Best Practice

Fit for the future with the right corporate culture

02.06.2022

Remote access, collaboration tools, business apps: Are things still not quite working out with New Work – even with all the right technology? Then your corporate culture should be developed step by step. This is where targeted change management can help. 

Thomas likes to use cloud-based apps for his work, from Microsoft Teams and Office 365 to the latest specialized applications. So, hybrid work shouldn’t be a problem at all – at least in principle. However, not all his colleagues use the chat function, and many continue to call his office number. Senior management only allows home office once a week. Many processes are still offline. For example, Thomas submits his vacations to the boss via Word file instead of quickly booking them in a cloud tool and having them approved. 

It’s no wonder that Thomas gives in to so many old habits and rules. And after all, if everything stays the same, he may as well go back to the office full time. This makes one thing clear: New Work only has a chance to work if a company has not only the right technology, but also the right organizational and cultural framework. Only then can the company retain skilled workers and secure long-term success. 

A frequent mistake: Failing to guide employees

In fact, many companies make a number of common mistakes when rolling out digital collaboration tools. For example, executives often believe that merely providing state-of-the-art applications is all they need to guarantee a successful transition to hybrid work. Everything else will develop on its own. But this is incorrect. Employees often feel left alone, not really knowing what they are supposed to do with the new solutions or what they are even good for at all. Even those who are familiar with them are more, often than not, unsure as to which functions they can and should use in their day-to-day work. And if the team doesn’t get on board with the new technology, drifting back into old structures in an inevitability. 

That’s why the introduction of hybrid work solutions must be accompanied by suitable training measures. But this is where the next trap is already lurking: Many companies rely on a single standard for all purposes, such as online training. The problem is that the type of training should be planned and offered according to need. Various approaches are available for training, such as webinars, classroom training, coaching, communities, and e-learning. The selection should be tailored to the individual needs of the employees, the specific content, and the current situation. 

Even those who offer various types of training often lose sight of another important factor: the feedback loop. One-sided communication and provision of tools is not sustainable. For example, employees are often enthusiastic about Yammer at the beginning, but after some time, the frequency of use drops significantly. Companies must therefore consider specific everyday needs, feedback, and usage rate, adapt functions and processes, and give their employees incentives for use. 

Another stumbling block is the inadequate involvement of middle management in change management. Line managers in particular have an enormously important function as role models in day-to-day workflows. For this reason, they must be involved in the changes from the very beginning so that New Work can be implemented step by step until it becomes an integral part of the work routine. In this way, they can confer with their team and report back to higher management about the innovations they believe to be truly beneficial for the company – as well as which established processes should be retained. 

The right self-assessment

Every company needs to determine its current status and what it wants to achieve in order to find the right approach to New Work. The following maturity levels aid in this assessment:  

Companies that are still new to New Work still primarily use email and phone for team-to-team and site-to-site communication. Employees are often unsure as to which communication channel is right for which situation. For example, if a colleague’s status is set to inactive: Is it still okay to initiate a chat? Furthermore, there may be greater resistance and problems of acceptance among the workforce when it comes to adopting new workflows. 

Advanced companies, on the other hand, already have established or unwritten rules of communication. Employees largely use the right tools on a day-to-day basis and know where to obtain and store documents and information. Few continue to resist New Work. 

Pioneers already have clear ideas about how hybrid working methods should work. These include an appropriate management organization as well as suitable workplace requirements and working time models. Those who already make efficient use of artificial intelligence to analyze and optimize work processes also belong in this category. 

Suitable measures

Different measures are advisable depending on the maturity level reached. In this regard, the following focal areas have typically emerged in practice. 

 

New Work beginners

Multipliers often help get New Work going. This is because employees tend to be more receptive to experience and tips from their own colleagues than from IT experts or management. Companies should therefore build up a multiplier community right from the outset of the project. The first step is to train champions in the specialist departments, who then pass on their knowledge to important team members, such as particularly experienced or popular colleagues. These multipliers in turn transfer their know-how – which has since been adapted to everyday work processes – to the rest of the team. In the process, the multipliers regularly exchange their experiences with each other. 

Managers should also be involved in this from the start. They receive advance information and tips on how they can support their team on the path to New Work. Employees then direct their questions to their line manager or to team members instead of HR, IT, or the top management. This facilitates communication and lowers inhibition thresholds, emboldening employees to ask even simple and practical questions. 

Advanced organizations

A community for executives is a good way to improve the digital mindset. After all, they face a considerable number of practical challenges in their day-to-day work: How do you handle the situation when some team members want to return to the office completely, others not at all, and still others only on certain days? What experiences have other teams and departments had? 

As a means of improving New Work or even launching it in the first place, companies can develop specific use cases based on “personas,” or frequent user types. This supplements the general ability to use tools that had prevailed until now with team-specific know-how. The management organization is often also modified at this level of maturity in order to introduce flat hierarchies and a modern error culture. 

Pioneers

The iterative changes can be implemented continuously. At present, pioneering companies often wish to optimize their meeting culture. While neither purely face-to-face nor online meetings are a problem anymore, hybrid meetings harbor certain challenges. However, in the future, it will be normal for multiple participants to be in the conference room and others in the home office. In addition, the right solutions need to be introduced to reduce the time spent in meetings, such as focus time or meeting-free days. Special applications make it easier to book rooms, workstations, or building management services. 

Employee experience is also an important factor here. Companies should focus more on the needs of their employees. This includes a work-life balance, support in special phases of life, and continued training in fields of the future. Only companies that provide employees with extensive support and take their individual situations into consideration will be able to retain skilled workers in the long term. 

The dilemma of hybrid work

At Thomas’ company, the corporate culture has changed significantly thanks to accompanying change management measures. Now, he can stay in his home office whenever he wants, collaborate via Microsoft Teams, and even hybrid meetings work well. While he greatly appreciates this flexibility, it also creates a dilemma: On the one hand, he wants to work in the home office to cut down on travel time and spend more time for his young children. On the other hand, he also wants regular face-to-face contact with his colleagues. 

Ultimately, only he can find the optimal solution with the aid of his supervisor and the rest of the team. After all, if you’re going to the office anyhow, as many people as possible should be there. Both spontaneous arrangements and fixed plans – for example using Microsoft Teams – can help here. Personal contact is extremely important. It strengthens the emotional bond with the team and the company.  

Conclusion

Today, new technology is no longer enough. In view of the shortage of skilled workers and the Great Resignation, corporate culture must also be modernized. Efficient change management with the aid of an experienced partner like Campana & Schott can not only increase employees’ acceptance of the tools and processes of New Work, but also strengthen their emotional bond with their employer. Only those who are able to retain and motivate their skilled workers will remain successful in the future.  

Author

Daniel Burger

Daniel Burger

Manager Collaboration