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Face the Future of Work by Examining Your Culture First
Workplace

Face the Future of Work by Examining Your Culture First

by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
Face the Future of Work by Examining Your Culture First

Story Highlights

  • Storm winds converging on workplaces have shifted the global landscape
  • Charge the storm by taking a close look at your company's culture
  • Adapt to a new era by defining your organization's purpose and brand

No doubt there is a storm of changes facing the workplace today.

Storm winds from the east have leaders grappling with how to attract world-class talent as workers today demand new ways of thinking from leadership. Gallup research shows, for example, that millennials more than ever "want to be known for what makes them unique," demanding that workplaces put their personal development first.

Storm winds from the west have leaders grappling with a convergence of exponential technologies that continue to transform everything.

In a recent CHRO interview with Larry Emond, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, CHRO Dietmar Eidens describes how his teams are experimenting with a humanoid robot built to answer employee development questions. While she isn't meant to "replace or supplement" the company's workforce, she is intended to help the company and its teams to stay on the leading edge of technology trends.

Leaders in companies like this understand that becoming colleagues with an android or reporting to a humanoid robot as a leader or managing a robot may not happen tomorrow, but they also know they are not unlike changes we could potentially face in an unknowable future workplace.

They know that waves of technological advances will continue to disrupt things for all of us and that such transformations will demand that employees develop in new ways to embrace the technology and changes -- whatever they may bring.

How do such leaders keep up with the employee development needs demanded by workers, that are also essential for survival in a rapidly changing workplace?

Symbols can be a great source of inspiration. The buffalo stands strong in the face of a storm on the prairie. This great prairie beast of the Midwest is known not only to face a storm but to charge into it.

Leaders must do this, too.

To charge the storm, leaders must stop and take stock of their culture now.

Leaders who aim to grapple with the changes facing their teams today will not gain traction with their efforts if their culture -- "how we do things around here" -- is not ready for it.

Leaders must start by asking if their purpose -- a key aspect of culture -- alongside their mission, vision and values -- meets the needs of the changing workplace.

Leaders who have the courage to ask this may be surprised at what they find.

One indicator is that four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important.

If the "why" -- the purpose -- of the organization is not clear, it makes it difficult for employees and teams to align, let alone embrace development needs and changes in the workplace.

Leaders who aim to grapple with the changes facing their teams today will not gain traction with their efforts if their culture -- "how we do things around here" -- is not ready for it.

The example of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, leadership highlighted in the CHRO interview, however, is a great one. They exemplify how to get this right.

In the interview, Eidens states clearly that, "Science, technology, innovation, curiosity are all part of our DNA ... our ambition and purpose."

They embedded a change mindset in their culture starting with purpose. So, when leaders ask employees to try something new, like experiment with a humanoid robot that answers development questions, employees are not surprised because that's just "how we do things around here."

They see that their leadership is aligned with that purpose and they are expected to get on board with new efforts.

On the other hand, imagine trying to weather the storm of the century with a crew who hasn't received a weather report. It would be much the same as trying to introduce a new humanoid robot into a culture where things like curiosity and innovation -- the bedrocks of growth and change -- are not drivers.

No wonder there's resistance to take on new things.

But when leaders charge the storm by clarifying their purpose. When they ensure that purpose includes values like a willingness to embrace change and invest in development. And when they then follow through and align this with their workforce by using clear signals, leaders proactively eliminate resistance, and they do so from the start.

To do this, they must encourage adoption of the organizational values by communicating the importance of them to managers who can then reinforce these values in everyday rituals with their teams. When they work in partnership with managers in this way, several things happen:

  • Managers reinforce the values in meetings and ongoing conversations with their teams so that team members are informed, aware, and can get on board with how they can contribute.
  • Managers who are responsible for resource allocation allow for and incorporate time for development and learning needs associated with the change efforts into the schedule.
  • Managers recognize efforts that align with these values. This may mean new certifications achieved or even celebrating veteran employees who willingly "job craft" to deploy their knowledge and experience in new ways that benefit the company as needs change.

If managers are not in the loop, on the other hand, efforts can stall out. Sustaining the effort means regular communication and sharing of stories and best practices so that the aspired culture of embracing change and development as a norm stays alive and well.

Ultimately, charging the storm -- or engaging in a cultural transformation -- when a change mindset is needed pays dividends in the long run, too.

Culture is a key component to your employment brand, and when key cultural drivers are used to boost performance, it is not only current teams that will benefit -- the top talent that leaders hope to attract to your organization will notice, too. Thus, leadership investment is rewarded when engagement stays strong, even when existing team members are faced with change and development needs, but also when new top talent wants to join to contribute to the future.

Imagine trying to weather the storm of the century with a crew who hasn't received a weather report. It would be much the same as trying to introduce a new humanoid robot into a culture where things like curiosity and innovation -- the bedrocks of growth and change -- are not drivers.

OK. Now that we've addressed why leaders must charge the storm in order to build a culture that keeps up with workers' demand for development needs and also to embrace change, let's also address the elephant in the room: Could we really report to robot managers?

Well, given that we know millennials have a real need to be recognized for their uniqueness and that managers account for 70% of the variance in their team's engagement, human managers who leverage their human relationships via ongoing conversations, who authentically connect with their team members, and who access the latest analytics to inform team development will likely weather the stormy winds better than the robot managers will. Human managers will welcome the technologies that free them up from other tasks so they can focus on people.

Learn more about how Gallup can help you adjust your culture approach for the changing workforce:

Shannon Mullen O'Keefe is an Adviser and Performance Lead, Organizational Performance Consulting, at Gallup.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/workplace/308018/face-future-work-examining-culture-first.aspx
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