The Cultural Levers of Pharma’s Transformation

Cultural transformation requires a human-centered approach, in order to bring along their broader workforce.

Our latest research with pharma executives from around the globe offers an actionable playbook for driving cultural change, helping organizations to focus their efforts and ensure culture is fully aligned to support transformation.

From where to start, to where to go next, The Cultural Levers of Pharma’s Transformation helps business leaders understand where to focus their efforts based on their greatest needs for cultural change and how to bring their broader workforce along on this important transformation journey.

In this report you will learn:

  • Why culture – and taking a human-centered approach – remains a key element in any successful transformation
  • How to determine key cultural levers on which to focus, based on your organization’s greatest needs for cultural change
  • The critical characteristics for leaders to embody in bringing their organizations along on the transformation journey
  • Best practices and examples of how other pharma companies are moving forward

Download the full report below.

Download The Cultural Levers of Pharma’s Transformation

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


5 Questions on Culture Transformation

Key insights on developing and maintaining the best roadmaps for cultural transformation.

Recent world-altering shifts have led to a spotlight being put on organizational culture. As many look to build the cultural resilience needed to help accelerate transformation efforts, Bernhard Schaar, Associate Partner, talks to Helen Rosethorn, Partner and Co-Lead of Prophet’s Organization & Culture practice to understand how organizations might best focus their efforts supported by insights from the practice’s latest global research.

1. What is the model or methodology you use when approaching cultural transformation work with clients?

No matter how digitally-driven an organization may be, it is still human. And for sustained and impactful transformation to happen people must change what they do in a sustained and impactful way. Two years ago, we designed the Human-Centered Transformation Model™ to reflect this core belief.

Just like a human, all organizations have  DNA – the coding that guides it, be that purpose, values, brand or strategy. It also has a Soul – these are the rituals, symbols and behaviors that reflect the beliefs of the organization. It has a Mind – which are the capabilities required to enable it to operate – such as talent and learning to ensure the organization has the skills and expertise to deliver on its goals. And it has a Body – and by this, we mean the operating model and organization design that directs its operations – translating into processes, systems and aspects of governance.

This thinking has helped a lot of our clients grasp that culture needs to be understood as a holistic ecosystem and successful transformation today requires leaders to think about every aspect of this ecosystem.

2. Transformation can be daunting. Where should organizations start when it comes to cultural transformation and driving this change?

In our research last year, (Catalysts: The Cultural Levers of Growth in the Digital Age’) we spoke to business leaders to understand WHAT aspects of culture are critical to successful transformation in the digital age. This year, our actionable global report outlines the HOW –how and where to focus efforts in order to power transformation from the inside out.

“No matter how digitally-driven an organization may be, it is still human. And for sustained and impactful transformation to happen people must change what they do in a sustained and impactful way.”

We have identified four pathways of change, which are designed to help leaders understand their “starting point” in the Human-Centered Transformation Model™ based on their perceived immediate need for transformation. We were being asked this key question over and over again: where should I start? So, the pathways are there to provide a perspective for executives to identify exactly where. There are two things to flag though. Firstly, organizations often focus on where it is “comfortable” to start within their cultural context to activate change – that might not mean it is the right place to start. For example, there are organizations where a “comms” focus seems the natural way to kick off change because it feels logical to have everyone “in the know” but very little of substance happens beyond that and change efforts run out of steam, nothing is “landed”. Secondly, even if you start for example with enabling the transformation through a focus on talent systems because you identify that this is what may be holding you back, you still need to consider the whole of the Human-Centered Transformation Model™ to build sustained and real change.

3. Is there any area of the Human Centered Transformation Model™ that should be prioritized over others?

If there is one that is more critical than another it is DNA – if you do not define the change and align on what that means, then you have a “hole below the waterline” from the get-go.  Even if it is a small hole it will come back to haunt you.  What is particularly interesting in relation to this is the emergence of the Transformation Management Office (TMO) in service of both the ambition and the roadmap to get there. The report sets out compelling data about the organizations that achieve greater transformational success through setting up a dedicated TMO.

4. What are your three key takeaways from this year’s report?

  • There is no silver bullet – I can’t reiterate this enough. To achieve effective transformation, you need to align the whole Human Centered Transformation Model™
  • Select the right starting point – as the pathway focus reveals, selecting the right starting point drives real progress.
  • Harness the many different voices – if you need to elevate one leadership behavior that will serve you well to add value to your transformation then it is the ability to harness the “employee voice” of your organization. By this we mean enabling the ideas, opinions and feedback of everyone at every level of the organization. Deep cross-functional collaboration and engagement are required to make transformation work.

