In this episode of “LDS On,” we focus on the evolution of culture in the hybrid-virtual workplace. This is an important topic at a time when virtual strategies and new work practices afford workers flexibility and freedom in terms of how and where they work, while topics like diversity, human-centricity and inclusion take center stage. In this video, CEO Mimi Brooks examines how business leaders must take the initiative to engage and empower employees by embracing individuality and the essential human connection to nurture richer culture, higher engagement, more creativity, and better business results.
Welcome to the seventh video in a series of LDS thought-leadership dedicated to the discussion of transformation management.
In each bi-weekly video, we’ll address a topic of strategic interest to business leaders who are guiding their organizations through transformative change.
In this video, I’ll focus on culture and the hybrid-virtual workplace. This is an especially important topic at a time when entirely new ways of working are highlighting the need for purpose, culture, and leadership as topics like diversity, human-centricity, and inclusion are emerging as a means to inspire and motivate the workforce. So, this is LDS On: Leading with Culture in a Virtual Workplace. Let’s get started…
While the pandemic forced companies to rapidly formalize what was originally seen as temporary remote working arrangements for many employees, the unexpected outcome was the emergence of virtual strategies and new work practices that afford workers flexibility and freedom in terms of how and where they work.
The longer-term challenge is to rethink how to inspire, engage and empower employees in a permanently distributed hybrid workplace by connecting individuals and teams while preserving the essential human connection.
To do this, intrinsically motivating human-centric work will be foundational. New ways of working that are fundamentally holistic, inclusive, and creative are essential, along with a binding, purpose-driven culture embedded inside and outside the office. Digitally driven experiences and tools then become the “glue” that can help build cultural cohesion in a distributed organization, even as companies continue to reorganize and optimize their human and machine tasks and roles.
Let’s examine each one of those ideas for a moment… From the outset, a carefully scripted and credible Purpose provides the workforce with a tangible and compelling reason for its existence in the first place. ‘Purpose’ must be viewed as the cornerstone that provides alignment, clarity, guidance, and cohesive energy in a dynamic environment driven by an ever-changing business model.
Culture then liberates and empowers people to act in support of Purpose by focusing on values, behaviors, and growth mindsets. It encourages and provides context to the work practices of collaboration, agility, continuous learning, and innovation. It must also engage and empower people by enriching on-the-job experiences and giving workers the chance to make a real difference in their daily contributions.
In order to achieve these goals, Leadership is key. Leaders must inspire the workforce to live the emerging culture by empowering individuals and teams to embrace growth mindsets. They need to support a dynamic, self-directed learning environment that includes a facility for on-demand learning, virtual training, and experiential learning. The resident workforce must also be given ample opportunities to upskill in order to meet new talent demands.
Once Purpose and Leadership support has been established, it’s crucial to embed the attributes that lay the groundwork for a meaningful corporate Culture. At a basic level, we know these are diversity, human-centricity, and inclusion.
Beyond embracing the diversity of race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disabilities, Diversity also includes educational background, professional experience, personality attributes, and generational variety.
Some companies are now considering intersectionality as a more comprehensive pursuit of diversity whereby understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. This important conversation will continue to evolve.
Human-centricity requires creating a partnership with employees. This is a relationship of making choices when trying to find the right balance between people and results. Today’s virtual workplace challenges require human-centered responses driven by business strategies that rely on establishing human connections. And in today’s uncertain world, human-centricity provides critical organizational capabilities that ensure ‘agility in the midst of unpredictability.
Lastly, the glue that holds a culture together is Inclusion. Some would argue that innovation can occur only when individuals are free from pressure and feel safe to share. The inclusive aspect of culture starts at the top. Leaders must walk-the-walk by emphasizing common, “we’re all in this together” goals.
Finally – our Employee Experiences.
Culture is the “river that runs through” our employee experiences and well beyond words and commitments, culture needs to be actionable in our experiences. To do this, we must design innovative and engaging experiences where participation, networking, real-time learning, the free flow of ideas across business units and divisions, the incentives to seek out new people with different ideas…are all available and encouraged. People should be able to bring their personal brand to work and become known or found and tapped for a wide range of expertise and interests beyond their immediate job skill requirements.
In summary, the discussion of diversity, inclusion, and belonging are now rightfully at the forefront of leadership consciousness, as a world in crisis has laid bare deep-rooted social and other inequalities. As the workforce adapts to greater autonomy regarding where and how work takes place, business leaders must take the initiative to engage and empower employees by embracing individuality and the essential human connection in extenuating circumstances to nurture richer culture, higher engagement, more creativity, and better business results.
The diversity of thought leadership engendered by this ‘new normal’ will in turn help solve the issues created by the pandemic and leverage those aspects of the virtual workplace that are being driven by corporate culture.