Three Ways Digital Transformation Can Close the Diversity Leadership Gap

Women of color are systematically squeezed out of advancement opportunities. We can fix that.

As a woman of color, I’m often asked how leaders and their organizations can address systemic inequities in our society. My response is to look in our own backyards, within our own organizations. You don’t have to look far to see inequities that we have chosen too long to ignore. 

Take for example the advancement of people from entry-level up through leadership into the C-suite. If our promotion criteria and processes were fair and based on a meritocracy, then you would expect that people would advance in the same proportion at which they entered the company. 

Yet that isn’t the case. The figure below shows data from the LeanIn.Org and McKinsey study “Women in the Workplace 2020”, where representation by corporate roles of four segments — white men, white women, men of color, and women of color — is indexed to the entry-level population of that group. For example, white women make up 29% of the entry level population and they make up 26% of managers which indexes at 0.90. 

At the very first level of promotion from entry-level to manager, there is a separation. The good news is that white women and men of color get promoted to manager at close to their representation. These two groups continue to maintain strong representation all the way into the C-suite — but it could be better. 

But look at the representation by women of color. At the very first level of promotion to manager, women of color drop off significantly in representation to 67% of their entry-level population compared to 126% of white men. This borders on becoming an adverse impact

By the time we get to the C-suite, representation by women of color is a minuscule 17% of their entry-level population. Intersectionality — which is the compounding of overlapping discrimination and disadvantage, in this case, gender and race — means that the glass ceiling is far lower for women of color than we realized. Looking at diversity through the lens of intersectionality means that we include the layering impact of multiple forms of discrimination, including age, disability, sexuality, class, and education.

Transforming Leadership in Our Organizations

Numbers matter because we manage what we can measure. We know from countless studies that diverse teams disrupt the status quo, driving exponential growth and profits over their less diverse counterparts. 

This isn’t a C-suite problem. It begins at the very beginning of the leadership journey which means that leaders at every level of the organization can be a part of the solution. When we can recognize discrimination in all of its forms, our leaders can identify and address systemic bias built into our organizations. 

I’m heartened by the increased awareness of unfairness in our organizations and society and the desire for leaders to take action. I’m also excited about the ways that digital transformation can play a role in these efforts. Here are three specific examples of how technology can make a difference in how we increase fairness in our own organizations.

  • Create digital dashboards to provide visibility and enable early intervention. In most organizations, diversity numbers remain hidden in a vault to be pulled out for reporting purposes. Put that data to good use by providing real-time data on candidate pools at all levels of the organization, from hiring to promotions to ensure a slate of diverse candidates. For extra impact, focus on promotion paths for roles that develop profit and loss management skills as these lead more directly to C-suite positions.
  • Use artificial intelligence to identify and reduce bias in promotions. We can point AI at employment and promotion data to identify adverse impact in ways that we couldn’t detect. Services like Textio can help write more inclusive job descriptions. And technology like Text IQ, which identifies patterns in natural language, can be pointed at performance reviews to identify bias.
  • Create personalized development plans and training at scale. Front-line managers rarely receive substantive leadership development and training, perpetuating systemic issues. Platforms like AceUp identify skill gaps and create personalized leadership with a technology platform. AI can development plans can prompt leaders to develop under-represented groups to increase their skills in critical areas.

“When we can recognize discrimination in all of its forms, our leaders can identify and address systemic bias built into our organizations.”


It may feel like a long path to close the leadership gap and we won’t get there by incrementally pushing things forward. Let’s use digital technologies to disrupt and transform our organizations to make them more fair and equitable for everyone.


A ‘Human-First’ Approach Is Essential for Employee Communications and Engagement

Reimagining what it means to come to work requires an entirely new way of understanding people.

When COVID struck over a year ago, many organizations were already gearing up for a new future of work – they just thought they might get there through evolution, not necessarily by “forced” revolution. The pandemic triggered experimentation – as organizations found themselves leaning into ways to reassure, support and connect with their employees that they had not attempted before, learning “on the go” and demanding new efforts from leaders too as they played their part.

Now as we try and take the best from the COVID experience, many of those leading strategy developments for employee communications and engagement are reshaping their approaches. Yes, we are still not free from the pandemic, but there’s been a firm shift from reacting and maintaining to reimagining. In the midst of this, and as we yearn for interpersonal contact, one theme keeps bubbling to the top: that the human touch – virtually applied for many months – needs to be brought front and center as we go forward.

“Technologies will play an even more important role in personalizing communications and curating fit-for-purpose interactive experiences.”

Of course, for employee engagement exciting new technologies will play their part – they are already for many organizations. But even those declaring a “digital-first” future are realizing success remains “human-first” on that journey. In fact, technologies will play an even more important role in personalizing communications and curating fit-for-purpose interactive experiences.

Driving this are some clear employee expectations and needs around the content as well as the engagement experience. Employees expect employers to provide:

  • Increased transparency and accessibility – something that many organizations did more of in the face of COVID-19.
  • More flexibility and support – as the line between work and non-work lives continues to blur.
  • Commitment to shaping a better world – employees want to be confident that their employer is not just dealing with “the business,” but rather continuing to do what matters in the world – focusing on impact beyond outcomes.
  • Foresight around what lies ahead – employees want more insight and direction on the “future of work.” It’s not easy to look ahead but even without all the answers, employees want to understand the options which are under consideration and what they might mean for them.

How Should Employee Communication and Engagement Strategies Be Developed?

Already we have called out “humanity” – and this is at the center of Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™.

Using this model, we can see some areas of focus for business leaders when it comes to employee engagement and the need to interconnect these areas to take a truly holistic approach to the organizational ecosystem.

