Looking back at how the workforce and workplace have evolved over the past few years, what we do has not changed as much as how and why we do it. Increasingly, employees are looking for jobs that are more personally fulfilling. The call to action for many businesses, then, is the creation of a new set of working standards that put purpose and people first in the workforce.
People want to feel that they are connected and contributing to an organization that places value on cause, culture, collaboration, compassion, and creation. These concepts are critical to helping enterprises accomplish their commitments, promote growth, and increase profitability.
"When an organization's business model is driven by a holistic purpose, alignment between its brand identity and sustained commitment to all stakeholders happens organically," says Kim Christfort, national managing director of Deloitte Greenhouse. "Employees, suppliers, communities, and shareholders all feel a greater sense of meaning through the good and the bad times, and therefore are able to tackle challenges with greater ease and resilience."
I connected with Christfort to understand how organizations have evolved in pandemic times and what they're doing to put purpose at the forefront of their growth strategy.
Although many people work to earn a living, they also want a career that contributes to something larger than themselves. Companies will need to establish a clear mission and express their values to both current and potential employees, ensuring that purpose is at the forefront of conversations. "Sharing a clear, compelling vision for the future while rooting it in the organization's purpose -- why we do what we do -- is critical for attracting and retaining top talent," said Christfort. "Regularly reporting out on progress toward that vision can also create a greater sense of camaraderie, accomplishment, and pride for the work that is done daily."
Group norms, policies, rituals and celebrations, and shared language (such as Deloitte's Business Chemistry framework) all contribute to an organization's culture, according to MIT Sloan professor emeritus Edgar Schein. In the face of long-term hybrid work, employers will need to be more intentional about how they show and share what their values and expectations are.
Leaders have an opportunity to reshape culture holistically through providing cross-functional learning opportunities and creating time for bonding or networking. "Open dialogue across all departments on what's working and what's not within hybrid work is essential for optimizing the hybrid work model and reimagining the organization's culture," said Christfort.
By bringing more people to the table, virtual work leveled the playing field for many and opened conversations around inclusion, but it also presents new challenges to equitable workforce experiences. Historically, equity has been considered in the context of diversity and inclusion, but in the return-to-work context, the definition considers different workplace preferences of hybrid, virtual, and in-person.
To mitigate potential inequities, hybrid organizations need to highlight the potential for in-group or out-group bias and work to train employees to design more inclusive meetings regardless of where individuals are working.
With the increase in flexibility in how and when individuals work, people are reporting higher levels of burnout and difficulty in finding work-life balance. Indeed, the job aggregator site conducted a survey that found more than half (52 percent) of survey respondents experienced burnout in 2021--up from the 43 percent who said the same in a pre-Covid-19 survey.
To combat this, leaders and employees alike will have to focus on increasing their empathic social skills such as active listening and information sharing. Tactical changes such as reducing meetings or addressing Zoom fatigue will continue in earnest.
The shift to hybrid work is also fundamentally changing the way employees generate innovative ideas. New technology allows for better brainstorming sessions regardless of whether individuals are in person or not. Leaders should also recognize that some of the best ideas come from unexpected parts of the organization, fostering new ways to draw out innovative suggestions.
The hybrid working model will remain top of mind when considering what is needed for sustainable growth and profits. Fostering communities that put an emphasis on cause, culture, collaboration, compassion, and creation will be the driving force in determining success for years to come.