Building Workplace Culture in a Virtual Environment

Can technology adequately support corporate culture in a hybrid or remote work environment? That’s the question HR stakeholders are now asking that virtual work is here to stay, and as tech companies introduce new features to address the lack of in-office spontaneity that can encourage freewheeling creativity while avoiding employee fatigue.

Since the pandemic began, the company culture has been under pressure. The major resignation, the one million deaths in the United States from the novel coronavirus, racial injustice, and the struggle for union representation in many prominent organizations are just some of the societal trends that have raised workers’ fears and doubts about the extent to which companies will go to support their employees. .

At the same time, a new wave of technological advances has presented new opportunities to capture workers’ behaviours, patterns of thinking and feelings. Among those technologies is artificial intelligence.

Machine learning allows the technology to adapt to the individual, unlike previous big data tools that required workers to adapt to the technology, notes Paul Rubinstein, chief personnel officer at Visier, a people-analytics company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“We have to start seeing ourselves in technology,” he said. “I don’t think it’s about technology replacing human interaction, I think it’s about us using technology to the fullest rather than being constrained or trapped by technology and the way someone else designed it,” Rubinstein said.

He added that there has been a shift in the types of data companies can collect on employees. Employers have collected data for a long time, such as when employees started their day, what they work on and how many hours they work, but this type of data is not enough to effectively create a positive work experience, especially in the virtual world of work.

“Employees need to be able to look at the data and know that they are not connected to enough people or they are only talking to the same people or that they are isolated. People need to see themselves in the data because it holds a mirror for them. This is the first big shift. We must have Gather and disseminate data to help everyone see a more human reality,” Rubinstein said.

Using employee data to make decisions will be critical to employers as they figure out the best way to improve the remote worker experience, especially if employers want to increase engagement and get the best performance out of their employees.

In a survey by Workday, 268 HR leaders were asked to rank the top issues they believe will accelerate digital transformation across the broader business: 50% cite positive employee experiences as the most important issue. In second place, 45 percent of respondents said the increased focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion is most important.

To create positive experiences, technology companies focus on providing digital solutions that eliminate the distance between employees and employers and digitize aspects of work that occur during those unstructured, stimulating encounters of the moment. The goal is to integrate human behavior into their programming.

For example, Zoom has added gesture recognition features that allow users to raise their hands or give a thumbs up when users want to express their feelings without interrupting the speaker.

Salesforce’s Slack recently introduced Gatherings, a voice-only chat feature the company says is designed to recreate — to the extent technology can — the spontaneity of a quick water-cooler-type meeting in the office or a pause at a colleague’s desk to ask a question. The tool can also be used to help recreate a physical space where entire teams can meet, such as marketing teams that often work together throughout the day.

Oracle recently introduced the Oracle ME (My Experience) platform, which consists of six modules targeting corporate culture. The tools provide workflow guidance to help workers complete professional and personal activities that range from setting up or transferring to a new role and getting married or having a child.

Additionally, Oracle ME makes it easy for employees to foster ongoing engagement between employees and managers. The platform also helps keep the workforce abreast of changes, enhance organizational culture and nurture bonds between employees. This ultimately promotes affiliation in the workplace and development.

According to Zachary Chertok, Director of Research in Employee Experience at International Data Corporation Needham, Massachusetts, when employers consider the elements of a physical workplace, they need to think about how to provide both the organization and its employees with the tools to stay connected, engaged, and collaboratively and creatively in a solution problems, regardless of the employees’ work environment.

Chertock said employees should think about how to work in a way that allows them to set the pace, tone, and equivalent of what work-life balance means to them.

“We are in an age where we are looking, at a strategic level, at the role that technology and, to a slightly lesser extent, data and extension services play in guiding organizations to that personal equality,” Chertock said.

He added, “It’s no longer about one policy for all, it’s about, ‘Where can we offer flexibility in work, office and work requirements on a role level and on a personal level?'” “And making sure that those resources and choices are distributed as equitably as possible.”

In an effort to grow a company culture that will thrive in a remote and hybrid work model, Rubinstein said technology must do a better job of capturing and managing the kinds of spontaneous experiences employees have with one another in traditional office environments.

“We need digital technologies that see how employees interact so that we can create a physical map of interactions and make sure we don’t leave the best people behind,” Rubinstein said.

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.

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