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Inclusion in the Workplace: Why it Matters and Ways to Improve

To prevail amidst new technologies, company leadership needs human judgment, empathy and inclusivity.

Growing up as an Asian American in a predominately white, Catholic community, I became used to being the “other” at an early age. I was the one that didn’t fit in, the one picked last for a gym activity, the one not invited to birthday parties.

In sixth grade, I remember being particularly excited because I was invited to a birthday party. However, this wasn’t just any birthday party, it was the party of a girl who was considered popular. “Did I finally make it? Had I finally been accepted?” When I arrived, to my dismay, the birthday activities in the garden required the birthday girl and her designated team captains to hand-select members for their teams. The goal of the birthday activity was to finish one or more tasks at different stations and each of the teams got to compete against each other. When I was finally the last one to be “picked”, I didn’t feel very picked at all. I wanted to run, hide and disappear. I didn’t want to go back to school. When my parents forced me to go back that Monday, my performance was negatively impacted because I was distracted by thoughts of self-doubt, humiliation and embarrassment. All I so desperately wanted was to fit in.

What might have been more inclusive, in this situation, was if the team members were thoughtfully pre-selected in advance of the party, with varying levels of athletic aptitude and experience. To create an equitable environment, intention is paramount. To me, it would have made a world of difference.

Fast forward almost 30 years, I’ve now worked in various leadership roles at over seven organizations, and I still see this happening. You see, the problem with not including others isn’t an intention issue, the problem is more of an invisible one. We all have had different experiences and learned habits that are both conscious and unconscious. There’s often the challenge of not acknowledging the issues and/or being unsure how to effectively surface the realities. It can be very difficult to know where to start and what to do.

“To create an equitable environment, intention is paramount.”

I believe a leader is defined by how he or she chooses to use responsibility, not by his or her title. Part of that responsibility is a business leader’s obligation to embed “inclusion” into the systems, processes, rituals and symbols of an organization. Inclusion increases employee engagement, belonging and helps create an environment where people can show up as their authentic selves.

When people have the psychological safety to fully express who they are, they do better work, they come up with better ideas, they work better together and cross-functionally. This ultimately drives improved business performance. For organizations to prevail in the future, company leadership will need human judgment, empathy and inclusivity to achieve their full potential amidst new technologies, increased demands and competition, constant changes in customer needs and the expectations to do this all faster and better.

At Prophet, we leverage our Human-Centered Transformation Model™ to do just this.

Four tips on how to embed inclusion at your firm and with your clients:

1. DNA represents the Purpose, Values, Brand, Strategy and EVP that should direct the organization. Each one of should work to support inclusion. Many organizations have started to weave diversity into their purpose statements, for instance. You might spend a lot of time and money on diversity, but if you don’t have the “inclusion” part right, that diversity goes out the door, literally.

2. MIND is about having the right skills, talent and capabilities to drive the change. To do this internally, ask yourself: Do we have the right set of diverse skills, gender and talent in our pursuit team? Do we have a good balance of shared experiences and perspectives on our account? We should be investing the same amount of time matching talent and skills with including people from various backgrounds, experiences and cultures. If you look at your organization’s talent strategy and notice in the data that there might be certain groups of people leaving the organization at a faster rate than others, you should ask yourself and your clients: Do they have the right tools and opportunities in place to be successful here? Have they been invited to have a voice and decision-making authority in visible ways?

3. BODY is the processes, systems and tools in place. As a seasoned management consultant, we get the opportunity and privilege to solve complex business problems including re-designing systems that don’t incorporate inclusion at the heart of it. For example, Prophet has created a change champion program as part of our strategy to revamp the culture of a tech client. As advisors to the organization’s top leadership, we ensured that our team was mindful and intentional about including representation not only from each global business unit but also from the organization’s employee geography, race, tenure and gender. We also set about improving performance management and career development processes ensuring that it is more than “what you do” but “how you do it” while also linking it back to the organizations’ DNA.

4. SOUL is the mindsets, beliefs, rituals and symbols that ignite motivation and belief. Inclusion efforts must show up in a company’s daily routines and rituals. Some steps are simple, such as using preferred gender pronouns in LinkedIn and Zoom handles and during introductions at internal and client meetings. Others take more thought and require questions like: How representative is the group pitching new business, for example, or meeting with vendors?


FINAL THOUGHTS

Changes in language and behavior go a long way to normalize inclusivity. However, there isn’t a single definitive roadmap. Each company must find its way to inclusivity.

Prophet’s annual global research on culture transformation has shown that unless it’s powered by many different voices–with cross-collaboration among geographies, functions and diverse employees–it won’t be successful.

This isn’t just a relatively new discipline. It’s intersectional, complicated and ever-changing. Missteps are inevitable and cultural change is inherently complex. Inclusivity is an essential tool for any company that hopes to grow and succeed in the future.

Attracting and retaining today’s top talent requires organizations to be laser-focused on fostering an inclusive culture. Our Organization & Culture experts can help, get in touch.

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Leaders & Language: How the Right Words Can Catalyze Change

Language connects. But with companies going digital, organizational communication has many new challenges.

Great leadership and great communication go hand in hand. Just look at the greats—from Martin Luther King Jr. to Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela to Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Leaders who respect language as a force for change have transformed cultures, systems and policies. 

But how exactly do impactful leaders approach language to initiate such meaningful change? And how can leaders communicate to guide their organizations to success?  

Right now, we find ourselves in a reality that’s both ripe for change and steeped in the minutiae of the moment — where every word can be recorded, shared, scrutinized and misconstrued. For that reason, thoughtful and intentional communication from leaders is more important than ever before.  

To Guide Meaningful Change, Leaders Must Communicate with Purpose  

Organizations are changing at a deeper, structural level in response to the storm of urgent external forces like systemic inequality, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health crisis and the shift to hybrid working – with many having to respond to a number of these factors all at once. The result? A huge emphasis on organizational culture and change at a rapid pace.   