5. What impact has COVID-19 had on cultural transformation and on the findings of the Catalysts in Action research report?

COVID-19 is accelerating existing transformation ambitions for many organizations or forcing a reinvention for others, and every shade in between. It also obviously adds complexity because right now nothing is certain, there is a two-speed transformation going on – or maybe better expressed as a transition and a transformation happening at the same time.  One would be hard enough for any organization to manage but two speeds of change is particularly challenging. However, in the current context, change cannot be considered in an isolated way.


We are in a place where transformation is not a “private thing”. It is playing out right now across the stakeholder ecosystem of every organization – and that brings with it a whole new level of responsibilities starting with employees and the way transformation in particular plays out for them. Fielding our research in the midst of COVID-19 in certain markets and on the brink in others actually reinforced the validity of the levers we outlined in our 2019 report and we, therefore, believe the results would have been the same even if the circumstances were different.

Interested in learning more?

Download Prophet’s 2020 global research report: “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation”.

Watch the replay of the webinar, in which the study authors discuss the key results of the report.

If you would like to learn more about how you might shape your culture to thrive on change and accelerate transformation then contact us today.


Culture as a Catalyst: Power Your Organization’s Transformation

Cultural resilience is a learned skill. We’ll show you which levers to pull to effect meaningful change.

59 min

Watch the webinar replay for advice on where and how you might focus your efforts to build the cultural resilience needed to drive your company’s transformation forward. 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 have any questions or would like to learn how our Organization & Culture practice helps clients identify a clearer path to a cultural transformation that thrives on change and powers growth, contact us today.


COVID-19 Silver Linings: Awakening a Culture of Humanity

Finding meaning in pandemic paradoxes is awakening empathy and authenticity.

I am generally the type of person who naturally seeks to find a silver lining in times of stress and change. When the pandemic disrupted our personal routines and business norms, I very much enjoyed the initial creative flurry of activity as everyone designed a new version of themselves for the world of remote work: where they were going to sit at home, what they would wear, and what background they were going to use (real or virtual).

Any bursts of optimism, however, were clouded by the ever-present anxiety about a future to be defined by what we were losing: the ability to see each other in 3D, shake hands, or embrace. What has surprised me most is how the enforced use of technology in our world of isolation has coaxed out more of our humanity at work.

1. Our whole selves on display. All day.

A decade ago, the poet David Whyte wrote of the sad state of arriving at work, parking our cars and cracking our windows as we headed inside. The real reason we left our car windows cracked, he observed, was so that we didn’t suffocate our souls left behind in our vehicles as we assumed the shadow versions of ourselves which we show at work.

In a world where video conferencing quickly became de rigueur, we were forced to confront others as they truly are and to share a fuller view of ourselves in return. While most have now learned it’s healthy to go camera off from time to time, our insights from our collective period of voyeurism remain.

2. More empathy. More authenticity.

Not all opportunities to connect are truly embraced in our workday world. When COVID lockdown began, the standard obligation to inquire about each other’s well-being was still mostly habitual, not genuine. However, living through tough times together can nurture mutual respect in the understanding that it is ok to admit we are not always at our best. Sharing our raw emotions broke our routines and deepened our abilities to care for each other authentically.

3. More distance. More trust.

As is true in crisis, we bond against a common threat. This rallying together against the common enemy of the coronavirus has forced us to let go of some of our preferences, especially those ways that help us feel in control. With leaders being stretched with so many more critical decisions than before, they are learning they must trust in the decision-making of others. As one of our Prophet leaders observed about the process of letting go, “Perfection is the enemy of ‘good enough.’ And good enough might not include my favorite idea or personal stamp.”

4. Deeper relationships. Enriched collaboration.

The traditional centering of collaboration around functional expertise inadvertently narrows diversity of thought by pre-determining who is in the room. A broader understanding of our colleagues reveals valuable passions and skills that may not be indicated by a job title. As we learn more about each other through these new windows into each other’s lives, we let go of pointless preconceptions and improve our work together.

“Living through tough times together can nurture mutual respect in the understanding that it is ok to admit we are not always at our best.”


