Shaping the future of hybrid work

Computer and infrastructure giant Dell Technologies has proven to be rethinking its own assumptions about the world of work and redefining every expectation, said Jennifer Saavedra, the company’s chief human resources director. “Early on, I heard people say, ‘I just can’t wait to go back to doing things the way they were.’ This is never a strategy for success,” Saavedra said. “It’s about thinking about the last 18 months. What did we learn? What are some of the great things we want to convey? What were some of these challenges or obstacles? How to renew expectations? “

Saavedra sees many “great things”: opportunities to be more efficient, productive and inclusive, and ways for a rethought workplace to achieve goals that were previously impossible.

For example, Dell’s sales team of more than 25,000 could never meet in one place – let alone the army of human resources, finance and marketing that supports them. Like many companies, Dell conducted personal training and leadership events for all sales managers, trusting that the strategies and sense of purpose shared at these meetings would reach regular ones.

The pandemic changed all that. Suddenly, managers could not meet in person, but everyone could meet virtually, on video conferencing platforms like Zoom. While it was a great opportunity to connect and communicate, figuring out how to engage so many people in a virtual environment was a challenge, Saavedra said. “You’re not just trying to repeat what you did in person or in the classroom.”

Resources for developing skills or learning new material, often delivered in group or classroom settings in the old days, have moved online to Dell Learning Studio, where people can visit individually in their spare time. The group component of the events, which now take place virtually, focuses on collaboration and networking. “Instead of having a leadership program or a training program, now it’s a learning experience or leadership experience,” Saavedra added. “This change in language actually reflects the change in design.”

Dell has rethought its entire training function: for example, individual training plans have expanded, increasing group training for each of its 15,000 engineers to more work functions to address specific knowledge gaps and requirements.

Embrace technology and culture together

Redefining the workplace regardless of physical location requires fundamental changes in technology and organizational culture. For the most part, this does not mean redefining ‘work’ as one that still focuses on results such as productivity, innovation, communication, customer experience and other key performance indicators. But for many employees, these rapid and necessary changes have shown that the work environment can be flexible, collaborative and location-independent and still do the job, perhaps even better than before. Their result – the achievement of goals – has largely shifted a person’s time as a key indicator of effectiveness.

Deloitte, a global consulting firm, calls the new paradigm “design-driven.” His survey found that 77% of employees say they can be as productive – or even more – working from home (although most believe they are productive about 58% of the time). “Employers need to focus on improving the workforce experience by reducing mandatory meetings and emails and focusing on culture and well-being,” said Alex Brier, managing director and public sector leader in the United States on organizational strategy, design and transformation. Deloitte.

Dell’s data also reflects improved working conditions, including less stress and better relationships with colleagues. For example, more than half of the organizations that introduce a “hybrid” model of work – that is, including a mix of office work and remote work in employee schedules – report increased employee satisfaction and well-being.

Although many experienced managers do not feel comfortable with a distributed workplace because they believe they can manage people better when they can see them, Brier says this is a myth. “The percentage of workers you can see at any given time is very small. Doing work with virtual collaboration tools can allow you to collect vast amounts of data, and you can do a much better job of understanding how the work is actually done by digging up that data.

Managers in an organization can use metadata created on collaboration platforms to see the overall picture of which employees are collaborating and who are being missed, which ones are meeting and who is attending. They can monitor whether different groups and interests are represented in all relevant teams, promoting diversity, equity and the goals of their organization. Adherence to metadata, instead of tracking individual activity, keeps data retrieval anonymous, while allowing leaders to monitor the overall health of their distributed workforce.

Black Friday at Dell — as for many retailers, the biggest sales day of the year — has always been a personal high-pressure event, with “war rooms” set up around the world to monitor and respond to the performance of each individual. person. promotion and hundreds of employees working around the clock. Dell’s chief digital and chief information officer, Jen Felch, says the pandemic has required major repairs – moving all panels from centralized military rooms to individual home team screens and adjusting alerts so they don’t miss key information. or opportunities to take action in case they withdraw.

The transformation was so successful that although the company could consider returning at least in part to the personal one created for 2021, it chose to continue the “pandemic path.” In this way, “People can stay at home. They can have dinner with their families, “and yet be effective,” says Felch.

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This content was created by Insights, the personalized content of the MIT Technology Review. Not written by the MIT Technology Review.

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