re seeing IT as an enabler. We are the enabler to allow those types of successes, from a work-life balance and human standpoint. We’re in constant contact with our operations team, our HR team, and our recruiting team. We are the enabler to help them deliver everything that we need to deliver to our clients.

In the old days, IT wasn't viewed as an enabler. Now we're viewed as an enabler. We come up with innovative solutions to enable the business to meet its business needs.

In the old days, IT wasn’t viewed as an enabler. Now we’re viewed as an enabler, and José and I are at the table for every conversation that’s happening in the company. We come up with innovative solutions to enable the business to meet those business needs.

Gardner: Tim, I’m going to guess that this is a nice way of looking at the glass as half full. IT enabling such business innovation is going to continue. How do you expect in the future that we’re going to continue the trend of IT as an enabler? What’s in the pipeline, if you will, that’s going to help foster that?

Minahan: With the backdrop of the continued global shortage of skills, particularly the modern skills that are needed, companies such as Teleperformance are looking at what it means for their workforce strategies. What does it mean for their customer success strategies? Employee experience is certainly becoming a top priority to recruit the best talent, but also to ensure that they can perform at their best and deliver the best services to clients.

In fact, if you look at what employees are looking for going forward, there’s the salary thing and there’s the emergence of purpose. Is this company doing something that I believe in that’s contributing to the world, the environment?

Planning a Post-Pandemic Workplace Strategy? 

But right behind that is, “What are the tools and resources? How effectively are they delivering them to me so I can perform at my best?” And so IT, to Lance’s point, is a critical pillar, a key enabler, of ensuring that every company can work on making employee experience a competitive advantage.

Gardner: José, for other companies trying to make the most of a difficult situation and transitioning to more flexible work models, what would you recommend to them now that you’ve been through this at such a large, global scale? What did you learn in the process that you think they should be mindful of?

Change, challenge, partner up

Güereque: First of all, be able to change, and to challenge yourself. We can do much more than we believe sometimes. That’s definitely something that one can be skeptical of, because of the legacy we have been working through over many years. Today, we have been challenged to reinvent ourselves.

The second one is, there is tons of public information that we can leverage to be able to find successful use cases and learn from them. And the third one is, approach one consultant or partner that has experience in putting all these things in place. Because it is, as I mentioned, not a matter of just enabling people to WFH, it’s a matter of putting all the security environment in place, and all of the tools that are required to be able to perform as a team so you can deliver the results.

Brown: I’ll add one thing to that. It was about a year ago that I was visiting with Tim and the pandemic was starting to come to fruition. The pandemic had started overseas and was rapidly moving toward the US and other parts.

I met with Tim at Citrix and I said, “I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t know if this is going to be 100 people that go home or 300,000 people. But I know we need a partner to work with, and I know we have to partner through this process.”

So the big thing is that Citrix was that partner for us. You have to rely on your partners to do this because you just can’t simply do it by yourself.

Gardner: Tim, it sounds like an IT organization within Teleperformance is much more of an enabler to the rest of the organization, but you, at Citrix, are the enabler to the IT department at Teleperformance.

Minahan: Dana, to borrow a phrase, “It takes an ecosystem.” You move up that chain. We certainly partner with Teleperformance to enable their vision for a more agile workforce.

But, again, I’ll repeat that they’re doing that for their clients, allowing them to dial up and dial down resources as they need, to work-shift around the globe. So it is a true kind of agile workforce value chain that we’re creating together.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how businesses should rethink hiring, training, and talent optimization in the age of flexible work.

And we’ve learned how a global business process outsourcing leader, Teleperformance, has shown how distributed employees working from a Cloud Campus are improving productivity and their end users’ experience.

So a big thank you to our guests, José Güereque, Executive Vice President of Infrastructure, and Nearshore Chief Information Officer at Teleperformance. Thank you so much, José.

Güereque: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to Lance Brown, Executive Vice President of Global Network Telecom and Architecture at Teleperformance. Thank you, sir.

Brown: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And a big thank you lastly to Tim Minahan, Executive Vice President of Business Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer at Citrix. Thank you so much, Tim.

Minahan: Thanks, Dana. I appreciate the dialogue.

Gardner: And a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this special BriefingsDirect remote work innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of Citrix-sponsored BriefingsDirect discussions.

Thanks again for listening, please pass this along to your business associates, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Citrix.