But we can’t talk about organizational culture transformation without talking about language. Language is one of the most powerful tools for inspiring focused action and influencing culture.   

The Anatomy of Effective Language  

The role of language is to connect—and intentionality is essential to connect effectively. When Aristotle spoke about language in his theory of language and meaning, he defined three ways to effectively connect with another individual or team: to open their mind through reason (logos), to open their heart with emotion and vulnerability (pathos) and to find common ground through a shared truth or values (ethos). Through these elements of language, leaders can connect, persuade and build trust more effectively.    

Language is a system that defines and pervades all other organizational systems and it’s both fueled and forged by your culture. It only makes sense then, that when your organization evolves, language must evolve along with it.   

Approaching Language During Transformation   

With companies going digital, organizational communication has a host of new challenges. How do you pick up the vibe on a Zoom call? How do you make one-on-one calls feel as natural and spontaneous as passing a colleague in the hall? It’s hard work, which is why so many leaders are eager to bring people back to the workplace. While it’s tempting to cling to the systems that have kept our workplace cultures humming for decades, we have been jettisoned into a hybrid, hyper-speed era—one that demands more dynamic, adaptable cultures. Language acts as both the cultural catalyst and the glue holding an organizational culture together.   

At Prophet, we think of the organization as a macrocosm of an individual. Like an individual, an organization has DNA, a Mind, Body and Soul — and when we are looking to effect transformation, it has to be human-centered across all these elements. Why? Because businesses don’t change. Humans change and then they change the business.  

Let’s look more closely at these four areas and the role that language plays:   

  • DNA: How an organization definestheir shared vision, values, purpose and ambition  
  • Mind: Enabling the workforce to adopt new skills and drive change   
  • Body: Language helps teams understand the systems needed to direct their transformation   
  • Soul: Motivating employees and other stakeholders to contribute to the change  

By thinking about language through the lens of Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™, leaders can more effectively communicate throughout the transformation process.   

DNA | Defining the Change   

Language literally builds an organization’s DNA. That’s why crafting the DNA involves a careful thought-through, strategic, iterative process that captures data-driven insights and diverse perspectives from across the organization. The idea is to define and then express the new ethos in an authentic way.   

Recently, we worked with Thrivent, a major U.S. financial services organization, to transform its business and brand. Thrivent wanted to innovate its offerings and expand its reach to new markets while maintaining its loyal membership base and values.  

Defining the ambition with a team of data scientists, strategists and writers allowed for the team to take a more critical lens to the language used in the DNA of the organization. From this work, we defined a shared purpose that reflected Thrivent’s heritage and enabled everyone to align with the modern organization it was ready to become: Thrive with Purpose.  

We like to think of leaders as the carriers of this DNA, modeling shared values and purpose in both their words and actions, so we worked with Thrivent’s senior leaders and managers to create a launch video that introduced the new ambition and shared purpose to the whole organization. From there, we helped them roll out the new strategy, consulting on their communications and providing exact language — including a new brand voice and messaging — so managers and senior leaders could confidently share the new ambition and brand with their teams. Together, our work received the 2020 Transform award for tone of voice.  

Body | Directing the Change   

Embodying and directing any change requires a clear roadmap and reliable systems that give the DNA a place to materialize. We use language to set and measure clear goals and achieve them together (i.e., KPIs). Word choice in KPI development is critical because they must be clear, tangible, and directional.  

To develop these KPIs leaders should ensure they should:   

  1. Ladder up to one of two key business drivers  
  2. Be linked to the ambition and meaningful milestone on a roadmap  
  3. Be aligned at a business or functional level before translating into team or individual goals   
  4. Be shared and transparent  

Talent and performance development is a great example of this. A while back, we worked with a newly formed but significant global bio-pharmaceutical player with an ambition to create a more decisive, agile and performance-driven culture. To achieve this, the organization wanted to take a fresh approach to recognizing employee performance — including how it rewarded individuals and teams that truly made a difference.  

So, we set out to first clarify what “good” performance looked like. Then, we translated that new definition into a purpose-driven method of goal setting and performance conversations. We helped its team choose language more thoughtfully, which enabled managers to respond to this shifting performance criteria by having the right conversations.   

Mind | Enabling the Change   

To enable change, leaders must appeal to people through reason (logos) to help them adapt to the new set of values (ethos). If employees are clear on their roles and know exactly how to upskill to align with the ambition, you can establish capabilities built on trust and progress.   

For Thrivent, activating the new DNA proved challenging for their financial professionals because they run their own businesses around their personal philosophies. So, we found common ground, showing the connection between their values and the new brand purpose, promise and principles.   

Then we gave their professionals the tools — scripts, talking points, and educational resources that gave them the language to bring the brand DNA to life in their daily work. We also recorded interviews with them where they shared their financial philosophy through the language of the new brand promise. This helped them co-create accessible, on-brand language to share with clients.   

Soul | Motivating the Change   

The most enduring and dangerous myth about leadership is that you must have all the answers — and if you don’t have them, pretend you do. A leader who can admit when they don’t have all the answers gains trust. And when combined with that trust, a leader who makes space for employees to be seen, heard and understood helps to take people on a change journey.   

For a culture to flourish through a transformation, it’s vital for leaders across an organization to reinforce shared values, celebrate wins and share learnings as often as possible. In the Human-Centered Transformation Model™, we call this Soul. By motivating small wins throughout the organization transformation journey, employees feel recognized for their efforts and connected to something bigger than themselves.   

In addition to a regular and genuine celebration of small successes and learning moments, the single most powerful way a leader can motivate change is by showing vulnerability.  

