The future of culture: How the pandemic will change workplace culture for the better
Your workplace has changed. Your colleagues have changed. You have changed. How does your workplace culture need to evolve so that you and your business will thrive going forward ? What does the right culture look like ? How do you manage hybrid office strategies, shifting client demand and evolving workforce expectations ? In this session, our culture gurus Karen Jones from Denison Consulting, Steve Buck from Glint and Dan Sodergren from Your FLOCK joined us to unpack and debate the future of culture.
Meet Our Inspiring Speakers
Karen Jones, Managing Director, UK, Ireland & Nordics at Denisons
Denison’s mission is to boost the performance of organisations by improving their corporate culture and leadership. “My goal,” says Karen, “is to transform the ambiguous and unmanageable within organisations into something energising and productive. As we help align corporate culture and staff behaviours with organisational priorities and personal goals, organisations see significant growth. I am at my best working with teams to create a unique ‘space’ where they can explore personal defenses and choices that often maintain division and inefficient decision making.” According to her clients, Karen “gets to the nub of a situation quickly and asks insightful and thought-provoking questions to help bring clarity and understanding.”
Steve Buck, Head of People Science, EMEA at Glint
Steven Buck stumbled into People Science mostly by accident. An organisational psychologist, he started his career as a project manager, but he soon recognized consulting was a better fit for him. At his core, Steve, like Glint, wants to help organisations develop employees who are happier and more successful at work. “I’m drawn to the problems our customers want to solve,” Steven says, “and love being able to help them get to the things that are really going to make a difference for their employees.” At Glint, Steven focuses on everything from cultural nuances in the ways people and organisations work, to approaches to data privacy.
Dan Sodergren, Co-founder and CIO at Your FLOCK
Dan is a Dad, Lover of Tech and a Futurist. By night, Dan also leads the diversity & inclusion agenda across Manchester’s media, digital and creative industry. During his day, he works on Your FLOCK – a tech startup and personal development tool to help managers and bosses increase working from home happiness, retain key talent and increase team productivity. His philosophy balances the importance of company culture in a world where digital transformation underpins the next business revolution. As a futurist he has talked on the BBC, Channel 4 and local and national stations as well as on numerous podcasts and webinars.
A question of culture
Company cultures have been stress tested since March 2020. So, as teams begin to emerge from crisis mode, what have they learned and what do people need to flourish inside organisations? Protiviti gathered a panel of people experts to find out.
A curious thing has happened in the past year: companies have learned, when they needed to the most, how to speak ‘human’. The veil has been lifted, people have seen into each other’s homes, and in some cases the narrowing work-life divide has brought them closer. Colleagues have learned more about each other and some leaders have realised what truly matters. Now, this sense of community created in crisis, offers an opportunity for a caring and compassionate future.
According to Steven Buck, head of people science at Glint, HR directors have been thrust into the centre of the boardroom, in response to the pandemic. Leaders that were previously content with managing people through KPIs, now realise they need to foster a sense of belonging, he says. Karen Jones, a managing director at Denison Consulting, agrees and believes companies have made great strides in their communications with employees. Dan Sodergren from technology start-up Your Flock says his data shows companies are becoming more caring.
This is good news. But it’s only the start of the cultural challenge (and opportunity) that companies face. As they reflect on these positive reports of human engagement and communication, they will also be aware of the flipsides of pandemic working: a lack of physical connection, leading to a rise in burnout; digital exhaustion from hours at the screen; and the perplexing challenge of managing a hybrid workplace in the future. There is a long list for leaders to reconcile, even if they are stewarding strong cultures already.
A question on everyone’s minds is this: what do humans really need to flourish within organisations? “You’ve got to tap into the deeper values of people,” says Dan Sodergren. “Of course, we could talk about mastery, autonomy and purpose, but if you link into values, you can become a purpose-led team.” Karen Jones adds that high-performing companies start with a compelling vision. Not one driven by profit, but one that connects to people’s values, to customers, and even to the way things are challenged between colleagues. She believes that people flourish at work when they can be themselves.
“In business, there is the doing and then there’s the being,” she adds. “The being is as important as what companies are trying to do. How do you have an appropriate conversation that shows people you care about them as human beings? I don’t want to work in a company that doesn’t allow me to flourish or to challenge things. I want to have purpose, and I want to make a difference when I come to work. If we’re too afraid to have that conversation, then I think something’s wrong.”
People also need to feel physically and psychologically safe, says Steven Buck. They need to be valued and respected and feel a sense of empowerment. If they have a sense of control over what the future looks like, that will help them to focus, and provide growth. Karen Jones believes it’s important for companies to really know their culture: to diagnose it, discuss it, and prioritise the bits that are helping to meet challenges. And it’s absolutely OK to be vulnerable, she adds, with the intention of caring for each other. “What are the good old habits that you want to preserve and strengthen? What are the bad old habits that you can let go and leave behind?” she asks.
Culture remains a difficult concept to define. It is fraught with ambiguity, complexity and competing perspectives. But its value is worth so much – to the people that run companies, and the people that work within them. As businesses begin to emerge, blinking, into the daylight of the post-pandemic world, many will be keen to reflect on what really makes them tick. And the message is clearer than it has ever been. It’s time to connect with people on a deeper level, to show that you care, and to develop the ‘human’ in human resources. Only then, will people and organisations truly flourish.
“We commit to something we see value in. In my experience, even before virtual working, we never sorted out the purpose of having a really good meeting, for example. How many people turned up and said: ‘well, I’m not sure why I’m here’. There’s also a myth right now that introverts are loving it because they’re at home in their offices and nobody’s bothering them. And extroverts are going crazy because they’re not having the daily contact they had. That may not be true. It’s about driving down to that deeper level of belief. What are we all believing and assuming to be true, and when does that need to be challenged, to reconnect with people?”
“Most of the time, people who say they have a good culture, just mean that they enjoy running the company with their friends. It means that maybe the leadership team might have a great culture and are very aligned. But the rest of your teams might not be, because you’ve never really asked them. In fact, when you have, it’s usually because everyone is voting to win an award. That doesn’t mean that they agree with you.”
“I start with what an organisation is about and what they want to achieve; then design the cultural imperatives and values around that, before making sure they are trickling down, and being demonstrated by leaders. A very good example of this, at the moment, is diversity and inclusion. I’m still seeing organisations with all these wonderful hashtags and pieces of marketing being pumped out by groups of middle-aged white men. Until those messages are actually being put into practice, not just into words, how on earth can you expect them to trickle down to the teams and hiring managers?”
Karen, Dan and Steven were speaking on series five of Protiviti’s collaboration forum, which has been held online on Thursday mornings during the past year. To find out more about the event, which will now run until then end of June 2021, click here.
Click below to view the entire series