5 minute read 19 Nov 2021
Two people cheering at office

How do leaders ensure sustainable success with the complexities and dynamics of today?

By Kirsten Vasey

Associate Partner, Transformation Leader, PAS | Switzerland

Global citizen, mother, friend, coach, mentor & triathlete, passionate about enabling people, teams and organizations to be the best they can be.

5 minute read 19 Nov 2021
Related topics Workforce Work Reimagined

As technology and innovation evolve at speed, leaders need to focus on culture to empower people.

In brief
  • As the pandemic forced people & organisations physically apart, the role of culture has taken on greater significance 
  • Advances in technology enable new insights into people-related data to inform better business decisions
  • The ability to innovate at scale and sustainably, is determined by leadership behaviour 

We are currently in the middle of the biggest social experiment in modern corporate history where COVID-19 has acted as an accelerator and magnifier of many workforce trends that were already under way. It’s also shown us that necessity really is the mother of invention and that ultimately there’s nothing more important than people.

Over the last 24 months, we have come together as countries, communities, and companies to protect and enable one another. As we emerge and continue to live in this new reality, we like to think we are better, stronger, and wiser.

So much has changed, and yet, so many questions remain open as people around the world return to the workplace in one form of the other. Many businesses and leaders are still facing fundamental questions about the future of work. How do you get the right balance for your people, customers and other stakeholders when so many aspects are still in flux and undergoing transformation?

As we navigate the coming weeks, months, and years ahead, three elements (value drivers) are essential to consider for business leaders to lead their people – and organizations – into a successful future:

  • Humans at the center
  • Technology at speed
  • Innovation at scale

At the same time, these value drivers are linked by one overarching success factor, that connect each and every one of us: culture.

(Chapter breaker)
1

Chapter 1

Humans at the center

Help your people do and be their best

Covid was a wake-up call for every one of us. We worried about our friends, our loved ones, our colleagues, clients, and customers. We found new ways to connect, communicate and to collaborate – mostly remotely. For many of us, being forced apart only served to reinforce and intensify the importance of being together.

This new situation has also taught communities, countries, and companies a lot about their culture. Culture is how people work together and use available systems, tools, processes etc. It’s how we innovate and learn. A strong culture is purposeful, coherent, consistent. It addresses systemic issues and sustainably supports people through difficult and challenging times. A poor culture buckles and breaks under pressure. It segments, segregates, and enables cracks to not only appear, but widen.

More choice

90%

of employees want to choose when and where they work

As we emerge into an ever changing, new normal, culture is more relevant than ever. Are you one of the many companies now embracing hybrid working models? Are you empowering your people to choose their own and individual way of working? After all, 9 out of 10 employees want flexibility in where and when they work.

How do you maintain a consistent culture across locations, in person and remotely? Getting the right mix of interaction, innovation, communication, and collaboration is a fine balancing act – and critical to the people experience. Not just for our employees, but for our suppliers, customers, consumers and across the whole economic value chain. In a recent global EY Survey across 23 industries and 17 countries, less than 50% of Employees believe that their company culture has changed for the positive since the beginning of the pandemic. 

It’s not all bad news though. Many companies are focusing on behavioral skills like empathy, learning agility, virtual collaboration/interaction, creative reasoning, -complex problem solving, and growth mindset. For all the talk of digitalization, putting humans at the centre means honoring these behavioral skills and ensuring leaders have more than just interpersonal abilities. It requires the ability to listen and empathetically support employees to be and do their best in a tech-driven world. Paradoxical as it sounds, social and emotional skillsets are as, if not more, important than the role of data, analytics, robotics, and automation. Studies show that 80% of employees would work more hours for an empathetic employer, with no material change in compensation. 

(Chapter breaker)
2

Chapter 2

Technology at speed

Be part of the next industrial revolution

Every time there’s an industrial revolution, it forces a shift in skill sets. By 2030, the time spent using advanced technological skills is set to almost double, while basic data-input and processing skills will have all but disappeared as automation takes over.