Transcript of a discussion on how a global business process outsourcing leader uses a “Cloud Campus” to improve remote worker productivity and their end users’ experience. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2021. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Rethinking Employee Well-Being Means Innovative New Support for the Digital Work-Life-Balance

Transcript of a discussion on the current state of employee well-being and how new pressures and complexity from distance working demand new forms of employer-managed support.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Citrix.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.

The tumultuous shift over the past year to nearly all-digital and frequently at-home work has amounted to a rapid-fire experiment in human adaptability. While there are many successful aspects to the home-exodus experiment, as with all disruption to human behavior, there are also some significant and highly personal downsides.

Stay with us now as we explore the current state of employee well-being and examine how new pressures and complexity from distance working may need new forms of digital support, too.

To learn more about coping in an age of unprecedented change in blended work and home life, we’re now joined by our guests, Carolina Milanesi, Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies and founder at The Heart of Tech. Welcome, Carolina.

Carolina Milanesi: Thank you for having me.

Gardner: We’re also here with Amy Haworth, Senior Director, Employee Experience at Citrix. Welcome, Amy.

Amy Haworth: It’s great to be here.

Gardner: And we’re here with Ray Wolf, Chief Executive Officer at A2K Partners. Welcome, Ray.

Ray Wolf: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: Amy, how are predominantly digital work habits adding to employee pressures and complexities? And at this point, is it okay not to be okay with all of these issues and new ways of doing things?

Distance work redefines employee wellness

Haworth: Thanks, Dana. It’s such an important question. What we have witnessed in the last 12 months is an unfolding of the humanness of a very powerful transformational experience in the world. It is absolutely okay not to be okay. To be able to come alongside those who are courageous enough to admit it is one of the most important roles that organizations are being called upon to play in the lives of our employees. 

Oftentimes, I think about what’s happened in 2020 and 2021. It’s as if the tide went out. It exposes fissures in our connectedness in the way organizations operate -- even in the support systems we have in place for employees.

We’ve learned that unless employees are okay, our organizational health is at risk, too. Taking care of employees and enabling employees to take care of themselves shifts the conversation to new, innovative ways of doing that.

The last 12 months have shown us that we’ve never faced something like this before, so it’s only natural that we lacked a lot of the support systems and mechanisms to enable us to get through it.

There has been some amazing innovation to help close that gap. But it’s also been as if we’ve been flying the plane, while also figuring out how to do this all better. So, absolutely, yes, there are new challenges -- but also a lot of growth. Being able to come alongside and being able to raise the white flag when needed makes it worth doing.

Gardner: Carolina, the idea for corporations of where their responsibility is has shifted a great deal. It used to be that employees would drive out of the parking lot -- and they’d be off on their way, and there was no further connection. But when they’re working at home and facing new forms of fatigue or emotional turmoil, the company is part of that process, too. Do you see companies recognizing that?

Milanesi: Absolutely. To be honest with you, it’s been a long time in coming because although I might drive away from the parking lot -- for a lot of employees -- that’s not when the work stops.

Either because you’re working across different time zones or because you’re on call, if you’re a knowledge worker, chances are that your days are not a nine-to-five kind of experience. That had not been fully understood. The balance that people have to find in working and their private life has been under strain for quite some time.

Now that we’ve been at home, there’s no escape [from work]. That’s the realization companies have come to -- that we are in this changed world and we are all at home. It’s not just that I decided to be a remote worker, and it’s just me. It’s me and whoever else is living with me -- a partner, or maybe parents that I’m looking after, and children, all co-sharing apartments and all of that.

So, the stress is not just mine. It’s the stress of all of the people living with me. That is where more attentiveness needs to come in, to understand the personal situations that individuals are in -- especially for under-represented groups.

For example, if you think about women and how they feel about talking -- or not talking -- about their children or caregiver responsibilities, they often shy away from talking about it. They may think it reflects badly on them.

All of those stresses were there before, but they became exacerbated during the pandemic. This has made organizations realize how much weight is on the shoulders of their employees, who are human beings after all.

Gardner: Ray at A2K Partners, you probably find yourself between the companies and their employees, helping with the technology that joins them and makes them productive. How are you seeing the reaction of both the employees and the businesses? Are they coming together around this -- or are we just starting that process?

Wolf: I think we’re only in the second inning here, Dana. In our conversations with chief human resources officers (CHROs), they come to the conversation saying, “Ray, is there a better way? Do we really need to live with the way things are for our employees, particularly with the way they interface with technology and the applications that we give them to get their jobs done?”

