A study by BCG revealed that organizations that focused on culture were 5x more likely to implement digital transformation successfully than organizations that just neglected culture.
However, business leaders are a long way from becoming “cultural leaders.”
Cultural barriers often trump change initiatives. Corporate culture implies what employees experience as they navigate their workplace challenges, interact with their colleagues and how transparent and open the work environment is. If employees can communicate easily, half the battle is won. Most organizations struggle with this. However, we can change it by prioritizing employee experience across touchpoints and making the work environment conducive to thinking, managing and delivering outcomes with ease. Activities such as managing benefits and compensation, maintaining time-records, enabling meaningful intra-departmental and cross-functional interactions, offering planned career progressions and ensuring a sharp focus on productivity, can help lower barriers to cultural change.
Managing a diverse and distributed workforce comprising full-time, part-time, contractual employees and gig workers is also becoming a challenge. In my opinion, achieving a cohesive policy can make cultural transformation easier.
The role of technology and IT infrastructure is being widely accepted in addressing these challenges. By integrating data from multiple HR functions and using collaboration tools, organizations can succeed in maintaining an adaptive corporate culture. Here’s how:
Establishing the new “virtual” rules of collaboration and communication
There is a risk in the hybrid workplace model. It could spawn a two-tier system where remote workers acquire second-class status. To avoid this, it is imperative that organizations create seamless and healthy interactions between those who work from office and those who don’t. No group should have more privileges than the other (such as the ability to interact with senior management). Collaboration platforms and knowledge tools must create deeper connections, personal growth, mental and physical well-being and shared purpose.
The role of cognitive automation, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) cannot be emphasized enough in turning HR into a more collaborative, cross-functional, and agile function. With new employees, it is imperative to replace face-to-face interactions (that helped foster organizational culture) with multiple planned virtual touchpoints between new employees and the management.
Suitable applications for each functional area of HR can also be deployed. The prevalent trend is to choose global platforms that provide a unified HR experience. This results in employees bonding with the organization despite working from home.
Reimagining best practices for virtual onboarding, leveraging technology
HR leaders have lately been asking how they can build a high-performance culture when new hires are onboarded virtually and located remotely. This can be managed with a two-pronged strategy:
- Effective virtual onboarding is the key to managing new hires. Systems and processes must provide new employees the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the corporate culture and attune themselves to high-performance standards. This is facilitated by laying a roadmap for virtual onboarding that includes virtual interactions with colleagues, managers and helpdesk teams along with online training on ethical behavior.
- Choosing the right IT infrastructure such as laptops, digital onboarding training materials, email accounts, project software tools and regular training on new systems and practices using virtual training and simulations sets the base for success.
An understanding of the backgrounds of new team members goes a long way in helping them settle into the new system. If they are unaccustomed to remote work, giving them breaks and encouraging candid chats with colleagues helps settle them in faster.
Managing a multi-generational, dispersed workforce virtually
Developing and preserving the culture of an organization is a senior management responsibility, not an HR prerogative. Organizational leaders must understand that today’s multi-generational workforce brings new attitudes to work. Therefore, they must lead and encourage the use of new methods and technologies to manage this talent, with special emphasis on continuous learning as the key to business survival.
Digital learning, powered by learning accelerators and multi-generational and multi-modal content, with simulated environments, has become a sophisticated science. In addition, it is imperative to design individual development plans based on the needs and roles of every employee.
Advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning have the capabilities to provide personalized learning experiences, and effective on-demand byte-sized learning modules. These enable workers to target more strategic assignments and allow HR leaders to manage complex employee lifecycles.
The future ahead: A human-centric approach to resilient and robust corporate culture
Leaders need to reflect on the changing shape of the workforce and its needs. They must act with urgency, to ensure that their workforce, whether in the office or remote remains engaged. They need to encourage employees to challenge existing processes and assumptions, discarding those that have become irrelevant. They need to experiment with new ideas and turn them into habits. This also reiterates that HR and business leaders must take sincere interest in leveraging technology to build an agile and resilient culture.
It is time to take bold action, aligned with the environment of a remote workforce, to preserve the culture –and purpose—of the organization.