The world of work has changed, and it hasn’t all been good – or is it just another generational thing. I can remember my Father bemoaning the end of national service and today I often hear the gripe about millennials and their sense of entitlement. Whether it’s out with the old and in with the new – the challenge our business leaders face is knowing when to stop, drop, embrace and evolve!
- We no longer make “things” …
Services account for the largest part of the economy – in 2017, they accounted for 79% of economic output, the production sector for 14%, construction for 6% and agriculture for 1% (UK Parliament Papers)
- We no longer work in the “traditional” office” …
Partitions were ripped out long ago, desks are increasing being replaced with tables that go up and down, private meeting rooms are glass sided fish tanks and chairs no longer have four legs.
- We no longer work in organisations with 10’s of 000’s of employees…
There were 5.7 million SMEs in the UK in 2018, which was over 99% of all businesses. (UK Parliament Papers)
- We no longer provide young people with the right skills…
Most employer surveys indicate a demand for technical and job-specific skills while also demanding a wide array of general employability skills, such as communication, teamwork, commercial awareness; entrepreneurial and data analysis skills – one in three graduates being “mismatched” to the jobs they find after leaving university. (Universities UK)
- We no longer stay with the same company for life…
In the UK we typically have 6 different jobs in 6 different companies across our working life. (The Association of Accounting Technicians Poll 2015)
- We no longer allow our managers to manage…
Many are in role to oversee the work of their people, enforce policy, communicate decisions, report results, escalate issues, and generally administer stuff. They are not being released from their non-value adding activities and empowered to make a difference, on the job.
I recently made a best practice visit to a blue-chip manufacturing business currently trialling 5G but the one thing that provoked more conversation was how they faced the challenges to their culture from new technology and new recruits. On a micro level the cultural challenges within organisations today irrespective of their size, shape or sector, seem to be emotionally polarised and at times paralysed by correctness – depending on your age, gender, career path and opinion!
Here are some examples of cultural challenges gleaned from my post visit conversations with SMEs:
- New starters expecting and requesting holiday parity with long servers.
- Emails written as texts eg do NOT contact Mark Smith again
- Messaging a partner on Facebook whilst participating in 3 separate customer chat room conversations.
- A staff member asserting their right to further increased study time to retake a failed exam.
- The widespread policy that staff in open plan offices can listen to music on their headphones and in some cases the same practice applies on the shop floor – where one person was found watching a film on their phone.
- A home worker running software that made mouse movements and keystrokes on their laptop – whilst they caught up on their sleep.
- Freedom to update social media at work, at any time.
- The provision of sofas, ping-pong tables, quiet spaces, and unlimited smoothies for when staff felt the need to step away.
- A choice of how and where staff want to work; at a coffee table, on the sofa or at an adjustable height desk with the option of a hokki chair.
- Conversations framed and designed to elicit desired responses for the device concealed in the pocket.
It’s not surprising culture provokes so much conversation!
The employees of the best practice company I visited invested time, energy and emotion – from the shop floor up – into creating their own culture. In the boardroom they recognised that it’s better to understand rather than dismiss the push backs on the existing culture AND started their debate with Why Not?
Company culture drives the “who we are, the how we do things here” … a weak culture costs you money in performance.
Where a weak culture exists growth plans and acquisitions struggle to deliver the intended results due to staff chaos, confusion, and frustration – with a strong culture there’s no such fog and its widely adopted and enhanced during the integration / initiation process. Because we all know employee happiness has “a substantial positive correlation with customer loyalty” and loyalty means better business. (Gallup Poll of 1.9m employees across 230 separate organisations in 73 countries.)
So back to the challenge raised at the top of the page, knowing when to stop, drop, embrace and evolve your culture.
Here are my 5 tips – forged in the experience of success and failure:
- Know your culture
- Live your culture
- Understand the demands on your culture
- Identify the external risks to your culture
- Evolve your culture – but only if it adds value to your stakeholders, your people, your customers.