Municipal leaders say they’re making plans to strengthen the culture in their organizations once the health rules allow employees to return to the office.
“Our plan is to come back in a hybrid mode for sure,” said Shawn Slack, director of information technology and chief information officer for the City of Mississauga. Slack was participating in a panel discussion on using innovation at work at ITWC’s Technicity GTA conference. “A good portion of the in-person collaboration is about driving a strong corporate culture,” he stressed.
Slack and his fellow panelists agreed that the ability to have impromptu meetings or even social chitchat will contribute to a stronger sense of connection among staff members. They acknowledged that a new “work-from-anywhere” strategy will require revised work spaces and technology that support collaboration.
“The key in all of this is to maintain an engaged workforce,” said Slack. “It’s about working differently based on a mobility strategy. There has to be a plan in place, and it has to be well-communicated.”
“We’re really mindful of how the culture is going to change and evolve,” said Dolf DeJong, chief executive officer with the Toronto Zoo. “There are some pretty significant transitions we’re going to have to make.”
Maintaining agility is a challenge
The biggest challenge moving forward is the ability to manage expectations for speedy delivery, said Slack. “We have been asked and responded with technology solutions in days and weeks,” he said. “To continue to meet the expectations of turning around solutions in a short period of time, the structures of business planning and budgets need to accommodate rapid deployment.”
Abiodun Morolari, the chief information security officer with the City of Toronto, agreed. “We shouldn’t lose the agility that we’ve built up in terms of being able to pivot very rapidly,” he said. Morolari also emphasized the need to ensure that solutions are secured from day one. “We need to make cyber security top of mind for every individual, so we don’t lose some of the mileage we’ve made in terms of educating our users on good practices.”
Innovations that have made a difference
Municipal leaders will also seek to maintain the culture of innovation that has developed over the past two years.
For the City of Mississauga, the implementation of an appointment-based service called FrontDesk has made a huge difference for customer service, said Slack. When the pandemic began, the city began delivering all services, such as curbside pickup of library books, on an appointment basis. “It created a safer environment for the public and the staff because there were no lineups,” he said.
A similar idea also proved to be beneficial for the Toronto Zoo. “Our shift to timed ticketing one hundred per cent of the time was really huge,” said DeJong. “It allowed for a steady pace of visitors and more predictability for staffing.”
Once the zoo had to close due to health restrictions, it implemented another ground-breaking solution. The zoo is working with a tech start-up to offer virtual visits using cameras that citizens can control from their own devices. Zookeepers also offer live streamed discussions. The service already has 9000 subscribers. The subscriptions ensure that citizens can stay connected and also generates funds for animal conservation. “It’s a true win-win,” said DeJong.