A Formula for Kickstarting Behavioral Change and Creating Lasting Organizational Habits   

Unlock the secrets to organizational change with Behavior Kickstarters. Learn how rapid experiments can catalyze cultural shifts and drive impactful transformation.  

We’ve all been there. We start the year with the best of intentions, convinced that this time will be different. However, as life’s demands and our ingrained habits exert their influence, our resolve weakens. Despite multiple attempts to restart, within a few months, we find ourselves reverting to familiar patterns.  

And it’s no different in the workplace – in fact it’s much harder. Beyond the demands of their job, employees must also fight against the pull of the organizational system. A pull that is so strong that eventually most change efforts are pulled back to ‘the way things are done around here’ and ultimately fail. An IMD global study of 500 executives found that only 50% of attempts to change employee behavior are successful. So, in short, change in a busy, complex organization is hard. 

So how do you overcome these powerful forces to successfully change behavior and build new habits? 

We believe that change happens through doing, not talking. Moving from words to action. You can’t just click your fingers and suddenly become more innovative, creative and collaborative. Humans don’t work like that. You must poke a stick into the organizational system and be intentional about creating change.  

The first step in this magical process is to start really, really small. 

Behavior Kickstarters Formula 

Behavior Kickstarters are rapid experiments designed to activate new behaviors and catalyze cultural shifts. Using a mix of behavioral science and experimentation techniques, our Behavior Kickstarters create a safe space for people to experiment with, and ultimately adopt new behaviors and build new habits. They establish the right conditions for people to try, fail, learn and grow. 

While people are wonderfully different and unique, human behavior has followed consistent patterns since the dawn of time. Not only are we programmed to follow the path of least resistance, but our endorphins also encourage us to seek out the things that are satisfying. And we’re social beings, where the pull of the crowd can have a significant impact on our behavior and decisions. In other words, we only change our behavior when it is easy, feels good or when people we admire are doing it.  

Our Behavior Kickstarter formula ensures the right ingredients are present for driving behavior change.  

  • Trigger – Make it obviousSomething that signals the need to start, gets your attention and shows the need to take action. 
  • Motivation – Make it attractive – Create an image in the mind of the user that makes them want to change. 
  • Ability – Make it easyThe easier a behavior is to do, the more likely it is to be done.  
  • Reward – Make it satisfyingIf it feels good and has a satisfying ending, we’re more likely to repeat it in the future and form a habit. 

While this formula helps us change in the immediate term, we also need to consider how we form new habits to embed the change. This is where experimentation comes in.  

Unlocking Organizational Change Through Experimentation  

Experimentation isn’t reserved for labs or innovation teams – it can be a powerful mechanism to drive sustained organizational change. Teams can use it to become more adaptive and to create a safe environment that allows people to try new behaviors and fail, and to apply learnings from their failures to change their approach and try again. Supporting this idea, our Catalysts research, How to Build an Adaptable Organization that Thrives During Uncertainty, identified ‘lowering the cost of experimentation’ as one of the five ways to build an adaptive organization. 

The concept of experimentation is deeply ingrained in all of us. We just don’t apply it in an organizational context. Dave Snowden, founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge, sums it up beautifully, “The engine of all life on this planet has always changed in the same way. We try things, notice positive and negative patterns, amplify what’s working, minimize what isn’t.” Yet, despite being ingrained in us, the number of people who use experimentation is comparatively small. People seem to struggle to apply it to their day-to-day lives, meaning its potential is often left untapped. Michael Schrage, author of The Innovators Dilemma, uses a wonderful model for driving its adoption whilst solving real business challenges. Teams of five, each generate and test a solution to solve one of five challenges, over five weeks. The winning idea receives financial backing to be taken forward. Along with generating great ideas to solve real problems, this approach creates a fun, engaging way to understand the power of experimentation. 

Like Schrage’s method, putting experimentation into practice with our Behavior Kickstarters is simple. We recommend a timeframe  (~2-4 weeks) and at the end of that period, we reflect on how it went, what went well and whether we achieved the desired outcomes – using this data to define what could we do differently next time. Then, if needed, we make changes to the Kickstarter and go again!  

A Kickstarter can take many forms. Ideally, it will be designed so it fits seamlessly into the employee’s day-to-day world – as part of existing meetings or a regular routine, like a morning cup of coffee, for example.  

  • Trying to make your teams feel recognized? Thank You Thursday: Every Thursday, send a short thank you note, acknowledging the efforts of an individual or team for that week (for something big or small). 
  • Trying to increase psychological safety? Poke Holes in This: Before sharing an idea, ask the team ‘Please poke holes in this’, opening yourself up to helpful feedback and encouraging vulnerability. 
  • Trying to increase collaboration? Don’t Rush Into it: At the start of your weekly meeting,  spend five minutes with everyone sharing what they did over the weekend, building relationships outside of just work commitments. 

Prophet’s research tells us that, by targeting the “Soul” of the organization, we can activate and accelerate key transformation levers, such as ‘Developing meaningful mechanisms to enable employees to adapt.’ We mentioned earlier that beating the organizational system is difficult and most organizations don’t have these change mechanisms in place. Behavior Kickstarters do exactly that, equipping employees with a powerful method to grow, adapt and thrive in the ever-changing world we now find ourselves in.  

The crucial part of this comes not in running the Kickstarter, but in equipping your teams with the permission and ability to constantly repeat it over time to embed the new behavior until it becomes a habit. Wendy Wood, author of Good Habits, Bad Habits estimates that we spend 50% of our time unconsciously repeating actions we’ve already taken. By intentionally repeating the Kickstarter, you train your brain by practicing new behaviors and building the pathways needed to create daily habits. For this instance, fake it until you make it – or in behavioral terms, fake it until you become it. 

The idea of ‘fake it until you become it’ is not new, in fact, it is over 2,000 years old. Aristotle believed that people could not simply know, or study, how to be virtuous. To be virtuous, they must practice virtuous actions: first by imitating others who demonstrate virtuous actions and then turning those imitated behaviors into habits by performing them every day. You practice the behavior you want and then one day you turn around and discover you’re not performing the behavior, you’re living it. 

The beauty of this transformational process is its ripple effect, fostering further change not only with individuals but also throughout the broader organization. On an individual level, the success of initiating the first Behavior Kickstarter inspires you to do it again (following our Behavior Kickstarter formula: we only change when it feels good). If you’re trying to get fit, and you feel good after your first 5km run, you might try 7km, or 10km and then maybe eventually a half marathon. At an organizational level, it can quickly become contagious. The stories of others successfully changing their behavior become the currency of change, creating a sense of envy that motivates others to do the same. Just like when we witness a good deed, like someone helping an elderly person with their shopping, we’re far more likely to carry out a good deed ourselves later that day.  

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision”

James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits 

To fuel a change movement across the organization,  it’s helpful to share stories of how others are running their Behavior Kickstarters to reinforce these successes with recognition and celebration. This inspires others to initiate their own Kickstarter, setting off a chain reaction that swiftly builds into a potent force for change.  

Change shouldn’t be isolated to those with ‘people’ or ‘culture’ in their title, or limited to company offsites and launches for new corporate values. The beauty of Behavior Kickstarters is that they’re accessible to everyone. Facilitating the adoption of new behaviors is a sure-fire way to accelerate change across your organization. 


Some questions for you to reflect on: How is your organization living your values? How are you living them? Are there new behaviors or ways of working that are not currently being lived? 

If you’re interested in finding ways to create a safe space, enhance collaboration, or ignite innovation and creativity, our experts are ready to help.  


Tailoring Employee Experience for Asia’s New Workforce 

Adopting an employee-centric strategy for the unique workforce in Asia. 

Hybrid work was supposed to be the future, but now with economic headwinds and continuing uncertainties, existing employee experience strategies are crumbling, even in Asia. Despite robust economic growth, concerns persist over potential slowdowns in major Asian markets, such as China and Japan, and their cascading effects on regional trade, investment and talent mobility. Companies are walking on a monetary tightrope due to rising interest rates and global inflation. This has prompted companies to reevaluate their talent needs and prioritize adaptability and digital skills. Additionally, stressors like rising living costs and geopolitical instability have caused a high mental health risk for employees in Asia. 

The Imperative of Fostering an Employee-Centric Strategy 

In Asia’s complex business landscape, adopting an employee-centric strategy is a crucial imperative for organizations seeking uncommon growth. 

Staying Competitive in a Tight Labor Market 

In the competitive labor market in Asia, the war for talent will rage stronger than ever. The 2023 Hays Asia Salary Guide revealed talent and skill shortages as the foremost challenges confronting employers across Asia, driving a shift towards skills-based talent acquisition as a pivotal strategy for thriving in this fiercely competitive landscape.  

Addressing Specific Employee Needs in Asia 

Despite experiencing increased productivity during the remote work era, the modern Asian workforce faces a multitude of challenges, including burnout, cultural disconnection, and diminishing job satisfaction. This is evidenced by a PwC report revealing that only 57% of respondents in Asia are satisfied with their current jobs. 

Prioritizing flexibility and work-life balance remains crucial, alongside the need for proficiency in regional languages and a deep understanding of cultural and regulatory landscapes. Encompassing nearly 50 countries each with its own distinct cultural and linguistic tapestry, many roles in Asia are inherently regional which means there is a higher demand for businesses to foster agility and cultural intelligence.  Employees find themselves at a crossroads, balancing demands from both Asian and Western headquarters. The ability to comprehend and align with the priorities and expectations of each, while advocating for the unique needs of Asian markets, becomes a critical skill. Moreover, fostering positive cross-cultural collaboration is not merely an option but a necessity for organizations to thrive in the intricate Asia business ecosystem. 

Creating Employee-Centric Offerings 

As business optimism confronts talent challenges in Asia, organizations must prioritize employee-centric strategies, emphasizing cultural awareness, flexibility and work-life balance. By addressing the intricacies of the Asia talent landscape, businesses can attract, retain, and engage with the right talent, ultimately driving long-term and sustainable business growth. 

The New Equation: Flexibility + Connection = Wellbeing 

Prophet’s research highlights flexibility and connection as the main levers for achieving holistic employee well-being. This means adapting to diverse needs and fostering meaningful connections aligned with the company’s mission. The dynamic synergy forms a reciprocal relationship: as businesses prioritize well-being, individuals become dedicated stewards, fostering a harmonious cycle of mutual care and organizational success. 

