How organisations can succeed in a multi-channel work environment
When the only constant continues to be change, it is perhaps unsurprisingly that HR and business leaders are continuing to face a plethora of challenges in managing their workforce.
For example, some employees have now fully returned to the office, some continue to predominately work remotely, while others work on a hybrid arrangement of both. Within this multi-channel work environment, how can organisations build a cohesive digital culture?
Describing digital culture as the corporate vision and mission that is uniquely designed, delivered, and nurtured for a non-traditional work audience, Tim Sackett, President, HRU Technical Resources, told HRM Magazine Asia, “Every single corporate culture is a combination of micro-cultures defined by function, location, and position, and so on. Digital culture then becomes three unique micro-cultures organisations must figure out how to support, grow, and combine into one organisational culture.”
“Because most of us have for so long been concentrating on our on-premises culture, we believe this is our real ‘culture’. In today’s work world, that will always fall short.”
To check if a cohesive culture exists, organisations need to ask themselves: Do you have a shared vision across all work environments?
Unfortunately, most employees do not even know what their organisation’s vision is, and this is only going to be exacerbated by the lengthening of digital and physical distances as employees move farther away from the office.
This calls for more reinforcement messages, as Sackett explained, “Leaders tend to get tired of hearing themselves clarify and expand upon their organisation’s vision, but the average employee does not. Contrarily, they want to hear from leaders more.”
“We saw this during COVID shutdowns where we had these great all-hands, weekly calls from leaders. They then became monthly affairs and now, most leaders stop doing them altogether, but employees loved them!”
The next step for leaders to take, he recommended, is take time to genuinely listen to every employee and understand the challenges they face and offer help. Specifically for remote employees, leaders need to help them feel more connected and not be excluded from the team.
Lastly, a common and transparent measurement of high performance must be introduced to drive a cohesive culture, Sackett emphasised. “We love to say location doesn’t matter if we are performing. If that’s the case, let’s make that happen! We tend to have a much tighter culture when we know who’s performing well and who’s not, and when there is much less second guessing.”
Flexible work does not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach
While different organisations will have differing interpretations of hybrid work, high-performing organisations are those who see beyond hybrid work design to provide employees with the flexibility to effectively manage both their work and life requirements.
As employees seek more flexibility to decide when work or life takes priority on certain days, HR leaders can provide support by embracing change.
“For so long, HR has tended to want policies that treat everyone the same. That’s a major hurdle in giving employees flexibility.” – Tim Sackett, President, HRU Technical Resources.
Sackett explained, “For so long, HR has tended to want policies that treat everyone the same. That’s a major hurdle in giving employees flexibility. Some employees might need flexibility to raise their children, some might need flexibility to manage their mental health, and others may need some flexibility to take classes to increase their skills. All of these will help us become more productive employees, but HR might see only one or two of these examples as legitimate flexibility.”
HR also has an important role in helping managers understand that ‘flexibility’ is not a synonym for being unproductive and not meeting performance goals. Instead, it is about allowing each employee to produce great results with a little more freedom in how they do their best work.
While different organisations will meet with varying degrees of success, Sackett said, “The job of managers is to reward and praise those who thrive, and quickly help those who are failing to find a way they can have their flexibility but still be productive and valuable.”
For organisations that are making it mandatory for employees to return to the office, he suggested a rethink of how more effective ways can be found to lead people to better outcomes, including transparency in leadership.
“Most employees want to see their organisation succeed because they want to be part of a success story. So, yes, you might have to ask your employees to return to the office, but you should be stating the ‘why’.”
If the reason stems from a distrust that work is being done at home, organisations will lose their best employees. Conversely, if the organisation is struggling financially and need employees to come into the office to collaborate more quickly and be more effective in the speed of execution, employees are likely to respond favourably if their importance to the organisation’s long-term success is explained to them.
Sackett continued, “They will also want to know, once we get past the storm, will we be allowed to continue the flexibility we enjoyed prior, and that answer should be ‘yes’!”
How data is driving change management and leadership
For leaders to fully embrace workplace flexibility, a contributing factor is likely to be increased productivity across various work environments.
Measuring productivity, however, requires the narrative around performance management to be changed, said Sackett. “Measuring productivity isn’t about micromanaging. It’s about driving outstanding performance on both an organisational and individual capacity. If you ask employee if they would like to be the highest, best performer at their company, they will say yes 100% of the time. Therefore, our performance management process and systems should be designed around helping each employee to be their best self and not about getting someone in trouble for failing at something.”
With the right performance management systems, hard measures of performance, as opposed to subjective measures, can be derived to determine if employees are thriving or failing. Leaders can then use the data generated to help employees thrive in the areas where they need help.
However, while HR is arguably more data-driven than ever before, Sackett was quick to point out that technology is merely the driver to affect change management and leadership. “The ease of exploring data through technology helps leaders manage change more effectively and efficiently. The key to all of this, is your employees must trust that leaders want to see them thrive and the job of the leader is to make that happen.”
Organisations face potential talent crunch in 2023
As a leading HR influencer, analyst, and commentator, it is perhaps not surprising that Sackett is already looking ahead to 2023 and how the landscape will look like for HR.
One key HR trend in 2023, he predicts, is how organisations can get or leverage talent when there is a scarcity of talent, especially in industralised countries.
“Most industralised countries are facing a crisis when it comes to not having enough humans to work in their organisations. There are many ways to impact this, but most organisations aren’t thinking long term around this issue.”
Sackett, who will also be joining HR Tech Festival Asia 2023 at a keynote speaker, added, “Smaller picture, our HR technology is getting too complex when it should be getting easier to use for both HR and employees. In large enterprise organisations, internal mobility and the employee journey is taking hold. For the first time in the history, we also have the concept that HR is required to not just develop an employee to be a better worker, but also to consider employees outside of work and help them become better people.”
To hear more insights from Tim Sackett on key HR trends and workforce developments in 2023, join him at HR Tech Festival Asia 2023, which is taking place live in Singapore from May 10-11.