Culture First

Crafted by Culture Amp

 Part 7

Embracing a new future

Fig 1. Establishing new horizons

Finding equilibrium by integrating the new world and your world.

We’ve come to the end of our journey – or, at least, this journey. And, with any luck, some semblance of resolution to the crisis is on the horizon. Now, as we all collectively begin to (consciously or unconsciously) establish new norms, it’s time to ask ourselves – how do we integrate our crisis selves with our ‘new normal’ selves? And once we’ve figured this out for ourselves, it’ll be time to support others in this process of integration. After all, as this whole journey has shown, as much as there’s always more to learn about ourselves, there’s so much more to learn from each other.

Podcast

Is this the future of work?

Culture First podcast by Culture Amp

  • 01

    Episode 13: Lars Schmidt

    How will 2020 change the world of work for good?

    In this episode Damon speaks with Lars Schmidt, one of the leading voices when it comes to modern HR practices, employer branding and open sourcing the future of work. Damon and Lars debate how much of this new normal is going to still be present in the workplaces of the future.

Culture First podcast by Culture Amp

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The long reads

Original content

01

Culture amp | 8 min read

Stacia’s story: moving forward as a working parent

Stacia Garr photo

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to bring our work home and our home into our work. We’ve seen employees run meetings with kids present, fight for space at the kitchen table, and more than a few bedroom setups. Most people have been understanding of the need for flexibility during this time, but it’s something that many people will want to maintain even after the crisis.

With two young children at home, Stacia Garr is no stranger to balancing the demands of work and family responsibilities amidst the pandemic. She is the Co-Founder and Principal Analyst of RedThread Research, a human capital research and advisory firm that specializes in people practice insights. As a leader, working parent, and workplace analyst, Stacia is constantly thinking about the future of work from every side of the equation.

 

We spoke with Stacia to explore the ways that workplaces will need to adapt their practices to better support the whole human experience.

Reimagining parenting in crisis

Stacia has worked from home for many years, so it wasn’t a huge shift when other workplaces began to mandate remote work in the response to COVID-19. But as the school year approaches, she and her husband have had to rethink the plan for their young daughters. Like many others, Stacia assumed everything would be sorted out by Fall. But with so much continued uncertainty, they made the decision to homeschool their kids.

“Our concern was not only that our kids would get sick, but also what happens if anyone gets sick, and everybody gets sent home and we have to go back two weeks later. That yo-yo approach seems the opposite of what young children need.”

In the wake of the recent changes, individuals like Stacia are realizing that they can do things differently. As a result, many people are rethinking what they want in a career or schedule, and shifting their priorities accordingly.

“There’s going to be a chunk of time every day when I won’t be accessible because I’ll be teaching my kids. Understanding is probably the biggest thing that can help parents, because when you give people flexibility, it becomes easier to set boundaries and a schedule.”

However, Stacia is quick to point out that not everyone has the luxury of making these kinds of decisions. So it’s critical to find new ways to extend this opportunity to the larger workforce so that everyone can find their ideal balance.

“I recognize that I’m in an incredible position of privilege to be able to adjust my work from home schedule, and many others won’t be able to do that. I think the key theme, though, of what we are trying to do now – and that might be helpful for others in different situations – is this idea of going from a feeling of immense powerlessness to making choices. The choices are unlikely to be ideal, but I find feeling like I’m choosing makes me feel better on some level.”

Making systemic and equitable changes

With Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in history, Stacia has always been fascinated by how people interact in systems - what makes them tick, what makes them more or less effective, what drives change.

Based on her experience, Stacia suggests that one of the ways organizations can change the culture is by simply giving people more control over their time.

“Part of the benefit of owning your own firm is you do have a significant amount of autonomy. But the biggest autonomy that I appreciate is my schedule autonomy. This is something organizations can provide all employees by being clearer on expected outcomes and then allowing the individual to figure out when and how they do it.”

For example, RedThread’s recent report on women and performance in the pandemic found that women are doing the majority of the caregiving and housework during this time. As a result, it doesn’t make sense to have the same expectations for turnaround time or availability.

“Giving people the ability to structure their day as they see fit will go a long way towards enabling people to reimagine how they spend their days. The only way to do this is through trust - trusting employees to get their work done and setting clear expectations around outcomes.”

