An enterprise vision is your company’s North Star

Rita J. King, co-director and EVP for business development at Science House, recently conducted a series of interviews with business leaders, exploring the challenges and hurdles companies face in evolving business landscapes. In this interview, King chats with Dana Codispoti, head of HR Transformation at AIG, about how to address the human factor in business transformations to keep employees engaged and connected to the overall business mission. They also discuss the future of the human-technology relationship and why technology should be viewed as an enabler rather than a replacement for human contributions.

Here are some highlights from their conversation:

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With technology iterating and improving at ever-increasing speeds, companies are challenged with how best to utilize data and analytics to inform new technology decisions. Codispoti stresses that it’s imperative to start with the foundation, the “building blocks,” and not jump straight to the innovation or “shiny object.” The key, Codispoti notes, to successfully navigating new technologies and processes lies with the people and their engagement with the company’s overall vision. “One of the most important things you need to do in technology initiatives,” she says, “is to create a vision to help people understand what they are driving toward. I see a lot of work being done in the trenches where people don’t see the bigger picture—everybody’s working on an individual project or set of projects, but they can’t understand how it fits into a broader picture. If there isn’t a vision for the company, create one, or create a North Star that people can align to. That gets people excited about a problem; it gets people excited about participating in the solution. … If people don’t know why their work is value add and how it ties to a broader picture, you lose engagement.” (01:58)

Mitigating risk is a hurdle for any company facing changing technology and business processes. Codispoti says the solution lies in breaking out of silos and comfort zones to leverage the expertise of colleagues across an organization. “I find companies struggle with cross collaboration,” She explains. “If someone’s, for example, working in a business, they need to leverage their partners. In my case, it would be HR, finance, the risk organization, the audit, and legal folks. I think people tend to work in silos, and they need to lift up their heads, look around and say, these people are experts in those areas. Talk through and partner with them to understand the problems they’re solving for so that they can help point out the risk. People think they need to do all that on their own, and they’re missing opportunities to mitigate risk. … It’s about breaking through silos and pointing out how collaboration is additive—when you work in teams, you get more. People also have a mindset that ‘I need to fix this for my area,’ and it’s not an enterprise mentality. As you go through these transformations, it’s about trying to influence the culture to say you wear two hats: one is for whatever you’re working on and one is for the enterprise, and lead with that enterprise mindset.” (05:28)

Looking toward the future and humanity’s evolving relationship with technology, Codispoti stresses that machines will always need people and humans should not fear being replaced. “There’s a large level of awareness around technology driving the future in a lot of ways, but I think there’s also fear that technology is going to take over humanity—we know that’s not the case,” She says. “You need both. … At the end of the day, the work is in the work, in the process, in the culture, in the people, and then technology becomes an enabler. So, it’s driving and enabling at the same time, but I think everybody needs to co-exist. Nobody’s going to be wiped out by technology; it’s a matter of how we use it and we recognize that it can do things faster than we can, but in some ways we need the human mind to enhance whatever technology is doing.”(14:40)