Change is becoming a constant and self-disruption almost a necessity to adapt, transform, and future-proof your business. Open and flexible attitudes reduce the potential struggle of executives and workers to assimilate the fundamental ongoing evolution in progress related to digitally-activated interconnectedness and the speed with which updates and iterations are occurring. The essence of the corporate mindset is then, in turn, translated into policies that are well-harmonized to reflect a coherent approach across the company ecosystem.
Business developments are happening at much accelerated pace. The makeup of the S&P 500 is changing faster than ever, with the average lifetime of Fortune 500 companies dropping from seventy-five years to fifteen over the last half-century and still declining.[i] We are moving away from the closed, rigid, and compartmentalized structures and processes of the early Industrial Age.
The future heralds flatter, silo-free corporate frameworks that are more adaptable, integrated and responsive, transformed by technology to be interconnected and interdependent. In parallel, the work environment is evolving with a talent focus that is inclusive and personalizing the employee experience in order to increase productivity through engagement.
How is your corporate culture defined and articulated? How are operating practices and the work situations and settings being reviewed and reworked? How are your executives and employees reacting to these new external circumstances? Responses to these questions will indicate whether your company will continue to be able to respond successfully in the emerging Future-of-Work environment.
All About Attitude
At the core of your ecosystem is your company’s attitude or “mindset”. This is the thinking culture of your organization. It is the mental expression of the values your company is built on. It dictates and influences the behaviors that are active manifestations of your company’s culture, embodied in the policies it composes. When expressed consistently and purposefully, employees can easily interpret the culture, and the mindset component, of the organization and feel comfortable in their work environment.
In the emerging corporate landscape, employees are now encouraged to “bring their whole selves” to work, so that they may feel more comfortable, less constrained, and perform better. This means more complex circumstances for leaders at every level of the organization to absorb and manage effectively. A talent strategy of inclusion actively embraces the type of mindset—and brings the diversity of thought—that is well-suited to handle this richer and dynamic environment successfully.
As part of the culture, shared values allow a range of perspectives that attract and accommodate the broad variety of aligned, but not like-minded, individuals who are suitable for your company. The mindset of each hire also has an impact. Each of us arrives at any office with our own personal context, combining our history, background, experiences, and opinions.
Furthermore, some of the younger members of the workforce are bringing visibility to certain mindsets and approaches. These are influencing a rethinking of work formats and routines—catalyzed by enabling technology advances—and even the concept of work itself, including incorporation of purpose. Managing through, and with, meaning can give supervisors new ways to motivate and engage your workforce and attract new talent.
At the same time, digitization has led to the acceleration of the pace of business and the volume of data that businesses are trying to process and gain insights from. Fixed corporate organizational structures and mindsets do not have the flexibility to deal with the implications of the frequency of information updates.
An adaptable and open approach is best-suited for scrutinizing this information usefully, utilizing a perspective that is as objective as possible, in order to understand the full range of possibilities. Employees are increasingly working in cross-functional teams to interpret and act upon the data efficiently to develop and deliver client solutions—breaking down internal and departmental silos in order to do so.
Translating Mindset to Policy
At the cultural core of the company, mindset and values collectively create, inform, and influence the context for every individual as well as the enterprise as a whole. The essence of these perspectives is important to be reflected formally in corporate policies. Clearly articulated, policies then provide a framework and guidelines to demonstrate what behaviors and actions are consistent and appropriate.
Even as a policy is an official form of the mindset company-wide, it can still be implemented in customizable ways. Policies that are thorough in trying to execute effectively upon something that is consistent with the mindset are most likely to achieve the desired benefits if some flexibility is included within the policy’s framework, allowing for people to adapt.
When policies can accommodate personal preferences, style, needs, and openness, it is a gesture of recognition and concern for the worker that boosts not only individual performance but also workplace morale. The personalization that a company can show to its employees helps in conveying respect and trust for the individual, including stimulating a greater sense of responsibility and accountability for their work. Successful adoption occurs when corporate executives support the policies emphatically—communicating their commitment through detailed planning, thoughtful execution, and consistent follow-up—as well as setting the examples to follow.
In these times of substantial change, reactive adaptation is unlikely to produce optimal results. In a game of constant catch up, it is conceptually impossible to create sustainable advantage. Instead, leadership can proactively adopt or confirm a culture and mindset that suits current circumstances - one that will embrace progress and be able to respond to market conditions and evolve the work environment. Your company’s policies can then be aligned and coherent, reinforcing corporate values and creating stable guidelines. Your workforce will then be empowered to perform at their best despite the surrounding evolution of the corporate ecosystem.
This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of Business Today, Oman magazine. Sophie is Workforce Innovator and founder of Flexcel Network. She consults to companies helping them create sustainable work environments - effectively attracting, engaging, and retaining a multigenerational, distributed and productive workforce. She speaks frequently to corporate audiences about Future-of-Work issues. Follow Sophie @ASophieWade. Read her new book Embracing Progress. Next Steps for the Future of Work.
[i] Source--Richard Foster, Creative Destruction 2001; Deloitte Center for the Edge