How To Use Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™ To Enhance Employee Engagement

  • DNA: Take care of the ‘whole’ person. Be aware of what people are going through – at work and at home – and find ways to engage beyond work topics. Design a holistic approach that truly enables employees to bring their best selves to work.
  • SOUL: Become the heartbeat of the organization. Inspire dialogue, demonstrate empathy and provide the channels and mechanisms to create a compelling rhythm of engagement as well as constant feedback loops. Build connections and create links between individual action and collective impact.
  • MIND: Get the organization fit for ongoing change. Guide the learning agenda, setting expectations and allowing for agility and curiosity. Lay the groundwork for continuous re-skilling and up-skilling, open sharing and rapid learning.
  • BODY: Be where your people are. Keep up with the latest needs, expectations and digital tools being used. Tailor what, how and when you communicate and engage to increase relevance and make it stick.


The future of work is here – and “human-first” leads the way. If you have not started, this is the critical time to reset your employee engagement strategy as we slowly emerge into the next phase of the pandemic. Leaders need to be aligned, capable and equipped – as they are the ones that set and deliver on the expectations for the majority – and there is no escaping this core dynamic.

If you would like to learn more about how we approach employee communication and engagement as part of a holistic cultural system get in contact today.


Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™

This short video explains how we developed our new roadmap for organizational change.

2 min


Organizational change is a crucial component of any digital transformation effort. Prophet’s organizational transformation model is designed to help businesses undergoing digital transformation align on a customer-centric roadmap.


Turn Your Employee Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage

Start by fostering flexibility, connection and wellbeing–at every level in the organization.

COVID-19 forced every organization on the planet to prioritise employee experience (EX), whether they had ever considered it before or not. Empathetic leadership, flexible working conditions and emotional support all came into play, immediately and universally. The task of keeping employees safe, well and working, rocketed to the top of every employer’s agenda.

Progressive organizations lost a significant amount of their EX advantage overnight. In 2019, Glassdoor cited Worldpay, Telefonica and Thomson Reuters amongst others, as ‘amazingly flexible.’ Most of the accolades relate to working from home or flexible hours, neither of which would differentiate their EX today.

Whilst attrition rates are very low at the moment when the labour market stabilizes, EX will have a significant impact on talent retention and attraction. Those organizations that are proactive will be able to capitalize on the situation.

There is no silver bullet but at Prophet, we see a new employee experience equation emerging that can help organizations focus their efforts and regain their advantage going forward.

Flexibility is Here to Stay

The flexibility that COVID-19 has forced is irreversible. The pandemic segmented workforces according to parameters we hadn’t seriously considered. From ‘total isolationists’ to ‘contact cravers’ and everywhere in between, the enduring legacy will be flexibility and choice in how and where we work.

We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube – for many employees, it is now possible to work successfully from anywhere and shape whatever mix suits their preference. To compete for the best talent, you need to build flexibility into your operating model permanently and adapt your culture to support hybrid ways of working. From enabling sales teams to meet and sign contracts virtually to setting up a design club that creates forums to get peer feedback on work – the challenges and changes that flexibility drives are endless.

“To compete for the best talent, you need to build flexibility into your operating model permanently and adapt your culture to support hybrid ways of working.”

The good news is that flexibility increases your talent pool as recruits aren’t tied to geographical locations. However, the same is true for your talent competitors, increasing the importance of focusing on the employee experience you provide – ensuring that candidates contemplating joining your organization understand that well-being is a business and cultural priority.

Early movers in this space are Twitter and Spotify. Twitter enabled its employees to work from home ‘forever’ and Spotify is adopting a “Work from Anywhere” model, which will allow employees to choose to be in the office full time, be at home or a combination of the two. A word of caution when rolling out a hybrid model, businesses will be at risk of a two-tier workforce, with some colleagues having full flexibility while there will be certain roles that must remain ‘on-site’ – something that could lead to perceived inequalities.

Connection is Your Secret Sauce

Having lost our watercooler moments of social and work-related micro-interactions, the organizations that discover natural and sticky ways to create connections and build internal relationships will emerge stronger.

In the same vein as signature moments for CX, touchpoints for employee experience that connect your people to each other and to your purpose will serve to strengthen your culture, support motivation and keep productivity at a healthy level. Creating collaboration moments and finding new ways to have fun (beyond the Zoom quiz) will help organizations embrace agile working and break down silos. Taking a human-centered and strategic approach to ‘people technology’ is necessary to properly adapt the many tactical apps and solutions that came out of the pandemic.

Connection is not only important at a peer-to-peer level. Increased access to leadership has helped reduce hierarchical barriers. HP created a series of “Connect with Enrique,” talks with CEO Enrique Lores, which enabled connection with 85 percent of staff members in just a few months. “We have learned different ways to communicate to employees and collaborate,” says Tracy Keogh, Chief Human Resources Officer at HP. “I think those have been really positive.”

Wellbeing is Key to Employee Engagement

COVID-19 catapulted emotional and mental wellbeing to the same level of employer responsibility and duty of care as physical health and safety. The legal requirements haven’t caught up yet, but they will. Sustaining this level of care without reducing capacity in the workforce will be a critical balance for businesses to achieve. Flexibility and connection are as central to business growth as is a renewed focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

It will be critical to ensure fairness and equity for all employees to influence and improve the general measure of wellbeing. It’s not difficult to conceive that wellbeing will emerge as a key driver of employee engagement, becoming a leading indicator of growth, CX, revenue and profitability. Unilever, for instance, found that they get a $2.50 return for every $1.00 invested in employee wellbeing.


