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Tag Archives: Organizational Culture
EX Newsletter Autumn 2021
Here is the autumn edition of my EX Newsletter.
Over the last few months, we have been doing a lot of work on the connection between culture and EX, and that’s reflected in the content below. Both topics are top of mind for many leaders I’m working with. I think this is because there are just so many things happening that are impacting trust at work – witness “The Great Resignation” – that it’s important to reflect on key principles about purpose and alignment.
John Kotter’s new book Change is one of my favourites of the year and I highly recommend it. He incorporates research from neuroscience with his long-standing focus on organisational culture and change. This article is a useful summary of his approach: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/overcoming-obstacles-to-successful-culture-change/
I like this idea of “a people-centered operating system” from Vivek Sharma, with a focus on goal setting, learning, and culture. In this short article, he argues that the future of work is really about the future of talent, which is something I strongly agree with: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/376749
I am very interested in new and different sources of EX data, so Culture X’s research into Glassdoor reviews is something I’ve been following closely. This is another great article from them, which highlights the fundamental importance of respect and leadership: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/10-things-your-corporate-culture-needs-to-get-right/#EmployeeExperience
My colleague John Bremen has written a series of terrific articles on human capital issues and I really enjoyed this one on “workplace dignity”. He talks about dignity at work, dignity in work, and dignity from work: https://www.willistowerswatson.com/en-GB/Insights/2021/09/reducing-talent-risk-through-workplace-dignity
I hope you find these articles useful; let me know!
Leadership and culture in the future of work
My news feed is full of articles on the Future of Work (“FoW”). A number of trends are converging so that it feels like we are on the cusp of big changes in the workplace. Some of those trends include:
- Increasing use of contingent workers and talent exchanges like Work Market.
- A more diverse workforce, meaning, for example, that teams comprise people with widely different experiences.
- Employees who have grown up with social media and who have consumer-type expectations of their experience at work.
- A workforce that is geographically dispersed and reliant on social media rather than face-to-face interaction.
- Jobs that are far more technology-dependent, with routine tasks automated by artificial intelligence or robots.
- Demand for new skills, such as those required to make sense of the huge volume of data that our on-line participation leaves behind.
Within this shifting mix, many people are wondering what it all means. In practice, “disruption” is an over-used term and transformation will be incremental. But it’s clear that there are new challenges and also opportunities for those companies that are able to seize them.
One area I am interested in is what the future of work means for leadership and culture. This can sometimes be low down on the to-do list in FoW articles, as it relates to something that is generally hard, ongoing, sustained effort. Some writers have even speculated that in the future there should be less focus on culture as attention shifts to the work itself. But I believe the leadership challenge is to glue together the shifting workforce into a community of shared interests and this is as important as ever because people want meaning from their work.
Some of the emerging priorities for this are already clear and are being explored by my clients:
- Focus on employee experience. This means identifying the key interactions that employees have with the organisation and then applying design thinking to improve engagement and performance. It is a joined-up approach to jobs, teams, rewards and the way people work. It includes understanding employee journeys and maximising the value of key episodes. It also means improving the digital tools employees use and reviewing the physical workspace in order to increase collaboration and productivity.
- Adopt a comprehensive listening strategy. This means deploying a mix of consumer-style approaches, including pulse surveys and social media analytics. An important part of the mix is also supporting managers to have dialogue and conversation, rather than only managing from their desktop “cockpit”.1 It also means shaping the physical workspace so that it is easy for face-to-face conversation to occur.
- Create a strong identity through shared experiences. Although artefacts and rituals are changing (workspaces, flex working, mobile tools, dress code, etc.), the fundamentals of culture building remain the same: role modelling, strong values, clear purpose. Increasingly, shared experiences are digital. These provide the opportunity to engage a broad group at the same point in time. However, breaches of trust are also more public, which highlights the importance of authenticity and consistency.
- Reinforce meaning and purpose through feedback. Technology makes it far easier to provide useful, regular feedback, not only from colleagues, but also from customers and partners. In fact, it is vital to provide customer feedback and to align employee and customer experiences. The critical “cog” in using feedback remains the team leader. So selecting and developing front-line managers who are able to build line of sight and help people understand the contribution they make is key.
Because change is incremental, the FoW is not as far off as it might feel, so it’s important to build preparedness now. But there is an additional challenge, namely who will be your most effective leaders in the future of work? In our recent Global Workforce Study only 39% of people said their organisation is doing a good job of developing future leaders.2 It’s quite likely that your current definition of leadership reflects your old hierarchy and old ways of working. Leading people in a flatter, networked organisation requires a different set of skills.3 Understanding the behaviours needed for your future success, and incorporating those into your assessment and development programmes now, is one of the most critical components to get right.
- Sherry Turkle “Reclaiming Conversation” (Penguin Books, 2015)
- Willis Towers Watson “Employers look to modernize the employee value proposition” (2016)
- Ravin Jesuthasan and Marie S. Holmstrom “As Work Changes, Leadership Development Has to Keep Up” (HBR, 2016)
Tags: #Leadership #Culture #FutureOfWork
This article was first published on LinkedIn on April 20, 2017
Simplifying the work
In many companies people are frustrated. They feel they’re running hard and putting in a lot of effort, but they’re not making much of an impact, and this is often due to the difficulty of getting work done.
Yves Morieux has pointed out that the twin problems of stagnant productivity and low employee engagement share the same root cause, the increasing complicatedness of work and the growth of bureaucracy. Fighting complexity, according to Morieux, is the number one battle for all business leaders.
Yves is not alone in worrying about this. Gary Hamel is appalled at the damage being done to the global economy by bureaucratisation. He argues there is a 3 trillion dollar wealth-creating opportunity in tackling bureaucracy, and pleads with business leaders to get to grips with it.
These are some of the issues Hamel identifies:
- Policies and processes sapping individual initiative
- Sign-offs slowing decision making
- Boundaries creating silos, matrix structures blurring accountability
- Time and energy consumed by unhelpful reporting and pointless meetings
In my experience, the single most effective way of tackling these challenges is to involve employees in simplifying the work. This is what we do when we run employee surveys. We provide a critical feedback loop and involve people in the solutions. Key topics we explore are things like: Does everyone have a clear line of sight to the customer? What’s stopping more effective cooperation? When people believe something can be done better and differently, do they speak up about it? Are people able to sustain the level of personal energy they need in order to have an impact?
These are some important things to watch out for when simplifying work:
- Managers need to know that one of their key tasks is to get stuff out of the way, so their teams can work effectively
- Financial and operational information should be transparent and widely shared
- Managers have a role in helping their teams understand how the business works and their contribution
- Feedback is critical and this means listening to employees and encouraging dialogue
- You need to reward people who do a good job of simplifying work and share their success stories widely
Hamel believes we need “a revolution of the mind” in order to go to war with bureaucracy. And in this there is also a critical role for people analytics. This is because, as new ways of working are tested and piloted, you need good people analytics to understand the impact of such “hacks” on engagement, productivity and other outcomes in order to build the business case and to direct the next iteration of changes.
It really bugs me when unnecessary things get in the way of my work, so this is one mission I am proud to play a part in.
- Yves Morieux: As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify (2013)
- Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, The $3 Trillion Prize for Busting Bureaucracy (and how to claim it) (2016)
Tags: #HighPerformance #OrganizationalEffectiveness #Bureaucracy
This article was first published on LinkedIn on April 25, 2016