Claudia Crummernel: the equation between people and tech

By Capgemini
Claudia Crummenerl on Global Practice Lead, People and Organisation at Capgemini Invent, the digital innovation, consulting and brand transformation

Q&A with Claudia Crummenerl, Global Practice Lead, People and Organization at Capgemini Invent, the digital innovation, consulting and transformation brand of the Capgemini Group.

Why is a digital-first mindset important for an enterprise to stay relevant and competitive?  

Permanent evolution is the only way for an organization to stay relevant in the face of change. This has always been true, but it’s quite forcefully accelerated in the last year. COVID-19 has re-asserted the importance of agility and resilience for businesses as they react to change – notably so when it comes to the future of work. 

Returning to past ways of working is simply not an option. If organisations don’t adapt, they run the risk of losing key talent and even falling behind competitors. Taking an agile, digital-first mindset enables businesses to better react to change and evolve with ease. In doing so, they can build resilience and flexibility within their operations to set themselves up for success. In the last year, we’ve seen that the organisations already doing this coped better with the pandemic than those which hadn’t.

But the mindset has to be people-first as well as digital-first, and technology is the lever, which ensures a truly people-first organisational approach.

How important are flexibility and agility in an organisation's future and why? And what has the pandemic taught us about this? 

The pandemic, in a short period, turned the world of work upside down. It reminded us that being agile – flexibility with a purpose – is the new norm and is imperative for today’s businesses. In the midst of disruption, organisations have to increase their ability to adapt and change. Organisations have to teach leaders and employees to manage and cope with the ever-changing picture. 

The situation has also reinforced the belief that the future of work rests on an intimate combination of people and technology. Research shows that three-quarters of organisations expect 30% or more of their employees to continue working remotely in the future. As such, businesses have an opportunity to re-imagine what the future of work looks like. For many, this new hybrid working model of remote and office-based activity provides flexibility and options to design their own individual way of working. Already, we’re seeing how it can be an innovative way of finding new approaches to agility, collaboration, and ways of working that we’ve not yet experienced. 

Who’s going to thrive in this environment? Those companies which see this as an opportunity to work, lead, and organize things differently.  

How can an organisation combine the right technology with the right change management to bring about positive change? What are the dangers/possible pitfalls to look out for? 

Work is no longer just a place – it's the freedom to be productive and creative from anywhere and deliver work to anywhere in the world! 

Yet organisations have to step beyond a common belief of combining technology with change management – they have to transform their work culture, governance, processes, and structures to create a sustainable digital-first workplace.

The biggest pitfall is seeing technology implementation as a single program, and not truly rethinking the purpose, the business model and the organisational design. The key is to look at the possibilities of how tech is impacting the design of roles, new or different skills, and individuals.

But this requires a clear transformation plan. Executives should rethink the effectiveness of their operating models by taking a balanced and carefully measured approach with transparency and clear communication across the business. 

Augmenting the workforce with technology provides an opportunity for cost reduction and equips people with what they need to assume new roles, be fulfilled and co-create value. Yet it is crucial that employees are reskilled and are fully invested to take up their respective challenges. 

AI and automation have set the pace for organisations in terms of cost reduction and top-line growth, but many are not developing the skills to maximize the benefits brought by these technologies. Organisations and their employees have to realize the augmented and automated benefits of investing in different skilling programs for their people while implementing a culture of collaboration and innovation. 

Remote work has also adjusted the expectations of employees and stakeholders, providing a chance for enterprises to rethink the talent landscape and their future needs – for example, exploring the benefits of adopting a fluid workforce of freelancers and gig-workers to increase cost resilience.

What are the current pain points for companies in terms of the shift to remote work in particular? And how can each of these be addressed? 

There are three main pain points. 

First, leaders need to act differently in a remote environment. They have to equip themselves with emotional intelligence and put people at the heart of change – rethinking the effectiveness of their operating models by taking a balanced, carefully measured approach with transparency and clear communication. Only then can future leadership teams break down organisation silos and barriers between teams, build resilience and improve overall efficiency by listening to their needs, their concerns, and their preferences. 

Second, office culture has been challenged as we moved to a virtual space. How do you maintain a cultural connection and engagement among your employees and make sure the workplace – digital or not – moves from “a place to complete tasks” to “a place to collaborate, share, and innovate”. There is a big opportunity here for organisations to leverage technology in more creative ways to make employees feel more connected – from virtual onboarding, creating immersive training environments with augmented, virtual and mixed reality, to simple virtual coffee breaks – that can bring the digital workplace to life and reinvent a “trusted” work culture that activates purpose and increases the sense of belonging. It’s also increasingly critical for an organisation to clearly communicate its values, beliefs and expectations to develop a sense of trust among the workforce: 81% of employees who feel that they are part of a close-knit team are happier in their work and 80% are more connected to the organisation’s purpose.  

Finally, employee wellbeing has never been more important. Despite the extra flexibility and increased productivity, the pandemic has spurred conversations around emotional welfare, disconnect with the company, loneliness and blurred boundaries between work and home. Employers need to think hard about how they tackle this.

In particular, how can technology help to create a positive environment for employees, in terms of empowerment and engagement? 

The pandemic has shown that most organisations were able to switch to remote work, and many are leaning towards permanent hybrid workforces as they have the evidence that remote working is not only viable but can be more efficient for some. 

Now the challenge should be how technology can help to reduce stress and burnout. More than half of employees feel burned out with constant pressure and the fear of being available 24/7, but some of the technology solutions are simple. Take Microsoft Teams, for example – simple settings allow users to make calendar invites default to 25 minutes instead of 30; pop-ups in Outlook ask users whether the emails they’re sending out-of-hours really need to be sent that minute.   

In addition, automation and AI can phase out repetitive tasks, and redeploy or reskill employees for more value-added and rewarding roles. It empowers already good employees to become even better by making quicker and better business decisions, ultimately boosting morale and incubating skills for future success.


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