The EX equation will not be solved in one move. This is a continuous journey and the trick is to run at two speeds – taking a proactive, long-term approach to EX whilst starting now with some symbolic, signature moves to signal your intent to your workforce. To cover both the near and far horizons, we recommend three simple things to get started:

  1. Get OD professionals, IT, creatives and service designers together to reimagine connectivity and create meaningful and sustainable connection moments.
  2. Prepare leadership for their role in the ‘new normal,’ agreeing that as EX continues to evolve, there will be more adjustments to the operating model and changes in responsibilities of the leadership team.
  3. Start a boardroom conversation that puts emotional and physical wellbeing as a key pillar of your people strategy, to be measured and improved as a key business indicator.

As Ben Whitter of the World Employee Experience Institute says, “We want people to be at their best and deliver their best work. Any option or choice that helps with that is in scope.”

Looking to reimagine your next employee experience moves? Our expert team can provide a rapid assessment of your EX equation and how to make it add up for the future. Get in touch today


Do My Customers and Employees See the Same Brand?

Turns out the secrets to staying relevant with consumers also attract and retain the best workers.

You’ve invested untold fortunes to create a customer experience that cements loyalty in your brand. You’ve invested a similar fortune building an employee experience to attract the best and brightest and become an employer of choice. But are you telling a consistent story? Do your external and internal brands share the same DNA? Are your customers inspired in the same way as your employees? Or do you feel at risk when your employees talk to customers?

Prophet is in a unique position to answer these questions. Our Prophet Brand Relevance Index ® (BRI), a survey of over 13,000 consumers rating 228 brands across 25 industries, provides a proprietary view of the brands most relevant to consumers’ lives. And at the same time, we’ve leveraged open API data by Glassdoor, the independent authority on employer ratings, to track data for over 750 companies across 50+ industries. Plotted together, they tell a fascinating story.

The Customer – Employer Brand Connection

As you might expect, companies with strong customer brands tend to have strong employer brands. Think Apple and Google. And vice versa: weak customer brands tend to have weak employer brands. Think most convenience retail and quick-serve restaurant brands (although not all).

Arguably the key to Southwest’s success – and 40 straight years of profitability – is how tightly employee purpose is woven into the very fabric of the customer experience. In stark contrast, Uber’s journey in its early days is a cautionary tale: despite owning over 80 percent of the rideshare market, #deleteUBER was born when the company was perceived to be mishandling employee engagement.

We believe a major driver of this relationship is what business columnist David Mattin calls a glass box. Whether it’s by choice or brute force, customers have unprecedented access to a brand’s inner workings – its finances, its operations, its people. And now more than ever consumers are looking for and influenced by, their clear view. In Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer Study, 90 percent of customers agree brands must protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends.

“90 percent of customers agree brands must protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends”

Where Does Your Brand Sit?

We have plotted customer brand strength, as measured by the 2021 Prophet BRI against employer brand strength, as measured by Glassdoor’s overall company rating to produce the chart below.

The model produces four scenarios worth exploring to understand what it might mean if your brand sits in one of these quadrants:

Virtuous Cycle (top right)

These brands have it down. They inspire and deliver. They disrupt, with purpose. Visionaries who never lose sight of what matters. With a focus on delighting customers and employees, from the inside out, it’s no surprise that brands like Apple, Google, Southwest and Lemonade have hit the bullseye of relevance.  

Relevance Challenged (bottom left)  

In the other corner, brands like Dollar General, Walgreens, Popeyes and Burger King are struggling to get points on the board. If there is one thing that healthcare, retail and quick-service restaurant brands have in common, it’s that they seem to be in a constant state of disruption – kicking up a cloud of confusion on all sides. Customers like navigating new user experiences and revolving doors of discounts as much as employees like enforcing them.    

Danger Zone (top left)

While happy customers are the key to a brand’s growth, unsatisfied employees can be its undoing. For companies in this quadrant, there is a fundamental disconnect: what should be a point of pride around customer excitement is not translating into employee excitement. Many of the brands in the danger zone are renowned for innovation, taking risks to accelerate value in the customer experience. But the employee experience has not kept pace, creating extreme risks for brands with high-touch customer interactions.

The Untold Story (bottom right)

Given the recent scrutiny of social media brands, it may seem surprising to see Twitter and Facebook stay strong in the hearts of employees. But despite intense external pressure, employees remain committed to the company’s purpose. We see an opportunity: to uncover what is driving employees; frame that passion for customers and help them see the brand in a new light. When the brand’s story is aligned with a passion in the culture, both employees and customers become brand advocates and vested in the success of the business.


Brands need to have a true purpose that shines through, inspiring customers and employees alike. When employees believe in a company, it translates to trust and relevance for all external stakeholders.

Are you interested in aligning your customer and employer brands and getting the most out of each of them? Our Brand and Culture experts can help, reach out today and hear how we are helping clients just like you.


Head of Digital at MB Bank Discusses Fueling Growth Through Digital Transformation

Becoming a truly digital-first organization requires a fundamental change in how companies do business.

In today’s corporate world, is there a more highly sought-after term than “digital transformation”? Probably not. COVID-19 is acting as a catalyst in accelerating many organizations’ digital transformation agendas. New technologies and business models are putting many existing players at risk with disruptive forces. Becoming a truly digital-first organization requires a fundamental change in how business is done. Corporate leaders understand the criticality of digital transformation, however, many are struggling with how to advance it.

We had the pleasure to interview Mr. Vu Thanh Trung, Head of Digital Banking at MB Bank. MB Bank (Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank) is one of the largest financial services groups in Vietnam. Over the past few years, MB Bank initiated a multi-year transformation program to become a digital-first bank. As part of the transformation, Prophet worked with MB Bank on customer expansion strategies and helped to pave the way to a more modern, digital and customer-centric bank. In this interview, Mr. Trung provides valuable insights on how to transform and what it takes to be a digital organization today.

What drove MB Bank to embark on a digital transformation agenda?

