The world isn’t what it used to be.

The world isn’t what it used to be. Corona virus, Black Lives Matter and other global shifts are quickly changing the way we live and do business. As Corona virus is (hopefully) fading away from our lives soon, many are asking the question, how do we now run our business? The question I often ask myself is what is or should be the impact on our company culture? And how will our organizations look and behave like in the future?

In this post I will focus on the impact of current trends on organizations and specifically our organization’s culture. As I do not have a crystal ball or a teleportation machine, I will have to base this on some of the trends I am observing when I interact with leaders in businesses, as well as the beliefs I hold true to. I am aware that my view is likely biased and so this is merely my view, yours might be very different. I invite you to share your perspective in the comments below.

Let’s first of all agree that change is, just like taxes and death, a fact of life and whether we like it or not, it is constantly happening. Since the lockdown is now behind us (for most of us at least) I’m pretty sure you realize now that some things have changed around you. Perhaps you can no longer hug each other or you keep at safe distance at all times, maybe there’s more flexibility in the way you work, either from home or from the office? Perhaps there is more empathy for people with children?

My hunch is that whatever has changed is only the beginning of much bigger shifts that still need to take place, I feel the ball has only just started rolling. But before we get to what kind of ball I’m talking about, let’s look at what’s happened in the world and the impact on our organizational culture.

Everyone is important

Does your business see your staff as resources or human beings? The key difference between the two is that resources are easily replaceable and objectified in the way they are treated by companies, human beings however matter and have value to add to your business, at the same time your business adds value to their lives.

When corona virus hit the world I noticed a clear distinction in how different companies look at their staff. The decisions they made were often the same decision, the way they delivered their message however was hugely different from one company to the next. Some companies showed how their staff was just another resource by firing staff through a 2-minute zoom call. Others (AirBnB) became heroes for taking responsibility and recognizing the impact of the hard and often painful decisions they were taking.

Whilst both situations were painful, it’s clear that AirBnB made a real effort to recognize each staff member, offering them all forms of support even though they were being laid off.

With the ever increasing transparency of the internet and social media, I believe businesses will be forced to increase their focusing on people and transparency.
The future of Organizational Culture in my eyes is one where people feel seen and recognized, where challenging times and good times are experienced together.

Everyone is equal

We are not there yet. There are still too many glass ceilings and unwritten rules, biases and privilege towards the people that make up organization. However the Black Lives Matter movement has shifted conversations around the world and challenged businesses and individuals to be more inclusive. Some businesses have taken action by changing names of brands that were linked to slavery, others have taken a clear stand against hate-speech by removing their ads from Facebook. Not many reports have come out on businesses changing their culture or even discussing this news with their employees. A lot of action still is needed here before we can truly see everyone as equal.

We are not there yet. There are still too many glass ceilings and unwritten rules, biases and privilege towards the people that make up organization. However the Black Lives Matter movement has shifted conversations around the world and challenged businesses and individuals to be more inclusive. Some businesses have taken action by changing names of brands that were linked to slavery, others have taken a clear stand against hate-speech by removing their ads from Facebook. Not many reports have come out on businesses changing their culture or even discussing this news with their employees. A lot of action still is needed here before we can truly see everyone as equal.

I believe (and hope) that organizations in the future will take everyone into consideration based on merit rather than the packages they come in/with.

Co-create to innovate

According to Wikipedia, co-creation is the process of product and service design with the input of consumers. A good example of this is Lego, who were losing market in 1996. One of the reasons why their sales were going down was that they lost touch with their audience. When a new CEO stepped in, Lego took time to listen to the market and work with their biggest (adult) fans to design their new products. The result was a revival of their brand.

What Lego did well in their path back to success was not just to listen to their audience, but even let them be part of the design process.

Companies and leaders can use this strategy to innovate their company not just by listening to the consumer, but also to listen to the people that make up their company. We can listen to our audience (our staff) and make them part of the solution by giving them a voice in the design, and responsibility in the execution of this innovation.
I see the Future of Organizational Culture to be in the hands of everyone rather than a selected few.

Taking a stand

In recent weeks we have seen staff at several companies (here and here and here) walk out because they did not agree with the directions taken by the respective companies. Other companies have taken the lead by recognizing the importance of taking a stand in what they believe is important for the world they want to create.

In other words, taking a stand is no longer something done by a couple of passionate activists who believe in world peace. Taking a stand is something we all need to do as individuals, entrepreneurs and corporations.

As a side note, taking a stand as an organization starts by creating clarity on what you truly believe in (as an entire organization). What’s your purpose? Why does your business exist in this world?

I believe in a future where Organizational Culture is formed around common values and people passionately taking a stand on what believe in.

The ball has started rolling

Summarizing the trends that I see happening in today’s world that will impact the future of our organizations and specifically the culture, it all evolves around human beings. Yes, we will have AI, big data and all sorts of new normals coming in.

What will become increasingly important now however, is the way we decide to work together. Our culture will see a focus on how we will thrive as communities, not as individuals. And how we decide to do things for the betterment of humanity, not for the betterment of ourselves.

Of course this is just one version of the future. Anyone can look at current trends and draw multiple other futures and scenarios that are equally good in outcome or quite the opposite. Call me an optimist or a dreamer, I can see the lights of our community shining everywhere, and I truly hope we will make this happen in the near future. This is hard work though and we all have to chip in!

Are you with me?

Where to start preparing your organization’s culture for the future?

You might by now be wondering how you, in your business can start preparing for a more collaborative future. And looking at the above may make you wonder, where do I start? What do I do first? Should I do all at the same time, or focus on one?

Based on our experience with companies, here is how we see companies can make an immediate step:

  1. Listen to your staff and clients. Understand their challenges and situations and make them feel seen and heard.
  2. Ask yourself and your people, are you rewarding staff based on relationship or based on merit?
  3. How can you increase diversity within your teams? And what companies could you potentially collaborate with that are outside of your category?
  4. What do you stand for as a company? What’s your purpose? What are you willing to defend even when it means losing customers?

Taking a step into the future means you (and everyone else in your organization) will constantly need to challenge the norm inside and outside of your organization. This requires a strong focus on your north star as well as participation from everyone in the organization.

We love bringing businesses together to uncover their purpose and form strong bonds that build a future-proof culture. Our process by design, allows everyone to speak and listen as equals and in this way creates exciting new approaches, meaningful connections, fun and more sustainable business growth.

What will your organization’s culture look like in the future?

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