Relieved of our former fixed routines, we have no choice but to embrace a willingness to learn and adapt. Whether learning a new role, a new aspect of our current role, accommodating radical shifts in our business models, we are invited (read forced) to learn at a new scale and speed. As I look for the silver lining in the face of disruption that I never wanted, it seems entirely possible that a growth mindset will be the legacy of this pandemic. And I relish the idea that COVID-19 might serve as a catalyst for increasingly authentic, human-centered cultures in business.

If you have any questions or would like to learn how our Organization & Culture practice helps clients to build resilient cultures that thrive on change and accelerate transformation then contact us today.


Brand Behaviors: Critical for Leaders, Managers & Employees

Empower employees to interact with customers differently, adjusting policies to reflect new hardships.

Think about the last time you ordered a cup of coffee. Did the barista who took your order smile and welcome you? Or was it clear she was ready for his shift to be over? How about the last time you needed to speak to a customer service manager? Was the manager reading robotically from a script, or did she take the time to ask questions and empathize with your situation?

How your business leaders, managers and employees show up has always been a critical input for how customers feel about your brand. And when you have customers interacting with your brand weekly, daily, or even hourly – consistently positive interactions can drive trust, loyalty and repeat business, while even just a few negative interactions can cause customers to jump ship and head to a competitor.

This is nothing new – experiences have been built, and brands have grown through the way employees treat customers. What’s new is how important these brand behaviors will be as the world adjusts to its new normal. We are being thrown, without warning, into new ways of interacting with customers. Brands that lead with care and purpose will build trust. Brands that are careless in their actions run the risk of losing out.

A New Normal for Brand Behaviors

Brands with well-defined brand behaviors or service styles have a competitive advantage over their peers. There’s a reason why Team Members at Chick-fil-A always respond with a “my pleasure” and a genuine smile when you say, “thank you.” It’s core to who they are and how they serve, and it’s ingrained in every employee from day 1.

“Consistently positive interactions can drive trust, loyalty and repeat business, while even just a few negative interactions can cause customers to jump ship and head to a competitor.”

Something as simple as greeting a guest with a smile, or taking a few seconds to ask how their day is going will always be strong examples of Brand Behaviors that build loyalty. But think for a minute about the new behaviors that might drive trust in a post-COVID-19 world:

  • An employee wiping down a touchscreen after every customer
  • A cashier being empowered to give a nurse a free cup of coffee
  • A manager knowing how to empathize with a customer who can’t make a monthly payment because he’s been furloughed

Now, the stakes are higher – the presence of positive, on-brand behaviors will build trust and loyalty, while the absence of these behaviors will force customers to go elsewhere. As a leader, it’s a great time to revisit the standards for how your employees interact with customers and how your brand is experienced.

Building Brand Behaviors

Implementing a set of on-brand brand behaviors is an intuitive, yet careful process with many critical milestones.

1. Clarify the Ambition

Well before jumping right to “what do I want my employees to say or do”, it’s important to start with an ambition. At the end of the day, Brand Behaviors must be thought of strategically in the context of what your brand stands for and link back to the priorities of the business.

  • What is core to our brand purpose and which aspects of our brand do we want employees to bring to life?
  • How do we want our customers to feel?
  • Why is this important to the overall growth of our business?

2. Define the Behaviors

With the ambition in place, you can translate the strategy to behaviors for customer-facing employees; behaviors that will be recognized and appreciated by your customers, and easy to learn and display without disrupting the roles and responsibilities of frontline employees.

  • Where are the moments that matter most in the customer’s journey and experience with our brand?
  • How can our employees bring our brand to life in these moments in simple, memorable ways?
  • Are there exemplary on-brand behaviors happening already that we can share more broadly? And which new behaviors will our employees be excited to display?

3. Codify and Share the Behaviors

Even they go nowhere without thoughtful planning to share and create buy-in with those expected to display them. Here it’s all about simplifying the ask and telling a compelling story that gets employees excited to play a role.

  • Why are we asking our employees to display these behaviors?
  • What will get our team excited and incentivized to display these behaviors?
  • How will these behaviors empower our team to serve our customers better, while being authentic to themselves and to our brand?

Getting Started

Defining and implementing Brand Behaviors is a journey, but it’s a journey that can get started with a few simple steps:

  1. Reflect on how you want your brand to show up, especially in this uncertain world
  2. Think of the simple but memorable behaviors that will bring your brand to life and stand-out from the competition
  3. Connect your team to the bigger why and make it easy for them to exhibit new behaviors


Now more than ever the experience your customers have with your brand is paramount. And the brands that come out ahead at the end of this crisis are the ones that will have started by leading with care and purpose.