The banking industry in Vietnam is a nascent market with considerable room for growth. With a wide penetration of the Internet and smartphones and a growing digital-savvy population, Vietnamese consumers are rapidly shifting towards digital and mobile banking. They desire more seamless digital banking services with a more personalized customer experience. To meet the increasingly demanding expectations of customers in the region, MB Bank needed to fully embrace digital transformation to capitalize on the boom of digital adoption.

What has MB Bank done so far to digitally transform?

We started the digital transformation from scratch almost four years ago. A new digital bank was set up as an independent business unit at the end of 2017 with our own balance sheet, separate from the legacy bank. Our digital transformation efforts focus on two fronts: externally, we want to better understand the marketplace and the customer needs; internally, we want to introduce collaborative and nimble ways of working across divisions.

Prophet has been our indispensable partner on this multi-year strategic growth and digital transformation journey to become more customer-centric and more innovative. We started with an in-depth segmentation of our customer needs, behaviors and attitudes. Then we mapped out a roadmap with clear growth moves focused on innovating and transforming our digital offers. An important part of our digital transformation is to instill more agility and cross-organization collaboration. Prophet showed us how to innovate faster, pilot and launch quicker. We were able to revamp the digital banking app within three months, which normally would take 12-18 months.

Lastly, I want to talk about the achievement we have made on the people front so far. We started with a team 100 percent from the legacy bank and then recruited external technical expertise to fill the functional gaps. We now have a well-balanced commercial and technical team (some 400 in-house engineers) and work more cohesively in a start-up-like environment to drive towards our digital transformation ambitions.

What are the priorities for your digital transformation?

Among all things, we focus on our PEOPLE first. Digital transformation is not about technologies, but rather about changing the mindset of our people – our organizational culture and processes. Hence, we think people should be the ones to drive the technology and not the other way around.

As I mentioned, we started off with a team 100 percent from the legacy bank. We want to create a more entrepreneurial environment where people are empowered to make a difference to MB Bank in a more cohesive and dynamic way. This is rather different from the culture of our legacy bank. So, we need to train our people with new skills and more importantly, shift their mindset towards a digital culture while building up our technological capabilities.

“Digital transformation is not about technologies, but rather about changing the mindset of our people – our organizational culture and processes”

Prophet helped us to implement a nimbler way of working to get closer to the customers and shorten the time to market. We set a shared purpose and vision to help our people to be more personally and emotionally invested. We broke down the silo way of working and replaced it with a collaborative approach. With this new way of working, we managed to revamp the digital banking app at least four times faster.

The results so far have exceeded our expectations. In the midst of the pandemic last year, we launched our new digital banking app, which became the No. 1 app in Vietnam surpassing even Facebook and TikTok. Within nine months of the launch of the new app, we had 1.8 million new customers. A feat we are very proud of given the harsh pandemic landscape and lockdowns.

What advice would you give to leaders looking to drive transformation and ensure the organization has what it needs to succeed?

Leadership is an absolute requirement for any successful digital transformation. It’s not only about setting the vision, defining the strategies and building C-suite commitment. Leaders must “walk the talk” to establish a digital culture so that everyone is on board.

The success of digital transformation must be paired with a comprehensive talent strategy that sets your people up for success.  In order to do so, we aligned incentives with staff performance to drive target reaching, providing tools and opportunities for upskilling and collaboration to help employees reach their goals.

Why do you think cultivating an innovative culture is important in a digital transformation program?

To me, digital transformation marks a reimagination of how an organization uses its technology, people and process to fundamentally change how we run the business. Digital transformation doesn’t come in a box. It provides the guidelines to steer people’s behaviors that advance our company’s goals.

A lot of organizations fail in digital transformation by ignoring the importance of culture. For MB Bank, we instilled an innovative culture through new ways of working. The agile way of working spurs our innovation process through cross-functional collaboration—allowing our people to take risks, fail fast and learn.

What are the challenges you have faced in your digital transformation journey?

We are still at the early stage of our journey. We need to continuously work on integrating technology seamlessly into every aspect of our organization to unlock the full potential of digital transformation. We need to reboot the parts of our operating model that pose hurdles for more cross-functional collaboration and operational efficiency. Then there is the holy grail of data — we are reorganizing our customer data as it is currently scattered across different legacy systems. We are in the process of integrating and synthesizing this data more effectively so that they can provide more meaningful, actionable insights for business units.

So, what are your next steps?

We are rebooting our operating model into a more unified structure and working to enhance collaboration across all business units. We need to further instill the innovative culture to fully tap into every individual’s potential and reap the benefits of agile methodology. And finally cracking the data issue across different systems so we can design more products and services to better serve our customers. We are really glad to have Prophet be our partner on this journey, helping us transform and steering us to become the leading digital bank of the future.


Read our case study to learn how we helped MB Bank refresh their brand platform to embark on a digital transformation journey.

If you’d like to discuss your organization’s digital transformation agenda and journey, reach out to our team. We’d be excited to partner with you.


The Only Safe Assumption in 2021: We Need Compassionate Leadership

From work-life balance to developing capabilities, the best leaders are defining kindness differently.

Goodbye 2020. The year that tested humanity like no other this century. The year that took experiences away from us and gave us others we might never have imagined, some of which we undoubtedly would like to “return to sender.” At Prophet, like everyone, our working world was transformed in a matter of weeks. Then the weeks turned to months and, still incredibly busy with client work, we crawled to the end of the year wanting to put 2020 firmly behind us.

And so, it’s hello 2021 … when our true hope is that the discovery and roll-out of vaccines around the world will make this year a better one and that many of the things we crave – like social interaction with colleagues and working with our clients in person – will return.

While we can be optimistic, the watershed moment has not yet arrived. The new variant of COVID-19 is threatening the stability of many health systems around the world and countries are pressing the “lockdown” button once again.