We’re able to reassure them that, yes, there is a better way. The level of dissatisfaction and anxiety that employees have working with technology doesn’t have to be there anymore. What’s different now is that people are not accepting the status quo. They’re asking for a better way forward. The great news -- and we’ll get into this a little bit later -- is there are a lot of things that can be done.

The concept of work-life balance, right? It’s no longer two elements at the end of a see-saw that’s in balance. It looks more like a puzzle, where you’re shifting in and out -- often in 15-minute or 30-minute intervals -- between your personal life and your work life.

So how can technology better facilitate that? How can we put people into their flow state so they have a clear cognitive view of what they need to get done, set the priorities, and lead them into a good state when they need to return to their family activities and duties?

Gardner: Amy, what hasn’t changed is the fundamental components of this are people, process, and technology. The people part, the human resources (HR) part, perhaps needs to change because of what we’ve seen in the last year.

Do you see the role of HR changing? Is it even being elevated in importance within the organization?

Empowered employees blend life, work

Haworth: The role of HR really has elevated. I see it as an amplification of employee voice. HR is the employee advocate and the employee’s voice into the organization.

It’s one thing to be the voice when no one’s listening. It’s much more interesting to be the voice when people are listening and to steer the organization in the direction that puts talent at the center, with talent first.

We’re having discussions and dialog about what’s needed to create the most powerful employee experience, one where employees are seen or heard and feel included in the path forward. One thing that’s so clear is we are shaping this all together, collectively. We are together shaping the future in which we will all live.

Being able to include that employee voice as we craft what it means to go to work or to do work in the years ahead means in many ways that it's an open canvas. There are many ways to do hybrid work.

Being able to include that employee voice as we craft what it means to go to work or to do work in the years ahead means in many ways that it’s an open canvas. There are many ways to do hybrid work, which clearly seems to be the direction most organizations are going. Hybrid is quite possibly the future direction education is heading, too.

A lot of rethinking is happening. As we harness that collective voice, HR’s leadership is bringing that to the table, bringing it into decisions, and entering into a more experimental mindset. Where we are looking to in the future and how we find ways to innovate around hybrid work is increasingly important.

Gardner: Carolina, when we look at the role of technology in all of this, how should an HR organization such as Amy’s use technology to help -- rather than contribute to the problem?

Milanesi: That’s the key question, right? Technology cannot come as another burden that I have to deal with when it comes to employees.

I love Ray’s analogy of the puzzle of the life we live. I stopped talking about work-and-life balance years ago and started talking instead about working-life-blend because if you blend there’s room to maneuver and change. You can compromise and put less stress on one area versus the other.

So, technology needs to come in to help us create that blend – and it has to be very personal. The most important thing for me is that one size doesn’t fit all. We’re all individuals, we’re all different. And although we might share some commonalities, the way that my workflow is setup is very different from yours. It has to speak to me because otherwise it becomes another burden.

So, one part is helping with that blend. Another part for technology to play is not making me feel that the tool I’m using is an overseer. There are a lot of concerns when it comes to remote working, that organizations are giving you tools to manage you -- versus help you. That’s where the difference lies, right? For me, as an employee, I need to make sure that the tool is there to just help me do my work.

It doesn’t have to be difficult. It has to be straightforward. It keeps me in the flow, and helps me with my blended life. I also think that the technology needs to be context-aware. For example, what I need in the office is different from what I need when I’m at home or when I’m at the airport -- or wherever I might be to doing work.

The idea that your task is dependent or is influenced by the context you’re in is important as well. But simplicity, security, and my privacy are all three components that are important to me and should be important to my organization.

Gardner: Ray, Carolina just mentioned a few key words: context, feelings, and the idea of an experience rather than fitting into what the coder had in mind. It wasn’t that long ago that applications pretty much forced people to behave in certain ways in order to fit set processes. 

What I’m hearing, though, is that we have to have more adaptable processes and technologies to account for a person’s experiences and feelings. Is that not possible? Or is it pie-in-the-sky to bring the human factor and the technology together?

Technology helps workers work better

Wolf: Dana, the great news is the technology is here today with the capability to that. The sad part is the benchmark is still pretty low. The fact is when it comes to providing technology to enable workers to get their jobs done, there is really very little forethought as to how it’s architected and orchestrated.

People are often simply given login information to the multiple applications that they need to use to get things done during the day. The most that we do in terms of consideration for these employees is create a single sign-on. So, for the first five minutes of your day, we have a streamlined, productive, and secure way to login -- but then it’s a free for all. Processes are standard across employee types. There’s no consideration for how the individual employee wants to get work done, of what works best for them.