When the pandemic hit, Prophet was among many organizations that closed the offices. We prepared to close for two weeks and were instructed to work from home. Those two weeks stretched to nearly two years. During this time, our CEO Michael Dunn, along with the Exco team, created a Global Pulse call, a bi-weekly check-in that connects all the firm for 45 minutes to meditate, share stories, talk about recent events and be “together”. While the Global Pulse calls were a direct response to the missing connections we had in the office, they have created a ritual that has given us all a sense of unity as well as opportunities to make space for the difficult experiences we were and are all facing.  

Michael Dunn starts every Global Pulse call with a guided meditation—a simple and gracious use of language that, over time, introduced new behaviors and cultural norms to the firm. To experience a guided meditation on that scale with fellow colleagues spoke directly to hearts and minds, and for many, became a ritual we relied on.  

“The single most powerful way a leader can motivate change is by showing vulnerability.”

What is also subtly powerful about this ritual is the name: Global Pulse. Alone these words are impactful, but together even more so. The invitation to “check the pulse” of our global culture serves as a warm reminder that our culture is a living, evolving aspect of our co-existence — and it influences all we do. 

We spoke with Michael about his reflections on the Global Pulse and use of language over the past 18 months. He noted, “For the first few months, and even up until now, I feel so much pressure to get the tone and experience just right. But I started to see that using the mindfulness exercise to open the forum, which I do along with everyone else who participates, helped create space for me to feel more present, more connected, more curious and more vulnerable, which then rippled across the globe for everyone who was participating. It helped to elevate the experience for everyone as we invited teams to offer gratitude, spotlight work or have hard conversations about the world around us and Prophet’s way forward.”  

The Global Pulse gave the firm both the space and the language to connect and speak on behalf of our needs. Some pulse calls are filled with photo sharing and stories about working from home. Others are set aside for difficult conversations or empathizing with those who are grieving. We had agendas, but oftentimes we led with our hearts. Because sometimes intentional language doesn’t always require polish. It can simply be about admitting what you don’t know, what you dare to believe and what you need.   


FINAL THOUGHTS

Once we recognize that effective transformation is human-centered, then we must also consider how language — the most human thing we do — can best support that transformation. The obvious, most exciting moments for intentional language sit within the Soul element of our model. The motivational speeches and fresh storytelling we share to inspire. But language touches every corner of an organization, which presents endless opportunities to choose the right words for the right purpose. Leaders who see its holistic impact and consider the four elements of DNA, Mind, Body and Soul will turn language into a true force for change. What words will you choose today? 

Would you like to better understand how language can be a true force for change in your organization? Our expert team can help, get in touch today. 

WEBCAST

Is Asia Ready for the Future of Work?

Top-line results and corporate culture haven’t yet been the main driver of transformation in Asia. That’s changing.

57 min

Introducing a Human-Centered Model for Change

Pulling on insights from their latest global research study, “Fit for Change: Driving Growth & Transformation for the Future of Work,” the speakers propose a way forward for leaders of transformation to accommodate change while getting your organization fit for the future of work in Asia.

Thank you for your interest in our webinar. You can also download the presentation deck here. If you’d like to learn more about increasing your organization’s change fitness to support long-term growth and resilience then get in touch with us today.

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From Well-being to Well-doing: 5 Steps to Fuel the Resilience of Your Workforce

By encouraging teams to be human and empathetic, companies can reduce turnover and increase productivity.

Employees now expect far more from their employers than just a paycheck. Today’s reality is that peeking behind the velvet curtain of an organization is as easy as logging on to Glassdoor, so those looking to attract and retain the best talent are having to think really carefully about their approach to employee well-being. A shiny manifesto on the company website certainly isn’t going to cut it any longer. 

In our recent report, Fit for Change: Driving Growth and Transformation in the Future of Work, our Organization and Culture practice unpacked the primary forces shaping cultural change and the message was clear: employee well-being and mental health are the top drivers and, in addition to this, 71% of the companies we surveyed stated that well-being will increase in importance over the next three years.  

“Employee well-being right now is a given and I don’t think that will stop on the day we vaccinate everyone.”

– Quick Service Restaurant Executive (UK)

This isn’t new. In 1943, Maslow noted that before people can be their best, they need to have their physiological and safety needs met. The pandemic put a spotlight not only on physical safety but mental safety too. The virus created a universal health risk, creating new standards such as social distancing and face coverings, while also exposing the less frequently discussed challenges of isolation and depression. This impact has been especially felt by minorities and women – groups that have already been challenged by traditional ways of working and broader socio-economic issues.

Organizations had to pivot to meet safety needs swiftly – most taking on, at minimum, the physical safety concerns of their people. The recent announcement from the Biden administration to enforce the OSHA policy of protecting employees from ‘grave danger’ has raised the safety standard and also calls into question the role of government and business on individuals’ care.  

What is clear, however, is that employees – and the world – are paying attention to companies that fail to care for their people. For example, Amazon has a history of creating challenging environments for its employees, however, the pandemic made that oversight even more severe. A damning exposé from the New York Times featured several major missteps, including failing to disclose the number of cases occurring at warehouses, causing many individuals to be unaware of just how at risk they were. One New York warehouse had at least 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021. When it came to Amazon’s duty of care to its employees, not even the minimum needs were being met.   

However, the risks of not protecting your people extend beyond the obvious moral responsibility. New research by SilverCloud Health found that 46% of its survey respondents chose to quit or considered quitting a job due to mental health needs, a stat that will only serve to accelerate the ’Great Resignation’ if companies don’t create holistic wellness game plans.  

Being a leading employer committed to your employees’ wellbeing has significant benefits:   

  • Reduced turnover: According to Mercer’s 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plan, employers who create cultures of health see 11% lower turnover than employers who did little to prioritize employee well-being.  
  • Improving performance: Employees with high well-being are almost twice as likely to be engaged and enjoy their work.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re building a resilient organization, leading with the wellbeing of your people?   