Further, many of the challenges and biases experienced by women and underrepresented minority groups have been exacerbated by the work from home environment. So the question becomes, how do we make sure that the work experience is equitable for populations for whom this environment is potentially going to further disadvantage? Clarity around expectations and aligning around measurable outcomes is more important than ever.

“We need to adjust our approach to feedback so that it’s based on clear expectations and not based on things like time spent online or responsiveness to emails.”

“We need to adjust our approach to feedback so that it’s based on clear expectations and not based on things like time spent online or responsiveness to emails. It’s critical to run systematic checks of what’s happening with regard to women, underrepresented minorities, parents, etc. - to make sure that the performance process includes ways to identify and weed out bias.”

Trust is critical to creating new norms and accounting for unique circumstances. It can be a shift for organizations who have traditionally measured productivity through the lens of being online at all hours to learn to trust their employees. However it’s more apparent than ever that the feeling of scrutiny no longer serves or motivates employees.

Bringing humanity to the workplace

Stacia notes that we knew the impacts of the pandemic would be hard from the beginning, but many of us assumed that things would get easier over time. However, we’re seeing that it’s actually become harder in many ways. So organizations and managers need to continue asking their people how they’re doing, what they can do to help, and where adjustments can be made.

“I’ve worked from home for a long time, so I have a standing desk, an under-desk treadmill, a second monitor - but a lot of people are huddled over a kitchen table and that’s not sustainable. It’s critical to avoid making assumptions about what people have and what they need. Instead we need to ask people what they need to do their work, and understand that those needs will change over time. That’s the most important thing that organizations can do because everyone’s experience is so unique.”

As a leader, Stacia recognizes the balance between setting a vision and showing vulnerability.

“There is a tendency to always be looking forward, and a lot of people are already talking about coming out of the crisis. But the reality is that we’re still very much in it.”

“We’re all real people and opening up those conversations is always important, but especially now as we all go through this together. There is a tendency to always be looking forward, and a lot of people are already talking about coming out of the crisis. But the reality is that we’re still very much in it. So beyond vulnerability, leaders need to embody perseverance and show their teams that we’re still in this together, we’re still with you. It’s not a one time thing.”

People are still tired. In fact, many are even more burned out than they were when this all started. So it’s imperative for leaders to continue demonstrating perseverance, openness, and transparency.

“Give people the space and the grace that we all would hope to be afforded. The future of work will include a lot of work from home, and some of those things will still make us tired. Even after working from home since 2010, I still get tired after a day of zoom calls.”

As we rebuild expectations and schedules, making time for self-care is critical. Stacia emphasizes the importance of not only exercise, but also investing in personal development.

“Singing is something I’ve always wanted to learn, so I’ve been having weekly music lessons. Especially during the pandemic, it’s important to try to keep this time from feeling like lost time, because it’s not, and there are opportunities in the difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of difficulty, but what has helped keep me going is this idea that I’m making time to work toward something that’s meaningful to me despite (and maybe even because of) the pandemic.”

Looking toward the future

As we move forward, Stacia sees a few major trends at play, which includes a broader focus on employee experience. Even if the economy falters or recovers slower than expected, the last recession proved that when companies have fewer financial incentives to offer, the employee experience becomes increasingly important.

“It’s no longer about how we adapt to the digital workplace, but now it’s about how we ensure people are happy and successful in it.”

“The digital workplace is here, and that requires a new approach from companies and managers. It’s no longer about how we adapt to the digital workplace, but now it’s about how we ensure people are happy and successful in it. We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, and we’re finding that work from home can be lonely and isolating. So the focus will have to shift from this adoption phase into figuring out how to thrive in this digital workplace.”

As we are more distributed physically in workplaces, Stacia also sees a breaking down of hierarchical structures. Continuing to rely on the same hierarchical chain will slow down the business - and already is. Giving employees more insight into what’s happening and encouraging growth and development will help employees feel happier and more empowered, and ultimately help organizations do better.

The pandemic has shown us that despite global uncertainty, we’re still getting work done. Flexibility doesn’t hinder performance, and as we continue moving forward, this flexibility is the key to supporting the whole employee and benefits everyone involved.

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02

Culture Amp | 7 min read

Lessons from crisis: what to bring forward and what to leave behind

After spending several months responding to the COVID-19 crisis, we invite you to pause and reflect on the experience.

What about your new workstyle has worked well? What hasn’t? What do you want to continue doing? What have you found ineffective?