We subject very highly talented and creative people to a lot of low-value, repetitive tasks. Citrix Workspace allows you to automate out those mundane tasks, allowing workers to contribute more to critical business needs.

In addition, we subject very highly talented and creative people to a lot of low-value, repetitive tasks. One of the things that CHROs bring up to me all the time is, “How can I get my employees working at the top of their skills range, as opposed to the bottom of their skills range?”

Today there are platforms such as Citrix Workspace that allow you to automate out those mundane tasks, take into consideration where the employees should be spending their time, and allowing them to contribute more to the critical business needs of an organization.

Gardner: Amy, to that point of the way employees perceive of their work value, are you seeing people mired in doing task-based work? Or are you seeing the opportunity for people to move past that and for the organization to support them so that they can do the work they feel most empowered by? How are organizations helping them move past task to talent?

Haworth: Great question, and I love how you phrase that move from task to talent. So a couple things come to mind. Number one, organizations are looking to take friction out of the work-day. That friction is energy, and that energy could be better spent for an employee doing something they love to do -- something that is their core skill set or why they were hired into that organization to start with.

A recent statistic I heard was that average workflow tends to involve at least four different stops along an application’s path. Think about what it takes to submit an expense report.

As much as possible, we’re looking for ways that take friction out of those interactions so employees get a sense of progress at the end of the day. The energy they’re expending in their jobs and roles should feel like it’s coming back threefold.

Ray touched on the idea of flow, but the conversation in 2021, based on the data we’ve seen, shows that employees feel fatigued because of the workload. What emerged from a lot of the survey work across multiple research firms last year was this sense of fatigue. You know, “My workload doesn’t match the hours that I have in the day.”

So, in HR circles, we’re beginning to think about, “Well, what do we do about that?” Is this a conversation more about energy and energetic spend? Initially [in the pandemic] there was a lot of energy spent just transforming how things were done. And now we get to think about when things are done. When do I have the most energy to do that hard thing? And then, “How is the technology helping me to do it? And is it telling me when it’s probably time to take a break?”


At Citrix we’ve recently introduced some really interesting notifications to help with this idea of well-being so that integration of technology into the workday helps as an employee manages their energy – to take, for example, a five-minute meditation break because they have been working solid for three hours. That might be a really good idea rather than that cup of coffee, for example.

So we’re starting to see a combination of the helpfulness of technology in a way that’s invited by employees. Carolina makes a great point about the privacy concerns, and so it comes in a way that’s invited by employees. That ultimately enables a state of flow and that feeling of progress and good use of the talent that each employee brings into the organization.

Gardner: Carolina, when we think about technology of 10 or more years ago, oftentimes developers would generate a set of requirements, create the application, and throw it over the wall. People would then use it. 

But what I just heard from Amy was much more about the employee having agency in how they use the technology, maybe even designing the flow and processes based on what works for them.

Have we gotten to the point where the technology is adaptive and people have a role in how services -- maybe micro-services -- are assembled? Are people becoming more like developers, rather than waiting for developers to give them the technology to use?

Optimize app workflows

Milanesi: Absolutely. Not everybody is in that kind of no-code environment yet to create their own applications from scratch, but certainly a lot of people are using micro-apps that come together into a workflow in both their private and work lives. 

Smartphone growth marked the first time that each of us started to be more in control of the applications that create workflows in a private way. The arrival of your own device into enterprise also meant bringing your own applications into enterprise.

As you know, it was a bit of the Wild West for a while, and then we harnessed that. Organizations that are most successful are the ones that stopped fighting this change and actually embraced it. To Amy’s point, there are ways to diminish and lower the friction that we feel as employees when we want to work in a certain way and to use all of the applications and tools, even ones that an IT department may not want us to. 

There is more friction and time loss in someone trying to go around that problem and creating back doors that bypass IT than for IT to empower me to do that work, as long as my assets and data are secure. As long as it’s secure, I should have a list of applications and tools that I can choose from and create my own best workflows.

Gardner: Ray, how do you see that balance between employee-agency and -agility and what the IT department allows? How do we keep the creativity flowing from the user, but at the same time put in the necessary guardrails?

Wolf: You can achieve both. This is not employee workflow at the sacrifice of security. That’s the state of technology today. Just in terms of where to get started with the idea of employees designing their workflows, this is exactly how we’re going about it with many customers today.

I mean, what an ironic thought: To actually ask the people involved in the day-to-day work what’s working for them and what’s not. What’s causing you frustration and is high-value to the company? So you can easily identify five places to go get started to automate and streamline.