  • Listen between the lines: These are unparalleled times and the impact of new ways of working are surfacing new issues. By now, organizations have hopefully addressed the physical safety needs of their people, but leaders should be paying attention to the broader set of well-being needs. According to the same research by SilverCloud, when U.S. employees say they are okay, 84% don’t always mean it and 37% mean it less than half the time. Employees can be reluctant to share if they fear retaliation or don’t believe anything will come from being honest. Leaders need to be trained to listen without consequences to build a culture of trust, especially within HR where employees can be skeptical of their motivations. Also, organizations need to create more safe spaces and forums for employees to share their challenges in and out of work and build in additional mechanisms to recognize where employees need help, even if they’re not directly saying it.
    “You have to balance introversion and extroversion in a remote environment. Find ways to reach out to people to make sure they are okay without asking too much of them. Open up happy hours and let people join if they want or don’t want to. And if managers know people struggle with mental health, reach out to them.” – a GVP of Strategy & Operations
  • Be human first, then a leader: To create an environment where people feel safe to express what they need and take advantage of resources, employees should see those behaviors modeled from the top. Leaders should be transparent and vulnerable – sharing the resources they use and how they are feeling. At the same time, be empathetic, recognizing that some will have very different challenges than others within their organizations. There are some organizations that are going above and beyond by not just creating more supportive leaders, but also creating roles for leaders to focus on organizational wellness. Deloitte, for example, just appointed its first Chief Wellness Officer.
    “It’s about empathizing with associates and what they’re dealing with. Empathizing with the fact that different people may be having different experiences and recognizing how real that is.” – Medical Products Executive 
  • Build a stronger organizational “Body” to build healthier human bodies: The Body, or an organization’s systems, is core to providing the support needed by employees, especially in terms of benefits and programs. Meaningful change must happen at multiple levels across your organization. At the corporate level, there should be ongoing innovations to address broader well-being. According to a recent report, The Future of Benefits, by Care.com, 57% of senior leaders said that care benefits are being considered a higher priority by organizations to better support their employees in both work and life. Also, 63% of respondents said they plan to increase their company’s already existing childcare benefits. Employer-sponsored benefits can also be supplemented by new solutions from companies like Peloton and Noom.
  • Work in a way that works best for you: Benefits from the top are critical, but true change will happen locally within teams. Our research report has found that a key fundamental to change requires businesses to push decision rights downward and this is true when creating a culture of well-being. Teams should be given the flexibility to build well-being solutions into their day-to-day, implementing ‘meeting-free blocks’, full team days off and whatever else is needed.
    “Employees need to feel empowered and responsible for managing their work and the flex time. We are getting people to understand that they’re going to have more flexibility, focus on getting the work done and allowing teams to feel like teams.” – EVP of Stewardship, Global CPG Brand
  • If you change nothing, nothing will change: Your employees’ well-being is constantly evolving and so too should your efforts to meet them. Consider external factors like time of year or the state of your hybrid work. What employees need in summer will vary from winter, so respond and support accordingly. And don’t be afraid to try and pilot new programs to demonstrate your continued investment in your people. Prophet’s Change Fitness model, shows the most resilient organizations embrace experimentation – rather than simply creating new programs to overcome challenges. So, organizations should focus on evolving in partnership to continue getting the best from their people. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The war for talent has never been hotter and employees should be prioritizing the health and well-being of themselves and their families. Human-centered organizations put people at the center of their business – creating a system of ‘well-doing’, not just well-being. And in doing so, they create a culture where people can focus on higher-order issues to stay resilient when needed most.  

If you’d like to build a more resilient organization that prioritizes employee well-being, our Organization & Culture experts can help, get in touch today. 

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4 Critical Steps for Organizational Transformation Success

To keep moving forward, stop time-wasting and micromanaging. Focus instead on new capabilities.

The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing multiple times and expecting a different result. And we’ve all read multiple research reports stating that up to 70% of transformation initiatives fail. But if so many of these change efforts don’t succeed, why are so many companies repeatedly using methods that produce such poor results?  

The traditional approach to major organizational change (e.g., driving a culture shift to increase customer-centricity or an enterprise digital transformation) was to create a broad strategy and a robust business case. This effort could take four to six months in a large organization. Once finally approved and budgeted, companies used lengthy approaches to define the details and a roadmap that would eat yet another six months. By this time, customer needs inevitably continued to evolve and more agile competitors were already winning in the market.  

Can you see what is wrong with this picture? How insane is it to make such a significant investment of time, effort and resources, only to be outpaced and fail to achieve your business’s goals? How might we better deliver true transformation and real business results in this era of constant disruption?  

1. Say Goodbye to Wasting Time and Hello to Unlocking Value

Prophet’s 2021 global research study “Fit for Change: Driving Growth and Transformation in the New Future of Work” demonstrates that setting a powerful and actionable future-looking ambition accelerates an organization’s success. It is also one of the biggest levers in Prophet’s Change Fitness Model, a modern model for transformational change management. This offers a framework to assess the varying levels of capabilities for individuals, teams, leaders and the organization as a whole. Most importantly, it is fundamental for organizations to set a clear, flexible roadmap. Conversely, backward-looking analysis is neither an accelerator nor a fundamental. Setting an ambition and roadmap can be done as quickly as four to six weeks.  

