At the IT Security Guru we’re showcasing organisations that are passionate about making cybersecurity a healthier, more mindful industry. This week, Ilona Simpson, CIO, EMEA, at Netskope, spoke to the Gurus about the importance of work/life balance, blame culture, and good leadership in practice.
With over 20 years of experience, Simpson is no stranger to navigating all phases of a business, from small organisations to world renowned global corporations. In fact, in 2021, Simpson was recognised by Constellation Research as a member of the Business Transformation 150, an elite list that recognises the top global executives leading business transformation efforts in their organisations.
Simpson is evidently passionate about transforming the workplace and making it a more balanced and inclusive place for all. For Simpson, a holistic and, crucially, authentic approach to mental health is key – and one that incorporates valuing people and implementing a positive culture too. Simpson notes: “it’s not about checking boxes.” Interestingly, Simpson notes the engagement with awareness months as something that has given many people the courage to get the conversation started around mental health at work, despite the fact that many organisations often use these days merely as a chance to scream ‘we’re doing this!’
The importance of workplace wellbeing is integral to the core of Netskope and instilled from CEO Sanjay Beri and the board and downwards. Simpson recalls, fondly, the company’s annual kick off for the entire organisation where Beri stated: ‘our legacy is not just about how well we are protecting the world, but our impact on the computing community in a wider sense.’
In terms of proactive initiatives that Netskope offer, employees are given wellness days off work, the leadership vow to never write an email on the weekend, and a day off is given for your birthday. They also have mentorship programmes and a partnership with Lyra that offers every employee at Netskope access to eight free hours of therapy or coaching. As Simpson states so succinctly, “it starts with a small thing,” but Netskope’s commitment to mental health is no small feat.
When it comes to burnout, Simpson notes that it’s important to discuss, as leadership, ‘how do you, as an organisation, embrace failure?’ She notes that one of the biggest causes of burnout within the industry is the fear of being fired, alongside never knowing when an attack might hit. Simply, there’s a lack of control that comes with the job. Simpson notes: “It’s almost certain that something will be out of control and, in addition to that, there’s a fear that your head is the one that will be rolling – and that becomes a topic for the boards.”
Regarding blame culture, Simpson adds: “one of the biggest fears, as a human, is to be humiliated.” She notes that transparency and accountability is key to getting to eradicating it, “what gets measured, gets done.”
Simpson offers three pieces of advice for organisations on how they can foster a comprehensive wellbeing package for their employees:
“First there is institutionalising it, and you institutionalise it in a way that someone in your organisation runs it, for example it may be on someone’s annual target. Similarly, championship from one of the members of top leadership, whoever that is, who brings the topic onto the agenda of your board meetings is important. Drum the drum across the organisation.”
“Secondly, how do you get any change executed? Don’t think that anyone is the smartest kid on the block. Crowdsource ideas.”
“Thirdly, a budget.” As all organisations know, in times of economic uncertainty, anything that isn’t essential to the running of the business often gets the chop, but research has shown that better employee wellbeing boosts productivity etc., so it may just be a worthy investment.
Simpson’s parting message was “there are two elements to any transformation: enablement and empowerment. There’s a lot of emphasis on empowerment, and empowerment is talk the talk, but enablement is giving someone the budget and the time to set them on the path of least resistance and make it as easy as possible for them to champion.”
Do you know an organisation that’s doing incredible things for employee wellbeing? Email us at [email protected].