What an ironic thought: To actually ask the people in the day-to-day work what's working for them and what's not. What's causing you frustration and is high-value to the company?

And the beautiful thing about it is when you ask the worker where that frustration is, and you solve it, two things happen. One, they have ownership and the adoption is very high as opposed to leadership-driven decisions. And we see this happening everyday today. It’s kind of the “smart guy in the room” syndrome where the people who don’t actually have to do the work are telling everybody what and how the workers actually want to get things done. It doesn’t work that way. 

The second is, once employees see -- with as little as two to three changes in their daily workflow -- what’s possible, their minds open up in terms of all the automation capabilities, all the streamlining that can occur, and they feel invigorated and energized. They become a much more productive and engaged member of the team. And we’re seeing this happen. It’s really an amazing process overall.

We used to think of work as 9 am to 5 pm -- eight hours out of your awake hours. Today, work occurs across every waking hour. This is something that remote workers have known for a long time. But now some 45 percent to 50 percent of the workforce is remote. Now it’s coming to light. Many more people are feeling like they need to do something about it.

So we need to sense what’s going on with those employees. Some of the technology that we’re working on is evaluating and looking at someone’s schedule. How many back-to-back meetings have they had? And then enforcing a cognitive break in their schedules so people can take a breather -- maybe take care of something in their personal lives.

And then, even beyond that -- with today’s technology such as smart watches -- we could look at things such as blood pressure and heart rates and decide if the anxiety level is too high or if an employee is in their proper flow. Again, we can then make adjustments to schedules, block out times on their calendars -- or, you know, even schedule some well-being visits with someone who could help them through the stresses in their lives.

Gardner: Amy, building on Ray’s point of enhancing well-being, if we begin using technology to allow employees to be productive, in their flow, but also gain inference information to support them in new ways -- how does that change the relationship between the organization and the employee? And how do you see technology becoming part of the solution to support well-being?

Trust enhances well-being

Haworth: There’s so much interesting data coming out over the last year about how the contract between employees and the organization is changing. There has been, in many cases, a greater level of trust. 

According to the research, many employees have trusted what their organizations have been telling them about the pandemic -- more than they trusted state and local governments or even national governments. I think that’s something we need to pay attention to.

Trust is that very-hard-to-quantify organizational benefit that fuels everything else. When we think about attraction, retention, engagement, and commitment -- some in HR believe that higher organizational commitment is the real driver to discretionary effort, loyalty, and tenure.

As we think about the role of the organization when it comes to well-being and how we build on trust where it’s healthy -- how can we uphold that with high regard? How can we better bridge that into a different employer-employee relationship -- perhaps one that’s better than we’ve ever seen before?

If we stand up and say, “Our talent is truly the human capital that will be front-and-center to helping organizations achieve their goals,” then we need to think about this. What is our new role? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s hard to think about being a high-performing employee if things are falling apart on the home front, and if we’re not able to cope.

For our organization, at Citrix, we are thinking about not only our existing programs and bolstering those, but we’re also looking for other partners who are truly experts in the well-being space. We can perhaps bring that new information into the organization in a way that integrates with and intersects into an employee’s day.

For us at Citrix, that is done through Citrix Workspace, and in many cases with the rapport of a managerial capability. That’s because we know so much of the trust relationship is between the employee and the manager, and it is human first and foremost.

Then we also need to think about how we continue to evolve and learn as we go. So much of this is uncharted. We want to make sure we’re open to learning. We’re continuing to invest. We’re measuring how things are working. And we’re inviting that employee voice in -- to help co-create.

Gardner: Carolina, from what we just heard from Amy, it sounds like there’s a richer, more intertwined relationship between the talent pool and the organization. And that they are connected at the hip, so to speak, digitally. It sounds like there’s a great opportunity for new companies and a solutions ecosystem to develop around this employee well-being category.

Do you see this as a growth opportunity for new companies and for organizations within existing enterprises? It strikes me that there’s a huge new opportunity.

Tech and the human touch

Milanesi: I do think there’s a huge opportunity. And that’s good and bad in my view because obviously, when there’s a lot of opportunity, there also tends to be fragmentation.

Many different things are going to be tried. And not everybody has the expertise to help. There needs to be an approach from the organization’s perspective so that these solutions are vetted.

But what is exciting is the role that companies like Citrix are taking on to become a platform for that. So there might be a start-up that has a great idea and then leverages the Citrix Workspace platform to deliver that idea.