2. Get Off the Training Treadmill and Ride the Capability Escalator

​The average spend on workplace training per employee worldwide increased more than 20% from 2008 to 2019. The old way of upskilling talent was to invest a lot of money on training before starting the new work. Yet, that money is better spent wrapping your team with experienced professionals who can model the right mindsets, behaviors and transfer skills, creating opportunities to fuel upskilling through the foundation of trust. Importantly, this foundation of trust fosters the psychological safety needed for employees to experiment and adopt new ways of working – a skillset our global research study suggests is critical to successful change efforts. Trust in your experienced professionals, trust in your talent and trust in them, now

3. Master the Present and Create the Future  

Stop focusing on the current state. When you do that, you lose sight of the future. Instead, hold a destination session – what do you want people to say about your company 5-10 years from now? Too many transformations either solve today’s problems and therefore are a game of catch-up or, conversely, they only focus on problems 10 years out. A narrow focus only on the challenges of today suggests you’re not serious about transformative change. And a focus only on farther horizons might suggest the work is academic. Either misstep risks diminishing belief amongst colleagues that transformation is real or even possible. You must craft a compelling future-back strategy even as you address immediate challenges.  

4. Stop Helicopter Parenting – the Teams Will Be All Right

The old approach to creating new ways of working to foster a transformation was to either sequester a disruptive team of new hires, consultants and current high potential employees away from the main organization or wait and reorganize teams to support the roadmap you spent months building. 

“Self-organized teams decide how to meet deadlines, which results in faster delivery, increased agility, and higher employee satisfaction.”

The modern approach is to short circuit your current operating model and organizational challenges by utilizing agile methods in cross-functional pods and squads model – starting the work now with the resources you have now. These are self-organizing teams where members get to decide among themselves who does what and the team is empowered to remove their own barriers. Self-organized teams decide how to meet deadlines, which results in faster delivery, increased agility, and higher employee satisfaction. 


FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re hungry for transformation in action, we believe that the most important shift for success is the mindset. We must encourage our teams to feel comfortable with a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), even when everything isn’t framed to perfection. It’s better to be committed to moving forward than be stuck in the old world of arduous, linear plans – especially when time is no longer on our side. It’s time to make experimentation our friend and commit to a new, agile path in service of your transformation destination. 

If you’re looking to fast-track and short circuit your transformation, reach out to our Organization and Culture experts today and hear how we are helping clients just like you.  

REPORT

Transforming Healthcare: The Forces That Redefine Work and Culture

It requires centering brands on a strategic purpose to create shared value and engaging brand experiences.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that all types of healthcare organizations—pharmaceuticals and biotechs, health insurers and hospital systems, device and equipment manufacturers—could change successfully, at scale and with great speed. Despite the formidable challenges, many organizations were effective in taking deliberate steps to upend historical ways of working and cultural norms.

This research dives into the industry’s change readiness and synthesizes perspectives on culture transformation from 70+ senior leaders across healthcare sectors.

Read this report to gain deeper insights on:

  • The external forces that are expected to create enduring changes in organizational cultures
  • Tips for how healthcare and life sciences organizations can prepare for future evolution by instilling adaptability and resilience in their people and teams
  • A recommended path forward that enables leaders to drive successful and lasting transformation

The analysis and recommendations captured in this dynamic report will help executives advance the lessons forward by building stronger cultures and teams while accelerating their transformation journeys.

Download the report below.

Download Transforming Healthcare: The Forces That Redefine Work and Culture

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!

WEBCAST

The Future of Work is Here

Cultural transformations come from understanding that organizations, like people, have a mind, body and soul.

59 min

Get Your Organization Fit for the Future of Work

Pulling on insights from their latest global research study, “Fit for Change: Driving Growth & Transformation for the Future of Work,” the speakers set out a way forward for leaders of transformation by sharing the primary areas to invest now to build the critical capacity to accommodate change while getting your organization fit for the future of work.

Thank you for your interest in our webinar. If you’d like to learn more about increasing your organization’s change fitness to support long-term growth and resilience then get in touch with us today.

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A Model for Transformational Change Management in a Post-Pandemic World

Transformation calls for a level of organizational fitness that’s radically different. How ready are you?

The past year has shown the critical capacity organizations need to build for change. The COVID-19 crisis saw many organizations forced to adapt business models, embrace new ways of working and instill a more digital culture mindset. As we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the focus for organizations should be on developing a resilient approach to transformational change management that outlasts the pandemic and supports ongoing transformation. This means that companies need an enhanced approach to change management to ensure they have the agility to reinvent themselves more frequently in this disruptive age.

The Shortcomings of Outdated Change Management Models

It’s been 25 years since the advent of change management and organizations are facing the reality that change is more than a single event to be overcome. It’s now apparent that the incessant onslaught and acceleration of technological advancement requires a new perspective if organizations are to thrive in this environment. Even today, change models (e.g., Kotter, ADKAR) mostly posit some return to stasis and require their deployment in never-ending waves of programmatic change. There must be a better way.

A Modern Model for Transformational Change Management and Organizational Fitness

What is to be done? How might we build the organizational resilience required to not just “manage change” but rather to collectively engage with a positive mindset? And it’s not just technological shifts we need to prepare for, as we know that the forces of remote work, climate change, environmental sustainability, stakeholder capitalism and social justice movements will be impacting us for years. But there will inevitably be others. How might we navigate the many unpredictable forces the modern enterprise will need to face?

At Prophet, we’ve chosen to view the enterprise as a macrocosm of the individual. We believe it is important to take a human-centered approach to transformation because no matter how digital an organization becomes it is important to recognize that it is still ultimately a human endeavor.

“How might we build the organizational resilience required to not just “manage change” but rather to collectively engage with a positive mindset?”

As we have reflected on the inadequacies of outdated models and methods for change management, we have begun to recognize that there is a new discipline emerging in our field of work: transformational change management. Transformational change management begins where change management leaves off. It recognizes as fundamental the fact that there is no single milestone to be achieved: there are many. The process of transformative change, therefore, is viewed as an ongoing journey, often with a higher altitude, strategic destination. As a result, the ability to absorb change has become a core cultural attribute for organizational growth.

Over the last five years, our transformation practices have begun to crystallize into specific behaviors, methods, tools, skills and models. And those, in turn, have yielded the insight that our human metaphor for the organization extends to address the issue of embracing continuous change as a way of life. Prophet’s Change Fitness Model is a way of describing five connected and ascending levels of capability for individuals, teams, leaders and organizations to thrive throughout ongoing transformation.

