Toyota Motor Corp. and Google have discovered that remote work is empowering for the introverted.
These more reserved employees were long in the habit of staying quiet during office meetings. But when COVID-19 forced a shift to remote work and the use of digital collaboration tools, both companies found that quieter employees were more likely to contribute to discussions when using the chat feature.
With remote work tools such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, employees can ask questions in a video chat queue without having to voice those questions or concerns at a meeting or in an auditorium.
"It has definitely created a level playing field between what I call introverts and extroverts," said Vipin Gupta, chief innovation and digital officer at Toyota Financial Services, during a fireside chat at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium this week.
Vipin GuptaChief innovation and digital officer, Toyota Financial Services
Gupta said he's seen the shift to digital tools pave the way to more interaction among colleagues. It used to be that "the same five people will stand up in the town hall asking the questions," he said. "Now there's much broader participation."
The ability of employees to speak up via chat has "allowed folks that maybe weren't a certain persona or in a certain place to have a say," said Mike Daoust, managing director of Chrome Enterprise at Google. "That has been a benefit out of this," he said, referring to the shift to remote work.
Immersive tools to come
Gupta also believes that digital communication tools used by remote workers today will evolve "really, really fast."
Seeing "each other on a screen is going to look more like a 1950s TV experience in a couple of years," he said. He believes that communication will become more "immersive," the term often used to describe augmented reality and virtual reality.
From a day-to-day operational aspect, Gupta said the goal of communications should be to create a seamless experience for employees as they move between devices and locations, which at Toyota means providing employees with the same experience the company offers its customers.
The automaker is already trying to build that singular experience. For instance, the company has created something it calls "digital care centers," where employees can get help with their technology when they come to the office.
Gupta said digital care centers are similar to Apple's Genius Bars, the tech giant's help desk operation that it runs at its stores. Gupta said they don't want any technology shifts from home to office to become a friction point in the employee experience.
Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.