Then you have the opportunity to use the expertise that Citrix brings to the table. They have been focused on workflows and employee empowerment for many years. What I’m excited to see is organizations that come out and offer that platform to make the emerging ecosystem even richer.

I also love what Amy said about human trust as first-and-foremost. That’s what I caution people to make it all about. Technology should not be a crutch, where technology comes in to try and make you suffer less, but still does not solve the problem. And technology should not be the only solution you adopt.

I might have a technological check-in that tells me that I’m taking on too many meetings or that I should take a break, but there is nothing better than a manager giving you a call or sending you an email to let you know you are seen as a human, that your work is seen by other humans.

I love what you were saying earlier about the difference between the task and the talent. That’s another part where -- if we have more technology that helps us with the mundane stuff and we can focus on what we enjoy doing -- that also helps us showcase the value that we bring as an employee and then the value of the task, not just the output.

A lot of times, some of these technology solutions that are delivered are about making me more productive. I don’t know about you guys, but I don't wake up in the morning and say, “I want to be more productive today.” I wake up and want to get through the day. I want to enjoy myself; I want to make a contribution and to feel that I make a difference for the company I’m working for.

And that’s what technology should be able to do: Come in and take away the mundane, take away the repetitive, and help me focus on what makes a difference -- and what makes me feel like I’m contributing to the success within my company.

Gardner: Ray, I would like to visit the idea of consequences of the remote-work era. Just as people can work from anywhere, that also means they can work for just about anyone.

If you’re working for a company that doesn’t seem to have your well-being as a priority and doesn’t seem to be interested in your talents as much as your tasks, you can probably find a few other employers quite easily from the very same spot that you’re in.

How has the competitive landscape shifted here? Do companies do this because it’s a nice thing to do? Or will they perhaps find themselves lacking the talent if the talent wants to work for someone who better supports them?

Employees choose work support

Wolf: Dana, that ultimately is the consequence. Once we get through this immediate situation from the pandemic, and digest the new learning about working remote, we will have choices.

Employers are paying attention to this in a number of ways. For example, I was just on the phone with a CHRO from a Fortune 50 company. They have added a range of well-being applications that help in the taking care of the employees there.

But there are also some cultural changes that need to occur. This CHRO was explaining to me that even though they have all these benefits -- including 12 hours off a month or more so-called mental health days – they are struggling with some of the managers. They are having trouble getting managers, some of whom may be later on in their careers, to actually model these new behaviors and give the employees and workers permission to take advantage of the benefits from these well-being applications.

The ones who evolve culturally, and who pay attention to this change, are ultimately going to be the winners. It may be another 6 or 18 months, but we'll get there.

So we have a way to go. But the ones who evolve culturally, and who pay attention to this change, are ultimately going to be the winners. It may be another 6 or 18 months, but we’ll definitely get there. In the interim, though, workers can do something for themselves.

There are a lot of ways to stay in-tune with how you’re feeling and give yourself a break and better scheduling of time. I know we would like to have technology that forces that into the schedule, but you can do that for yourself now as an interim step. And I think there are a lot of possibilities here -- and more not that far in the future.

There are things that could be done immediately to bring a little bit of relief, help people see what’s possible, and then encourage them to continue working down this path of the intersection of well-being and employee workflow.

Gardner: I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. You’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect discussion on how the tumultuous shift over the past year to nearly all digital remote work has amounted to a rapid-fire experiment in human adaptability.

And we’ve learned how employee well-being in the age of distance working may need some new forms of digital and cultural business services support as well.

So a big thank you to our guests, Carolina Milanesi, Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies and Founder at The Heart of Tech. Thank you so much, Carolina.

Milanesi: Thank you very much for a great conversation.

Gardner: We’ve also been joined by Amy Haworth, Senior Director, Employee Experience at Citrix. Thank you, Amy.

Haworth: Thank you. This has been enlightening in so many ways and it’s a great conversation. Thanks for having it, Dana.

Gardner: And we’ve been here as well with Ray Wolf, Chief Executive Officer at A2K Partners. Thanks so much, Ray.

Wolf: Thank you, Dana. This is such an important subject and success is right around the corner.

Gardner: And lastly a big thank you as well to our audience for joining this special BriefingsDirect remote work innovation discussion. I’m Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series of Citrix-sponsored BriefingsDirect discussions.

Thanks again for listening, please pass this along to your business associates, and do come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Citrix.

Transcript of a discussion on the current state of employee well-being and how new pressures and complexity from distance working may need new forms of employer-managed support. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2021. All rights reserved.

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