Achieving a strong culture in the workforce of the future

Written by
Jayne Cullen

03 Aug 2018

03 Aug 2018 • by Jayne Cullen

Engaging a blended workforce in an age of digitisation requires new mindsets and strategies, writes Jayne Cullen, managing director of BrightPool.

Organisational culture – “the values and behaviours that contribute to an organisation’s unique social and psychological environment” – affects every aspect of how a business operates.

It follows that a strong and defined culture – where your people understand, share and care about organisational values – improves business performance. Benefits include more motivated and loyal employees and, in turn, higher retention rates and smoother leadership succession.

But how can we maintain culture and engagement in the face of new technology, demographic change and shifting talent ecosystems? Here, we explore the impacts of these fluctuating tides and strategies to navigate them.

Demographic change

Demographic change includes an ageing population, sub-fertility levels in most developed countries (requiring a focus on under-utilised and global talent) and workforces that contain up to five generations.

Leaders must understand the needs of each generation and build strategies around engagement to maximise human capital. Harnessing the skills and knowledge of older
workers is a must. Lifelong learning should be seen as a worker’s right as the 100-year life leads to extended, less sequential careers.

Millennials will comprise half the global workforce by 2020, so how do we inspire them? Research suggests they look for creativity, flexibility, regular ongoing feedback, and companies with a social conscience.

At BrightPool, we believe that understanding the key drivers and barriers for distinct ‘tribes’ of workers, by being candidate centric, will underpin success in hiring and engaging high-quality, diverse talent, fuelling divergent thinking and ultimately better commercial results.

Talent ecosystems

As well as managing different generations, organisations must embrace different types of worker, adapting to new talent ecosystems.

Only by taking a more holistic view of skills needs will employers enable all talent (permanent or contingent, full- or part-time, contractor, freelancer, office-based or remote) to contribute. The ability to build and swiftly deploy niche talent pools will only become more advantageous.

Navigating the ‘open talent economy’ requires an agile approach to human capital. We’ve noted our clients looking to underutilised market segments to source talent for gig-style working; outsourcing the building and engagement of complex talent pools; developing academy models to support entry-level resources, and growing blended teams of C-suite-level talent, incorporating interim and permanent resources.

In a blended workforce, sustaining organisational culture and driving business performance will involve identifying diverse workers’ needs and motivators, while building a common purpose. Andy Partridge, co-founder of Enviable Workplace, reminds leaders that “they don’t own talent but are borrowing people on their journeys. Give teams an holistic experience that encourages them to stay,” he advises.

An interim NHS manager we spoke to, via Interim Partners, BrightPool’s sister company, also highlighted the importance of motivators beyond salary. He stressed that “today’s workforce is more mobile, more flexible with lots of autonomy”. Millennials expect this and employers risk losing talent if they fail to accommodate their needs. 

New technology

There will be human consequences to the rise of the machines: artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will inevitably replace some jobs, while creating others. Many interim managers we talk to feel their organisations are ill prepared for the rapid speed of change.

In multi-generational workforces, care must be taken during implementation, with support from ‘digital champions’ and reverse mentoring of older workers by ‘digital native’ colleagues. Personal adaptability will be key: help long-standing employees to learn the skills they need to transition into new careers. Tools for self-service learning and development will give organisations greater training agility and allow staff to take ownership of their career development.

New technology and resulting data will also aid organisations in driving employee performance through activity monitoring and predictive analytics. BrightPool uses technology to reduce human bias in the hiring process, leading to more cognitively diverse employees who are a better fit, more culturally aligned and happier in their roles for longer. Technology platforms enable greater opportunity for remote working, allowing diverse workers, located around the world, to collaborate better.

Sustaining engagement

Sustaining engagement within a blended, multi-generation workforce, adapting to new roles, technologies and ways of working, requires innovative thinking and practical action: start by mapping your entire workforce and viewing it holistically, understanding drivers and motivators of component groups, while communicating a common purpose.

Learn from contractors’ agility and resilience and create a sense of safety for those in blended teams, so they share their unique ideas and perspectives; encouraging socialising and collaboration between permanent and contingent staff promotes trust and wellbeing.

Where roles and routines are threatened, communicate that technology is an enabler, supporting slower adopters. Finally, when working with partners to bring in consultants, interim managers and contractors, help them to understand the organisation you want to be, and source candidates accordingly, valuing the commercial benefits of diversity.