For more on equipping your teams to display brand behaviors through learning and development, read this article titled “10 Things to Say to Your Team Right Now” or contact us today.


Organizing for Digital Marketing Excellence in Life Sciences

We offer a practical guide to help life sciences execs evaluate how well their digital marketing is working.

Over the past few years, the life sciences industry has experienced shifts in how sales teams interact with customers. And with onset of COVID-19, many of those demands accelerated rapidly. Companies must find ways to adapt and enhance digital capabilities to avoid disruption and drive strong business outcomes.

In this report, co-authored by Prophet and Altimeter, we offer a practical guide to help life sciences executives evaluate how their digital marketing organizations are working today and how to organize for the future. Finding the best digital marketing operating model can be complex – and may require rethinking operational hierarchies and legacy structures – but organizations must prioritize the changing demands of customers and find a model that meets their needs.

Read this report to learn:

  • Three organizational models that will help identify your best organizational fit.
  • The key questions to ask when evaluating the success of your digital marketing structure
  • Relevant examples from life sciences and B2B healthcare executives and their organizations’ approach to digital marketing

This report specifically looks at digital marketing within life sciences organizations but for cross-industry examples, you can read more in Altimeter’s research, “Organizing for Digital Marketing Excellence”. In addition to the three operating models, it also includes a four-step process for organizing your digital marketing team. Read the full report here.

Download Organizing for Digital Marketing Excellence in Life Sciences

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


Webinar Replay: Operating in the New Normal

There are many variations of passages of Lorem Ipsum available, but the majority have suffered alteration in some form, by injected humour, or randomised words which don’t look even slightly believable.

56 min

Watch the webinar replay for insights on what leaders should do and how they can prepare for operating successfully in a post-crisis world. Slides from the webinar are available here.

Learn more about how Altimeter and Prophet can help you and your organization. Our offerings include:

Interested in a conversation with Charlene or someone from Altimeter? Please get in touch today.


Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation

Organizations that have an adaptive culture can out-innovate competitors, finding new ways to thrive.

COVID-19 has forced the biggest acceleration in digital transformation. With organizations now grappling with the challenge to build pandemic-proof models and cultures across industries and regions to ensure better resilience, many are unsure where to start – or, if transformation is already underway, where to go next.

Our latest research with business leaders from around the world offers an actionable playbook for driving cultural change, helping organizations to focus their efforts and ensure culture is fully aligned to support transformation. Organizations that have the necessary adaptive culture will not only survive and innovate in these unprecedented times but will find opportunities to turn to their advantage and thrive.

In this report you will learn:

  • Why culture – and taking a human-centered approach – remains a key element in any successful transformation
  • How to determine key cultural levers on which to focus, based on your organization’s greatest needs for cultural change
  • The critical characteristics for leaders to embody in bringing their organizations along on the transformation journey
  • Best practices and stories of how other companies are moving forward

Download the report now.

Download The Cultural Levers of Pharma’s Transformation

*Fill in all required fields

Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


Your Complete Guide to Culture Transformation

Our research shows that companies must address what they are made of–body, mind and soul–or face disruption.

What is cultural transformation?

Cultural transformation is about the accelerated changes made by companies that focus on growing their businesses from the inside out – empowering people and the way they work through a human-centered approach. It has become more relevant than ever as organizations build the resilience required to serve their stakeholders in the midst of world-altering shifts. Prophet’s 2020 global research report: “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation” intends to help organizations determine how and where to focus their efforts to continue powering their transformations from the inside out and ultimately emerge even stronger.

This report builds on our 2019 research, in which we first identified the cultural levers of transformation. A strong slate of global leaders contributed to these findings via in-depth interviews and we’re fortunate that many of these individuals have once again participated in our 2020 research to share progress and lessons learned, in addition to the stories and examples gathered from other leaders to demonstrate the power of cultural transformation in action.

Why is cultural transformation important? 

The future is here. Companies no longer have discretion when it comes to transformation for the Digital Age; it is their only option. Deferred digital decisions – which previously may have shown up as small chinks in a company’s armor – have now exposed significant vulnerabilities in organizational cultures across industries and regions, shattering any reason to hold onto historical behaviors, skillsets, organizational designs and operating models.

Our research shows there is a need to address culture as a part of an effective transformation.