Some people love working from home, others are itching to get back to the office. While individual preferences will naturally differ, there are larger lessons about the integration of work and life that we can learn from this experience and bring forward with us.

In this article, we cover what we’ve seen work (and not work) during the COVID-19 crisis, and explore ways to leverage our learnings as we reimage the future workplace.

 

Early workplace trends

In the aftermath of such rapid change, many organizations are looking for a better understanding of their team’s experience to identify a path forward. Culture Amp’s COVID-19 survey revealed that 85% of respondents believe their team or department would benefit from some degree of remote working in the future.

Further, while 73% of respondents feel equipped to manage both personal and professional demands right now, only 56% feel able to effectively switch off from work to make time for rest and 62% can accomplish all they need to during normal work hours.

Beyond this, top research firms have been releasing predictions for the future of work. A Gartner survey found that 64% of HR leaders are prioritizing employee experience more highly now than before the coronavirus outbreak.

This only scratches the surface compared to the multitude of qualitative learnings from organization leaders. These learnings all suggest an increasing value on the human element in the workplace. Diverse and inclusive teams, compassion in management, two-way conversations about the employee experience, and work-life blend are just a few themes that are top of mind as leaders envision a path forward.

Embracing the evolution of the workplace

The power is in our hands to shape the future of work. In the wake of COVID-19 and mass uncertainty, it’s an all hands on deck effort to determine what happens next. To spark your creativity, we’ve shared themes and perspectives from leaders thinking critically about the future of work:

You can’t know if you don’t ask

“As a company, we’re leaning into remote work and embracing a culture of innovation and adaptability. Communication is key. We surveyed 1,200 workers and found that the majority enjoy working from home (84%) and would continue to work from home regularly if given the opportunity (92%). We can’t predict what the future holds but we can listen to what our employees want and need from us.”

Alex Hattingh

Chief People Officer at Employment Hero

Be clear on the purpose and flexible on the process

“As teams around the world transition to remote work, we’ve seen how adaptable organizations can be and that it’s possible to get work done as a distributed team. Without the shortcuts we all once relied on – grabbing five people and huddling in a conference room, doing desk drivebys to check on project status, or stopping people in the hallways to debrief on an email – we’ve unlocked new ways to become more efficient, productive and organized during this period.

We know that teams do their best, most creative work when they have clarity of purpose, plan and responsibility. The success of distributed teams proves that teams that have clarity know what needs to be done by when, even when they’re not working in the same location."

Anna Binder

Head of People Operations at Asana

Prioritize learning and development

“We’ve seen a huge surge in demand for online learning from individuals, corporate customers, and government entities. While the surge of online learning has been accelerated globally by the COVID-19 pandemic, we predict a fundamental shift that will be sustained over time. Continuous learning will provide us with a path forward in this new world of work and will serve as a core muscle to build organizational resilience.”

Shelley Osborne

VP of Learning at Udemy

Call on new voices

“As a leader, now is the time to look around your organization for the people you don’t normally call on. You’ll be amazed by all the hidden talent and ideas within your organization – and what they can do when given permission to try. This is especially important for employees’ whose jobs have been reduced or changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no one-size-fits-all playbook for navigating these times, it’s up to each of us to create this with our entire organization so we can make our way through this together. ”

Cameron Welter

Principal at Kotter

Make space for vulnerability

“Your openness gives others permission to share – responsibly sharing what you feel (without putting it on the team to hold) creates a safe space for others to express worries, uncertainty, hopes, challenges, and ideas and allows for safety, connection, and innovation.

Breathe, respond to the nonverbal cues and energy of people you’re communicating with. Don’t just march through meetings - show your humanity and empathy rather than getting rigid. Acknowledge emotions that bubble up for you”

Laura Gale

Facilitator and Coach at ThinkHuman

Nurture psychological safety

“It’s now culturally becoming more okay to say, ‘Hey, I’m not okay,’ which in the past really wasn’t as socially acceptable in workplaces. It’s also not uncommon for a two year old to climb up during a board meeting. Recognizing that you are a whole person is becoming more ever-present in our working world. It will be interesting to see how that changes the way we work, because we know from research that psychological safety is one of the greatest predictors of high performing teams. And in order to have psychological safety, you need trust, you need authenticity. And in many ways, this has forced us to be more authentic.”

