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Shaping the future of hybrid work


Computing and infrastructure giant Dell Technologies has found itself re-examining its own assumptions about the world of work and redefining all expectations, says Jennifer Saavedra, the company’s chief human resources officer. Early on I heard people say, ‘I can’t wait to get back to doing things the way they were. “This is not a strategy for success at all,” Saavedra says. “It comes down to thinking about these past 18 months. what did we learn? What are some great things that we want to move forward on? What are some of those challenges or obstacles? How do we renew expectations? “

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

For example, Dell’s 25,000-plus sales team can’t gather in one location at any one time — not to mention the army of HR, finance, and marketing people who support them. Like many companies, Dell has a practice of holding personal training and leadership sessions for all sales managers, with confidence that the strategies and a sense of common purpose in those meetings will keep them up to date and on file.

The pandemic changed all of that. Suddenly, managers couldn’t meet face to face, but everyone could meet virtually on video conferencing platforms like Zoom. Although it was a great opportunity to connect and network, figuring out how to engage multiple people in a virtual environment was a challenge, Saavedra says. “You’re not just trying to replicate what you did in personal experience or in the classroom.”

Resources for developing skills or absorbing new material, often delivered in groups or groups of classes in the old days, have been moved online to the Dell Learning Studio, where people can visit them individually at their leisure. The group component of events, now held virtually, focuses on collaboration and communication. “Instead of having a driving program or training program, it is now a training experience or a driving experience,” Saavedra adds. “This change in language actually reflects the change in design.”

Dell has completely reimagined its training function: for example, individual learning plans were expanded, and group training for each of its 15,000 engineers increased, across more job functions, to address knowledge gaps and specific requirements.

Embracing technology and culture together

Redefining the workplace to be independent of physical location required fundamental changes in technology and organizational culture. For the most part, that doesn’t mean “business” is redefined as such, which remains focused on results, such as productivity, innovation, communication, customer experiences, and other key performance metrics. But for many employees, these quick and necessary changes have proven that a work environment can be flexible, collaborative, location-specific and still get the job done, perhaps even better than before. Their production—goal achievement—has largely offset the face as a primary measure of performance.

Global consulting firm Deloitte calls the new model “distributed by design.” Her research reveals that 77% of employees say they can be productive — or even more so — working from home (although most think they are productive about 58% of the time). “Employers should focus on improving the workforce experience by reducing mandatory meetings and email and focusing on culture and wellbeing,” says Alex Braier, managing director and US public sector leader for organizational strategy, design, and transformation at Deloitte.

Dell’s data also reflects improved working conditions, including less stress and better communication with colleagues. For example, more than half of organizations that establish a “mixed” business model—that is, incorporating a mixture of in-office and remote work into employee schedules—reported increased employee satisfaction and well-being.

Although many experienced managers aren’t comfortable with a distributed workplace because they feel they can manage people better when they can see them, Braier says that’s a myth. “The percentage of workers you can see at any one time is very small. Doing work with virtual collaboration tools can enable you to collect massive amounts of data, and you can do a much better job of understanding how work is actually done by mining that data.”

Managers in an organization can use metadata generated on collaboration platforms to see the general pattern of employees who collaborate and who are left out, who leads meetings and who attends them. They can track whether diverse groups and interests are represented across all relevant teams, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion goals in their organization. Adhering to metadata, rather than tracking individual activity, keeps data mining anonymous, while allowing leaders to monitor the overall health of their distributed workforce.

Dell Black Friday – 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 interact with everyone’s performance and promotion, and hundreds of employees work over the course of a year. the hour. Gene Felch, Dell’s chief digital and chief information officer, says the pandemic has forced a major overhaul — moving all dashboards from central war rooms to individual screens for team members at home, and setting up alerts so they don’t miss key information or opportunities to take action if they withdraw.

The transformation was so successful that although the company could have considered a return at least partially to in-person service that was set up for 2021, it chose to continue the “epidemiological method”. That way, “people can stay home. They can have dinner with their families,” and still be effective, Felt says.

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This content was produced by Insights, the dedicated content arm of the MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of the MIT Technology Review.

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