“In an era where change is constant, there is one truth that is unchanging – this moment calls for “intentional caring” or what we might simply call compassion.”

Heading into the new year, you’re likely to have plans you’re ready to execute or develop. These are formed by a set of assumptions – goals you are trying to achieve and an understanding of your organization. But in an era where change is constant, there is one truth that is unchanging – this moment calls for “intentional caring” or what we might simply call compassion.

The response of leadership has been a key source – or otherwise – of resilience for any organization navigating through the last 12 months. Our global research in 2020, which was in the field as parts of the world started to battle the pandemic, revealed the key attributes for transformational leadership: inviting many voices, combining agility with curiosity, empathy for the employee, bringing others along the journey, staying the course with a growth mindset and prioritizing substance over “spin.” These attributes are foundational to developing into a compassionate leader and leading with empathy and compassion will not only help you strengthen your assumptions, but also ensure that whatever action you take supports your people who need it now more than ever.

Triggered by the global pandemic and social justice movements, we published our view on a set of change accelerations – “slingshot effects” – that organizations need to recognize and work with going forward to build resilience and that leaders should embrace to cultivate compassion.

As we reflect on the ongoing uncertainty at the start of 2021, we see a subset of these shifts as particularly compassionate – and they, in turn, elevate the need for a particular leadership response:

1. Work/Life Balance > Making Life Work

Companies need to move deliberately beyond questions of where people work to be more intentional about how people work to ensure their lives work. As lockdowns continue, learnings from 2020 have to be grasped, but also sustained into a recognition of the whole lives of every employee.

2. Command & Control > Empower the Edge

Achieving organizational resiliency requires changing the way we think about governance, roles and decision rights. We had to respond at speed when the pandemic struck in 2020 – and many organizations have hardwired the changes made then into their operating models. Many others have not, however, and will continue to be challenged in 2021 if this is not addressed.

3. Development by Default > Development by Design

The last year has revealed significant capability gaps in most organizations, such as capabilities required for rapid cross-functional and agile work; customer-centric product, service and experience management; and data-driven decision making. Companies will need to be deliberate in identifying their biggest gaps to be filled and building robust learning programs now to develop capabilities starting with critical functions.

4. Physical Serendipity > Virtual Serendipity

After months of distancing and restrictions to our day to day lives, employees are finding themselves bereft of personal interaction and a source of inspiration. They desperately need ways to create virtual “water cooler” moments both large and small — ways of forging chance connections amongst individuals as well as across teams and business lines.

5. Change as a Journey > Change as a Flow

Embracing change as a flow starts at the top — resetting the purpose to be that of an enduring journey and embracing change as a core competency of your organization and leadership.


When leaders lead with compassion, they are alive to the needs of others – they recognize and feel individual context – and remain non-judgmental through their efforts to understand and take action to make a difference. Every one of the identified traits from our research drives to this outcome and focusing on these shifts can show your organization and employees that you are ready to tackle whatever is to come with them, not forcing change upon them. 2020 made it clear that compassionate leadership needs to be brought explicitly to the forefront of the leadership agenda in order to successfully navigate 2021 and shape a better future.


Make Purpose Work Harder: Lessons from Business Leaders

Our research finds that companies struggle to carve out a purpose that’s both authentic and actionable.

Businesses have been using purpose-driven strategies for years, but recent events are testing those missions like never before. Between the pandemic, political polarization and all-new virtual connections, organizations see that just having a purpose is not enough. They need one that is durable, flexible and completely human. And they realize that leading with purpose, an all-important North Star, is their best chance to stay relevant to customers and employees.

Prophet’s Purpose Diagnostic enables companies to assess the strength of their purpose in four critical dimensions, measuring whether it is…

  • Authentic (how does it tie to what you do?)
  • Inspiring (how does it connect with employees and customers emotionally?)
  • Shared (how does it create connection and build community?)
  • Actionable (how do you live your purpose every day?)

We analyzed the diagnostic results, which now include responses from over 150 leaders in more than 20 countries, and discovered common pain points where companies are falling behind. These insights also highlight the best ways to close gaps, so companies can focus on strengthening purpose in ways that engage stakeholders, build relevance and unlock uncommon growth.

The Biggest Challenge? Putting Purpose to Work

The toughest element to get right is making purpose actionable–bringing it to life in steady, meaningful ways. Overall, 28 percent of leaders reported this as the most problematic. But authenticity and the ability to share purpose are close behind.

Action is critical. If organizations can’t deliver on purpose, it doesn’t matter how inspiring, authentic or shared it is. It just becomes another empty promise. When companies fail to act, organizations lose the trust of customers and employees looking to brands to play a critical role in addressing social challenges. Purpose must be integrated into all aspects of how companies do business. It’s the way they show up in the world. This was especially true at the director, vice president and managerial level, and lower rungs in the organization. That makes sense: Those with the most accountability for how well their purpose is put into action, within a specific business area, are most likely to acknowledge weaknesses.

“If organizations can’t deliver on purpose, it doesn’t matter how inspiring, authentic or shared it is. It just becomes another empty promise.”

But developing an authentic purpose, one that feels uniquely it’s own rather than generic, is also daunting. That is particularly true in the C-suite. These executives are most likely to say their purpose lacks authenticity. They believe purpose feels less connected to their business and isn’t specific enough to their company.

And those in manager-level positions and below are most likely to say their purpose isn’t shared, likely because they have the closest understanding of how the broader organization experiences the purpose. To them, this inability to communicate purpose is as problematic as making it actionable.

C-Suite execs worry most about authenticity

Directors and VPs struggle to put purpose in action

For the rank-and-file, it’s hardest to share purpose, and put it into action

Overcoming Stumbling Blocks

There are no short cuts to strengthen and deepen an enterprise’s purpose. To function as a true North Star, a beacon that rallies all stakeholders and sparks exceptional growth, companies must continually nurture and manage their purpose. But our findings do point to specific steps to bolster each dimension.