1. Highlighting Flexibility Through Cultural Transformation 

Mercer’s Global Talent Trends (GTT) Study 2023 reveals that only half of Asia-based employers currently offer flexible work options for all employees, trailing behind the global average of 56%. In fact, a substantial 68% of APAC workers expect their companies to offer hybrid work arrangements in the next year. Hence it is crucial for companies in Asia to create a sense of openness and flexibility in the workforce environment that caters to employees’ emotional needs and changing expectations.  

Cultural transformation programs are an effective avenue to cultivate meaningful experiences and internal trust among employees. A key step to bridge the gap between employee expectations and company commitments is by defining a clear and compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP). 

For example, Singapore’s UOB (United Overseas Bank) has crafted an EVP centered around care, growth, and trust, actively prioritizing employee well-being. The leadership at UOB aims to strike a harmonious balance between purpose and equilibrium, ensuring employee motivation while allowing ample time for personal pursuits. Notably, their implementation of a two-day remote work arrangement in 2022 resulted in increased employee morale and loyalty without any adverse effects on productivity.  

 Coming out of the pandemic, an Asian luxury travel retailer saw the need to revamp their EVP in 2023. This initiative aimed to boost employee engagement, reignite culture and establish a more powerful employer brand to attract and retain top talent. To achieve these goals, they focused on creating a unified message that clearly defined the company’s values and emphasized the opportunities for growth, learning and exploration that aligned with both the employees’ purpose and the overall brand strategy. 

With a well-defined EVP, businesses can then implement effective internal communication and culture programs to create meaningful and engaging experiences. Many companies in Asia are actively undertaking culture transformation initiatives to enhance employee experience. 

2. Deepening Connection Through Collaboration 

In hybrid and digital workplaces, employees are increasingly seeking meaningful connections, not just with their peers, but also with the leadership. In addition to creating interesting and engaging employee experiences, businesses must also recognize the pivotal role of collaboration in enhancing connections. Deepened collaboration not only enables employees to forge stronger bonds, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose but also cultivates a profound connection to the core values and mission of their company. This, in turn, leads to a collective commitment to overarching goals, enhancing workplace camaraderie. 

Prophet’s research, The Collaborative Advantage, not only sheds light on Southeast Asian companies’ heightened appreciation for collaboration but also reveals a noticeable lag in execution compared to their counterparts in other regions. The report introduces the Collaboration Flywheel, a comprehensive framework guiding leaders in prioritizing and expediting efforts to strengthen collaborative capabilities. Key tenets of this framework include: 

  • Coordination: Illustrate the linkage between an employee’s individual effort and the organization’s purpose. Guide individuals by showcasing “what good looks like” and granting decision-making authority to lower levels, leveraging digital transformation as an enabler. 
  • Cooperation: Align incentives across the organization, balancing differing definitions of what a “good” incentive is. Consider cultural differences when creating incentives and foster a shared mindset that collectively achieves unified goals. 
  • Collaboration: Focus on the process, not just outcomes, to make room for more agile thinking, allowing synergies and interdependencies to form. Empower employees through a bottom-up, test-and-learn approach, encouraging them to challenge the status quo and implement new, fresh ways of thinking. 

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) provides an excellent case study. GovTech embraces a flat organizational structure that grants partial autonomy to its sub-divisions. This structure enhances agility in market response and allows robust collaboration among its divisions. When recruiting new talent, GovTech prioritizes individuals with strong learning agility, ensuring that its workforce remains adaptable and forward-thinking. This internal culture of collaboration enables it to remain competitive among other tech players. As a result, in 2022, 99% of citizens surveyed expressed satisfaction with Singapore’s government digital services. Moreover, GovTech ranked third place in Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology List in 2023. 

Additionally, representation and diversity are becoming a pivotal piece in strengthening connections within an organization. According to the EY Asia-Pacific Belonging Barometer 2022, employees’ sense of belonging is enhanced from 22% to 70% when they perceive diversity and strong leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In the dynamic Asian talent market, where individuals are increasingly prioritizing DEI considerations, companies risk losing valuable employees if they fail to invest in creating an inclusive workplace. It is essential for organizations to articulate DEI mission statements and define how these principles align with their core values.  

For example, Microsoft Asia Pacific has demonstrated a commitment to DEI through initiatives like the “Code; Without Barriers” program which certifies women in AI across the region, pushing the company further to continue their mission of empowering Asia Pacific’s digital ambition. Similarly, Ørsted Taiwan exemplifies an award-winning approach to DEI by embedding it in their business strategy, with a goal to achieve a gender ratio of 6:4 by 2030. Right now, over half of the Asia Pacific senior management team comprises females. Moreover, Ørsted Taiwan fosters strong connections through initiatives like utilizing the “Insights Discovery” psychometric tool and implementing “GenderIN” sessions to encourage discussions and guide policymaking, contributing to a high level of employee satisfaction. 


As companies confront unique workforce challenges in Asia, tailoring employee experiences is of paramount importance. By honing in on the simple equation: Flexibility + Connection = Wellbeing, organizations can shape their vision and build a roadmap for gradual implementation. Prophet can help define a distinctive strategy and frame flexibility policies to make them relevant to your organization. 


The Human Factor: The Secret to Modern Change Management 

Human-centricity leads to more successful transformations, with outsized revenue growth and higher employee satisfaction. 

Corporate coldness doesn’t work any longer. Just ask Elon Musk. Months after his brutal mass layoffs – with many of Twitter’s 6,000 downsizing victims finding they’d gotten the axe only when they lost access to email – the company is still struggling. Ad revenues and stock performance have plummeted. Consumers are racing to competitors, including Threads. And all because he forgot the most essential rule in business today: People matter.  Change initiatives require empathy to succeed even when making tough calls, like reducing staff. 

Prophet calls this a human-centered approach to change. Our research and experience prove that companies approaching transformation from this point of view are more agile and responsive to the needs of their people and have more flexibility when it comes to adjusting roadmaps as they move through their journey. They have more robust, loyal workforces because they align new governance policies around people, not technology. Even before profits and efficiencies, these companies center their strategies on the people in the business.  

The impact is clear. In May 2023, Prophet commissioned Forrester to explore how firms use human-centricity to design their transformation initiatives and assess their performance. This joint research confirmed that firms that adopt a human-centric focus were: 

  • 10x more likely to see revenue growth of 20% or higher
  • better able to engage employees and create impactful stakeholder experiences
  • able to improve overall levels of innovation, time to market, creative differentiation, and capture new markets with enhanced product offerings

We’re not saying this approach is straightforward. If the last few years have proved anything, change isn’t linear. Leaders face new demands and are often driving multiple changes simultaneously. CEO tenure keeps falling. And even though murky economic forecasts are causing layoffs in many sectors, investors still demand growth. It often feels that the expectation that businesses change and then keep changing is more significant than ever. 

Yet our research and experience working with change leaders have shown us that it pays to adopt a human-centered approach – ensuring strategies are holistic and integrated improves the success of any single initiative. 

Prophet’s Four Directions of Change Model Cultivates a Human-Centric Mindset 

Change isn’t one-dimensional. Neither are people. So human centricity can’t be, either. By definition, it’s holistic. It requires a constant shift in perspective, understanding no organization or industry operates in a vacuum. All businesses, from small B2B companies to sprawling consumer giants, work in constantly expanding ecosystems. 

To successfully navigate this expansion, we believe leaders need to pay attention and respond to each “dimension” at which change occurs. Four directions are essential: 

1. Look outside-in.

 Real-world forces and societal changes are happening all the time. Workforce demands and expectations that emerged in the last few years continue to intensify, and organizations must respond. The top triggers? Employee well-being and mental health, cited by 71% of companies we surveyed, sustainability and climate change (65%), the ongoing challenges of remote and hybrid work (64%) and diversity, and equity and inclusion (61%). Addressing these needs takes an integrated and experimental approach – aligning people, operations and technology functions to address new ways of working. 

2. Lean on the existing culture, inside-out.

Leaders should consistently assess their organization’s aptitude or fitness for change and build a unique change journey from this starting point. We know the most effective change accelerator is a powerful, actionable ambition. But to reach those goals and set an ambition, organizations need an honest assessment of their performance across critical fundamentals. They need to know how well they enable employees to adapt to required changes and build the best mechanisms to support them. They need to push decision-making rights downward, as reducing hierarchical decisions improves asset allocation and boosts effectiveness. Leaders should leverage their organization’s strengths – reinforcing the elements that drive pride and comfort around change while painting a brighter future in areas where change will improve their people and the business. 

3. Coordinate a leader-led change.

Leaders need to communicate, direct and model the change desired. Unless executives believe in and model the change required, it will fail. Our research on how well companies collaborate for transformation finds that leaders who don’t practice what they preach are a leading cause of initiative failure. Additionally, having an aligned leadership team is key to managing prioritization and execution – ensuring there’s a coordinated effort to focus on what matters and manage capacity internally. When defining “the way we do things around here” and motivating employees to adopt these same behaviors, senior leaders must act first to exemplify what effort and success look like.  

4. Engage from the ground up.

Leaders include those impacted most in the strategy, development and activation. Companies can decrease implementation time and increase employee engagement by including members of the affected employee groups in strategic change initiatives, such as having them co-create solutions, recognizing them through stories of behaviors in action, or elevating them as change champions. When doing this, it is critical to ensure representation across race, gender, tenure, generation, and geography in addition to business units and levels. 

Managing Across These Four Directions in Action: How It Works 

The new CEO of the largest business unit of a major global industrial client asked for our help as she took on her role, recognizing that to achieve sustainable growth, significant change was needed inside the organization, both in mindset and ways of working. We started by building a picture of the current cultural dynamics for her and her leadership team and integrated this into the strategy development. 

With this integrated foundation, we were able to codify the key behavioral shifts required and the program of work across the cultural ecosystem required to enable this.  The interdependency of strategy and culture inherent in the program ensured that the change work itself was inside-out as well as outside-in, leader-led of course, but also focused on front-line engagement and performance. 

