Changing the Way We Work – For Good
5-Part series that looks to the future of communications in our new work model
by Keith Kitani, CEO of GuideSpark
Part 2: Creating a Connected Enterprise
Enterprises were already becoming more distributed and diverse before COVID 19, but we should expect a dramatic increase in the remote work option post-pandemic. This creates a number of advantages – a wider talent pool, less facilities costs, better commutes, and more – but it also brings some new challenges. Companies have long relied on personal connections to drive their business, so in this new model, how do we ensure that we’re just as productive and cohesive? Let’s discuss how we can create an organization that’s connected through culture, digitalization, and communication – especially during times of uncertainty.
Connect through Culture
Culture is the core of any organization, and provides its connective tissue. Culture is made up of a common mission, an inspirational vision, and a set of values, behaviors, and norms. But the culture carriers are people, our employees.
As we “re-open for business” over the next few months amidst this uncertainty, I believe there will be some profound changes. First, there will be a new emphasis on the health and well-being of our co-workers. Think about how almost every organization today starts interactions with a check on employee and family health – physically, mentally, and financially. Second, where and how we work will be different. The remote work option was put under an extreme pressure test, and it has worked for the most part. As such, I believe more employees and businesses will adopt a larger remote workforce going forward. Leaders will have to find new ways to keep the company culture alive, replace the proverbial “water cooler,” and keep people healthy and connected.
One approach is to connect with employees beyond just their titles and locations. For example, we have a program called “Humans of GuideSpark,” where we share each individual’s unique background and story. It provides a special kind of insight, empathy, and connection, no matter where employees are located. We have several Slack channels just for socializing – our digital water cooler, so to speak – where we can discuss shared interests and give virtual “shout-outs” for personal and professional milestones. We also have cultural norms around remote working; they’re as simple as showing up for company meetings, connecting via video, and participating in surveys, FAQ sessions, and games or challenges.
Another strategy is to create a strong culture around change and build a change mindset. Charles O’Reilly, the Frank E. Buck Professor of Management at the Stanford Graduate School for Business, says, “Companies with strong cultural norms of adaptability perform better over the long-run, and managers can help create an adaptive corporate culture within their own organizations.” A change-ready organization will adapt more quickly as work models transform, especially during the post-pandemic phase.
Connect through Digitalization
Digital transformation happened seemingly overnight for many companies, moving their businesses online with new processes and communications. Digitalization projects that were slated to take place over 2 years shrunk to 2 months.
We found that we can change quickly when necessary, and we surprised ourselves at the innovation, problem-solving, and retooling that we made happen. The premise “it’s not the strongest, but the most adaptable who survive,” has never been more appropriate than during this time.
There were many positives that came out of this transformation: Business became agile and adaptable. Processes were streamlined and accelerated. Online learning, video conferencing, and collaboration tools increased exponentially, and became the lifeblood of connectivity.
But phase two is upon us. Given this renewed push for digitalization, and now that we know what’s actually possible, every business model is under scrutiny. There are questions about how we can do things more efficiently, from almost anywhere. We’ve felt kinks in the global supply chain, and we’re investigating how to protect our businesses in the future.
Our employees will feel the side effects of going digital the most. New skills will be needed, and employees will need to adapt quickly. There will be much more “digital noise,” such as information coming from everywhere in multiple formats. Now that digitalization is a core pillar of the strategy, we need to connect employees to this new world of work. They’ll need help understanding what the changes mean to them, their roles, and their responsibilities. Managers are trusted advisors who can help interpret change and connect with their employees personally in this new era of digitalization.
Connect through Communication
Foundational to any business is communication, especially during times of extreme change.
To truly communicate, we need to go beyond just spouting a message; we need to connect emotionally, engage authentically, and help change behavior. While that’s a tall order for communication, these aspirational goals are possible.
During the crisis there was one central message, but as we exit there will be a greater amount of information required, bringing along many competing priorities and messages, and the delivery of that information will accelerate. To get through this, we need to connect to each employee. Here are some key factors to getting this right:
- We need to orchestrate communication across the employee experience, reaching the workforce in ways that are part of their natural workflow and communication media.
- We need to customize or personalize our communications. This can’t be a “one-size-fits-all” approach; it has to be relevant and timely for our diverse population of employees.
- We need to remember that change is a journey, which is usually unique to each employee group. So, we can’t just communicate in one single message in a single way and be done; we need to deliver communication journeys designed to drive the desired business outcomes for each employee group.
- And lastly, we need to measure our communications to see if we are really getting through to employees – not just quantitatively, but also qualitatively, measuring engagement and sentiment.
Communicating during times of crisis and digital disruption can be difficult, but not if our employees have an adaptive mindset and leaders have a change communications strategy in place. In times of change, employees need to hear from us even more. Scaling, managing, and measuring communications will be a critical need for the enterprise in this new era of work.
Be sure to catch Part 3 of this series, Ensuring Alignment and Productivity during Times of Uncertainty, where Keith Kitani will discuss how organizations can keep employees aligned, productive, and engaged as priorities and business models evolve – and the role that communication plays to achieve business outcomes during the new normal.