I spent some time yesterday speaking with three chief human resource officers–Diane Gherson of IBM, Peter Fasolo of J&J and Michael Fraccaro of Mastercard–to further probe how the pandemic may change the future of work. They agreed the last five months have shown the power of working virtually, and have had some significant benefits—such as creating a more inclusive environment for decision-making, and bringing down silos.
But the lockdown also has exposed the shortcomings of work-from-home—chief among them is its effects on collaboration and innovation. Fasolo was the most pointed on this. He says Johnson & Johnson has made clear to employees that “when it is safe to do so, we want you to return to the workplace. We believe collaboration and innovation is fueled in large part by the connections of people.” Gherson referred to the “bank of trust we all build when we work together physically. It doesn’t have to be five days a week, but it sure needs to be once a month, or one day a week.”
All agreed that attention to employee well-being, heightened by the pandemic, will continue once it has passed. “The blurring of lines of work and home life–that’s a challenge,” said Fraccaro. “We are working through what we can do to help employees from physical and psychological and emotional standpoint.”
But the most interesting takeaway was their views on the effect the pandemic has had on the fundamental nature of the corporation, and the leadership needed to run it. “Hierarchies have flattened,” Gherson said. “Everyone has access to the same information, everyone is more digitally connected. You can’t micromanage anymore. You aren’t managing by walking around. You have to focus on outcomes, not inputs.” The result: “You have to, as a leader, focus on team collaboration.”
“The way that leaders will lead in the future absolutely is going to be different,” Fraccaro agreed. “During this period they have had to adapt to working virtually and continue motivating their workers. There also has been a change in their level of vulnerability. It has brought out a human side. For the most part leaders have stepped up.” In addition, “leaders will need to think about how they need to engage around other societal issues as well.”
More news below, including the tech leaders’ drubbing on Capitol Hill.