Level 1 is where we view the world with a fixed mindset and change is viewed as an obstacle to be overcome.

Level 2 is where things begin to be framed slightly more positively and change is a milestone to be achieved and celebrated. However, our worldview still tends to favor a return to a steady state afterward.

It is only at Level 3 that we begin to enter the world of transformational change and the traditional tools necessarily begin to fray. Change is now a journey, often one spanning several years, with many cross-functional, cross-organizational and enterprise milestones to be achieved and value to be measured. Level 3 is where our mindset, individually and collectively, must truly shift to one of growth and abundance. Change is exciting because it leads transformation into something better: a better business model, operating model, and often culture.

Level 3 is where Prophet often meets our most significant engagements. Client organizations recognize the need for changes to their DNA and as a result, all the organizational components of Body, Mind and Soul must evolve as well.  Our desire with these clients is to leave them better than we found them – at Level 4. And therefore, we seek to design and manage the program such that the pace of change tilts, bringing as many of the colleagues into a state of flow as possible. This means moving just enough pieces at once so that everyone is working at the height of their competence, but not to push efforts so fast that people feel burned out.

Ultimately, we believe organizations that learn to thrive on change and embrace a growth mindset eventually find their way to Level 5 – a state of play where transformation is a sport. It’s an opportunity to find yet more ways to excel, individually and collectively.

Now that we are seeing the world through the lens of the Change Fitness Model, we are more able to quickly diagnose needs with our prospective clients. A handful of probing questions – easily inferable from the chart below – quickly reveal where the organization stands today and suggest the kinds of work that could be helpful to build change muscle and resilience for the transformations to come.


FINAL THOUGHTS

As you look at your organization today, consider the descriptions in each row. Which seems to most accurately describe you as a leader? Which best characterizes how your team stands currently? What about your organization as a whole?

As you look forward to the rest of 2021 and beyond, a few minutes of consideration will likely reveal some important opportunities where your organization should develop increased change fitness. What actions might serve you best?

If you want to learn more about how you might increase your organization’s change fitness and build long-term resilience, then contact our Organization & Culture practice today.

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A Guide to Driving Organizational Change for the Future of Work

Evolving from traditional to transformational change management isn’t easy. Yet it is the surest path to growth.

Want to get your organization fit for the future working landscape?

The past year has shown the critical capacity organizations need to build for change. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated many organizations’ re-examination of their ways of working and cultural norms. It also introduced a profound new set of forces of organizational change, putting many organizations’ culture and resilience to the test.

To thrive today, companies need to evolve from traditional to transformational change management across all levels of the organization in order to support long-term growth and build resilience.

The latest research from our Organization & Culture practice looks beyond the self-evident insights of 2020 to propose a way forward for leaders driving transformation and how to make an organization fit for change.

This report provides deeper insights on:

  • The critical new forces of cultural change shifting the landscape and shaping transformation for years to come
  • A new change model that tracks an organization’s ability to transform across multiple measures
  • The three primary areas where leaders should invest to help their organizations become fit for the future working landscape
  • How to identify your organization’s fitness level and the kind of work needed to strengthen it for transformation
  • The connection between an organization’s change fitness level, its ability to take on transformation and positive financial outcomes

Download the report below.

Download Transforming Healthcare: The Forces That Redefine Work and Culture

*Fill in all required fields

Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!

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Want to Make Your Strategy Stick? Make it a Behavior

Lofty directives don’t help. Specific behaviors do, making it easier for employees to follow through.

Leaders need to consider a broader set of actions, not only to make their strategies more effective but to help better engage employees too.

As a leader, you are defining a new set of priorities and getting ready to roll them out to your organization. The strategy is rooted in research, thoughtfully shaped and ready to take off. Or, you’re responding to the quick shifts of the current environment – finding ways to keep your employees safe while delivering value in new ways for customers. But what do you really need to make these strategies stick?

In his book, Simplicity, Bill Jensen outlines what his extensive research revealed about the questions employees ask when given an assignment. Of course, questions like “What exactly do you want me to do?” “What does it have to do with my job?” “How will I be measured?” and “What’s in it for me?” are standard. However, the most important question employees have may surprise you: “What tools and resources are available to me?”

In this period of rapid change – well-defined behaviors can be that employee engagement tool for your organization. While investments that require greater development take time to implement, clearly defined behaviors can inspire and guide transformation both within and beyond the pandemic. This doesn’t mean over-prescribing behaviors for every initiative, but rather linking a core set of guiding behaviors to priorities and making them actionable in daily contexts.

What makes for clearly defined employee behaviors? Behaviors should align to a business strategy or purpose, specific to individuals and teams and their roles. These behaviors should allow for flexibility and judgment while being measurable. Leadership behaviors can define ways to enable teams to live out company values. For example, they can specifically encourage adding a diversity of employee voices in key projects. Behaviors for frontline employees may include actions around service – opening the door for customers entering, or safety, wiping surfaces down after each interaction.

Think about your latest strategy and its objectives – how are you making it real for your organization and employees? What tools and resources are you equipping your teams to leverage? Specifically, what employee behaviors are you encouraging that reinforce said objectives?

“Behaviors should align to a business strategy or purpose, specific to individuals and teams and their roles.”

Prophet recently worked with a telecommunications provider committed to deepening relationships with customers. But in challenging settings like call centers where individuals have to solve issues quickly, “deepening relationships” would be far too broad of a directive. In partnership with the provider, Prophet helped define three core behaviors that employees could exhibit in any conversation. These behaviors weren’t mandatory scripts, rather a playbook to help make the strategy more concrete for the learner and measurable for the organization. We then applied these behaviors across various high-priority touchpoints to make them even stickier for the learner. Learners were highly engaged with the strategy, found the playbook very useful and are already putting it to use in their day-to-day.

