Organizations are struggling to manage and communicate with an employee base whose needs and expectations far exceed its capacity and capability
The global work environment has been changing for several years driven by technology and the expectations derived from a social and digital reality. But there are also fundamental shifts in the types of people entering the workforce, the continued impact of globalization, the increased level of noise, pay inequality, the speed and pace of competition, an emerging set of social protocols, an insatiable desire for personalization, and an increased reliance on dialogue, discussion, and debate among peers and managers to gain insight, test assumptions, and find truth.
It’s no wonder that leaders are already behind the times in terms of addressing this new environment – what some call “managing the future with the mindset of the past” – and continue to be frustrated at the lack of employee engagement, organizational clarity, and strategic alignment necessary to compete effectively.
So, what’s happening with your workforce?
Below are important considerations, aspects and trends in comprehending your employees’ reality. Ultimately, the critical question is, “Are we communicating to a workforce that doesn’t exist?”
Multi-Generational/Cultural Perspectives – Baby Boomers, Millennials, Women, and different ethnic backgrounds are forming incredibly diverse corporate cultures.
So, ‘who is our workforce?’ is a question that leaders must answer to ensure the business can survive and prosper. And yet, regardless of the generation, race, or ethnicity you identify with, there are common beliefs regarding work ethic, expectations, growth, and development that cut across each segment. Assimilating the generational nuances and overlaying an archetype view can result in a more specific dissection of the workforce. There are many approaches and methodologies to discover who, in fact, comprises your workforce. One such approach is the Employee Worldview™ Archetype Analysis, which identifies how people view themselves in terms of specific behavioral archetypes. Below is snapshot taken from a leading global services company.
Career oriented/strong company pride – respectful of status quo
- This group tends to be long-time employees who have had successful careers in the company. They are highly engaged but often blind about the opportunities and gaps inherent in the culture and business. They are also more often than not the ones who state in meetings that “we tried that before and it failed” or “good idea but won’t work here.”
High potential/high achievement – catalyst for change
- The most powerful group in any organization. High potential, talented and committed to winning. Can be frustrated by inertia and perceived lack of discipline and commitment to change. This is the key target for any leadership and internal communications effort!
- A large population of the workforce sits here—come to work every day, do their jobs, and are generally satisfied with the way things are.
Marginally effective/highly critical – “Victim” mentality
- Typically, the smallest group within a workforce, but also the most dangerous in terms of culture deterioration. These folks tend to gossip the most, work the least and trash every company decision inside and outside the company.
This segmentation of how people believe they behave – based on a proven methodology – open a window into how leaders and communicators can better communicate and more effectively manage performance. The analysis is a foundation for comprehending behaviors, interests, concerns, expectations. Results are then used to develop content, influence management techniques, etc.
From a communications standpoint, millennials and Gen Z staff are increasingly approaching information acquisition and assimilation in bite-sized chunks. There is an appetite among employees for content, channel and timing to be directed and owned personally, not by the organization. Employees want a Choose Your Own Adventure approach to communications, indicating the diverse nature of today’s workforce
“Here’s What I Think” – Technology is now part of our lives and as such, the ability to participate – what some call engagement – in the business has never been greater. As such, a still nascent trend is beginning to emerge in some companies: workplace democracy. This not the traditional soliciting ideas and suggestions but an actual “say” in how things are done. Businesses from grocer Whole Foods to a slew of mid-to-small organizations are giving employees a say on everything from vacation time, compensation programs, work environments, and events. Doing so establishes a standard for employee involvement making people more accountable and mitigating negative tendencies that can arise when people feel alienated. It must be noted that companies embarking on such an open culture must be cognizant of the pressure it places on managers who fear a loss of authority and control. Of course, letting people decide the furniture or layout of an office is different than letting them vote on a new pay program.
Information finds people vs. people finding information – People are tied to platforms, apps, and outlets as a means of filtering information and content that most interests them. As such, these platforms alert people when news is taking place providing an efficient means to keep informed. From a workplace standpoint, aligning different content with specific channels increases an employee’s ability to keep informed and remain engaged.
On-Demand Communications – Cultivating and curating various forms of content and placing it in easily accessible places and on well-developed channels allow for employees to retrieve and utilize information at the time and place of their choosing.
Open spaces – More and more companies are adopting “open office” layouts in an attempt to encourage collaboration by breaking down silos. This type of architecture is changing organizational communications in some subtle and not so subtle ways. First and probably most interesting is that it increases discussion speeding up topics of interest and catalyzing debate inside the workspace. The impact on leaders, managers, and employees is profound causing organizations to evolve subjects or topics quicker than normal or lose the argument. The process itself filters those that shape opinion internally from those who just consume content.
Finding “Truth” – Why do people react to certain topics and not others? What are the information habits of your workforce? What tone breaks through? Is there a better day and time to announce important news? Who do people believe? Trust? Where is context coming from? What do you want people to do more of? Analytics is uncovering the real areas to focus and improve upon mitigating waste and the tendency to chase symptoms and no causes. How are you employing data and insight into your thinking, planning and execution?
Organizational Clarity – Or the comprehension an employee has about the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, strategy, opportunities, challenges, priorities and competitive reality is a CEO imperative. Without clarity, employees are rudderless, so to speak, performing duties and responsibilities that neither ladder up to a more meaningful goal nor remain relevant in a changing environment. As you construct clarity, three elements must be targeted: the Job dimension; the Strategy dimension; and the Market dimension. Each one provides a view into the enterprise from an employee and a business perspective.*
Broadcast to Conversation – The workplace of today is akin to a Greek bazaar full of conversations, debates, discussions around ideas, concepts, opinions meant to promote new thinking and motivate new behaviors. Slowly fading out is the old Broadcast model driven solely by leadership dictate and interest. It’s now about employees being able to discuss, debate, share and initiate conversations on various subjects pertaining to the business and their situation. Social collaboration tools are accelerating such activity and in so doing reshaping the dynamic internally.
Advocacy (Activists vs Audience) – Today’s employee is more active than at any time in history. Social media provides the forum and the highway to share, posit, debate and discuss anything including the organization. Leaders are becoming more aware that employees can be the company’s best, new product.
Why Do We Exist? – An intriguing take-way from all that’s happening is that people are much more inclined to challenge an organization’s very existence. It’s efficacy. How prepared are you in answering such a question. More importantly, how prepared are you if your employees answer in a manner that is not in synch with yours?
Work/Life = One – One of the hard truths today is that there is little balance between work and life. It’s now all one and the trick is how you coordinate different elements at various times depending on what’s needed. This “always on” reality forces a complete redesign of the employer brand experience. How is mobile iterated into your workplace experience?
“How Smart do you want people to be?”
This is something only you and your leadership can answer but is, in fact, the only real way to approach today’s workforce. “Smart” in this context means more than competence. It also encompasses being confident, informed, agile, reflective, decisive, collaborative and respectful. Deciphering the new codes of conduct and expectations must be at the foundation for any business strategy development, communications or marketing effort, managerial model, and HR approach.
The new workforce and workplace is here. Are you managing it with the mindset of the past?
*Organizational Clarity is based on a 2016 Signature Study conducted by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR)…for a complete report please go to www.instituteforpr.org