CIOs reshape IT culture in wake of pandemic

IT leaders are leaning on lessons learned from the pandemic to redefine IT cultures and refine IT strategies as they move toward a new year of uncertainty.

From the first days of the pandemic, IT leaders have had to grapple with wildly unexpected circumstances — from transitioning thousands of employees to a work-from-home (WFH) environment, to near overnight platform rollouts in support of virtual teams. And for many, culture has proved to be the key unsung factor in their organizations’ ability to navigate unprecedented times.

Companies that had not established a resilient, transformation-focused culture prior to COVID-19 have struggled in the face of global shutdowns that have disrupted business as usual. Organizations that either pivoted to or had already embraced a transformation mindset, however, have been better equipped to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing environment, and to protect the health of their teams and their bottom lines.

And with companies having to adjust to new approaches to collaboration and productivity, the pandemic has provided IT leaders an opportunity to rethink and refine IT culture moving forward. Remaining agile, adjusting strategies, nurturing new approaches to work — here’s how several high-profile CIOs have helped guide their organizations through the chaos, leveraging pandemic-related changes to establish a transformation-minded IT culture for the future.

Mitigating culture shock

Maintaining the culture and morale of individual teams and the organization as whole has added a unique layer to the challenges companies now face, and for many IT leaders, the pandemic has magnified the importance of communication.

Lisa Davis, senior vice president and CIO of Blue Shield of California, has always believed in leading with honesty and transparency. “At Blue Shield, the health and safety of our employees is our number one priority,” she says. “Understanding where they are and what’s needed for them to thrive and be productive is top of mind.”

But the pandemic has elevated the need to be present and accessible as well, as Davis says she’s made herself available to weigh in on decisions and take quick action in support of her employees and the mission of the organization.

“As leaders we need to set the tone,” she says. “We had a great company culture prior to the pandemic, so I think that made the transition a little easier, but open and transparent communication at all levels of the organization is essential.”

Davis says she encourages leaders to seek ways of building a sense of community and camaraderie throughout teams, investing in technology and collaboration tools to maximize the user experience and ultimately help employees feel connected.

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