At its heart, this change journey was shaped from the ground up. Our work was defined by reviewing key employee insights and engaging the organization in identifying the key shifts we needed to make to achieve our ambition.   

From the outset, a leader-led principle was established for this work, reflecting the importance of leaders not just understanding but championing and role modeling change. Initially, key leadership groups input into the assessment and then helped co-create the program of work. The beginning of this journey was then largely focused on leadership skills and capabilities. We defined a multi-stage journey with different levels of leadership to ensure alignment, championship, connection and focus in owning the transformation. This involved both regular engagements as well as dedicated events like full-day in-person summits (held twice- yearly since).  

Naturally, the work was dominantly inside-out – building a compelling “story” for the journey the organization was on and using this to help all employees understand the criticality of the strategy and culture work driven by their purpose.  The “story” activation approach was informed by engaging the front line – getting the voice of the day-to-day operators into the work.  Helping these audiences fully appreciate how their work delivers real value in the world has been instrumental – with 84% of employees feeling personally connected to purpose in their latest employee voice findings.  

Outside-in, we built a renewed partnership with union leaders – a critical strategy in what is a heavily unionized working environment where relations had historically been strained. This collaboration with union leaders enabled us to align on a set of central issues to be resolved – ranging from inclusion and diversity to safety and future of work implications. 

The program has run for three years – and in that time all four of these change dimensions have been sustained – even as different focus areas for the work have evolved. Our work together continues to transform the way the organization operates and how it maintains relevance in such a rapidly changing market and world. Importantly, the purpose is frequently cited as one of the key reasons employees join and stay with the organization. Survey results also show that our work has helped to align and guide day-to-day actions of employees across the organization. 


For leaders who hope to create durable organizational changes, meeting people where they are is important. Using a human-centric framework, companies can develop transformation strategies that help all stakeholders. Human-centric organizations are more flexible and dynamic and better able to find their way to uncommon growth.


Catalysts: Gaining Control by Letting Go

Prophet’s 2023 Catalyst research highlights how governance can enable both alignment and autonomy. “Letting go” of control puts the right people in charge of the right decisions. 

This article is the third in a series based on our latest research, Catalysts: How to Build an adaptable organization that thrives during uncertainty. Conversations with senior executives in multiple industries helped us define concrete steps leaders can take to create a sense and structure for shared ownership within the organization.  

In his now-famous address to Congress in 1961, President John F. Kennedy laid out an audacious goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” The President lauded the endeavor’s impressiveness to humankind and its importance to future space exploration. The speech also represented an unspoken political gauntlet throwdown: pitting the distributed intelligence and decision-making of the US’s market-based economy against the Soviet top-down, centrally-planned model. 

At the time of JFK’s speech, and for the better part of the twentieth century, management theory favored predictability and consistency as means to economies of scale. This resulted in streamlining business processes and organizational structures to maximize standardization and minimize marginal cost. Whole disciplines such as Toyota Production System (TPS), Six Sigma, and Lean emerged as proven methods with terrific results when implemented well.  

Today we operate in a very different economy. The advancement of digital technology has upended the economics of value creation. As a result, we live in a world that is more unpredictable. Today’s leaders must channel President Kennedy’s faith in systems with distributed intelligence and decision-making to thrive. Rather than centralize decision-making, leaders can gain better control through the twists and turns of the market by “letting go” – empowering autonomy and decision-making within their organizations by establishing the organizational structures, processes and culture to make it successful. 

The Benefits of “Letting Go” 

Leaders and managers who look at the big picture quickly realize that delegation of authority greatly benefits the firm and its customers. The company gains strategic agility because it can pivot faster to respond to market shifts. Customers benefit because “bringing authority to the information” increases customer intimacy, driving the development of more relevant and impactful products, services, and experiences. 

Additionally, shifting decision rights lower in the organization drives greater employee engagement, resulting in a 23% productivity increase, according to Gallup’s 2020 meta-analysis. It also delivers a radically improved employee value proposition, as demonstrated by significantly increased retention and ratings for employee wellbeing. 

C-suite leaders that we interviewed for this series told us they are working hard in 2023 on letting go. “This is a major cultural shift that we need to make in order to unlock the potential of the great talent we’ve hired and the leaders we have on deck,” says the Vice President of Talent of a multinational e-commerce company. “We constantly ask ourselves, `What can we do today to step out of their way and unleash that potential?'” 

Three Critical Shifts for Empowering Autonomy and Decision-Making 

“Organizations often underestimate what’s required to release control and still achieve results,” says Jane Hanson, former Chief People Officer of Nationwide Building Society, the UK’s third largest mortgage provider. “It’s not just a matter of leaders stepping back and declaring others are empowered. It’s about building the scaffolding and putting the right systems in place to help people be successful.”  

Empowered teams need the authority to make or influence business decisions. As recently as 2015, just 11% of US workers said they could consistently influence decisions critical to their work. However, it takes more than just leadership’s permission to “let go” successfully. Teams also need the organization’s formal structures, the “Body”, to follow suit. Through our research, we uncovered three critical structural changes required to enable more adaptive and resilient organizations.  

1. Clear Vision, Goals and Accountabilities

To operate with agency, teams need clarity on the strategic direction for the company overall, what success looks like, and how the team contributes to the larger organization. A clear vision and goals at the organizational level establish a “north star,” while breaking enterprise goals down to team-level outcomes and accountabilities gives the team the direction they need to make effective decisions on prioritizing their efforts.  

How goals are framed is equally as important. JFK aimed “to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.” The goal is ambitious and transparent, and its outcomes are easily measured (an astronaut either returns to Earth or they don’t). Yet the goal does not prescribe outputs or how to achieve it. The goal doesn’t stipulate the spacecraft’s design, the mission’s trajectory, the number of crew, etc. Instead, NASA was responsible for determining how they would accomplish this goal. By articulating goals as outcomes (versus outputs) and holding teams accountable to those outcomes, organizations can create greater resiliency and scale by delegating the “how” to teams. 

Outcome-oriented goals can also become an essential facet of the company culture. A senior product leader at one of the world’s largest tech firms shared, “When we pass someone in the hallway that we haven’t seen in a while, typically the first question you ask is ‘what’s your goal?’ not ‘who are you reporting to?’ or ‘what project are you working on?’ Everyone understands what the company’s goals are. It’s actually how we navigate the organization.”  

2. Transparent and Responsive Resource Allocation

In addition to clarity on outcomes and accountability, teams also need resources to achieve their goals. Delivering great products, services, and experiences takes human effort, financial resources, and technological capabilities. Simply having access to those resources is not enough. Teams also need the ability to reallocate those resources to pivot quickly. Too often, financial planning and allocation of talent is an annual process that, for most organizations, is far too infrequent to facilitate effective pivots. Faced with emerging opportunities or market shifts, teams can often find themselves saddled with resources committed to one project while watching opportunities for higher and better use of those resources pass by. Redirecting resources usually takes time and attention-consuming escalation to senior leadership.   

“Letting go” often requires redefining how resources are allocated within an organization, making those processes more agile and giving teams greater autonomy in regular resource reallocation.  

3. Cross-Functional Work 

Reorienting teams around outcomes versus outputs can be liberating but requires more cross-functional work. Rather than being accountable for a single activity or component, teams responsible for business outcomes, such as customer satisfaction, operational efficiency or launching a new product, need the talents of many functional domains that often operate in silos.  

Organizations seeking to become more resilient and adaptive by “letting go” should find ways to accelerate cross-functional collaboration. That could be by shifting the organization’s structure outright, such as to agile teams or matrix models, or by evolving how individuals and teams are aligned to work.  

Putting “Letting Go” Into Practice Across the Organization’s Mind, Body, and Soul

Every organization can find its way to the level of shared, distributed decision-making that best fits its strategies and goals. Using our Human-Centered Transformation Model to think holistically, here are some actionable ways leaders can empower autonomy and decision-making within their organizations.” 

DNA: Define the Strategic Destination 

  • Make decision-making faster and easier at all levels by promulgating clear and compelling statements of corporate purpose with well-articulated values to support it. The clearer they are, the easier it is to trust that decisions will be made consistently at all levels. 
  • Identify where autonomy and decisiveness are best aligned with company values. 
  • Celebrate significant decisions that are well-aligned to purpose and values. 

Mind: Enable Employees With Necessary Skills and Knowledge 

  • Shift hiring practices to include problem-solving and cross-functional collaboration, not just hard skills. 
  • New responsibilities require new capabilities. Create learning and development resources that help employees build an ownership mindset and cultivate the underlying skills, such as data analysis, to contribute to better decision-making.  

Body: Provide Structure and Governance to Deliver the Strategy 

  • Charter work for business outcomes and empower decision-making in the teams that need to achieve them. 
  • Simplify governance models as much as possible by moving decision makers closer, if not into, the work process. 
  • Advance managers into true coaching models that avoid micromanagement. 
  • Ensure all relevant employees can access the data, systems, and inputs they need to make the best decisions.  

Soul: Motivate and Ignite Belief in the Strategy

  • Reward progress in decision-making quality, speed and accountability, not just outcomes. 
  • Spotlight employees who demonstrate an ownership mindset and recognize them publicly. 
  • Champion new leadership behaviors.  


Achieving organizational resiliency by “letting go” requires organizations to rethink how they set goals, manage their resources, and structure their teams – no small undertaking. Yet leaders who can make the shift from top-down control to delegating accountability and decision-making are rewarded with more autonomous and engaged employees, faster decisions, and better outcomes for both their companies and customers. Even if their ambition may not be to land a human on the moon, their organizations may achieve something truly transformational. 


Catalysts: Build Organizational Resilience with a Culture of Experimentation 

Prophet’s 2023 Catalysts research reveals how low-risk test-and-learn strategies can build organizational resilience.

This is the third article in a series based on our latest research series, Catalysts: How to Build an Adaptable Organization That Thrives During Uncertainty. In the previous article, Catalysts: Transform Purpose From Catchy Slogan to Growth Engine, we explored how the most adaptive companies use their purpose to drive compelling business strategies.  

A culture of experimentation is essential for innovation and growth. And while virtually every business leader knows that’s true, at least in theory, relatively few companies know how to build that culture. Through our research, we uncovered plenty of reasons organizations resist experimentation. Fear and short-term thinking top the list.  

