3 Key Priorities CIOs and CHROs to Partner on Improving Employee Experiences

Ask any Digital Trailblazer, including CIOs and CDOs, about the most demanding aspects of leading digital transformation, and they’ll respond with the challenges of leading people and changing mindsets. Whether building executive support for critical initiatives, converting detractors to supporters, or working with department leaders on business process evolution, Digital Trailblazers must develop superior people skills to drive the culture changes required for digital transformations.

CIO CHRO Digital Transformation Partner on Employee Experience

Evolving the culture has many challenges, and digital transformation initiatives are a significant driver of new ways to collaborate, innovate, and experiment. But do CHROs and CIOs partner on defining a vision and executing a plan for digitally driven culture transformation?

I recently wrote this in a blog post:

“When I speak to CHRO, human resource leaders, learning and development officers, and HR IT specialists, they question why they aren’t directly involved in digital transformation strategies.” – What are HR’s Important New Roles in Uplifting Digital Transformation.

Digital transformation is the door for a CIO and CHRO partnership, and the question is whether the CIO opens it and if the CHRO invites their way in.

“Organizational culture is no longer solely the domain of HR,” says Emily Sperring, senior business agility enablement coach at Project & Team. “With digital tools becoming an integral part of daily work, the CIO’s role in shaping a conducive organizational culture is more significant than ever.”

The challenge is that cultural divides can impact employee experiences. When the CIO seeks data-driven experimentation, agile ways of working, or customer centricity, the employees often “get it” and embrace practices and mindset while their managers struggle to adapt.

CIOs and CHROs who partner and focus on employee experiences can drive a bottoms-up culture change required in digital transformations. Below are three key priorities.

1. Guide employees and managers on developing agile mindsets

“A culture that embraces digital transformation, lifelong learning, and agile methodologies can fuel innovation, productivity, and employee satisfaction,” says Sperring.

Many employees embrace agile, especially when organizations balance self-organization principles while creating and adopting standard ways of working. Employees want a say in their organization’s agile principles that guide innovation and productivity and seek team happiness to help drive continuous improvement.

StarCIO Vision Statement Template

But convincing stakeholders of agile planning and delivery benefits isn’t easy, especially when they have demanding priorities they want to be delivered yesterday. Agile leaders also struggle to get managers to separate expressing their business problems from solutions, and many agile teams struggle with really bad technology decisions when managers select them without a documented vision statement.  

“CHROs, with their deep understanding of employee needs, organizational dynamics, and culture, can provide valuable insights to CIOs in creating digital strategies that cater to these needs,” suggests Sperring. “On the other hand, CIOs can assist CHROs in understanding the technological possibilities and constraints, allowing them to design HR policies that leverage technology to improve employee experiences and work-life.”

2. Align performance management and hiring practices with transformation priorities

Let’s consider some data.

  • According to Dice’s survey, 80% of tech professionals want hybrid work, with more than 50% of their time working remotely.
  • Gartner reports that 86% of CIOs find more competition for qualified candidates, and 73% are worried about IT talent attrition.
  • Gartner reported in 2019 that 81% of HR leaders are changing their organization’s performance management system. “Efforts to use performance management to improve the effectiveness of collaboration typically fail as employees don’t see a clear individual benefit to effective collaboration and/or they don’t understand what specific actions they need to take to collaborate effectively.”

This data points to gaps between talent management and digital transformation objectives, a top-down issue that both CIOs and CHROs face. Are CIOs and CHROs aligned on strategy and challenge their peers on a combined front, or are they tackling these issues independently?   

“Workplace experience, talent development, and employee engagement are high-priority areas where CIOs and CHROs should partner regularly to improve employee experiences,” says Abhijit Mazumder, CIO of TCS. “It is also very important to keep evolving the performance management system to align with organizational priorities.”

My recommendation is to measure performance quarterly with this simple formula, P = (LD*T)X , where:

  • P = Performance measure
  • LD = Personal performance on meeting their learning and development objectives and demonstrating where they are applying them in their priorities
  • T = Team performance based on meeting quality releases that deliver business impact
  • X = A factor based on the organization’s meeting transformation objectives

3. Reward learning, experimentation, and data-driven practices

Career checklist for data leaders

My performance formula places learning and development at the center of what employees can directly control. I believe transformation must be a core organizational competency that only happens when leaders promote a learning and experimenting culture. CIOs and CHROs should be primary sponsors of digital and data learning objectives.

Rajesh Varrier, EVP and head of Infosys Americas agrees on the importance of setting learning objectives. “Organizations should build continuous training and lifelong learning into their culture, processes and offerings,” he says. “It’s crucial for employers to keep focus on employee development programs by giving employees on-demand learning tools to upskill and gain new, in-demand skills.”

Beyond learning and development, transformation requires smart experimentation and maturing data-driven practices. To drive a future way of working, people must have access to data and citizen development tools such as data viz for building dashboards, RPAs for automating work, and no-code platforms for building applications.

But CIOs know that deploying tools and providing training are just the starting ingredients. Driving adoption, developing standards, and delivering outcomes require a transformation management program that includes developing a vision, communicating priorities, and rewarding behaviors.

And that’s where CHROs can be a critical partner. CHROs can help answer what communications will resonate with employees and which incentives the executive team is more likely to embrace. Furthermore, communications must address which technologies and business processes will phase out during the transformation and how best to quell fears and help prepare employees for new digital practices.

“An organization needs to be aligned on which new technologies are being adopted and which legacy technologies are being left behind,” says Varrier. “Ensuring alignment across the organization leads to greater success in adoption, better business outcomes, and growth.”

CIOs and CHROs need a generative AI game plan

Generative AI capabilities that will drive the future of work are creating the next leg of the transformation management marathon. AI will drive the consumerization of search, require organizations to revitalize their intranets, create a new paradigm for software development, and radically evolve digital marketing.

Are CIOs and CHROs ready to partner on AI, guide employees in the transition, and lead their organizations to strategic and competitive capabilities? Better start yesterday.

Isaac Sacolick
Join us for a future session of Coffee with Digital Trailblazers, where we discuss topics for aspiring transformation leaders. If you enjoy my thought leadership, please sign up for the Driving Digital Newsletter and read all about my transformation stories in Digital Trailblazer.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.