Culture happens when a group of people arrive at a set of rules for working together. Today those rules for work are changing, quickly, and people all around the organization are under pressure to cope with new types of work and attitudes toward it. In fact, I would argue that some incumbent work cultures are breaking down as the pressure inside and outside the business ratchets up to intolerable levels. The pace of technological innovation and the resulting speed continues to create an insatiable demand for creativity and agility, and it challenges everyone from those at the top (yes, leaders have feelings too) to those that have been working at the coalface for over 20 to 30 years (guilty m’lud). The skills people increasingly need along with the emerging behavioral mores of the modern workplace are a minefield for, literally, everyone to navigate.
My new research shows that many companies are finding their culture at odds with the rapid emergence of technology and the sheer variety of work styles now prevalent in the workforce. Just think about how your world of work has changed in the last 5 years, let alone 10 years ago. And for those now entering the workforce today, the concept of “work” is ever more fluid and contextual—and it’s confusing those that started their careers in the early 2000s, let alone way back in the midst of time say, last century like I did. Older workers see a younger, hipper “martini” workforce (anytime, anyplace, any device) challenging the notions of how and where work gets done. While the younger workforce can’t’ understand their elder peer’s reluctance to share, well, just about everything. From the level of their pay to the quality of the coffee on tap in the hip new canteen.
So, along with my colleagues in the digital strategy team, we lensed in on culture because we think a new work culture needs shaping to protect people and to get the best from them. We think new cultural mores need building to help people survive and thrive in the fast changing world of modern work with its focus on platforms, data and algorithms. We created a blueprint—levers that can be pulled to shape a culture fit for the digital age. Please do read my latest report The Culture Cure for Digital: How to Fix What’s Ailing Business. It will help ensure every business – and its employees – are prepared for the changing nature of work. So, here are six key actions help leaders meet personal, business and employee needs:
- Set the stage with leadership: Most executives understand the challenges of disruption, but they should motivate their workforce to embrace visions of change, manage its execution and roll out learning initiatives across the organization. Basically it starts at the top.
- Use the workspace to shape work behaviors: Workplaces should be designed to encourage creative expression. Offices should be designed to showcase new product developments and workforce innovation. Yes, the workplace matters.
- Rewire power and decision making: Businesses need to reset the dynamics of power and decision making by opening up their organizational structures. The talent you need is often found at the edge of the business, in a start-up or co-working space. – and go and find one, work in one, chat to the people there.
- Build new people-to-machine workflows: AI systems will increasingly alter employee jobs, so businesses need to retrain managers around new technologies to ensure the workforce has the skills required for new roles. How would you react to an algorithm telling you how to, and how not to work?
- Go for the gold on employee experience: Employee experience spurs employee loyalty and productivity. Businesses should use data and digital tools to improve the quality of their employee engagement programs. Get it right and you’ve won them for ever (well, for at least three years). Our latest recruit to the centre, Caroline Styr, can tell you how to unlock people data to redefine how people need to work
Remember, cultures are like people. They are made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, experiences and habits that guide the collective behavior of the workforce. And sometimes work culture screws up just like we, as people, do. Sometimes they need therapy…read our cure and shape culture fit for the rigours of modern work.