Today’s economic uncertainty makes many organizations even more timid about investing in experimentation. “Since the Great Depression, there have been nine bear markets,” says Mark Jamison, former Global Head of Design and Innovation and currently Head of Global Accounts for Visa. “Humans are not designed to take a longer view. They tend to be reactive, particularly in times of stress. Leaders need the fortitude and the foresight to step back and ask, `What strategies might we put in place to go after opportunities this uncertainty has created?’ You can then use this foresight to focus the organization’s energy on delivering outsized impact while competitors are inwardly focused.”  

But too often, organizations shut down that scientific spirit. Experiments often fail, and that scares people. A 2020 Gallup survey found fewer than one in ten respondents strongly agreed with the statement, “I take risks at my job that could lead to new products or solutions.”  

Ironically, the same leaders who struggle with encouraging experimentation are often the same ones lauding data-driven decisions. To foster an organization that effectively uses iterative experimentation, leaders must promote the discipline of regularly testing hypotheses. And, like any scientist, they have to learn to view every outcome, failure or success, as progress. Only then can innovation flourish.  

Encouraging an A/B Ethos 

Firms born in the digital era, such as Amazon and Netflix have repeatedly demonstrated that experimentation through A/B testing can help identify how to generate more value.  

Amazon, for instance, discovered that making a mobile game called Air Patriots easier unexpectedly increased the enjoyment of its end users, leading to more revenue. Netflix runs constant experiments to determine how best to personalize artwork so that each customer sees images with actors and genres they like best.  

Ghost kitchens have given rise to new levels of innovation for many large restaurant groups over the last three years. These kitchens are used to test new menu items, new restaurant concepts and even branding. They provide an efficient way to offer food delivery, of course. But these kitchens have also proven to be ideal testing labs. Since many have no visible connection to their existing brands, companies can measure market demand and consider how to scale winning concepts with relatively little risk. 

Increasing Organizational Experimentation 

There are specific actions organizations can take to lower the costs of experimentation and increase innovation. At Prophet, we use our Human-Centered Transformation Model.™ to think holistically about an organization. We view the organization as a macrocosm of the individual, with four distinct components. 

DNA: Define the Strategic Destination 

A company’s DNA is its purpose and core beliefs, which should inform all decisions and strategies. If innovation is part of these core corporate values and most companies recognize that new ideas are essential to survival, make sure the definition of innovation includes the idea of experimentation. Innovation often becomes synonymous with “new,” neglecting the disciplined experimentation required to hatch ideas. 

Mind: Enable Employees With the Necessary Skills and Knowledge   

Leaders must also examine the skills and competencies needed to encourage test-and-learn thinking. Knowledge, capabilities and skills compose the mind of an organization. Our research finds that the most innovative companies are reinforcing employee learning in multiple ways, including:  

  • Invest in bringing in knowledge from outside the organization, including secondments with other companies, university relationships, entrepreneurs-in-residence and speaker programs. 
  • Build experimentation into the performance review for every role. Embedding innovation into the reward and performance structure is vital. 
  • Make agile methods, design thinking and innovation skills standard training across functions.  

Body: Provide Structure and Governance to Deliver the Strategy 

Leaders may also reconsider organizational structure. Companies need to be designed in ways that facilitate experimentation. Not only does that differ from company to company, but it also calls for various operating models within each enterprise. Groups working on near-term innovation likely require different teams, funding, processes and incentives than those working on long-term horizons. And organizations need ways to astutely assess the risks and rewards of each flavor of innovation.  

“We use the concept of one-way and two-way door decisions,” says Gabriel Mas, chief marketing officer at Amazon Mexico. “A one-way door decision is almost impossible to reverse. A two-way door decision is easy to reverse. For one-way door decisions, more analysis, discussion and senior leader input are provided. If a decision is a two-way door, people closer to the decision are empowered to move quickly and execute, and we have mechanisms in place to learn from each decision, good or bad.” 

Soul: Motivate and Ignite Belief in the Strategy  

Finally, the organization’s soul must celebrate experimentation, especially when an exciting hypothesis is disproved. That means developing traditions, symbols and rituals that make people feel safe. They must be encouraged to test ideas, even when their work results in negative data. It’s easy for a company to say it sees failure as a learning opportunity. But genuinely living that conviction is difficult.  

Leaders need to model and promote the scientist’s mindset, releasing any attachment to the positive outcomes of experiments in their organizations. They need to demonstrate that all experiments deliver valuable information. 


All businesses can lower the social and literal costs of experimentation. Doing so makes them more adaptable by fostering the psychological safety required to design and execute more experiments. Embracing disciplined experimentation is necessary to increase a company’s ability to flex, pivot and thrive in changing market conditions.


Catalysts: Transform Purpose from Catchy Slogan to Growth Engine

The most adaptive companies use their `reason for being’ to drive compelling business strategies.

This article is the second in a series based on our latest research, Catalysts: How to Build an Adaptable Organization that Thrives During Uncertainty. In-depth conversations with senior executives across industries helped us define concrete steps organizations can take to ensure corporate purpose becomes a powerful growth engine. 

Having a mission, purpose or vision for an organization has been a business essential for more than a decade. In our interviews with senior leaders, purpose emerged as one of the five most important drivers for creating a culture of resilience. Yet the practical application of corporate purpose has fundamentally shifted in recent years, and it is fast becoming one of an organization’s highest priorities. 

It’s hard to overstate how fast the purpose train travels through the business landscape. In 2019, the Business Roundtable, a U.S.-based organization chockablock with globally influential companies, released a statement that distilled the new definition: Businesses can’t exist just to make money. They must also serve customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.  

Months later, the global pandemic arrived. The crisis vaulted purpose-driven thinking into a new realm. COVID caused billions of people to re-examine their individual purposes. Businesses recognized that their workforce and society as a whole had begun to question their expectations about work. By early 2021, academics, economists and journalists began to record a dramatic reshuffling. Whether they called it the Big Quit or the Great Resignation, it all reflected a ferocious desire to prioritize life based on meaning.  

Companies responded in many ways, from increasing work/life balance initiatives to taking stronger stands on social issues. They sought more transparency and better corporate behavior. The number of companies striving for B Corp certification, which requires a full-scale commitment to purpose and higher ESG standards, has risen 38% since the pandemic’s start. 

Moving through 2023, people’s search for meaning through work continues. But economic uncertainty and large-scale layoffs have thrown new curves. People are still increasingly thoughtful about the brands they associate with as employees, consumers and investors. But, they’re more focused on job security and exhausted by bureaucratic inefficiency. 

Authentic Corporate Purposes Unlock Uncommon Growth 

An authentic corporate purpose can inspire and engage both employees and customers. For employees, purpose can inspire belief and cultivate hope for employees that their efforts will add up to something more significant. And for customers, purpose creates brand trust and signals they can and should believe in those brands. Customers and employees are much more loyal when a company’s product or service delivers on its promised value proposition and expressed purpose. 

Well-crafted purposes are durable and can help an organization navigate, particularly in tumultuous times. “Purpose becomes the bridge between us that allows us to be less physically connected but not less aligned,” says Kris Ahrend, chief executive officer of the Mechanical Licensing Collective, a nonprofit music rights administration company. “Purpose minimizes confusion and accommodates creativity. It is integral to maintaining that connectivity and alignment.” 

It’s also a lens for what comes next. “Our purpose is always at the root of our decisions for what to do next and why,” says an HR executive at a large financial company. “We never take our eyes off why we’re here as an organization.” 

A properly developed purpose is part of an overall management philosophy and allows continuous engagement with investors, employees and customers. Operationally, a well-framed corporate purpose is a tool for leadership alignment, a source of employee motivation, a criterion for business decisions and a natural foundation for the brand.  

Making Purpose Practical 

The most adaptive companies keep purpose alive rather than letting it become a platitude. They continually find new ways to use purpose as an engagement tool.  

Patagonia has long been known for its fierce environmental commitments. Over the years, that’s been expressed through supply-chain innovations, leading the re-commerce movement with Worn Wear, voter drives, and even suing the federal government to protect public lands. 

Recently, founder Yvon Chouinard made the most significant purpose-driven move ever, donating the entire $3 billion company to a foundation that will protect the planet. Earth is now Patagonia’s only shareholder. 

This bold move has made Patagonia the most relevant corporate voice in the environmental crisis. And it speaks directly to its adventure-loving and environmentally-conscious customers and employees. 

No other company has gone as far as Patagonia, but more are finding novel ways to express and expand their purpose in memorable and credible ways. Calm, made headlines when it volunteered to pay fines for tennis players like Naomi Osaka, who skip press events for their mental well-being. Chipotle, which has long stood for cultivating a better world, has made massive investments in fighting hunger and food insecurity through tech. 

Every organization can find ways to use purpose just as effectively. To help companies think more holistically about operationalizing a strong corporate purpose, Prophet uses its Human-Centered Transformation Model™. Here are four actionable steps that can help companies turn purpose into a reality.   

DNA: Define the Strategic Destination 

For a company’s purpose to be compelling, it has to be right and in tune with its goals and objectives. That means it should be: 

  • Inclusive:Corporate purpose needs to encompass every internal and external stakeholder. Without inclusive language, it inherently limits the spectrum of inspiration.
  • Built into the employee value proposition:People must understand and reflect on the purpose, so it should be integrated into the hiring process. Hiring skeptics who keep a company honest is great. Hiring folks who might subvert its purpose and values is an unforced error. Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, is devoted to promoting youth sports and goes out of its way to hire people passionate about athletics,  including Olympic hopefuls. 
  • Monitored consistently: Ensuring that purpose is healthy is an ongoing activity. Does it still resonate with stakeholders? Do employees believe in the company’s future? How confident are they that the company is improving the world? 

Mind: Enable Employees With the Necessary Skills and Knowledge  

It is important to identify critical skills required to achieve the company purpose by each function, enabling organizations to understand the roles and responsibilities of each function and champion the skills that best support that purpose. 

3M, for instance, is using science to solve the world’s most challenging problems. That requires diverse thinking, which explains the company’s $50 million commitment to closing the racial gap in STEM and intense recruiting at historically Black colleges and universities. 

