My last post dealt with the pressure on people as the future of work unfolds. This intensifying pressure on your people will understandably, impact the moral of the workforce and Cognizant believes that our work cultures, those unspoken rules that guide how people work together, that guard against the pressure, are feeling the strain. The relentless need for speed, agility, and adaptability are challenging all of us, no matter where we sit in an organization.
Unfortunately, there is no template for the “right culture,” but you will know when it’s right. I have tried to give a picture of what 10 signs of a healthy culture might look like. However, there is one cultural marker that is worth paying attention too—when you join a bunch of co-workers, and you know (you just know) one of them has gone toxic. Overstretched, overworked and therefore resentful, they badmouth the (your) company at every opportunity. If you experience it more than once in the day, then pay close attention to it because it could be the “canary in the coal mine,” i.e., the corporate songbird that dies because poisonous gas—a poisnous culture—is present.
Work culture is the safety valve for modern work, and in many firms, I think it’s rusty or stuck. And a stuck culture means higher levels of staff turnover, worrying levels of graduate churn (always telling). Greater levels of absenteeism, a drop in meeting attendance and productivity across a team. Or, walk about, and look at what you see and hear when walking around the building. What do people have on their desks or show on their walls? Do you get the sense of dynamism and energy and an innovative spirit pervading how you want your people to work? Or does it strike you as worn-out, tired, and a company heading towards the exit? In some firms, people roll up their sleeves and get stuck in; others will carp and complain at every opportunity they get. Look at it another way—are the people you work alongside excited about the possibilities that the future of work could create for them—as we paint in our report 21 Jobs of the Future—or are they burnt out by the blistering pace of change. If it’s the latter, then how are you going to attract the talent needed to thrive in this era of promise and opportunity?
So how can you start to shape a culture that works? Well, culture happens when a group of people arrive at a set of rules for working together. Today those rules for work are changing, quickly, rapidly, and people all around us are under pressure to cope with these changes. The skills people increasingly need along with the emerging behavioral mores of the modern workplace are a minefield for everyone to navigate, from the leader to the lowly office clerk or the new apprentice fresh out of school. Moreover, the machines are moving in: new workflows that blend people and machines are still bedding down (too much dry management by an algorithm? Not enough humanity?), And then there are different working styles… It’s all happening right now. This is why shaping the right culture is extremely important.
My next post will offer up a new cultural framework. It will explain how to nurture your people, determine the talents your firm needs and the right structures in which people are set to work. This framework prescribes leadership behaviours that need to be demonstrated; it guides the various activities and work streams that will build flatter structures to engage the energy at the edge of their organization (in a talent cluster); it reinvigorates the power and decision dynamics that happen at its centre; it also directs the critical upskilling that the existing workforce needs and it features a technology backbone which augments people with insight and, orchestrates new digital workflows. Taken together, they provide a blueprint for the modern organization in the 21st century.