It’s been over a year since the world as we once knew it ceased to exist. In that time, as we have battled our collective grief over both the lives lost and the ways of life we used to take for granted, we have simultaneously been forced to take a quantum leap far into the future of work – all while still plagued by some of the same workplace fears and outdated thinking that have become entrenched since the first industrial revolution.
On the one hand, we have seen increased autonomy and a shift towards a ‘work anytime, from anywhere’ mindset, which is far more compatible with the changing needs of individuals seeking their own version of balance between work and life. On the other end of that spectrum, plenty of employers rushed to install so-called ‘productivity tracking’ software, or even to pressure employees to return to the office and micro-manage their people within an inch of their lives.
These different responses to the same global pandemic have shown us how technology can enable a fearless culture of connectedness, candor, transparency and freedom just as easily as it can be used to enable and entrench a fearful culture of command, control and limiting beliefs.
In seeking to build better organisational cultures, we have to embrace the increased use of technology.
The decisions to employ certain ways of working, or to encourage autonomy or monitor activity are not about technology at all. These decisions are outward manifestations of ‘workplace culture personality’. Your company may consist of hundreds or thousands of different individual personalities, but your organisational culture is a single personality. As a leader you need to decide what that personality is. This single decision – more so than the core values plastered on the walls all over your buildings – can determine who/what your organisation is at the heart of it all. Once you figure that out, the rest makes a whole lot more sense and decisions about what technology to invest in become clearer.
When new budgets are released, leaders have the opportunity to decide on the technology they’re going to deploy in their organisations and to be strategic over how they’re going to leverage that technology to help shape, transform and enable their desired workplace cultures. Here are four guiding principles to consider before investing in any technology.
Technology to augment, not replace
The foundational principle is a reminder that technology can’t and won’t replace empathy, kindness and humanity. We shouldn’t elevate technology beyond its place as an enabler at work. Culture is not dependent on where we are working from (or what we are wearing) but on how we choose to behave, engage and interact while getting our work done.
Choose your personality
In marketing, brands are carefully crafted and designed down to the last detail because marketers understand that brands have a personality that is discernible – from the choice of colours in the corporate identity and logo, to the language that is used in print.
In HR and talent acquisition terms, employer brand is becoming increasingly important in attracting and retaining top talent. The most innovative candidates don’t want to work for companies that still use VPN to dial into their network if they aren’t in the office. Big ideas and progress tend to die a slow and painful death in companies with complicated hierarchies and committees that make decisions.
Here are some guiding questions to get you started:
- Hierarchy and trusted process and procedure, or accessibility and innovation?
- Empathy and kindness, or competitive spirit and delivery of results?
- Individuality and drive, or teamwork and collaboration to achieve objectives?
- People first, or profits first?
- Process first, or progress first?
Personality traits manifest outwardly as behaviours. Individuals are outgoing and energetic and passionate in expressing their views, or they are more measured in their approach and might keep their thoughts to themselves. Some show vulnerability whilst others remain stoic no matter what. Deciding on the personality for your organisation makes it possible to identify the behaviours that add to a positive experience and build the culture, as well as those that detract from what you’re building and erode positive experiences.
Choosing technology to enable culture
No organisation can claim to have a great culture if their employees are frustrated by hierarchy, red tape or confusing processes and bottlenecks at every turn, or being hobbled by technology, tools and infrastructure last updated in a previous century. You can’t call yourself an innovative or agile organisation when you don’t have the technology, tools and internal processes and people to encourage and enable a totally different way of working.
Own your culture personality
Once you have decided on your organisational culture personality, it will most likely be necessary to embark on some transformation journey and to deploy some technology to enable the culture you seek to create. If you’ve decided that your environment is competitive and individualist and you prefer a ‘command and control’ style of management, you very well may need to be looking into that so-called productivity monitoring software.
If that’s who your organisation is, fully embrace your personality and make it part of your hiring and retention strategy. Design your recognition and reward strategy around these principles and manage work performance according to these standards.
If you’ve determined that you want a candid, transparent and empathetic culture that promotes wellness and balance between work and life, you’re naturally going to gravitate towards tools and technology that enables collaboration, feedback, recognition and wellness. Your recognition and reward system is going to look entirely different and you’re going to attract a different type of individual to your organisation.
In seeking to build better organisational cultures, we have to embrace the increased use of technology. If we are clear on our organisational personality and we use the right technology for the right reasons, we can augment the human experience at work and significantly improve both the employee experience and workplace culture.
Interested in this topic? Read Company culture: is your organisation a BFF or a frenemy?