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By Brendan Mc Avery, Country Manager and Regional Director at Citrix for Sub-Saharan Africa at Citrix

Historically, a lack of mutual understanding has been the biggest barrier to collaboration between the Human Resources (HR) and Information Technology (IT) functions. However, amid a mushrooming employee engagement crisis that the recent Covid-19 situation has enhanced, the two functions are recognising that they must come together to jointly deliver a long-term solution to the problem.

The advancement of technology has helped HR in shifting through and effectively matching the right talent for organisations. At the same time, IT is naturally engaged to consider more and more employees’ productivity needs and safety. These two movements leads to synergies and more mutual understanding. And they enable both HR and IT to start to deliberately focus on ‘Ubuntu’ within organisations’ team dynamics.

Fighting against employees disengagement

Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workforce report found that as many as 85% of employees are disengaged at work, and a fifth of those are actively disengaged. Citrix research revealed that companies with engaged employees are 21% more productive and are able to maintain 3x higher operating margins than competitors.

Any asset operating at just 15 percent capacity is going to present a phenomenal burden, and some business forecasts estimate the issue is costing the global economy as much as $7 trillion a year in lost productivity.

The problem is forcing companies to think seriously about the working experience they create, and with the physical and digital workplace colliding, with the development of remote working, it has become apparent that a change of perspective is needed. It is time that HR and IT set aside their siloed past and come together to maximise their contribution to the employee experience.

Can HR and IT really work in sync?

The sceptics among us will question whether a collaborative relationship between HR and IT is possible. But I would answer, yes. In many ways, it is no longer a matter of choice, because employee experience cuts across all aspects of an organisation, and a joined-up approach is essential. And because the crisis we are going through demonstrate how vital this collaboration has become.

Wanting to dig a little deeper, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently published a report, sponsored by Citrix, which explored how companies are managing the employee experience and the role of technology in shaping it. The global survey of 1,145 business executives revealed that virtually identical numbers of IT and HR executives (74%and 75%, respectively) feel personally responsible for improving employee experience, either in their own team or more widely.

Furthermore, it helps when Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) view digital transformation as a shared project; as 45% of high performers (organisations who deem their employees to be more engaged and more productive than at industry peers) and 38% of the digitally mature group do.

We are already seeing the emergence of job titles such as Head of HR Technology, along with roles designed to provide a liaison between IT and HR. The EIU survey found that 40% of high performers and 33% of digitally more mature businesses strongly agree they are developing specialists with combined HR and IT expertise in order to reduce barriers between the two functions.

A great role model I would point to is Beth Galetti, Amazon’s Sr. VP of Human Resources. She is the highest-ranking woman at the company and reports directly to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Yet prior to joining Amazon, she had no formal HR experience and was a tech veteran by trade.

Technology plays a fundamental role in shaping employee experience. It is more obvious than ever now that many employees work from home. Increasingly, HR needs to think of technology as a way to enhance and support the employee experience, from flexible working through to sustainability; attracting and retaining new talent as well as monitoring and safeguarding mental health. IT is now its partner of choice. And the success of businesses depends on this close relationship.