Body: Provide Structure and Governance to Deliver the Strategy 

Companies must ensure that employees have the decision rights to infuse purpose in day-to-day operations. For example, Ritz-Carlton operationalizes its purpose, to provide warm, comfortable experiences by delegating every employee that responsibility. Each is empowered to spend up to $2,000 to rescue a souring guest experience without a manager’s approval. 

Soul: Motivate and Ignite Belief in the Strategy 

This means leading by example, making sure leaders demonstrate how they live and celebrate the company’s purpose.  

  • Make language purposeful: Include corporate purpose in the internal language, identifying employees as “one of us.” Pfizer employees, for instance, are encouraged to “zig-zag,” making non-linear career moves to bolster personal and organizational growth.  
  • Infuse purpose into the everyday:Find “moments that matter” within the experience of both customers and employees. 
  • Give employees a platform:Help employees share and celebrate their connection to the purpose by creating forums, social networks, and events. Alaska Airlines’ promise to “run our company with care” has taken on new meaning in the last 18 months, when passenger-facing travel roles have become especially grueling. They now host an annual day-long retreat focused entirely on mental well-being. 

 A company’s purpose must be holistic, permeating all aspects of the organization. That’s what builds adaptability. “Resilience is about understanding your organization’s strengths and areas of focus and aligning people to pursue these things as a collective,” says Danielle Clark, eBay’s vice president of talent. “An adaptive business model or value proposition isn’t enough to create resilience. You need purpose and people behind it.” 


Operationalizing purpose requires significant cross-functional collaboration. Failure to do so wastes opportunity on every level. And it causes cognitive dissonance among stakeholders, especially employees. Using the Human Centered Transformation Model™ is a straightforward way to holistically conceptualize and organize your efforts to bring your purpose to life, creating real business value and increasing organizational flexibility. 


Catalysts: How to Build an Adaptable Organization that Thrives During Uncertainty

Prophet’s 2023 Catalyst research highlights how companies can thrive despite disruption, stay on course for long-term transformation and turn change into a strategic advantage. 

The turbulence and upheaval of the last few years have become routine. That’s good since many believe this era of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity is here to stay. Business leaders should pay close attention to the post-pandemic twist on Darwin’s law. 

It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; but the species that is best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment which it finds itself.

Charles Darwin 

Recent disruptions have proved that while some companies are already impressively agile, many aren’t. Many larger businesses have spent the last few years lurching from one crisis to another, relying on limited moves torn from old playbooks.  

This article – the first in a series – is based on interviews with senior leaders and is focused on how enterprises can tap into variety, building organizational flexibility.  

Our respondents detailed their successes and setbacks, and ultimately illuminated five critical principles for creating adaptability at multiple speeds during this critical moment in time.  

Defining Adaptability in a Post-Pandemic World 

At Prophet, we define “adaptability” as the ability to anticipate and respond to opportunities created by a shifting market. And we define “at multiple speeds” across three horizons.  

Something that separates humans from other animals is the ability to plan ahead and imagine multiple potential futures. In modern life, we do this quite naturally:  

  • What’s for dinner tonight?  
  • Where might we take the family on vacation this year?  
  • When can I retire, and how much must I save?  

Here are just a few ways our respondents are anticipating and responding to uncertainty across these three key horizons.  

Optimizing for Today 

Our respondents are evolving operating models to deliver the current portfolio of products and services to the same customers. They are organizing resources to increase customer satisfaction and profitability. And they are hunting for efficiencies, like centralizing or outsourcing back-office functions for greater scale or lower costs. 

Innovating for Tomorrow  

Planning within medium-range windows includes expanding product and service portfolios or reaching out to adjacent target customers. And while many of our respondents may be leveraging brand relevance to expand into new categories and integrate new capabilities, it’s still happening within the boundaries of the existing business model. 

Building the Future  

To build for the future, our respondents are transforming their business models and fundamentally changing how the business makes money and creates value for customers. It’s a seismic shift, like Netflix’s move from mail-order DVD business to a content studio. 

Five Ways to Build Adaptive Organizations 

Our research led to five key strategies to enhance adaptability and create future-ready, resilient organizations.  

1. Put Purpose to Work  

Purpose-driven branding has been part of the corporate playbook for over a decade. Yet the definition and expression of that purpose keep gaining importance. Customers increasingly demand that companies stand for something, and people insist employers care about more than money. They won’t settle for a slogan on a wall or some fluffy catchphrase dreamed up at an executive retreat. It must mean something. 

Like human DNA, an organization’s purpose is fixed. “To operate in an environment filled with uncertainty, you have to create stability in other ways,” says Kris Ahrend, chief executive officer of the Mechanical Licensing Collective, a nonprofit focused on streaming royalty distribution. “Our culture is what gives us stability.” 

But while purpose may be steadfast, it can still be leveraged differently and more effectively, filtering throughout an organization’s activities. That way, it can provide renewed focus, guiding decisions and strategies. 

“Our purpose is always at the root of our decisions for what to do next and why,” says an executive at a large banking company. “We never take our eyes off why we’re here as an organization.” 

2. Gain Control by Letting Go 

Decentralizing governance can feel counterintuitive in these turbulent times. “We’re all moving forward wishing we had a crystal ball,” one human resources executive says. “Between the war in Europe, pandemic recovery, economic instability, and return to office policy, everything feels more uncertain.” 

But respondents feel strongly that this uncertainty is what makes pushing decision rights down even more important. Many wish they’d worked harder for this change in the past.  

Decentralization lets those closest to customers and operating problems make better and faster decisions. “It’s not just about tactical changes,” says Danielle Clark, a talent executive at eBay. “We have to address the underlying behaviors that enable leaders to step back and lead differently. It requires trust and a greater appetite for thinking boldly.” 

3. Lower the Cost of Experimentation 

Adaptability requires innovation. And innovation, by definition, involves failure. Organizations must have realistic conversations and processes about what that means and what those failures might cost, especially in an uncertain economy. It’s easy to invest in experimentation when business is good. But experimentation is too often a prime target for budget cuts when revenue gets tight.  

“To be truly resilient, your organization must practice failing,” says one tech executive. “This is supported by a culture that encourages fast and safe failure with risk mitigation measures in place, so resiliency is exercised regularly.” 

4. Reinvest to Realign  

Aligning new strategies with existing structures is often challenging, especially for big companies that typically overinvest in growth areas during prosperous times and overcorrect in culling these growth areas during times of economic uncertainty.  

Over the last year, we’ve seen this pattern emerge within the technology industry, resulting in a hemorrhage of talent, confusing investors and disappointed customers. These massive gaps between their current structure and new strategy inhibit growth.  

The companies that overcome this risk and protect their business from boom-and-bust cycles are the ones creating agile operating models and continuously aligning structure with strategy.  

It is critical that business leaders get crystal clear about what the organization will not do going forward. “We have a strong understanding of who we are at our core,” says eBay’s Clark. “The work over the past few years has been to innovate boldly to maintain relevance while delivering with impact. This has led to our focused category strategy.” 

5. Embrace the Next Wave of Digital Transformation 

Digital transformation continues to reshape how industries operate and deliver value to customers. The recent explosion in AI makes automation more accessible than ever before and will usher in the next generation of digital transformation.  

Best-in-class organizations embrace new technology to innovate the customer experience and streamline operations. They are using it to redefine systems, making work and life better. Rather than fearing it, they’re upskilling employees to work with these innovations, finding ways to drive a better business outcome.  

“We are asking questions about the business and people benefits,” says Jane Jin, a vice president at Takeda, a multinational pharmaceutical company. “What productivity might we gain when using these technologies? How might we develop our people so they continue to bring value to the company if technologies automate some of their tasks? How do we innovate responsibly and remove bias? How do our values translate in this digital age?” 

With a leadership team determined to decide when and how to adopt new technologies proactively, companies can guarantee decisions that boost productivity and encourage growth while staying true to their DNA. 

If history is any guide, these companies will grow faster and have an outsized advantage in attracting talent. Those that don’t will fall further behind. 


As leaders grow increasingly comfortable with uncertainty, they’re hungry for strategies to build resilience and flexibility. In this series, we’ll explore why your company’s purpose needs to play a different role and how the most adaptive companies use their purpose to carve out compelling new business strategies.


Impossible Math

Why the healthcare labor crisis is more than just a people problem – and how to solve it.

The healthcare industry is facing a massive labor and operating model problem – one that involves a predicted workforce shortage of up to 3.2 million people. With more than a quarter of the industry workforce planning to leave in the next two years and $9 billion in annual burnout-related turnover costs the healthcare industry is at a crossroads. So, where do we start?  

Prophet suggests that the solution starts with our nurses. In this report, we clarify the magnitude of the crisis, identify tangible issues to tackle and introduce viable solutions that will begin to drive impact against this behemoth of a challenge.  

Key Takeaways:  

  • Addressing the workforce shortage starts with a focus on nurses. By starting with the largest population of clinical workers, we can begin to make a more meaningful impact on the collective workforce challenge.
  • Sustainable solutions to this crisis are not just about workforce retention. They will require us to revisit hiring and talent development practices, redesign care delivery models and the roles required, and rethink the infrastructure needed to support innovation and scale care.
  • Ultimately, to drive meaningful impact for nurses, we need to hear from nurses. Once nurses have a say in the tools and solutions we develop for them, real change can happen.
  • Before jumping to the most ground-breaking innovations, we must bring ourselves back to the day-to-day needs of our nurses. Simplifying their routines with technology can help them feel heard and improve employee and patient satisfaction.
  • Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™ can help you understand where your organization can begin to tackle organizational and cultural dynamics that contribute to the labor crisis.

Impossible Math

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Winning Hearts and Minds in Financial Services: The Imperatives to Amplifying Purpose

Purpose isn’t a mere sales tactic; it’s how you forge deep trust with your organization’s stakeholders. 

In a world where trust in financial institutions is being shaken up and consumers have more options than ever, organizations must tap into their purpose to assure they can be counted on for more than high-quality products and services.  

As Prophet’s Vice Chairman David Aaker states in his latest book, “The new purpose-driven revolution is leading firms beyond a focus on growing sales, profits, and shareholder return to having a business purpose that does more.” This shift should come as no surprise given what we know about purpose’s powerful influence on business outcomes: Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction.  