Claire Clark

Community Manager at Calm

Support individual responsibilities

“Supporting working parents has never been more important. Parents need their own ‘tribe.’ Creating a community for parents within the organization is a very powerful initiative. In times like these, they need it more than ever because we are all figuring out how best to proceed and sometimes the best answers come from within. This doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking – a simple way to start would be starting a chat group for parents for them to get acquainted and start a conversation.

Organizations should focus on investing in training managers to better support their staff. This includes managing flexible working requests, having more inclusive operational setups for employees with different caregiving responsibilities, and leading remote working teams.”

Jodi Geddes

Co-founder and Director of Circle In

Model self-care

“Any leader that wants the people working for them to focus on self-care and taking care of themselves has to model it themselves. It’s a powerful thing for leaders to say, ‘here’s how I’ve made sure that I’m sleeping enough and eating three meals a day. I’m exercising. I’m in therapy. Here’s how I’m taking care of myself.’ Because people don’t do what you say, people do what you do. So you have to start with yourself first.

I hope companies understand that it’s not just supporting the mental health of people right now. Mental and emotional wellness are something we should always be paying attention to. And the more we’re working on it, the stronger our resilience muscles become to handle things while they’re happening and also to recover from them quickly to heal and keep moving after the fact.”

Dr. Emily Anhalt

CoFounder and Chief Clinical Officer at Coa

Flexibility will be a must-have

“As we look to the future, whether it’s working virtually or fully needing to come back, we need to think about how to support people who – despite feeling more trapped than ever – actually become accustomed to having control over their schedule. We’re seeing people take breaks with their kids in the middle of the day, doing a workout between meetings, and blocking off their calendars so they can take a quick break. When you’re in an office setting, there’s a level of scrutiny where people don’t feel like they can workout in the middle of the day or have their kids sitting next to them in a conference call.

Employers are going to have to think about how to continue to support those things that people aren’t going to be willing to sacrifice, especially after we made it through something so traumatic and impactful on our lives.”

Kaleana Quibell

Wellbeing Director at Sequoia

The path forward

As with any world-altering events, much is still unknown about the path forward. However, we all play an instrumental role in forging this path and can use our learnings as a guide. Every voice matters, so don’t be afraid to speak up and share creative ideas within your organization and community. If you’re in a position of power, make space for ideas from non-traditional sources and amplify unique voices. Now is the time to draw from unconventional sources to find new and better approaches. There is an opportunity for a better world of work, but to build it, we have to work together.

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From The Heart of the C-Suite

An intimate conversation on how C-level executives are #WorkingThroughIt

In this part, which features Pip Marlow, CEO of Salesforce ANZ, we look into the new world of work, culture and adaptability. In conversation with Didier Elzinga, Founder, and CEO of Culture Amp, and moderated by Mel vonHartitzsch, Lead Account Executive at Culture Amp, Didier and Pip give their perspectives on what challenges they’ve faced over the last 4 months, how they’re remaining motivated and the new habits they’ve developed. Tune in and listen to their key takeaways.

Resources

We’re all in this together – resources from our friends and partners

This is an unprecedented time. There are no business strategies or ‘hot tips for working from home’ that can change the fact that many of us are feeling anxious and overwhelmed. But we can – and have to – work through it together. These resources from our partners and friends will help us do just that.

Optimizing the work from home experience

Brex

Brex shares 8 tactical takeaways about remote working tools, employee engagement practices, and productivity measurement frameworks that’ll help you put culture first.

“The rules have changed, but the culture game is no less important. Make culture-building in the new remote landscape one of the year’s top priorities.”

Read the article →

How to support parents and caregivers during COVID-19

Kunik

Hear from Kunik about some sustainable policies and structures that companies can use to support caregivers throughout the pendency of this crisis.

“There are two things this pandemic has made clear: 1. Your company has more working parents than you thought, and 2. they all need help, no matter how old their kids are.”

Download the guide →

A mid-year check-in: 2020 HR industry trends and insights

Bonusly

It’s in the nature of HR to change and adapt to the current events that impact employees. Bonusly uncovered what trends they’re seeing for HR and how have things changed since the global pandemic started.

“As workplaces face many new changes this year, engaging employees is still the main responsibility of HR leaders.”

Read the article →

Can a global crisis benefit remote work culture?

Namely

Namely provides 3 reasons why organizations should embrace working from home and the benefits that this new world of work brings. reduction in hiring costs and increases in employee productivity.

