Are you too slow to win? pt. 1 Corporate culture and the new workplace

Burke Turner
Is your culture making you too slow to win? A series on the role of corporate culture and new ways of working in the evolution towards a more digital workplace. The modern and digitally enabled workplace is one of physical ambivalence, where employee engagement delivers real advocacy, ideas come from anywhere and where collaboration, communication and innovation are the lifeblood of the organisation. The product is the unlocking of step changes in efficiency that further drive the bottom line and ability to deliver value for the customer; a culture of efficiency, performance and innovation where people are proud to be a part of it. The superstars have been doing this for a decade; it’s already here and happening. Let me share what they do, why you need to know, and how you can apply the lessons in your workplace. We begin with behavioural changes in the workplace. Exec Summary: 45 seconds 40% of the workplace will be millennials by 2020 (1). Do you speak their language? Constantly connected. International horizons. Great expectations. Highly motivated by purpose. Waltzing into their careers with an insuperable debt; this is their reality. While this younger demographic (true digital natives) certainly lead technology adoption, behaviour changes have pervaded all our lives. In a world where work/life balance has evolved to work/life blend, communication at work must catch up to communication in life. To leverage existing talent and unlock latent performance from teams, question the current working environment’s fit for purpose. As with life, the workforce is increasingly communicating with immediacy and transparency, embracing a work-from-anywhere/always online approach and valuing team achievement over that of the individual, it’s likely that a more traditional meeting based culture where new ideas struggle to see the light of day amidst the delays of bureaucracy is under threat. I explore several ways the first steps can be taken towards a more digitally enabled workplace in a series of posts; this being the first.

The value of Work/Life Blend

Work/life blend is what you get when you function in a digitally connected world; life no longer functions in convenient 8 hour blocks. A manager can dictate a work/life balance, but it is up to the employee to manage their own work/life blend. In the right culture, work/life blend can be a very positive thing, in the wrong culture it can easily lead to abuse of responsibility. Trust becomes paramount for the modern workplace. New means of measuring performance and defining compensation, such as including peer ranking as part of appraisals, open new doors to incentivise teams to deliver, however not without challenges, of course.

Increased collaboration demands better communication.

Reducing email dependency and a culture of meetings is one of the most visible and impactful changes that comes with the introduction to a more collaborative working environment. Collaborative working in the cloud software firm, Asana built a company on a strap line of allowing “everybody in the company to know what they are doing and why”. It really doesn’t need to be stated any more complex than this. And this allows an enticing glimpse into the project leaders’ future in workplaces that leverage collaborative tools well. Set the vision, agree the timelines, divide up the work, get out of the way, view the dashboard and review to engage where needed. These tools don’t reinvent project management, they simply offer to streamline all the parts which don’t add direct value to the output. And by using a transparent way of working this allows more issues to be caught by the right person at the right time well before the next all in update meeting (and hopefully before it becomes the wrong time for an issue to be spotted).

Purpose means..

Those born between 1980 and 2000 enjoy being defined as the first generation to be worse off than their parents. Top marks for motivation! But how has this manifested itself in the Millennials view of the workplace? (2)
  • 64% want to make the world a better place
  • 9% want a boss that they consider a mentor or coach
  • 88% want work to better integrate with life
(No more broad statistics, I promise) If you are wanting to hire the best digital native talent on the market, chances are they fit this profile. How does your corporate culture respond to the 3 motivators detailed above? How do you think you appeal to talent that has this perspective? Does your corporate culture facilitate this kind of employee to deliver great work? For the millennial, connectivity facilitates life, often at the expense of authenticity (think the tinder economy). Skill and relevance commands influence. Life becomes a search for purpose, and when this purpose is found and overlapped as much as possible with career, work happily becomes life. Information is ubiquitous, feedback is instant and while minor mistakes have always been expected, today those mistakes are expected to be shared and leveraged as a data point for business improvement.

The opportunity

We cannot expect teams to meet their potential while ring fenced within yesterday’s work culture, or being restricted by communicating in a way that is streets behind communication in daily life. The need for management to transition from performance manager to a role that provides the tools, workspaces and culture that fosters productivity, based on a collaborative environment of trust, is real for so many businesses. Given the right tools and the freedom to engage fully with their work, coupled with a considered program of on boarding and change, business will see a step change in output. A team of engaged and empowered  set  ‘getting on with it’ can create an oasis of activity  deliver electrifying results. And best of all, this influence will radiate into the wider team, bringing along those who previously may have been considered as suffering from workplace inertia. In the following post I explore why digital leaders invest in leadership and behaviour, above technology, and how you can enable new behaviours to make the most of what technology and skills you already have in place. Learn more, carry forward the discussion in a free workshop in London, June 10th. Click for more details.  Burke Turner is a strategist with a desire to help brands and organisations realise the potential available to them in a world increasingly full of change. (1) A stat alive around several sources, ranges from 40-50%, with a more reputable source being the CAA Intelligence Group (2)Forbes, 2014

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