Research shows that purpose-related drivers rise to the top in motivating consumer choice – especially in financial services. Prophet’s 2023 Relentlessly Relevant Brands report found that consumers are shifting to brands that spark an emotional connection—reaching beyond functional needs. And we’re not the only ones tracking this trend: IBM and the National Retail Federation found that, for the first time, more consumers are driven by purpose than by value. 

But simply having a purpose does not move the needle. To effectively build trust and harness the power of purpose, organizations must amplify their purpose. It must be fully integrated into the business, showing up in key moments and being championed authentically by employees—otherwise, it’s just lip service that leaves consumers doubting that the organization truly delivers on its promises.  

In our research, we found there are four key imperatives financial services organizations must work toward to effectively amplify and deliver on their purpose: 

1. Have a clear and inspiring purpose. 

Taking the first step means clearly defining your organization’s purpose. It should be both authentic while also being aspirational, meaningful, and engaging for all relevant stakeholders (e.g., consumers, investors, and employees). Your organization’s purpose should be clear enough that it can be used as a locus for decision-making. Once it’s clearly defined, time and resources must be invested to socialize it internally. Employees should be able to not only understand your organization’s purpose, but easily reference and use it in their daily work.  

What this looks like: 

Edward Jones recently made a significant investment in defining their purpose, working to create an authentic, clear, and compelling North star for their organization. Beyond just crafting an inspiring purpose statement, they Identified clear purpose impact areas to focus their work. 

Edward Jones’ purpose is to “partner for positive impact by improving the lives of their clients and colleagues and bettering their communities and society.” They achieve this by focusing on three key areas: partnering for lasting financial strength, promoting healthier futures, and advancing inclusive growth.  

Questions you might ask about your organization’s purpose: 

  • Is it clearly defined? 
  • Is it relevant to key stakeholders? 
  • Is it clear enough to guide decision making? 
  • Do employees know it and understand how their role contributes to delivering against it? 

2. Own your purpose. 

Don’t outsource purpose through philanthropy. Instead, embed it across the organization and ways of working. Leaders at all levels should be taking actionable steps to integrate your organization’s purpose into everyday operations, making it easy for employees to action against it in their daily lives. Purpose should be inherent to each project and every team, not a siloed effort or initiative.  

What this looks like: 

FinTech Current’s purpose is to “create better financial outcomes for more people.” They don’t just talk about it—they deliver on it through their product. Believing that legacy banks constrain consumers, Current moves consumers forward by helping them make the most of what they have, specifically by removing all fees (minimum fees, overdraft fees, transfer fees, ATM fees, etc.), expediting direct deposits and simplifying saving through Savings Pods and Round-Ups. 

Questions you might ask about your organization’s purpose: 

  • Is it being outsourced (e.g., focused on delivery through philanthropic donations alone)? 
  • How is it being actioned against in day-to-day operations?
  • Are there metrics in place to measure progress as it relates to delivering on purpose?  

3. Build the capabilities to deliver on your purpose. 

Purpose must be engrained into your organization’s operating model, guiding each change and transformation. The operating model should be organized to hold leaders and teams accountable for delivering on purpose through incentives and business structures. Additionally, employees should be equipped with the right tools and skillsets to effectively live out the organization’s purpose.  

What this looks like: 

Mastercard’s purpose is “connecting everyone to priceless possibilities.” To help employees deliver on their purpose, Mastercard created a new compensation model that ties bonus calculations to the organization’s performance on purpose across three key areas: carbon neutrality, financial inclusion, and gender pay parity.   

Questions you might ask about your organization’s purpose: 

  • Are employees adequately incentivized to deliver on it? 
  • What tools and skills are needed to equip employees to deliver on it?  
  • Is it a central consideration in business decisions? 

4. Ensure that your purpose shows up in key moments. 

After establishing purpose as a foundational component to how your organization operates, it’s time for stakeholders to feel its impact. Employees, consumers, and investors should be able to experience your organization’s purpose firsthand—whether through communications, experiences or other touchpoints. When purpose shows up in key moments, internal and external stakeholders are inspired to join in, contribute and learn more.  

What this looks like: 

USAA’s purpose is to “empower members to achieve financial security through highly competitive products, exceptional service and trusted advice,” and “be the #1 choice for the military community and their families.” One way they bring this to life is through their annual Poppy Wall of Honor and other Memorial Day-related installations. Aligning closely with their purpose, USAA uses their Poppy Wall of Honor to help raise awareness of the true meaning of Memorial Day and provide visitors of the National Mall an opportunity to remember the service members who have died in service to our nation since World War I. Throughout the year, USAA’s Memorial Day microsite allows users to remember heroes, visit the virtual Poppy Wall and honor heroes through action.  

Questions you might ask yourself: 

  • How is it being activated with both internal and external stakeholders? 
  • How does it show up in the moments that matter for employees, investors and consumers? 


Simply put, financial services organizations must do more than just have a purpose to build trust with consumers. Recent shakeups across the Industry elevate the need for companies to put their purpose into action, amplifying it across all levels of the organization and creating a shared experience for all stakeholders alike.  

Contact us to learn more about how to develop and put an authenticate purpose Into action for your organization. organization’s purpose to life and put it into action. 


Creating a More Sustainable Employee Value Proposition

Purpose has power. Learn how ESG can help retain and engage your employees.

Earlier this year, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, completed its second round of layoffs in 2023, with a third wave planned for May.  

Meta is not alone. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, laid off 12,000 people this year, its largest reduction ever. Amazon has eliminated 27,000 jobs. And Disney plans to reduce its total workforce by 7,000. Some experts anticipate that one out of three companies plans to cut 30% or more of their people in 2023. 

Downsizing isn’t just rough on those who are laid off. Researchers found that `survivors‘ in companies with reductions experienced a 41% decline in job satisfaction, a 36% dip in organizational commitment and a 20% drop in job performance. 

Yet, the talent war still rages in other areas of the economy. “In 2023, talent will become one of our top priorities,” said a large accounting firm recently.  

“Our leadership focus will be on ensuring we have a clear employer value proposition, on providing the right learning culture, offering the necessary flexibility, and on leading with purpose.”  

Growth in the renewable energy sector is outstripping the leadership talent pool, forcing companies into more imaginative talent strategies. Healthcare, too, faces a worsening shortage.  

Regardless of whether your company is hiring or in retention mode, your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) attracts employees, gives them a reason to stay and is critically important to future growth. And some companies are sitting on a secret weapon: Their environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. 

ESG Plays a Crucial Role in Employee Engagement 

While most businesses know how vital an EVP is, with 86% of human resources executives naming it a top priority in a recent study, many are missing the opportunity to include ESG policies. 

ESG elements are a significant factor in employees’ decision to join, stay or leave a company: 

  • 58% of employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.  
  • Employees are three times more likely to stay and 1.4 times more engaged at what they consider purpose-driven organizations. 
  • 93% of employees who believe their company is making a strong positive impact on the world say they plan to stay in their jobs. Of workers who disagree with that statement, only 43% plan to remain with their employer. 

And integrating ESG and goals into an organization’s EVP can also help employers gain the upper hand in acquiring and retaining Gen Z and Millennial employees.  

For example, 64% of Gen Z workers say the companies they work for must act on environmental issues. For Millennials, 96% cite sustainability as a key issue, and one in four say they’d quit if they found out their company had a poor environmental record. Women, people with higher incomes and those with higher levels of education are also significantly more likely to choose ethical employers.  

Three Ways to Infuse ESG Strategies Into Your EVP 

1. Put your ESG goals and achievements center stage  

Companies can do more to communicate sustainability achievements via social media and websites, increasing visibility to current and future employees. 

Starbucks anchors its EVP on the commitment to “inspire positive change in the world while you grow in your career and in your community.” One way it demonstrates that is by offering the Starbucks Greener Apron program, a partnership with Arizona State University. This program helps employees learn about global sustainability practices and create personal pledges to support them. 

2. Make ESG part of the candidate’s experience  

Companies can show how they bring ESG initiatives to life by connecting prospective talent with employees deeply engaged in sustainability and social programs. They can also infuse interview guides with questions that test affinity to ESG goals or dedicate time in the “pitch” materials to highlight ESG opportunities for perspectives.  

Slack, for instance, focuses on how it has reworked and implemented diversity, equity and inclusion policies into the candidate experience. It started by sharing the company’s current ethnic and gender makeup and strategies for improvement. 

 Slack implemented some of these experiences to rework and promote more equitable hiring practices, including revising job descriptions with more inclusive phrases like “care deeply” and “build relationships,” eliminating whiteboard interviews and replacing them with blind code reviews and using co-worker role-plays for anyone conducting interviews. 

3. Make your employees part of your ESG program 

Organizations can mobilize initiatives to engage existing employees in contributing to ESG goals and celebrate those “from the front lines” stories, especially via social media.  

Chipotle delivers its “Cultivate a Better World” EVP to employees all the time, including using more local produce in restaurants. Employee-led organizations provide millions of fresh food to local food banks. It funds fledgling Agri-Tech businesses, encourages micro-producers and helps provide meals for food-insecure members of the LGBTQIA community. It further fosters accountability by linking executives’ annual bonuses to ESG strides. This compensation plan is another way it hopes to champion responsible leadership and sustainable solutions. 


ESG can become a company’s secret weapon in modernizing its EVP and revitalizing its culture, regardless of the economic climate. People want to work for companies making the world a better place, which is why infusing your EVP with your ESG strategy can help strengthen your recruitment and retention efforts.


Designing the Employee Experience for the New World of Work

Economic turbulence. Ripples of resignations. Worker power on the rise. To keep up with fast-changing expectations, businesses need to make employee experience a central pillar in their people strategies.

Companies are still struggling to find their footing on the constantly shifting sands of hybrid and remote workplaces. And now, the increasingly turbulent economy further unsettles the landscape, challenging existing employee experience strategies.  

Many organizations are reducing headcount and cutting back on engagement efforts. That’s understandable in the short term, but it’s a mistake to take your eye off the ball completely. Longer term, the war for talent will rage stronger than ever, even if we see a relative truce for a while. The pandemic, the Great Resignation and the demand-driven labor market made people realize that they can choose how and where they work. The mold has been broken and you can’t put it back together. Ignoring the experience elements while the economy slows will only worsen the hiring dilemmas of the future and see the confidence decline of those employees that remain. That means every organization will have to grapple with (if they haven’t already) an employee-centric offering if they are to attract, retain and engage the right talent they need to thrive. 