If a company’s purpose needs to be more…


Companies must act on purpose and measure the impact of those actions. The biggest failing among our respondents is the lack of metrics. They say they don’t have direct, or even indirect, ways to measure whether they deliver. Without such a measurement, it’s difficult to assess progress.

  • To improve:
    • Develop performance metrics aligned to the purpose to hold leaders accountable
    • Lead by example, using purpose to guide decision-making and taking action in the market
    • Tie purpose to employee behaviors and competencies, and make sure they are visible to all


When purpose lacks authenticity, the biggest challenge leaders face is differentiating themselves from competitors. “Our purpose is unique to our company” received the lowest score of all authenticity measures. Leaders need to drive greater relevance with their customers and employees: What does this brand do that others don’t? How does it add value to peoples’ lives? The more specific the purpose, the more relevant and authentic it is to the company.

  • To improve:
    • Determine what sets the company apart and creates a unique value. Make sure those differences anchor the purpose
    • Make the company’s purpose reflect cultural strengths


When a purpose is genuinely shared, it’s easier to build bridges and start conversations. Whether it’s with shareholders, employees or customers, the right purpose forges a common bond. It fosters connection and demonstrates a clear understanding of what employees and customers need. Our research uncovered two fundamental weaknesses in this domain, with “Employees at all levels are familiar with the purpose” and “Our purpose cultivates a community and creates a dialogue” earning the lowest scores.

  • To improve:
    • Listen to what customers are saying and deliver value in ways that align
    • Weave purpose into rituals and communications with employees
    • Link it to employee’s day-to-day experiences
    • Make sure messages to shareholders and community partners reflect purpose-related efforts


Purpose-led businesses aim to make a difference in the world.  And they need to elevate the stories that demonstrate how they help society. Without consistent reinforcements of a company’s impact, employees and customers can forget what it stands for and why it matters. While just 20% of respondents said this was the most problematic area, all brands need to question whether their purpose is bold enough. Otherwise, it can’t inspire the storytelling required to spread the word. In our research, the ability to mobilize stories to demonstrate a lived purpose was identified as a key challenge.

  • To improve:
    • Tell signature stories that bring purpose to life, and share them regularly with employees and customers
    • Link environmental, social, and corporate efforts directly to purpose


How strong is your purpose? Take the diagnostic today to understand where your organization may be faltering. The right purpose, used in the most effective ways, can increase loyalty and drive revenue gains. But most importantly, it leads to the future. Purpose doesn’t just help businesses decide what to do. It guides them in the best ways to do it.

Interested in strengthening your purpose and overall brand strategy? Let’s connect to see how you can unlock growth.


Vanishing Hierarchy: The Unspoken Upside to Zoom

Remote work lets more voices be heard and more ideas to surface, increasing organizational health.

Flatter, less top-down and more innovative. How working virtually might increase your organizational health in important ways and the actions to take to preserve it.

The pandemic sent most workers into the world of working from home in mid-March of 2020. Within weeks, countless articles had already been written about the shift to working life “on camera” and about managing “Zoom fatigue”. We quickly learned that countless neuropsychological issues, including the inability to look at someone’s eyes and listen, to create physical synchrony and the mirror image presented of ourselves all contribute to this phenomenon. Seen through a different lens, however, it’s also possible that working through the medium of video conferencing might have an unexpected and positive outcome on some aspects of organizational culture.

An Unexpected Insight From Our Fall Executive Roundtable

In October, Helen Rosethorn, my Organization & Culture practice co-lead, and I convened an Executive Roundtable to review an early draft of The Slingshot Effect, our point of view on how leaders might use the concurrent crises of social justice and pandemic to accelerate necessary change in their organizations.

We brought together senior leaders from across industries, including entertainment, financial services, pharmaceuticals, retail, technology, transportation and manufacturing, and from roles spanning R&D, commercialization, product, operations, information technology and human resources. Our conversation was full of heartfelt sharing of insights where we found many commonalities across industries, geographies and organizational functions.

One executive observed something that we had not considered before. That in this moment where knowledge workers are uniformly working from home, they were observing a radical reduction in hierarchical behaviors and ways of working.

Flatter Structures Create Space For More Voices and New Ideas

In a physical office, we have many ways of signaling hierarchy, for instance, whether one is afforded an office. And, if one does have an office, its location and furniture typically provide further clues about organizational hierarchy. In our current situation, however, things are starkly different. Because even if someone is clearly working from a nicely furnished home office in a swanky suburb, the size of their box in a Zoom or Teams screen is the same as everyone else. There’s also no such thing as privileged seating in video conferencing. It’s a constant game of virtual musical chairs. When you arrive determines screen placement and each person’s view of participant sequence is individualized based on arrival time. Moreover, the host does not have the opportunity to display privilege by inviting you into an elite space like a private conference room or executive dining room. Your CEO’s Zoom meeting is the exact same Zoom experience as that of your summer intern.

“Your CEO’s Zoom meeting is the exact same Zoom experience as that of your summer intern.”

Furthermore, video conferencing tends to highlight, and possibly deter, certain behaviors of the organizationally privileged. For instance, it’s hard to take control of a conversation on Zoom without it being glaringly obvious. In person, people may be more likely to let behaviors such as talking over someone or cutting them off pass without comment. Speaking over or cutting someone off is highly magnified on Zoom and more people seem to feel obliged to stop and apologize. This can create more room for contribution from anyone who might have felt it too hard or dangerous to contribute, e.g., because of their rank, neurotype, gender or race.

