Martin Russell, Netpremacy’s Director of Customer Success, is no stranger to building teams. Previously JustEat’s Director of IT, he has worked in several startups, growing IT teams from a handful of people to a core strategic function within the organisation. Now, he leads Netpremacy’s customer success team remotely, helping customers with their technology strategy, sweating their IT assets and future-proofing their organisations. Here are his thoughts on how technology leaders can start to shape hybrid working to encourage collaborative, productive and fulfilled teams.
“Firstly, let’s take a moment to recognise a great outcome from what has been a difficult time for everyone. We’re now in a world that understands it’s not the place of work that is special or important, it’s our people. With the right tools and attitude, businesses can thrive even when fully remote. Of course, hybrid/remote working is not without challenges, but this is an opportunity for us to become a more visible, more valuable IT team.
Make the office the carrot, not the stick
This was an aim I had for many years when I looked at technology and how it empowers people. I wanted offices to be somewhere we chose to go because we wanted to be together rather than it be “because that is where work happens”, or where our systems and data were. Let’s create a purpose for being there, and as a Tech team, we can make a big impact on the overall experience for people with well thought out cameras, jamboards for collaboration etc.
Some have loved the last year working from home. Some have hated it. As managers and IT leaders, we need to support our team and their individual needs. Consider that those with quiet voices may become even quieter, and it will be easy to slip into an in-office/at-home divide. We need to encourage open forums, open chat rooms, cameras on, time at the start/end, greet everyone as they attend – there is no silver bullet, it is all of these things and more. There is a section of the workforce with a digital life who are very comfortable with social media, chat rooms, socialising online via gaming or party based media consumption. But for many, this still might feel quite alien or uncomfortable. We need to develop a better understanding of pastoral care. Do you conduct one-to-ones beyond “are they doing their job?”
Make yourself visible
Being visible remotely is challenging but as IT leaders, the last year should have demonstrated just how key we are to our organisations. If you are in a business today that sees you as ‘basement IT’, there when things break or just a cost centre to the business – you need to stand up and be counted. I would highly recommend talking to others about the brand of IT within the business. Look for those opportunities to talk about what you are doing and why. Have a mission/vision for why you are where you are and what you and your team are trying to achieve.
As team leaders, we can also encourage the visibility of our team at an individual level. Consider daily stand-ups to encourage regular communication in your team or ways of working like sprints. Simple but short achievable commitments that can be regularly delivered go a long way in quickly demonstrating success when not everyone can not be seen/heard.
Focus on adding value
We need to spend our time on value creation, not replicating other’s work for the sake of it. Take security – it’s a critical, complex function and one that’s even harder remotely. Why make our job more difficult than it needs to be? Don’t try and do everything yourself. Consume the best in class services, make the most of the tech giants (like Google) who spend billions a year to protect their services way beyond our individual organisation’s capabilities.
Our most successful customers are ones that don’t treat things in isolation. Much of the technology we use now, especially the Google stack, touches so many areas beyond just collaboration – identity management, device management, security (both prevention and investigation), to name a few. Look for those areas and opportunities to consolidate and sweat the existing asset.
Stay open to ideas
For me, the biggest drawback of hybrid working is the impact on chance encounters, the spark of an idea over brewing a coffee, lunch meeting, the one-to-one. I am aware that significant moments in my career sparked from these chance encounters that sparked an idea or changed a preconceived one. With digital working/meetings, it is easy to become transactional – this is my time slot for a topic, then I am on to the next. I don’t have an answer to this, but I know that I’ll be working hard to try and remain open-minded to colleagues’ ideas, and letting them know I’m available to chat.
I’m truly excited about where we are in the world of work right now. This is an opportunity to do things differently, embrace more inclusivity and individuality and have more fulfilled work and home lives. I can’t wait to see how our customers shape the new workplace.”
To join the discussion about the future of the workplace, attend our webinar this September, Designing a modern workplace to build culture, business growth and empower employees to succeed.