Through our work as people strategists, psychologists, change practitioners and service and product designers, we have helped clients around the world accelerate their employee experience journeys and studied countless experiments and their outcomes. As one might expect, there is no silver bullet. However, our work has shown that experiences that are desirable to employees don’t have to conflict with what is viable and feasible for the business. After all, maximizing desirability, viability and feasibility (DVF) is crucial for creating a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the employee experience. 

The economic situation may remove the feeling of urgency, but talent will always have a choice about who they work for and in harder times organizations need to motivate and enable their people to perform, even more than usual. Organizations are still entirely reliant on their people and those that accept the reality of employee power and the demands that come with it will reap the rewards in the long term.  

Employee Power is on the Rise 

Over the two years of the pandemic, every type of organization had to quickly test and experiment with countless workplace policy updates to stay afloat. Companies didn’t have time to “wait and see”– they had to create new policies in a few days. In some cases early on, companies saw surprising increases in productivity. In a survey carried out by the University of Chicago, 40% of respondents said they believe they are more productive at home while 15% said the reverse is true. Others reported remarkable gains in employee satisfaction, even reaching record levels. And for those workers reporting greater happiness when allowed to work remotely at least some of the time, over 80% reported an improvement in their work-life balance.

But now this picture has evolved to one of burnout, stress and cultural disconnect. Job satisfaction has plunged to a 20-year-low. Women have been especially crushed by this downside, with education and childcare crises forcing millions out of the workplace, likely setting gender pay equity efforts back for more than a generation. And as the Great Resignation, well underway before the pandemic, continues to make hiring harder, the economy is sputtering. 

The point is, it’s harder to be an employee than it used to be. Economic uncertainty will make it harder still. Organizations need employees to perform, and it creates an even greater need to provide a stable and productive working environment.    

“Employee experience” is a common buzzword that is over-used and ill-defined. For decades, conventional wisdom has dictated employee engagement as the ultimate goal of employee experience. Experts believed that engaged employees are more productive, stay around longer and grow into the leaders of tomorrow. One of the problems with employee engagement is that it is inherently employer centric. Firms want their employees to be engaged with work. But employees crave so much more. They want to be well compensated, valued and connected to a purpose. They no longer compartmentalize their careers and work as separate from their personal lives. They pursue well-being across financial, physical, mental, social and intellectual dimensions. 

The New Equation: Flexibility + Connection = Wellbeing 

What people want more than anything is holistic well-being. It’s fast becoming the foundational tenant, with a recent survey finding that 80% of employers believe helping workers achieve this well-being is an important objective. Prophet’s research also finds that flexibility and connection are the main levers for getting there.  

Flexibility means accounting for individual and team preferences, circumstances and strengths. 

Connection, and how people experience it, is complex. It encompasses interpersonal dynamics, relationships and interactions among peers. And it also aligns individuals with the company’s purpose and mission, tapping into their own values. Connection flourishes in inclusive environments when people are psychologically safe and comfortable being themselves at work.  

Companies must constantly balance this equation. Any policy that impacts flexibility or connection must be considered.  

Designing employee experiences around flexibility and connection creates an environment of:

Wellbeing: The New End Goal 

Health is now the ultimate headline. People have had the chance to re-evaluate what’s important and possible in their lives. Fed up with outdated norms like the 9-5 schedule and chronic stress and fatigue, employees are less willing to sacrifice their physical, mental and social health for their job. 

As a result, employers are now in the hot seat, charged with prioritizing and more actively supporting these health goals. While previously, employers’ duty of care lay solely in the realm of physical health and safety, the pandemic elevated emotional and mental well-being to the same level of priority.  

More traditional leaders may raise their eyebrows at the expansive responsibility of providing for employee wellbeing. And some long-tenured executives want to resist this change. But it’s too late. The paradigm has already evolved, and the trends are clear: Employees today have a record level of bargaining power. And even if a slow economy causes a blip, this trend will only get more prevalent, as we enter the era of “employment as a service”. It’s incumbent on employers to develop an experience that is desirable, viable and feasible. 

This power shift has been especially acute in retail and food service. When a leading QSR brand engaged Prophet to understand the evolving restaurant workforce, well-being emerged as the central concern. We learned that employees want more than financial gains and physical safety. To them, well-being also meant personal development, solid communities and psychological safety. They wanted a sense that the company cared about them, of course. But they also wanted ways they could demonstrate their care for co-workers. 

Those insights helped us to reinvigorate the employee value proposition and identify the moments that matter, along the entire employee journey, developing initiatives and experiences that would allow it to retain current workers and attract top talent. Prophet developed “100 Ways to Care,” an expanded set of team support systems. The customizable and flexible collection of benefits includes instant pay, automated shift scheduling, and holistic wellness options, focusing on company-led and funded mental health and employee assistance. By first establishing essential truths about team members of the next five to 10 years and envisioning what their journey will look like, signature experiences can address needs and opportunities with new capabilities.  

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We also developed quantifiable metrics beyond the usual engagement scores to measure the impact of these efforts on the experience. Capturing metrics on a wider range of factors including tenure, attendance, complexity of the role, overall job satisfaction and attention to/interaction with solutions, as well as engagement, enables an ongoing view of “experience” and supports agile refinement and improvement over time. 

Other companies are using this holistic approach to make key decisions and reap returns. BP and Bank of America have built mental well-being support and accountability into their leadership cultures. BP gets real-time mental well-being feedback from regular employee engagement surveys to understand how teams feel and how to support them. Bank of America is creating opportunities for colleagues to talk about their mental well-being, breaking down attached stigmas. 

Other organizations are taking corrective action with core business activities, demonstrating the power of employee experience (EX) to create significant benefits to customer experience (CX). Mojang Studios of Minecraft fame, for example, recognized the toll that the pandemic and related stress was taking on the well-being of its employees, even as it faced an urgent deadline on the Caves & Cliff Update at Minecraft Live. It decided to delay the update to ease the burden on employees, sharing the news via a blog post. Users of the world’s most popular game, although disappointed, respected that decision. And they responded by pushing Minecraft’s monthly active users to record levels. 

That’s not an isolated incident of business benefit, either. One recent study ranked companies by measures of workforce well-being. Those in the highest 10% reported a 27.2% increase in return on equity and a 24.8% gain in profits, substantially higher than their Fortune 500 peers. 

The ante is rising. As businesses adapt to growing demands, a holistic well-being strategy will be even more vital to the employee experience. Caring for the entire person–not just who they are at work–is now a table stake when it comes to talent attraction, recruitment and retention. When businesses take care of their people, those people take care of the business. 

Flexibility: Developing a Targeted, Flexible Workplace Strategy 

Much to the delight of many, hybrid working is here to stay. Even the U.K’s minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency has revealed plans to offload £1.5 billion worth of London office space because of the number of civil servants who continue to work from home. More broadly, just over half– 53%– expect a hybrid model going forward, with 24% expecting the option to work remotely all the time.  

But for the most part, the policies that initially governed remote work came together in a period of intense panic, implemented in an environment of desperation and uncertainty. 

As firms work to create their long-term policies, they have an opportunity to learn from COVID-era flexible working experiments and formalize what started as ad-hoc solutions. As hybrid working becomes the new middle ground, flexibility must become inherent to employee experience. People want to make decisions based on what’s best for them, considering their families, commutes and work-life balance.  

Dropbox’s 3,000 employees now work remotely most of the time and go to the office for more collaborative and team-building work. The company redesigned its facilities to make this shift, removing individual desks.  

Many financial services companies like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have drawn a line in the sand for return to the office, wanting employees back five days a week. But fueled by a robust job market, their employees are reluctant to give up flexible working conditions. How can institutions that want employees back full-time compete with others who allow hybrid work? 

Prophet worked with one of the U.K.’s leading financial companies to develop a long-term workplace strategy. Early on, it had won rave reviews for its rapid pivot to a work-from-anywhere policy. But as the months ticked by, it realized that culture, morale and engagement began to erode. It needed something beyond a monolithic approach to flexibility. One size, it acknowledged, definitely did not fit all.  

And this approach had unintended consequences, including increased pressure on leaders to navigate managing fully remote teams. It also raises the question: How can companies retain the benefits of in-person collaboration, which are proven and time-honored ways to keep people motivated, while preserving the option to be remote?  

Our work started – as it always does – by looking through the lens of Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™.  

This model looks at organizations as a macrocosm of an individual– with DNA, Mind, Body and Soul– and provides a framework to map the employee journey and address all of the organizational factors that touch on the experience people enjoy day-to-day. In this instance, we took a closer look at the core employee personas and archetypes. While many people reported improved morale and engagement, there was an increased risk of losing a sense of belonging and investment in the company’s culture.  

We helped our financial services client create an employee experience strategy that balances the needs of all stakeholders. That meant a shift from flexibility based on individual needs to flexibility that works for all. Instead of asking employees to work from anywhere, they’re now being asked to work from where makes sense for them and their teams – encouraging them to make decisions that balance their individual needs with the needs of the team and the needs of the business. They are also encouraged to make decisions “led by the work.” That encompasses more than just the tasks on their to-do list. It includes learning and development, team building, career conversations and leadership, which all make them feel more connected to the company’s broader mission. 

We’ve worked closely with this client to ensure transparent communication around these changes. Employees must understand that this isn’t about the company going backward on its commitment to flexibility. That would damage the employer-employee trust it has nurtured so carefully since the pandemic began. 

Instead, it’s working to ensure hybrid work options that provide “freedom within a frame.” 

Importantly, much of the focus has been on leadership, ensuring they can be effective in hybrid and remote scenarios, including performance conversations, spotting well-being needs and empowering decision-making. It is also paying more attention to the importance of role modeling. Leadership is both the most significant risk to employee experience policies and also the best amplifier. 

We also helped the company expand the different tools and technology used to maintain performance levels and initiate conversations throughout the organization about what good looks like. Today, they can much more easily encourage inclusive practices to ensure equal opportunity for growth across all talent. 

