HR Challenges in a Digital World: Today’s new normal demands new ways of working – Part 1 of 3

November 06, 2023

Eric Lechelard, HR Director, shares the challenges of introducing a hybrid work environment in today’s new normal.

a woman in front of a computer screen

The working world has changed dramatically since 2020, with the role of hybrid working moving to the forefront. This move has been a catalyst driving enterprises to re-think and accelerate their digital transformation within their Human Resource organisations.

In this 3-part blog series you’ll learn how Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise tackled the top three hurdles faced by our Human Resources organisation.

Understanding and adapting

Prior to the global health crisis, the corporate position was to keep the number of teleworking days employees could request, to a minimum. However, it was clear that some countries in which ALE operates had already adopted a different approach including the United States, among others, and were already headed further down this teleworking path. This was made possible due to less restrictive and more flexible environments where employees actually performed their work.

When the world came to a halt in March 2020, ALE was forced to rapidly transition to teleworking. The pendulum had swung completely to the right during this time, with no end in sight. To ensure business continuity, the company needed to adapt. This meant offering hybrid work options that included, 100% face-to-face on-site, 50% or a ratio to be agreed upon, or 100% at home. ALE's advantage was that we already had some teleworking in place, so the hybrid work environment was not completely new. As a global organisation with experience in a culture of nomadism over the past twenty years, we understood what it would take to work from various locations.

Full speed ahead 

The initial challenge was to convert the teams to the digital world. The Rainbow™ by Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise cloud collaboration platform was the obvious tool of choice. Unfortunately, up until that time many employees had not yet used Rainbow to its full potential.

To maintain the company's ability to operate internationally, employees were challenged with quickly adapting how they conducted business. This was further hampered as constraints and responses to the crisis varied from country to country.

As the global situation waned, a new normal emerged where a new social bond and collective were being formed. This next-phase, new world order, was not something that all employees were on board with, as some had begun to like the comfort and flexibility of the 100% remote situation. While working from home provided the protection needed to battle the health crisis, it was not without its own side effects. Some employees suffered the silent psychological impact of isolation, frequently referred to as cabin fever.

Team spirit and hybrid working

As the world settled into the new normal, one of the real challenges became how to restore team spirit, which had been largely eroded. Today, fractures remain, and not just in the working world, but overall, because of the previously unimaginable constraints put on workplace teams and individuals in their everyday lives.

For ALE, restoring team spirit became the number one priority. Second, was the challenge of learning how to manage the hybrid work environment. From an HR point of view, expectations are the same for employees who are on-site and those who are working remotely. Some employees may say they work more at home, however, that can create a potential risk in maintaining work-life balance. While the ‘right to disconnect’ may be a relatively new concept, it is necessary for employees to feel they can shut down, without recrimination, to ensure an environment where the same rules apply whether employees are in the office or working remotely.

Supporting change

Another hybrid working element that had to be dealt with was the integration of new employees. What we tend to forget is that today’s organisations were built on a face-to-face model. During the rapid transition to the hybrid model, the workplace became less clear-cut. However, we still needed to manage the company, and onboard apprentices and new hires. With the adoption of collaboration technology, such as Rainbow, today many potential candidates are interviewed and hired without ever stepping a foot in the corporate office.

This all raises a number of questions, including: How invested in the company will these people be? Will the experience be the same as for the people who were there before? What will talent retention look like? How will skills development unfold? And the big question: How can you create a cohesive team?

The role of video, in all of this cannot be overstated. Prior to the health crisis, video was rarely used for collaboration. However, being thrown into the deep end of the pool over the course of a weekend and forced to sink or swim to stay connected with colleagues and customers, meant people had to step in front of the camera. And so, they did. Today, most employees have no qualms about setting up or participating in video collaborations, which is far from where the world was just a few short years ago.

It’s clear that building a professional network in a hybrid model is more complex and will take some work. Rethinking the tools, particularly the tools for managers, so they foster greater commitment and links between people, and creating a sense of proximity between employees, are key to retaining talent. At ALE, specific training courses on hybrid management have been developed to raise managers’ awareness about the differences between managing teams face-to-face and managing in a hybrid or completely remote environment.

So, what are some of the lessons learned from this move to the hybrid model. Things have changed irreversibly. The social body that used to be held together by face-to-face contact must now be held together by something else. That something is technology and the desire to create team spirit even though employees may be separated by miles or continents.

Check out all the blogs in our series, “HR challenges in the digital world:

- Rethinking recruiting and workplace welfare

- Hybrid work is here to stay

3 Recommendations from Éric Lechelard, HR Director, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, France


Eric Lechelard

Director, Human Resources, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise International - France

With more than 20 years of experience in telecommunications and IT, and five years as Human Resources Director of the ALE International French entity, Eric Lechelard is responsible for supporting all teams in the ALE International group strategic transformation.

Eric’s expertise in professional services and customer services (customer care) has provided him with a variety of opportunities in the services industry, including management of the professional services teams for Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. He has led pre-sales, design, architecture, and 24-7 operations activities of all communications and network solutions for a strategic customer; a large US-based hospital group. He was also responsible for ALE global customer support activities, prior to being named Director of ALE International’s Human Resources team.

In addition to an engineering degree in telecommunications and networks, Eric trained in services and sales, and obtained a Master 2 in Human Resources Management at the IAE of Caen in 2017.

About the author

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