And while organizations often think about defining behaviors for customer-facing employees, a clear set of behaviors can be critical for how employees work together. For example, in response to changing expectations of work from home during the pandemic, leadership at IBM defined a pledge on how to best support each other. The pledge doesn’t stop at generalizations – but rather gets incredibly specific. In a LinkedIn post, CEO Arvind Krishna elaborates on each pledge – taking “I pledge to be family sensitive” to the next level by defining “if [you] have to put a call on hold to handle a household issue, it is 100% OK.” Organizations around the globe are reinforcing the importance of creating better workplaces, but IBM has taken it to the next level by defining what better actually means.

Of course, behaviors require an ecosystem to stick – as we elaborate in our article Brand Behaviors Critical for Leaders, Managers and Employees. Organizations need to clarify the ambition for the behaviors, define the behaviors well, and then codify and connect them to the broader cultural ecosystem.

Once you have a clear set of behaviors, you need to, once again, consider what tools you’re offering to employees. As you roll out your behaviors program, consider a range of tools that can drive adoption and create strategies that stick.

  • Lower investment tools like internal resource hubs with scripts and guides, or huddle guides for coaches to encourage new behaviors.
  • Greater investments and tools including both live and asynchronous learning programs and realigned performance expectations
  • Full system changes and support such as built-in digital tools and AI tracking, which can enable more effective, real-time measurement and tracking

FINAL THOUGHTS

Strategies don’t just happen. And just as they require time to develop and refine, the same thoughtfulness should be put into making them real. Ask yourself “How should my team behave differently to deliver on this strategy?” and then answer the ever-important question “What tools will I make available?” Such employee engagement strategies and tactics are essential for every workplace – the organizations that invest in defining the right employee behaviors and supporting tools will be the ones who attract, engage and retain the best talent in the long term.

Do you need help defining which behavior changes could unlock business performance and increase your employee engagement? Reach out to our Organization & Culture practice today to hear how we are solving this challenge for clients just like you.

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4 Steps to Optimizing the Remote Employee Experience

It’s time to re-evaluate what works best–and what that means for recruitment, retention and profits.

Remote teams want a better employee experience. Where to start?

Getting work done remotely isn’t the issue. It’s getting it done well, in a way that’s best for the organization and most engaging for the virtual workforce.

Through our efforts in digital transformation, customer and employee experience and cultural change management, we’re discovering straightforward approaches that companies can implement quickly. And by focusing on increasing employee engagement and productivity, they are leading companies to more effective–and even transformational– solutions.

Learning the ropes of engaging a remote workforce

It goes without saying that the work-from-home trend was well underway before the pandemic began. Many companies have long allowed at least some employees to contribute remotely. These organizations are already enjoying long-term benefits. They recruit the best talent from all over the world, regardless of location. And they enjoy a higher retention rate, especially among Millennials and Gen Z workers, who crave a better work/life balance, shorter commutes and more affordable housing.

But with the global surge in home-based workers holding strong, it’s important for all companies to design the best remote employee experience. That means supporting the company’s purpose, culture and customers, as well as its people.

4 Steps to Optimizing the Remote Employee Experience

Step 1: Start by analyzing workflows

Smart companies are treating the evolved employee experience as an opportunity to accelerate digital transformation, digging into which internal workflows might remain virtual for the long-term, even as recommendations of social distancing begin to ease.

To continue to identify workflows that make the best fit, implement metrics for what’s working so far, measuring productivity and engagement in all departments.

Step 2: Create engagements that support the culture

Zapier, a global remote company that helps users integrate web applications, has been primarily remote since it started back in 2011. To increase the sense of collaboration, it hosts a weekly Design Club, a digital open house that allows anyone in the company to present work for feedback. Anything is fair game, including research plans, visual designs and new concepts from product teams.

Using a Design Club channel on Slack and a weekly Design Club video call, colleagues can sign up to receive asynchronous or real-time critiques from their peers and stakeholders. It fosters an inclusive culture of appreciating and leveraging diverse perspectives, giving people visibility into what others are working on. And best of all, it improves the quality of the work.

With a little effort, most companies could implement similar ideas in less than a week.

Step 3: Review tools and applications often

Workers have grown numb to the onerous burden of email. And while switching to remote work offers much more efficient options, like Slack, Teams and Zoom, they can be just as paralyzing if they’re poorly managed. Finding the right mix and balance of communications channels becomes even more critical for a remote workforce.

Pay close attention to what seems to be working, and what’s burying staff in pointless group alerts and notifications. In an interview, Matt Mullenwegg, founder of Automattic, which operates WordPress.com and a host of other properties, discussed the importance of trial-and-error in building a virtual company with 1,200 people around the world.

“Today we use an internal blogging system called P2 instead of email,” he tells Ben Thompson, author of the popular business strategy blog Stratechery. “We use Slack for real-time chats and things like Zoom for calls and meetings. But over the years, we’ve also developed just a lot of cultural things around how we use these tools.”

For example, with employees in multiple time zones, meetings in real-time become more difficult, so asynchronous options are essential.

Step 4: Keep weighing the long-term implications

What changes might remote work have on your business long term–in terms of recruitment, retention and profits?

Automaticc’s Mullenwegg often surprises people when he talks about the company’s considerable investment in employee travel. Because almost everyone is a remote worker, real-estate outlays are minimal. But it spends heavily on group meetings, bringing the entire company together at least once a year. And individual teams of up to 15 people meet more often. “There’s nothing, no technology, VR or otherwise, that has the same effect of breaking bread across the table or sharing a drink with someone, for building trust, for building communication, for getting to know someone,” he says.

“There’s no doubt that as companies adjust to the new normal, they must revisit the definition of their employee value proposition.”