An essential outcome of this type of work is that leaders throughout the organization better understand why this all matters and just how valuable a flexible employee experience strategy is. Being more intentional about how an organization defines “flexibility” goes beyond a happier workforce. It strengthens the organization, expanding the talent pool for employers. That includes geographical range, of course, but potential employees who must work from home, such as caregivers, and those who simply prefer remote work. 

However, this recruiting advantage will continue to wane as more companies clarify their version of flexibility. That means it’s essential that each organization defines flexibility in a way that meshes with its operations, culture, technology and purpose. Done right, it makes a company’s employee value proposition distinctive and relevant. It becomes a competitive talent advantage. 

Representation and Diversity Matter  

Employees increasingly want to (re)build a sense of connection to their co-workers, communities and the broader mission of the employer. We used to have the proverbial watercooler to engage in small talk and get up to date on the latest developments. Often, it’s where we built trust, camaraderie and relationships. But in increasingly hybrid and digital environments, companies are still finding it hard to recreate the spontaneity and organic moments to build those connections.  

Representation, too, factors deeply into the connection. Employers need to be clear about what diversity, equity and inclusion mean to them and how it aligns with the organization’s values. It needs to be active in the cultural norms and hard-wired into processes, developing metrics to track impact. Research suggests that diverse teams outperform individual decision-makers up to 87% of the time. And DEI initiatives matter to job seekers too, with 64% of candidates saying diversity and inclusion are key factors when evaluating a job offer. 

The presence of women in senior management has long been understood to improve financial performance, and new research finds that as firms add more women, they become more open to change and less afraid of risks, increasing psychological safety in the workplace. Specifically, the firms studied shifted towards innovation, investing more in research and development and less in acquisitions.  

As companies scramble to make sure their efforts show tangible results, attracting, retaining and motivating key talent through turbulent times, we’re finding that small acts of inclusion have the most impact. Robust employee resource groups for workers of color and LGBTQ+ are a must. So are networks that encourage women, who continue to leave their jobs at higher rates than men.  

Prophet’s global research, “The Collaborative Advantage”, finds that one of the biggest barriers to effective organizational collaboration is a lack of clarity on the connection of work to the broader business strategy. Organizations often fail to show employees how working together more closely helps achieve personal and corporate goals. Despite 80% of leaders believing that collaboration produces better outcomes, many are still struggling to meet the collaboration challenge and break down siloed work. 

Humans are fundamentally a social species and people want to belong, to be part of a team. And they want those teams to function well, to collaborate in ways that are rewarding to all involved. Our research shows that individuals who work at more collaborative organizations aren’t just more productive and satisfied. They’re keenly aware that it teaches them valuable new skills and expands their networks. 

Connection Starts with Employee Onboarding 

Organizations realize that they must be more intentional at creating connections at work, finding new ways to put all kinds of relationships back into play, from formal work roles and team responsibilities to friendships and side conversations. 

It’s especially critical to get this right and set the tone for the new joiners’ tenure. Within an employee’s journey, the onboarding experience can define how engaged employees are within their roles and for how long. We worked with Reltio, a high-growth data management unicorn, to improve, standardize and scale the onboarding experience.  

As we spoke to employees across functions and levels, we discovered that new hires depended on the relationships formed in that critical period. In its remote-first environment, Reltio already had a culture of virtual connection and helpfulness, which had become crucial in an employee’s ability to connect and learn important information about the organization.  

To better support this informal approach, we articulated “foster relationships”.  This became one of five experience principles that now inform how Reltio supports new hires. Designed to recognize relationships as a fundamental need, this ensures that employees can continue to stay in touch and support each other as they find their way within the company. This principle came to life across experience concepts, including buddy systems, pre-scheduled meetings, access to organizational charts that outline roles and teams and one-to-one coffee chats.  

The Steep Cost of Standing Still 

All this creates an urgent need for companies to sharpen and expand their employee experience. Businesses, even those that were considered highly progressive employers, are losing talent every day. And it doesn’t look like this recent phenomenon is slowing down with a near record-high number of Americans still quitting each month.   

Employees, from the most highly sought-after tech executives to fast-food workers, know they have the upper hand. They know they can–and will–find an employer more willing to support their total well-being and in some cases offer a pay rise as well (with a median raise of 16.1% in the US). Recession or not, employee expectations have changed forever. 

Twenty years ago, marketers had to accept that the age of customer experience had arrived quickly. Now it’s the employee experience’s turn. Organizations don’t have the luxury of treating the employee experience as an afterthought. They need to be more intentional about every interaction–how they recruit and hire and how they encourage connection. They must acknowledge that individual needs don’t always align with a team or organizational goals. 

They can’t–and shouldn’t–revamp their employer brand overnight. But by focusing on the simple equation–Flexibility+ Connection = Wellbeing–they can shape their vision, building a roadmap to working towards over time.  

By taking advantage of these turbulent times to reimagine the experience employees enjoy, companies can prepare for the growth journey ahead. 

Start with these four general guidelines: 

  1. Of every new experience shift, ask: Is this desirable? Viable? Feasible?  
  1. Tailor the experience strategy and design to clearly symbolize company values and elements of the employee value proposition, aligning them with the corporate purpose and strategy. 
  1. Focus on moments that matter. Employees travel many journeys, and the thing that makes a company great for an entry-level employee may be very different than what matters to a seasoned leader. Understand different employee personas and archetypes.  
  1. Make a balanced, healthy and diverse workforce the new end goal, using flexibility and connection to drive well-being and grow stronger every day. 


Employee experience design is a rapidly growing discipline. It’s how organizations can maximize their advantage in the war for talent and take advantage of seismic shifts in working patterns. When employee experience becomes a central pillar in a company’s people strategy, it makes it easier to align with brands, business strategy and customer experience. 


Rebalancing Your People Portfolio 

Six actionable steps you should take when developing a winning workforce strategy. 

With layoffs and hiring freezes dominating headlines, it would be easy to think the war for talent is over. And if one were to judge talent acquisition trends by past economic downturns, many organizations would shift their hiring strategy. 

But this economic environment is different. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve projects the current downturn might cause the unemployment rate to rise from 3.8% to a still-low 4.4% in 2023 and 2024. And in the U.K., unemployment hovers at the lowest level in 50 years.  

Despite these challenges, there is still a war for great talent and acquiring the right people with the right skill set to do the job. And it is vital to your firm’s success. According to Forrester’s recent Budget Pulse Survey, most leaders reported they would not decrease spending on talent, with 60% of leaders expecting to increase spending on personnel and 62% expecting to improve external services.   

Strategic workforce planning is by no means a new concept. As far back as the 1960s, management thinkers prescribed methods to balance the talent supply and demand equation. And in financial downturns, the topic usually finds renewed interest among the c-suite.  

Here are six fundamentals you should consider when building your talent strategy.  

1. Strategic Workforce and Talent Planning Should Be an Activity of the Entire C-suite  

As of 2020, 80% of all assets in the S&P 500 are intangible. And one of the most important intangible assets of any organization is its people, which is why it is essential that the entire leadership team participates and has a responsibility in the firm’s talent acquisition and workforce planning process- not just human resources.   

The leadership team should start with a clear vision of the company’s business strategy over multiple horizons- say six, 12, and 24 months. While no one has a crystal ball for the future, even a directional view of the organization’s immediate, mid and long-term needs will provide a solid foundation for strategic investments in talent.   

2. Identify Critical Talent Segments to Deliver on Your Business Strategy  

Once companies are clear on where they want to go, strategic priorities come into focus. To identify your critical talent segment, you should assess three key areas:

  1. Internal labor market: Identify the emerging trends within your workforce and how these trends will impact your business priorities.
  2. External labor market: Analyze the external labor market to determine who you should hire and what skill sets you will need to match your business priorities.
  3. Assess talent needs and prioritize critical roles at the enterprise level: Uncover each business unit’s capability needs to sharpen your recruitment efforts.  

3. Invest in Your Workforce Like You Would a Financial Portfolio   

As your leadership team makes strategic investments in immediate needs, it’s easy to lose sight of your future vision – and the talent you’ll need to succeed. 

To help you avoid this common pitfall, we recommend approaching your workforce planning as you would with your investment portfolio. Consider a 70/20/10 investment framework to ensure you have the talent you need today to drive critical business outcomes and the workforce you need in the future:

  • Dedicate 70% of your talent investment to core business needs  
  • Reserve 20% of talent investment for emerging business opportunities
  • Devote 10% of talent investment for future growth opportunities  

4. Build a People Analytics Team   

A robust people analytics team can help translate the refreshed strategy to the future workforce, even as the hiring picture changes. Consider building a people analytics team (with access to workforce planning tools) who know how to leverage your data to answer critical questions like:

  • How many people are needed to execute current plans?   
  • What skills will our future people need?
  • What roles and responsibilities can we outsource?   
  • What work, if any, should be outsourced or automated?   
  • What structural changes are required for future initiatives?   

5. Invest in a Compelling Employee Value Proposition and Company Culture   

There’s no secret to this. People want to work for companies that value them. New graduates stampede toward firms like Alphabet and Apple because they are good employers. That creates a flywheel: They attract and keep the best people, and these gifted workers help them grow faster. And because they grow faster, they can better invest in people, enabling their growth and success.  

In addition, a compelling employee value proposition and company culture help you build trust, engagement and performance within your workforce, which is critical when implementing significant change within your organization.   

6. Develop Flexible Ways to Deploy Your Talent   

New strategies–and new markets–create opportunities for employees to diversify their skill sets. Make it easy for them to do so with formal and informal ways, such as project-based agile squads, partnering models and centers of excellence.   

These flexible ways of working will empower your employees to mesh their interests with the needs of the business.  

Individual employees will immediately see the benefits, recognizing new avenues of career development. And the organization benefits from a more flexible, multi-talented workforce.  


If your organization isn’t yet taking a strategic approach to workforce planning, consider starting with a solid foundation around these six principles. You’ll find that reimagining your workforce strategy with the same passion and innovation as customer-facing aspects of business doesn’t just prepare your organization for your future vision; it will also help ensure you have the right talent to weather current storms.  

Learn more about our organizational transformation strategy and capabilities.  

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