Workplace culture is no longer a boardroom and break-room culture. With the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the digital and societal transformations it brings, our talent pool is transforming in new ways, too — ways that impact how we communicate, connect, and relate to one another.
A big question in my mind and within the organizations I work with is: how will new talent trends influence organizational culture?
Trends to Watch as Influencers for Culture Change
Artificial intelligence. It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) advances continue to surge, with rumours of new job displacements growing by the month. Many people raise the topic with fear and trepidation, hoping they can make it to retirement before their careers get wiped out of existence by machines. Take heart: AI is not replacing the need for human workers. Rather, it is changing the way we work. And just as humans have adapted to new technology for decades, so we will learn how to put our unique logic, strategic thinking, and empathy to work alongside machines.
The gig economy. Temporary positions are becoming more commonplace as organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. According to a study by Intuit, 40 percent of American workers will be independent contractors by 2020. This transition radically affects an organization’s strategy for employee hiring and retention, workforce planning, and talent development. Embracing this movement saves employers resources in benefits and office space; culturally, it improves employee well-being with greater flexibility and work/life balance.
Re-skilling employees. With machine learning and contractual work on the rise, employers are realizing a need to retrain workers for skills required by new terms of work and new jobs. Re-skilling is defined as gaining new skills for success in a different career. For example, an agency outsources its survey development to a contractor and automates survey deployment with the aid of digital tools and artificial intelligence. The person formerly responsible for these tasks now takes on a program management role. This new position requires rapid re-skilling — perhaps via a two-week boot camp that blends formal learning with on-the-job shadowing and performance support.
Social media and crowd sourcing. Peeking at employers through a “Glassdoor” has been around for years, but today’s unemployment numbers show that it’s an employee’s job market. The economy is strong, and opportunities abound. Social media and crowd sourcing tools have helped give job seekers the upper hand — the culture, values, and norms of your organization can be exposed before a new candidate walks in the door. Take a hard look at your organization; it may need a culture facelift to entice new employees and retain current talent.
From Culture Transformation to Culture Influence
As the talent pool changes, step back and take an objective look at your people and your leadership framework for organizational culture. Do the two align? Is your framework based on an old model of in-office talent rather than a mix of brick-and-mortar and remote? How can you incorporate people you rarely see in person into your organization’s culture?
You don’t have to hugely transform your organization’s defining culture as your talent pool changes. Taking small steps to influence culture change is just as valid and can have a big impact over time.
First Steps Into the Future
Build on a firm foundation. Your organization has certain underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways of interacting that are worth celebrating. As a first step, identify the cultural norms that you wish to uphold and brainstorm with your team how to spread those norms across your changing talent pool.
Are there online training modules you’d like to develop? Do you feel the need to bring your extended organization onsite for a day? Practically, do the benefits of your best idea outweigh the resources that will go toward it?
Recruit leaders to teach. Influencing culture is not possible without the buy-in, support, and action of your leaders, who are the best ones to not only model but also teach your organization’s cultural norms. For example, do you have upper managers who regularly oversee remote, part-time, and/or contract employees? If so, talk with them about how to incorporate your organizational culture in the way they interact with these employees.
Figure out ways to increase awareness of the cultural norms you value and to bring all workers into the loop. The added benefit is that people who feel connected to your culture are likely to be more loyal to your organization.
Hold all employees accountable. Incorporate goals into employees’ performance scorecards to ensure they are held accountable for living the organization’s culture norms. Reward employees who routinely show desired values with compensation increases and/or public recognition; include managers who effectively bring remote, part-time, and/or contract employees in line with the corporate culture. When all staff members see that culture is celebrated, they will be more likely to join the party.
Managing Disruption and Change
We in the nonprofit leadership space are certainly no strangers to disruption and change. Flexibility and agility are basic skills we’ve developed for survival, and we wear many hats to get work done with limited resources. The biggest difference today is that the pace of change has never been faster. Answers to how new talent trends will influence changes in organizational culture may not be obvious until we can observe, examine, and formulate the right questions for our organizations.
Elizabeth Scott, PhD
President/CEO of Brighter Strategies LLC, an organizational development and strategy company