For many companies, building for the future means getting past the question of whether employees will like working remotely. Not all will, just like some people hate open-floor office plans. The point is to quickly pick up on employee concerns about efficiency, productivity and engagement.

Try fostering models for continuous exploration of better ways of working remotely. Those might include a group of colleagues who have this as a side project, internal and external surveys to see what different teams and companies are doing, or a Slack channel where people share ideas.

It’s important to keep looking at new tools that are worth testing. For example, new video-conferencing platforms, such as Around, offer features like AI-driven background noise cancellation and facial focus.

Shockingly, many companies have stopped probing employee sentiment at this critical time. And if they are, they are often asking about process and technology, instead of the key question: “How is this working for you personally, and how can we make it better?” Tools like Glint, an employee-engagement platform, make this kind of pulse-checking easy.

There’s no doubt that as companies adjust to the new normal, they must revisit the definition of their employee value proposition. And as companies thread their way through the after current of the virus, , we don’t expect to see many overnight decisions. But we do believe this will be the most durable change wrought by the coronavirus and one that will benefit both employers and their employees.

The reality is that there are far more people who are underserved in their desire to work virtually than most employers realize. Many will fare better as remote team members. And as best practices continue to emerge both from digital pioneers and remote newbies, we see the best results for those who design the optimal remote employee experience. That means creating a continuous model for improvement, steadily looking for net new benefits and using the right tools for the right reasons.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Take command of the situation today, with these three simple steps:

  • Identify the workflows your teams indicate are best positioned for long-term success in a remote, virtual model
  • Provide the right digital tools to enable their work
  • Be flexible as needs change, requiring new tools and working methods

Continuously re-assess, finding new workflows to convert to remote teams or bring to more of a hybrid or dual model in the future. And don’t forget to consider implications for your broader employee value proposition.

Interested to learn more about how to improve the remote employee experience? Get in touch.

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Five Principles for Stronger Customer & Employee Engagement Events

Make sure every idea expresses the organization’s culture.

Strategic events are often one of a company’s largest, annual recurring investments as part of their broader engagement programs. And of course, the global pandemic has changed the stakes and expectations for such events as organizations pivot to engage employees, customers and partners in a virtual setting, using the opportunity to reinforce key brand messages, strategies and experiences.

But, what exactly do we mean by “strategic events?” Events can range from annual sales conferences to investor days to customer appreciation events to events with a shared goal of shifting the beliefs and behaviors of the attendees to the desired state of engagement and alignment.

Yet, far too often the desired outcome isn’t achieved by one, standalone event, which means the price tag of it usually outweighs the benefits. And measuring ROI? Don’t even think about it—especially when buy-in, attention and attendance are hindered in a virtual environment. A day out of the office at an offsite location? Why not. Step away from your job demands to be on Zoom for 8 hours straight? A harder sell.

5 Principles for Increased Success at Customer & Employee Engagement Events

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Companies that follow the five essential steps outlined below are much more likely to come out of a strategic event with more engaged employees, customers and partners. We’ve found that these five principles lead to the strongest levels of employee engagement and ROI at events:

1) Build a digital program, not a digital event

Events have a shelf life. They can generate short-term enthusiasm, but often not sustained engagement. To combat this, companies should design events that connect to a broader virtual engagement program. In shifting perceptions and behaviors, people evolve along a curve of hearing, understanding, believing and living. It is difficult, if not impossible, to go through each of these phases in a single event. Long-term programs, on the other hand, employ a steady drumbeat of communications and experiences that reinforce core messages and behaviors of the event over time.

2) Start with insights

Too often, we see organizations use events to communicate to an audience based on what they want to tell them. Just like customer research before launching a new product or service, it is vital to find out what’s on the mind of the target audience and shape the content and experience based on that insight. What is most important to them right now?  What questions and concerns do they have? What type of experience are they expecting? Go on a listening tour of your audience, and even take them through the early stages of the content and event plan to get their feedback.

3) Define the core idea and story arc

Most events are like an all-you-can-eat buffet of ideas and messages. Content, more so as we work remotely, gets developed in silos and, at best, may be connected together by talented speakers. But more often than not, the audience is left having to piece together the messages and determine the universal takeaway themselves. Instead, companies should start with a well-defined idea or belief and integrate it throughout the virtual event, from the messages of individual speakers to the event experiences. This core idea is more than a high-level event theme. It is a through thread that creates a compelling story arc and breaks down silos so everyone can hear, understand and apply the main point of the strategic event.

“Companies should start with a well-defined idea or belief and integrate it throughout the virtual event.”

4) Modulate the experience

Many events overly fixate on the “main stage” talks. These are great for inspiration but fall short on application. It has been proven that adults learn best when they are given multiple ways to access the content. The best-structured events do not rely on a single format like the main stage; they create experiences with multiple formats. This could be smaller “Zoom breakout” group labs or workshops, small group experiences, or an exposition where attendees can interact more intimately with experts or artifacts – like a live Q&A. The bottom line is, mix it up. Create a diverse experience that stimulates the audience in various ways and strengthens customer and employee engagement.

5) Put culture at the center

Employees, customers and other stakeholders are increasingly attracted to organizations with a clear purpose and strong culture. However, too many companies still treat strategic events strictly as a “business meeting.” At Prophet, we have found that core messages and desired behaviors are more easily retained when the company’s culture is reflected at events. This means keeping things light, having moments of fun, surprise and recognition and celebrating heritage. Just like the story arc, spend time crafting the emotional arc of a strategic event and figure out when, where, and how to infuse signature stories, recognition and fun into the agenda.


FINAL THOUGHTS

These are the core principles we start with when working alongside clients to design strategic events in the post-COVID landscape. Put them to work at your upcoming sales conference or as part of your employee engagement program, and you’ll see more engagement and higher retention levels.

Interested in planning an event to drive growth within your organization? Reach out today.

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