“This global crisis has proved that working from home can actually benefit businesses across all industries.”

Read the article →

How to make remote onboarding less awkward for new employees

Gusto

When face-to-face communication is impractical, a 100% remote recruiting process may be necessary. Read Gusto’s tips for making the remote onboarding process a lot less awkward for new and existing employees.

“New employees won’t care about your business… until they know you care about them.”

Read the article →
Illustration

Toolkit

Working through crisis

There’s no playbook for periods of uncertainty – but we created this toolkit to help you work through it.

Insight

How Darren, a people leader at GitLab is #WorkingThroughIt

Photo of Darren Murphy

Darren Murphy

Head of Remote at GitLab

GitLab’s mission of everyone can contribute applies to how we remain connected as a 1,300+ person team in over 65 countries. We’re intentional about informal communication, which flourishes through talent shows, coffee chats (juice box chats for our kids!), AMAs, and public Slack channels. As an all-remote team, we encourage people to connect with their local communities and share those experiences – the impact we make outside of work creates stronger bonds at work.”

How we work

The new world of work

In episode seven of HOW WE WORK, we spoke about the new skills leadership teams need to remain effective and how organizations can lean into creating environments that prioritize diversity and inclusion remotely. Our three guests also highlighted the hidden impacts that COVID has had on workplaces and the why being a purpose-driven business drives employee engagement.

Meredith Wilson

EGM People & Sustainability, Wesfarmers Industrials

Michelle Ridsdale

CPO, Envato

Mahesh Muralidhar

COO, Simply Wall Street

A conversation series hosted by Culture Amp

Inside Culture Amp

How Culture Amp is #WorkingThroughIt

We spoke with Grace Mole, Culture Amp’s Senior People Advisor, and Jessica Brook, Culture Amp’s Lead People Scientist, to learn how they’re embracing a new future of work.

Workplace photo

After spending months reacting to global change, we have an opportunity to reflect on our learnings and work together to reshape the future. While the rapid change and uncertainty has been undeniably uncomfortable, it has also allowed us to try out new styles of working. As we move forward, here’s how people leaders at Culture Amp are reimagining what’s possible for the workplace.

Embrace a distributed workforce

Many teams have been mandated to work remotely for the past several months. Where before this may have seemed impossible, we’re all seeing the benefits of a distributed culture.

“We have been presented with an opportunity to think about the future of work in a way that perhaps we wouldn’t have before the pandemic. This global crisis forced us to act quickly to allow for individuals to travel out of big cities last-minute and be with their families. Our people team has created a work stream dedicated to the future of work within the company. It’s a huge project but we believe this focus on a distributed workforce - recognizing there are fewer boundaries now - will not just open up doors for our employees, but also dramatically widen our talent pool and change the employee experience for the better.”

Grace Mole

Senior People Advisor at Culture Amp

Redefine normal

The traditional ways of working were already evolving in the face of technology, and the pandemic has sped up this process. Leaders around the world are now forced to reflect on former best practices and evaluate whether or not they’ll continue to serve us.

“What expectations of normality are you going to be letting go of today? Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga asked us this question about a month into lockdown. I’ve thought of it almost every week since and it’s guided a lot of my thinking about the future. After all, a lot of ‘normal’ wasn’t that great (and I’m not just talking sweaty armpits on the tube and other hellish commutes). Letting go of expectations around old normality frees us to turn previously philosophical questions like ‘what is the real purpose of an office in the 2020s?’ into something more imminently practical. At Culture Amp we’re choosing to see the current moment as an opportunity to progress further and faster, not just find our way back to ‘normal’.”

Jessica Brook

Lead People Scientist at Culture Amp

Support the overlap between work and life

As we begin to return to the office and recover from the initial stress and uncertainty, it might be tempting to revert to the separation of work and personal life. But individuals want to be seen and acknowledged as a whole and have space for their whole human experience during the workday. The arbitrary boundaries have come down, and this is not only liberating, but critical to future success.

Embracing a new future, together

Community

How can we support each other as we journey into the ‘new normal’?

Check in to find out how other, like-minded people are taking a Culture First approach to working through it.

Find your people →

Working through crisis toolkit

A Culture Amp toolkit for more humanity at workThere’s no playbook for periods of uncertainty – but we created this toolkit to help you work through it.

Illustration

Previous: Part 6

Reclaiming success by redefining it

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