Additionally, an oft-quoted study suggests that hierarchical structures are useful for decision making but quell idea generation. And indeed, a number of our roundtable attendees reported that they observed great creativity emerge from their organizations during the crises of 2020, not least because working virtually tends to thwart the efforts of those who might prefer to micromanage their direct reports.

Finally, for many senior clients, we interact with there is a fresh enthusiasm to use these technologies to be more available to their teams. The challenge of being “seen” as a senior executive, apart from once a year at a sales conference, for example, has quickly been surpassed by all being present to address questions on Zoom in a far more regular and, in the best cases, more authentic fashion.

Taking Action to Preserve the Gains

Of course, in the immediate face of the pandemic back at the start of the year, many organizations unleashed a sense of empowerment and pushed decision-making rights downward to manage how they adapted and survived. That too created a belief for many that hierarchy was being dismantled. But was it?

The natural question for firms that are now finding themselves less hierarchical thanks to the pandemic, is how might they preserve whatever advantages that they may be discovering right now? At Prophet, we use our Human-Centered Transformation Model as a tool for diagnosing and resolving organizational issues holistically. In this instance, what is being observed is a change primarily in the Soul – the ways of working within the company. In other words, remote work is changing the behaviors and mindsets of employees. And hopefully, at least this one aspect of our current situation is impacting employee engagement in a positive way.

In the transition out of 100 percent remote work, leaders should examine what might need to change to maintain any positive gains. Obviously, many will focus on being more digital-first in their workplace. But what else might you wish to consider? Here are four key questions to ask yourself, using our framework:

  1. Body: Are there elements of your operating model or the organizational design itself which bear reconsideration? Might an organizational flattening effort be overdue?
  2. Mind: Thinking about the skills and competencies of your staff – what might need to change to ensure success in a flatter organization? Do your managers need different skills, for instance, to enable them to push decision rights downwards and coach more effectively?
  3. Soul: What methods might you use to create belief in your organization that your ways of working are consciously changing as it relates to hierarchy and inclusion? What new rituals or symbols would best reinforce those signals?
  4. DNA: Finally, is it possible that there’s something in your organizational DNA, perhaps your organizational Values, that has unintentionally reinforced unnecessary elements of hierarchy? Is there something about your employee value proposition that might be improved by explicitly removing it


Asking these simple questions will point towards immediate opportunities to lock in the cultural gains you have made over the course of 2020. And, if you’re looking for even more opportunities to increase organizational health based on your experiences this year, we’ve identified 12 specific shifts to make with immediate and specific actions in The Slingshot Effect report.

If you’d like to discuss your organizational structure and transformation planning, then our expert team can help. Contact us today


The Path to Transformational Leadership in 2021

It takes a human-centered approach, tailored to your organization and culture, to lead effectively in this era.

59 min

Leaders are leading in a very different world, one for which they were not typically prepared. Watch this webinar replay to discover the moves to make now to lead and deliver lasting transformational change.

Our speakers outline how to lead effectively in this new era, taking a human-centered approach to make transformation happen and how to tailor a leadership system for your organization and culture.

Slides from the webinar are available here. The research report – “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation” – that informed this webinar session can be downloaded here.

If you’d like to learn more about how leaders can chart a clear way forward in uncertain times then get in touch with us today.


A Modern Model for Organizational Transformation

It’s time to look deeper into your organization’s DNA, mind, body and soul.

Everyone acknowledges that orchestrating organizational change is a crucial component of successful business transformations, so why is it always the Achilles heel?

Digital Transformation

Many organizations have struggled to meet the challenges of the new millennium, where stakeholder and customer needs and demands have changed dramatically and new market entrants continually threaten disruption. Companies need to ask themselves the following:

  • “What would our organization look like if it had been designed in the last 10 or 20 years?”
  • “In what different ways might an organization like that create value?”
  • “What customers would it serve and how?”
  • “How might you work backwards from that vision to build a roadmap for bringing your digitally transformed organization to life, properly leveraging the assets and value they already have in hand?”

Customer-led Transformation

No matter how digital organizations become in the new millennium, it will still be humans who ultimately run the organization. Many organizations – some digitally native and some not – understand and treat their humans well. But we’ve also observed that some of those companies have lost track of some equally important humans outside of their organization: their customers! The products, services and experiences they are offering are frustrating the very people who will ultimately determine the survival of the business.

These organizations need to change dramatically to continue to have relevance in the marketplace. They need to inculcate a customer-centric mindset and identify if skills gaps are preventing them from creating more relevant products and experiences. They need to understand where and how their operating model might need to change to support the kinds of pivots and adaptations needed to reconnect with customers and other important stakeholders.

Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™

We view all organizations as a macrocosm of the individual: having a collective DNA, Body, Mind and a Soul. An organization’s culture needs to be understood as a holistic ecosystem and successful transformation today requires leaders to think about every aspect of this ecosystem.


The DNA is comprised of things that provide direction and tend to change infrequently. The elements that define the destination and direction of travel such as the corporate purpose, values, brand, strategy and employee value proposition.


It is the elements of the Soul which motivate employees to believe in the DNA. Those are the mindsets and the daily behaviors and ways of working those mindsets motivate; and it’s the stories and symbols that are used to signpost what an organization will and will not embrace.


The skills and capabilities of an organization’s talent are the Mind of the organization and when properly cared for and nurtured, enable goals to be achieved.


The Body is how collective efforts can be directed. It’s the operating model and organizational design, and the governance, processes, systems, and tools which enable it to cohere.

We debuted this model in our 2019 research report titled Catalysts: The Cultural Levers of Transformation where we identified fundamentals and accelerators for cultural change and then in our 2020 follow-on report, Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation, we identified helpful pathways to initiate large-scale change based on primary organizational roadblocks.

“An organization’s culture needs to be understood as a holistic ecosystem and successful transformation today requires leaders to think about every aspect of this ecosystem.”

