How technology can support new ways of working
The opportunities for how businesses can change the way they work have been there for some time now. This change has been brought about largely by the proliferation of technology, which is creating new possibilities for businesses, and evolving attitudes, as many businesses priorities have shifted to the likes of wellbeing and employee engagement or challenging long-established business models to improve efficiencies.
Take for example Octopus, the sustainable energy provider. Its CEO, Greg Jackson, announced earlier this year that the company now has no HR or IT department. Which, in fact, is true - instead of dedicated departments to these areas, the responsibility of HR and IT falls within the remit of each team and those divisional heads will oversee these important functions.
You can only speculate that although these functions are now more closely tied into the specific needs of independent teams and separated across the business, that its HR and IT will still be joined up across the business through its ERP (enterprise resource planning) technology. So, any data collected and organised can still be used to report back to business leaders to gain an understanding of behaviours across the business.
This is just one organisational example of a new way of working, but it demonstrates how every business’ narrative is going to be totally unique to them. We all know that the physical changes we have seen over the last year in terms of the workplace has not only made businesses realise how agile and collaborative they must be, but how agile and collaborative they can be. With it has come change.
Many businesses in response to the pandemic have been able to pivot operations, teams, services - in some cases almost overnight. That adaptability has somewhat removed some of the scepticism held by some business leaders to change. Now, when you talk to business leaders, the conversations are not just about change but how we can implement immediate action. Whether that’s in the form of hybrid working models or investing in technology, it's different for every business.
For us, the way we look at the data our business produces has gone from monthly and quarterly, to daily and weekly. So, we can gain a better understanding in real-time of how we are performing.
Not every business however, is going to be like Octopus or Nationwide with its ‘work where you work best’ policy; some businesses will only want to make minor changes, or tweaks to how they operate. As mentioned above, collaboration is going to be one of the key words used during the next few years as businesses look to recover and grow out of the pandemic. And technology is going to be central to collaboration.
Connecting Finance and HR
Traditionally finance has always been seen as the numbers and HR has been about people. But as data continues to become one of businesses most valuable currencies, the two areas are becoming blurred and through business management software, businesses are bringing the two closer together to ultimately understand how people affect the numbers - no matter where their teams may end up working.
Employee or people strategies are becoming more commonplace, and it’s likely for many businesses who have, are in the midst of, or plan to change their business strategy, that people will become central to this. For any successful business though, the numbers have to stack up - so no matter how the way we work changes or what new priorities are at the top of the list, everything the business does still has to be underpinned by financial viability and sustainability.
This is a big part of the reason why finance and HR should be working in collaboration moving forwards, if they weren’t already. HR has a treasure trove of data that can influence business strategy, and it's up to finance and HR teams to come together to truly understand those insights. HR holds information on employee loyalty, details on recruitment, on culture and on productivity. The easiest way for businesses to harvest these insights is through technology.
Business management or ERP is nothing new to the world of work, but the tools they provide and how they are used by businesses is evolving. Integration is often the key word businesses express in their case for introducing an upgrade or an entire new ERP altogether. Silos create barriers to collaboration and ultimately growth, and more business leaders recognise just how important it is not only for finance professionals to visibly be able to see data inputted by HR professionals, but also analyse and extract what that data is telling them.
Rarely now do businesses want to invest in a finance management system or a workspace for its HR teams that don’t connect to each other and other areas of the business - or at least part of their digitisation roadmap includes integration at some point in the journey. How businesses work may be evolving, but fundamentals like finance and HR will always be relevant, it’s just for each individual business to work out how best to deploy them to suit the outcomes they want.
Investing in holistic technology solutions is going to be a fundamental part of the post-pandemic world as businesses look to collaboration and integration to boost productivity, wellbeing and ultimately fuel growth.
Watch our on-demand webinar on how to reshape your business strategy.
To find out more about adapting to a post-lockdown world of work and how HR and finance should be connected, watch our on-demand webinar today where myself, our Chief People Officer, Claire Scott and our Chief Financial Officer, Rob Binns, discuss how technology has enabled businesses to be flexible and adapt, and how to build a strong strategy with views on what the future may look like.