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March 9, 2020

Future proofing your business starts with culture

By Laura Butler, SVP of people and culture

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) is shining a bright light on how complicated it can be for global businesses to get work done, exposing the importance of ensuring continuity of operations—the ability to perform mission-critical work under a broad range of circumstances.

While health officials are in the middle of a massive effort to contain the spread of the virus (and mitigate its impact), business leaders around the world are finding themselves in various stages of preparedness, from scrambling to react to proactively pivoting. Companies are taking measures such as:

 

  • Restricting travel, which requires more technical enablement (e.g., video conferencing).

  • Requiring more employees to work from home, which requires more digitally enabled collaboration and accountability.

  • Increasing focus on operational efficiency due to economic uncertainty, which requires that employees focus on the work that matters most.

 

And that’s why this isn’t a coronavirus story; it’s a future of work story. 

We can’t change the fact that we will always have unexpected threats and emergencies—and opportunities—that we must respond to. However, we can change how we work by focusing on two crucial elements—technology and culture—that will help us thrive when facing events like COVID-19 and new norms like a workforce that wants autonomy, transparency, and meaning in their work.

Workfront’s mission is helping people do great work no matter the circumstances. Connection is at the heart of our mission, from connecting teams working in different time zones to connecting the many facets of work. Based on our experience with our own employees and helping 3,000 global companies reimagine work, technology and culture are the two most important mechanisms for cultivating the connection that helps businesses be proactive, adaptive, and competitive in their markets, inside or outside of an emergency. 

Technology that connects work—processes, data, content, and the people who perform it—is critical for businesses trying to navigate a world of work that’s increasingly digital, distributed, and borderless. But successfully leveraging technology starts with a workplace culture that’s oriented to the future and reflects how the modern workforce wants to work. 

 

Focus on culture and technology in tandem to cultivate connection and trust—and achieve better business outcomes. 

Culture and technology that work together to give employees the ability to use the right tools and collaborate with the right people to do the right work at the right time (no matter where they are or how they want to work) is no longer a nice-to-have. Getting tech and culture right is a business imperative. 

I can’t top what IDC (a global provider of market intelligence) said about the importance of people and culture: “Digital transformation is definitely technology-enabled, but it’s people-powered. You can’t succeed without embracing this truth.” When I talk about culture, I’m not just talking about it at the HR level. I’m talking about it at a level that permeates the entire workforce to create a boundaryless, empowered employee experience that shows up in several ways:

 

  • Technology as a servant, not a master. Outfitting employees with the technology and tools (video conferencing, the latest creative suite, etc.) that they want and need to do great work. Empowering people with technology that consistently connects and transitions all facets of work seamlessly across teams and geographies. 

  • Boundaryless hiring practices. Recruiting, supporting, and retaining the best talent regardless of where they reside. 

  • Autonomous, flexible, collaborative work practices. Avoiding prescriptive mandates and giving employees the freedom to create their best path to the right results. 

  • Connecting work to goals with transparency and trust. Helping all employees understand why their work matters by transparently communicating how their work aligns to strategic goals and outcomes—and then trusting them to do the right work. 

 

The policies, practices, and technologies companies provide can reinforce or disrupt a culture of trust and accountability. Great work can only happen when people have the right technology, are connected to each other regardless of physical location, have the freedom to create and innovate, and know that their work matters. 

Businesses that build the right culture and align technology to support that culture can create an employee experience that unites and connects a global workforce, and the companies they power, to successfully navigate the unexpected (from market changes to disease outbreaks) and achieve better business outcomes: 

 

  • Limit business interruptions. Achieve continuous delivery of new and increasingly valuable experiences. A future-oriented culture that includes the right technologies ensures companies can continue business-as-usual in the face of myriad possible business interruptions (natural disasters, geopolitical events, pandemics, supply chain disruptions, etc.).

  • Attract and retain the best talent. Meet and exceed modern workforce expectations by outfitting them with the tech and tools that they want and need to get work done.

  • Gain a competitive advantage. Execute on your business strategy by aligning everyone’s work to company goals.

 

With the right approach to tech and culture, businesses can prepare for the modern workforce. The fact that they can also pivot quickly to avoid risk and capture opportunity is a happy and essential outcome as well.

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