A recent WEF report estimated that 133 million new roles will have been created between 2018-2022 due to advances in technology. And they’ll displace around 75 million roles that will have disappeared. 

Destined to fail

84%

of digital transformations fall short of their goals

Many digitalization strategies take a fragmented approach and don’t truly uncover, or scale, the connections between expectations, people, and environment. Forbes has estimated up to 84% of digital transformations fail to meet objectives. At the root of the failure is often poor cost management, a lack of success measures (KPIs) and bad leadership. For the 16% who do succeed, there is one common element – culture. And the impact of ensuring this is prioritized minimizes significantly is able to minimize significantly the negative effects from the other root causes.

  • How people-centric data drives better business

    Some of our most exciting conversations with clients right now are about bringing together people-centric data through advanced analytics to drive better business decisions. Let’s take a real example. We have data, lots of data, such as:

    • Ethics & Compliance data about the number and types of cases experienced
    • Gaps in processes identified by Internal Audit and
    • Documentation focused on number and types of cases
    • Sales performance data
    • Talent data (performance and potential) and
    • Employee engagement data

    When we connect the dots across these data sets, we gain insights into questions like: are the highest performers also those with the highest risk profiles? Are the most loyal adopters of the sales tool generating the most sales and most ethical? Are the highest performers also recognized within the organization as demonstrating the organisation’s key values and delivering exceptional employee experiences? Which leaders and line managers deliver best on all the above?

Technology at speed is not just about introducing new tools. It’s about understanding how people work together and use available systems and tools: How they continue to learn, adjust, and innovate and how these desirable behaviors impact business results. Once you have these insights into behavior, you can start to shape the culture and influence business performance.

(Chapter breaker)
3

Chapter 3

Innovation at scale

Embrace agility to enable innovation

How do you cultivate a culture of innovation en-masse, particularly now in a hybrid working world? How do you realize the full potential of your people and their ability to un/re/learn new skills? How do you flex and adapt in an agile manner to the constant changes in social, economic, physical landscapes - as individuals, as teams and as an organization?

A culture of innovation is essential for companies wishing to not just survive, but thrive in the new normal. The synergy effects are plain to see: new ways of collaborating, new products and services, new ways of interacting with customers, new ways of engaging and sustaining productivity and engagement in employees.

You need to implement quickly, succeed sustainably and give appropriate recognition for desired behaviors.
Kirsten Vasey
Associate Partner, Transformation Leader, PAS | Switzerland

Are you already prioritizing agile ways of working? and how far is it really being embedded?  Agile organizations and ways of working allow for stable yet dynamic, adaptive yet resilient, modes of operating. Typically, a network of teams interacts in various efficient combinations. In the absence of complicated hierarchies, people are empowered to make decisions – and fast. It means they can respond and adapt quickly. Given the uncertainty many have faced over the past eighteen months, these are highly appealing qualities. But success isn’t just about introducing agile organizations. You also have to address existing hierarchies, governance structures, and how technology is used to enable these new ways of working. It requires an end-to-end ability to experiment, regroup and refocus. You need to implement quickly, succeed sustainably, and give appropriate recognition for these desired behaviors. 

Strong cultures are built on, and by, strong leadership. As leaders, it is our responsibility to now think hard about the following:

  • In an ever-changing world, how do you, personally, enable and sustain a culture that empowers your people?
  • How do you support your people to create not only short-term but also long-term value?
  • Where are you leading – or lagging – in terms of the value drivers that underpin the greatest social experiment of our time?

Summary

We are living in a time of rapid innovation and technological advances. The role of culture has never been more important for an organization’s success. Empowering people to up/reskill will be critical – and only works in a culture that embraces agility and values learning and delivers an exceptional employee experience.

About this article

By Kirsten Vasey

Associate Partner, Transformation Leader, PAS | Switzerland

Global citizen, mother, friend, coach, mentor & triathlete, passionate about enabling people, teams and organizations to be the best they can be.

Related topics Workforce Work Reimagined