Why We Use the Model

Transformations frequently stumble on cultural roadblocks, which is best expressed in the time-honored truism attributed to legendary business theorist Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

We apply our Human-Centered Transformation Model™ as a lens for unpacking and refocusing the complexities of organizational and cultural dynamics into specific components that can be more easily digested, explored and understood.

We believe that our model’s holistic nature enables us to look clearly at all the interrelated elements that ultimately manifest in the experience of an organization’s culture. It ensures that our understanding is appropriately layered, helping us to make connections between the explicit and implicit elements that sometimes go undiscussed. Most importantly, it supports nuanced diagnoses of organizational challenges and helps us to design a clear roadmap for change, against which progress can be measured.

If you’d like to discuss your transformation, be it digital or customer-led, then our expert team can help. Contact us today


The Human-Centered Transformation Model™ helps us think comprehensively about the vision for a digitally transformed organization, the skills and competencies it requires and how to design an operating model that will bring it to life. It helps us think comprehensively about increasing customer centricity, identifying the capabilities needed to create more relevant products and services and how to design an operating model that will enable increased focus on the marketplace. And our experience is that by failing to address the elements of the model holistically, the transformation will not be sustained, nor deliver the value anticipated.


5 Leadership Traits Needed to Reignite & Reimagine Your Business

This latest disruption is potentially enormous. It also exposes plenty of behavioral white spaces.

Between the global pandemic and widespread protests demanding racial justice, organizational transformation feels more important than ever. But true change requires a new leadership mindset. Building the resilience to navigate these world-altering shifts takes a ge­nuinely human-centered approach.

“While our research validates that these individual leadership traits are important, those who have them are keenly aware that for transformation, individuals matter less than the collective.”

In our 2020 research study, “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation,” we spoke to 500 transformation leaders across four regions – the U.S., the U.K., Germany and China – and uncovered that the leaders best prepared to drive transformation share five traits. We also found that the leaders who feel most optimistic about the future are those who cultivate these traits and understand that they are required to build organizations that are human-centered.

Based on our research, here are the five leadership traits needed to reignite and reimagine your business this year:

1. Harnessing Many Voices

Executives tend to see themselves as the primary drivers of change. But in reality, transformation can’t work that way. One of the most crucial leadership behaviors we found across each of the four regions in our study is the ability to harness the “employee voice” of an organization. This leadership trait was revealed when leaders enabled and elevated the ideas, opinions and feedback of everyone at every level of the organization to allow for deep cross-functional collaboration and engagement. The leaders who do this recognize that often, middle managers–not the C-suite–are the key change agents. Encouraging ideas and fueling co-creation has become a key element to enable organizational transformation.

2. Embracing Empathy

Empathy per se is not a new concept – it is about understanding how people deal with uncertainty through change. But in times of constant change, transformation leaders must understand their employees’ sentiments towards it and help them cope with it accordingly. In the current context, this means physically protecting people, encouraging remote work, staggering shifts and massive disinfectant efforts. But more important, it means protecting people emotionally, understanding employee feelings and acknowledging the uncertain transition to the other side. Leaders need to bring leadership traits rooted in empathy, certainty and change readiness together to help employees feel confident that they can safely navigate the change, even when change continues to be the new norm.

Demonstrating empathy for employees was particularly heightened among leaders in the U.K., as well as in Germany.

3. Allowing Agility and Curiosity

On its own, agility helps companies pivot in new directions and create value in different ways. But what actually generates the ideas for these new directions requires curiosity. Curiosity is what directs leaders to explore and try new things. While agility allows them to adapt to those new ways of doing things quickly. Taken together, they form a powerful combination.

We expected agility to emerge as especially important in China. COVID-19 was fully present there as we fielded our survey, and it was clear to leaders that they had to find entirely new ways to respond to the devastating illness and frightened, grieving workers. But it appeared as essential in all regions, closely linked to leaders’ self-assessed ability to steer companies through a global crisis.

4. Fostering the Development of Others

Leaders today need to integrate a dedicated approach to agile development across the board, equipping the workforce for the Digital Age, and not leaving anyone behind. This commitment to developing organizational talent came through as one of the top-rated characteristics overall  – notably in China and the U.S. Based on the recognition that transformation requires a high degree of personal growth, leaders should look to foster the development of others. They should encourage a “fail-fast & learn” mentality, where experimentation and failure are permitted, as a key leadership trait. Only this will allow employees individually and the organization as a whole to move forward – more meaningful individual contributions will help achieve the company’s ambition better and faster.

5. Staying the Course

The most optimistic leaders have made an impressive commitment to personal growth, with many closely identifying with the “growth mindset” first researched by American educator Carol Dweck. They think they can develop their own talents and abilities through effort, persistence and education–continually improving upon their leadership traits. This is especially pronounced in the U.S. and the U.K. Even in the context of COVID-19, those leaders that acknowledge the interplay between personal growth and optimism in the face of adversity – using the surrounding disruption as a learning opportunity – will emerge from this crisis stronger and better able to find a path forward.


While our research validates that these individual leadership traits are important, those who have them are keenly aware that for transformation, individuals matter less than the collective. These leaders see themselves as well prepared to build the cross-functional collaboration and engagement required for genuine change.

In the post-pandemic world, it’s even more complex–right now, nothing is guaranteed. So, there is a two-speed transformation going on that puts even more pressure on leaders. They are trying to transition to the immediate needs amid disruption and transform for the future at the same time. One would be hard enough–managing two speeds of change is particularly challenging.

That’s why a modern leadership “A” game matters so much now. We believe these leadership traits will only become more relevant in the challenging times ahead.

If you would like to learn more about how leaders can chart a clear way forward in uncertain times then get in contact today.

Your network connection is offline.