Just weeks before the vast majority of the world went into lockdown, world leaders from the private and public sectors met in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF) to discuss the future of work. Even the job titles of the professionals attending the emblematic summit in Davos reflected the 2020 event’s theme: Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World. The list included: Chief Inclusion Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer, Head of Social Impact, Head of Cultural Insights, Head of Workforce of the Future, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, among other positions related to issues such as diversity, environment, gender, culture, digital transformation, and employee experience.
Although companies have been integrating environmental and social criteria into their processes, products, and services for years, the world’s populations demand precise definitions and a more active role from their leaders to address environmental problems, gender, digital inclusion, among other social issues. It is evident that these new job titles were designed to spearhead this agenda from within today’s organizations.
Just two months later, the outbreak of COVID-19 transformed the world of work forever. And suddenly the future of work was upon everyone in every industry at every organizational level sooner than we expected. The urgency of issues tied to employee experience, culture, and digital transformation, which were packaged under the category of the future of work at Davos 2020, immediately became more urgent and relevant than WEF organizers could ever have projected.
For companies, the crisis represents an opportunity to see where they stand and see more clearly where they want to go. This could be the ideal moment to rethink values and the way our companies relate to society in the future.
Although there is no single plan that fits all organizations given that by definition cultural transformation is a process of intervention on identity and particular aspects of each organization, below we present a few simple initiatives that can help organizations to respond to collective needs when implemented organically and progressively and lays out a roadmap as to how to prepare for the future of work.
Dare to think about the future of work with new values
The COVID-19 crisis inaugurates a new world order and forces the organizations to review their position before society. Values need to be reviewed and adapted to the jobs of the future. Some examples: At the end of 2019, Globant launched its initiative BeKind inviting employees to transform their organizations and people’s lives through actions that safeguard their colleagues, the planet, and humanity. At a global level, Spanish oil company CEPSA added the value “Sustainability,” one of Disney’s core values is “Inclusive & welcoming,” and KPMG has “community.”
Reviewing the values chosen by your company and creating new ones linked to social challenges is an excellent way of saying: “This topic is important to us. We value it.”
It is important to note that creating a value and not putting it into practice will likely have little real impact on the company. The culture of an organization is much more than a static list of concepts expressed in its ideology, it is understanding how those values are lived and transmitted on a daily basis.
We suggest developing a strategy so that these values become everyday behavior with which people feel truly identified.
Use informal leaders to your advantage
As we saw in the list of Davos attendees, some companies are creating “jobs of the future” to lead these issues internally. Would you like to promote this agenda in your company but you are not in a position to create a specific job title for that role? There is a way that could be just as powerful as creating a formal job position.
Social issues should not be approached only from the logic of hierarchical structures, but from a more holistic and collaborative approach, which encourages spontaneous participation. Who are the best candidates to drive this? Informal leaders, who emerge organically in organizations and have the ability to influence those around them.
Experts on the future of work propose that you foster informal leaders to motivate the construction of organic, flexible, and transparent leadership that helps drive initiatives from the “bottom-up.” Use technology to find your organization’s influencers and provide them with the necessary support so that they can lead your organization’s social initiatives.
Generate co-created communication
Communication is like culture. Even if your company has a “communications area,” it touches upon and requires the involvement of everyone, every day.
Years ago, companies adopted two-way communication channels in order to provide their employees with a space to express themselves and generate horizontal dialogue.
With the arrival of corporate social networks, this opportunity was further enhanced: today the channels are multidirectional and we can all be message communicators.
Encourage your employees to generate their own communities of interest. Make digital spaces available for them to dialogue, organize themselves in committees, and act as “owners” of the company’s social initiatives. They could be a community of women, environmentally conscious individuals, or people working to support vulnerable populations. They will be able to channel their social concerns within the framework of the company but with a genuine commitment since it would come from them.
It is critical that new leadership models and social initiatives developed in the company can be measured. What does that mean? Obtaining data about how employees feel, how they connect to one another, and how they engage (or not) with the company’s agenda is critical to making better decisions.
Today there are accessible technologies based on people analytics to measure the effectiveness of different initiatives and monitor how the adoption of your values evolves over time.
To guarantee business continuity during the pandemic, many companies have invested in software to be able to work remotely. If you are not already, this could be a great time to adopt data analysis tools to measure the cultural transformation of your company.
We do not know for certain what the future of work will look like. The world is going through profound changes and at extraordinary speed. For many companies, this could be the starting point to shift toward a better work paradigm. There is no doubt that in the work of the future, technology will play a fundamental role in building people-centered organizations, in which companies and their employees share their interests in making this world a better place.