Why leaders need to create a ‘digital-first work culture’

27 Aug 2021

Joe Lennon. Image: © John Allen

Workvivo’s Joe Lennon discusses the trends he sees in the future of work and the importance of a truly flexible workplace.

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A major element of the future of work revolves around the tools and software we use to do our work and communicate with our colleagues.

The communication portion has become more important than ever with much of the global workforce still working remotely – a trend that looks set to continue.

Joe Lennon is the CTO and co-founder of Workvivo, an employee communications software platform. He started the Cork-based company in 2017 along with John Goulding and it now has more than 500,000 users in 87 countries around the world. Lennon previously held senior leadership roles at Subwoofr, Vearsa and CoreHR.

‘It is crucial for companies to make hybrid working work in the next 12 months’

Describe your role and your responsibilities in driving tech strategy.

As CTO, my role is driving our overall product strategy and leading our product management and engineering teams. I work closely with leaders across other parts of the company – particularly sales, marketing and customer experience – to ensure that we are purpose-building a customer-centric product that delivers for our customers and the market opportunity.

As co-founder, I also spend a lot of time focused on overall company strategy, investment strategy, growth initiatives and, of course, hiring.

Are you spearheading any major product or IT initiatives you can tell us about?

As a product-driven tech company, we are pretty much always working on major product initiatives.

It is crucial to keep innovating and building products in response to customers’ needs, especially in the current work environment where many companies are experimenting with new hybrid and remote working models and want to be able to engage with employees and make them feel part of the team no matter where they are working from.

Right now, we are working on some pretty exciting things in the mobile space so keep an eye out for announcements on that in the coming months.

How big is your team?

My team is currently 30 people across product, engineering, infrastructure, design and quality assurance. Company-wide we are currently a team of 70 and growing.

We are organised around multi-disciplined, highly autonomous product teams that work exceptionally closely together and, as such, our preference has been to hire and build an in-house team rather than outsource.

We’ll be growing the team significantly in the next 12 months, growing headcount beyond 100 by the end of 2021.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation when it comes to the future of work?

The future of work is something the Workvivo platform itself helps companies with so it’s something very close to my heart. At this point I think everyone knows that digital needs to be at the heart of every company’s strategy when it comes to communication and employee engagement.

It is crucial for companies to make hybrid working work in the next 12 months. There’s a great battle for retention across the globe at the moment as people rethink their jobs and what they value in their place of work.

It has become a very simple process for someone to change jobs and so leaders need to rethink the way they engage employees and how they create a positive digital-first work culture and foster a sense of belonging, no matter where an employee is so that they feel included, valued and part of the bigger picture.

We’ve been working with large global companies to roll out Workvivo to their employees, and for several of them it is the first time in their history that they’ve been able to effectively communicate with and connect all employees across their organisation, regardless of whether they are based in an office, retail, manufacturing, remote off-site locations or anywhere else.

This has been vital over the past 18 months of course, but companies are also seeing the major benefits and importance of digital technology like Workvivo outside of the context of the pandemic.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world of work?

The flexible work environment is having a huge impact on what people expect about their workplace. In the past there were companies that offered true flexible working opportunities, but they were typically the exception rather than the rule.

The past 18 months has given people a glimpse into what a truly flexible workplace looks like, and for the most part, people want to keep that flexibility. As the world begins to open up again, we’re starting to see a mix of companies offering flexibility and others wanting everyone to return to the office as much as possible.

We’ve seen first-hand in Workvivo that providing flexible conditions is now a major competitive advantage in the hiring market, and I think that’s only going to become a stronger driving force in the years to come.

In terms of security, what are your thoughts on how we can better protect data?

We need to create a culture where the practice of using a password manager and hardware tokens for multifactor authentication becomes the norm across society as a whole. A big part of that is making such tools more accessible, particularly for people who are not adept at technology.

Friendlier terminology, simpler user experiences and a gentler introduction to the benefits are all things that I believe will help improve adoption of this technology. Right now, it’s too jargon-heavy, complex and reliant on creating a sense of fear in people.

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