Article Thought Leadership

Leading Transformation Post Pandemic with Belinda Finch

Making remote and hybrid work support equality and inclusion.
Read time: 5 min
Published: Sep 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to rapidly adopt digital solutions to maintain business continuity. For some, this has been a welcome opportunity for IT departments to lead business transformation and build a work environment that is inclusive and equitable. The traditional workplace was not designed for women, for families, and certainly not for the world as it is now remote, global, and hyper-connected.  The once-in-a-generation shift in the way we work is also a once-in-a-generation shot to redesign the workplace for all.

Belinda Finch, CIO of Three, experienced first-hand the shift to a fully virtual world when she joined the telecommunications powerhouse at the height of the pandemic. It was almost 12 months before she met most of her team-she interviewed completely virtually for the role.  In those first 12 months, Finch created a brand-new technology department, hired an entire management team, and overhauled the transformation program and she did all of that completely virtually.

Readapting to Hybrid

Two years post-pandemic businesses have gone remote, hybrid, or are pushing to get everyone back into the office full-time.  At Three, Finch is focused on collaboration, communication, and efficiency making sure the right tools and systems are in place to make hybrid work-work.  Finch has no doubt hybrid, and flexible work is here to stay and urges leaders to listen to their employees and commit to adapting.  The data backs her up– the 2022 Gallup Future of Hybrid Work survey echoes her position 53% of remote-capable employees expect a hybrid arrangement, and 24% expect to work exclusively remotely. ADP Research Institute found two-thirds of the workforce said they would find a new job if they were mandated to return to the office full-time after surveying more than 32,000 workers.

“Failing to offer flexible work arrangements is a significant risk to an organization’s hiring, employee engagement, performance, well-being and retention strategies.”
Ben Wigert, Ph.D., Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management Gallup.

Finch believes while there is a massive upside to hybrid and remote work, leaders have to be more intentional in establishing and developing relationships with their teams to make up for the fewer opportunities for spontaneous in-person interactions.

“Not only more regular one-to-ones but more virtual coffee chats and more opportunities to just have that virtual chat. You’ve got to make more of an effort because you don’t pass people in the corridor anymore.”
Belinda Finch, CIO, Three

Supporting Women in Hybrid and Remote Work

For women, who are already underrepresented in the tech industry, the shift to remote work has highlighted both the blessings and the curses of working from home.

On the one hand, remote work can promote gender equality by providing flexibility that allows women to better balance their work and home lives. But on the other hand, the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it harder for women to be heard and respected in virtual meetings, and the “always on” culture of many remote workplaces can exacerbate work-life balance issues. Finch says while leadership and organizations should be steering digital transformation that supports hybrid and remote environments that is equitable, she urges women to also speak up.

“We as women need to be clear on our boundaries between home life, and work life. If you are going to be working at home more often you need to set these boundaries with your team, with your line managers, and with your organization. It sounds so obvious. But if you don’t do that, you’re just going to try and do a lot more. And I think we’ve got a way to go in terms of confidence of women, especially to speak up and start talking about that.”
Belinda Finch, CIO, Three

Finch says flexibility has made things like school runs a lot easier but the “always on” culture has also put a lot of stress on women juggling work and caregiving.  She explains when workers are in the office full-time and if somebody physically wasn’t there-tasks and asks would wait until they were back in the office. In hybrid and remote work environments, there can be an “always on” mentality where you should be available even when we would consider it out-of-office, or after-hours.

“My view is that managers need to be very, very cognizant of it and call it out when they see these boundaries being blurred. Managers and team leaders need to absolutely be trained properly in this and spotting it. This is the new way of working with the new hybrid workforce. And they also need to manage the gender differences that are there; we need to understand how we manage it. We haven’t cracked that yet. And this is a problem. I think that’s going to get a lot worse. If we don’t have a standard way of working.”
Belinda Finch, CIO, Three

Culture Change and Digital Transformation

Training and adapting to leading and transforming hybrid work environments is not only about having the right collaboration tools and tech to support a digital transformation; it’s about change management. Finch says having the technology and the right systems is part of the process, but the hardest part is actually changing how people work, and helping them adapt to new technology, and new ways of working.  Finch stresses culture change and training employees and managers is vital to digital transformation.

To ensure that IT transformation post-pandemic leads to more equitable and flexible workplaces for all, leaders need to create environments that are inclusive of women’s needs with thoughtful training, technology design, and policies.  A recent UK-based CMI poll of 2,300 leaders, managers, and employees revealed 69% of mothers want remote or hybrid work versus just 56% of raising concerns that the future of work will be male-dominated offices and leadership. Finch says she wonders if the problem of gender bias presenteeism from the past is reviving itself.

“Remember in the 80s and 90s; you only got promoted if you worked really long hours or you had beers with your boss? Are we actually getting back to that culture because it’s a very male-dominated office environment?”
Belinda Finch, CIO, Three

Organizations must act now to move beyond simply meeting immediate needs and instead establish themselves as strategic partners that can help shape the future of the business. Leaders need to develop a long-term vision and roadmap for digital transformation that considers the changing needs of their workforce and supports women in a world that is increasingly virtual. Finch says systemic changes including breaking down gender bias start with having women in decision-making positions. She stresses providing career paths and growth for women and people of color, especially in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry is critical.

“One thing we really should be able to do is train our leaders in organizations to invite more women to the table… We don’t want to have our future technology that is potentially not diverse. We’ve seen things with Artificial Intelligence where it hasn’t been built with diverse teams so therefore you get algorithms and AI that can be quite biased.  We need diversity of not only male and female, but all diversity – it’s incredibly important.”
Belinda Finch, CIO, Three

Watch the full interview here.

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