Don Mishory: The last area where we’re seeing a lot of digital change, and I’d say the world has seen a tremendous amount of digital change, is around employee engagement over the last several months. What are your thoughts around employee engagement and how we use digital effectively there?
Jim MacLennan: So I’m just finishing up another article on my site about this. For employee engagement, obviously people will go to the remote work and the collaboration spaces. Which when you think about, it are two widely different things. The first step is, there’s not a lot of technical involved in here but there’s an awful lot of digital if you buy that. On the remote work side its how do you effectively communicate, just base communicate? And how do you keep tabs on people not to keep track of what they’re doing or not doing but more how do you make sure everybody is in alignment and going in the right direction? It’s a lot easier to manage people when you can see them but if you really want to take advantage of digital and you really want to take advantage of the world, as well as deal with things like shut downs, you have to be able to use these different forms of communication and that changes the style of your communication.
But the other piece that digital really brings to teams is this idea of collaboration, a completely different thing. How do you work together on deliverables, work product, processes without being able to see each other? There’s a balance there because there’s plenty of processes that you do need to have some sort of contact but it’s the visual, it’s the written, it’s all the different work product that you work on together inside your company and now as well as outside your company. Digital tools, the best tools right now, bring you those collaboration spaces that allow your teams and extended teams to be more effective.
Don: Makes sense. The one thing that I’m finding is managing people in a digital world is a different motion than managing people in a more analog/traditional world. I’m curious as to what you’ve seen. It’s definitely different when you don’t have the conference room, the office, those things that sort of set structures for management. How are you seeing that play out?
Jim: It’s really interesting because it gets into culture and true effectiveness. Are you an effective manager if the only way you know how to manage people is to tell them, very specifically, manage their tasks and tell them what to do step by step? And you saw that for years and years the ability to do video and collab and remote work has been around for a long time and people always found a reason not to do it, some people. But now that they were forced to do it, the discomfort just skyrocketed: 'I have to be able to see these people', 'I have to have a certain level of control.' And certainly, in what I would consider high growth opportunities, that’s not the most impactful way to really get the most out of your teams. COVID is really lowering the water as it were and all those kind of rocks are now showing themselves. It’s really interesting to see who can adapt quickly.
Don: It’s interesting to see how, you know we went through a period in March, April and May where it was: ‘ok this is temporary new normal, we’ll all adjust.’ To now we’re seeing some of the real challenges with pure remote work coming out and digital work coming out and that part that you talked about, collaboration, has become equally more important. How do you work together to get a deliverable out when people are in different time zones, not sitting in the same place, working on different schedules, kids at home and all of that? So it’s really changed how you engage employees.
Jim: It’s an interesting opportunity for IT and some engineering areas of the company to step up. Where they usually are sort of back in the shadows. [Now they can] say ‘oh no, everybody in sales and marketing and finance and legal now they have to actually start to learn how to do something different. We already have some experience, we can actually help you.' That’s putting both groups in roles that they’re not used to which is actually very good.
Don: We can talk about the change management implications at another time, but that’s a big part of what we’re finding that we’re helping organizations do is drive through that change and really change quickly.