Though the context for companies’ transformations has dramatically changed, the core methods have not. Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model acknowledges that just like the humans that comprise them, organizations have DNA and a Mind, Body and Soul and successful transformation depends on these elements working in sync to drive sustained cultural change.

“Focusing on levers that help create safe spaces and meaningful mechanisms for employees to adapt to the change are critical.”

The application of these cultural levers invites its own set of questions and challenges. We’ve observed that organizations are often unsure where to start or where to go next in terms of which levers to pull. Our research report identifies four pathways of cultural change that are intended to help organizations focus their efforts and make sustained progress toward cultural transformation. These pathways are not intended to be prescriptive but rather a helpful aid for how organizations might navigate transformation based on overcoming primary roadblocks. The report also provides best practices and stories of how other companies are moving forward in making progress against these cultural levers.

Four Pathways of Cultural Transformation

We’ve identified the following four pathways of cultural change. These pathways align to our Human-Centered Transformation Model and can be viewed as either entry points into the model or ways to move through the model, i.e., where to focus next:

Defining the Transformation

Consider this pathway to be the “control tower” for all other pathways. This is where a company solidifies its DNA: its business and brand strategy; purpose and values and employee value proposition. Once established, DNA serves to continually direct the ongoing change. In order to successfully define the transformation, organizations must set a powerful, actionable ambition and clarify the leaders who will lead the cultural transformation.

Directing the Transformation

Directing the cultural transformation requires focusing on cultural levers related to the Body of the organization. This focus ensures organizations are taking a holistic view of the governance, processes, roles, systems and tools needed to enable an operating model that makes transformation real. Many organizations have made progress on a clear roadmap and KPIs, though other key levers, such as pushing decision rights downward have proven more challenging. Our research provides examples from organizations that are successfully overcoming these hurdles. Furthermore, a powerful story emerged in the data where organizations with an empowered transformation management office (TMO) are experiencing more positive impact and transformation success.

Enabling the Transformation

Enabling the cultural transformation requires focusing on the Mind within our Human-Centered Transformation Model. The Mind is where organizations identify, source and build the capabilities required for employees to thrive and for organizations to succeed in the Digital Age. These organizations will benefit from a focus on levers related to upskilling their employee bases and upgrading the ways they identify, recruit and retain talent – resulting in a supercharged workforce that is prepared to take ownership of operating in new ways.

Motivating the Transformation

Organizations that are motivating cultural transformation must focus on the organization’s Soul. In our Human-Centered Transformation Model, the Soul is where leaders are equipped to both talk and “walk the talk” around the transformation journey to create trust among employees to adopt and evangelize new ways of working. Stories, rituals and symbols help build belief among employees and connect their day-to-day work to where the organization is heading. Focusing on levers that help create safe spaces and meaningful mechanisms for employees to adapt to the change are critical, as is recognizing progress being made along the way and sharing these stories of both successes and lessons learned.


Download Prophet’s 2020 global research report: “Catalysts in Action: Applying the Cultural Levers of Transformation” or watch our webinar.

If you would like to learn more about how you might shape your culture to thrive on change and accelerate transformation then contact us today.


Equipping Your Team for the Future Way of Working

Building relationships and managing meetings remotely require some new skills–and new ways of communicating.

It’s easy to know where you’re reading this blog: at home. In fact, you haven’t been to an office in many months now because the COVID-19 crisis launched the largest volume ever of workers into the world of remote work and virtual collaboration.

An Option Becomes a Necessity

The advent of remote working technologies 20 years ago didn’t have a widespread effect on how most people work. From Fortune 500 companies to digital natives, it has been common to find remote work happening in only one isolated part of the business or not at all. In fact, remember when Yahoo! famously banned remote work? Or IBM?  So, it was not a surprise at the outset of the COVID crisis to see waves of announcements about “testing the technology”.

That “test”, of course, is still ongoing. It is only now in this unprecedented moment that a deep and unavoidable business need and the existing technology have come together. Suddenly, what was once largely implemented as a lifestyle choice for most companies is a universal necessity. From companies extending work from home policies through the end of the year to Twitter’s recent announcement that it’s employees will be allowed to work from home forever, it’s looking likely that our working lives may never be the same again.

The Technical Foundation is in Place

Whether or not we’re individually skilled at remote work, collectively most corporations are dominated by those who have relatively little experience navigating the new world into which they have been unwillingly thrust. This is evidenced by the many articles about the perils of back-to-back video conferencing on Zoom.

“Suddenly, what was once largely implemented as a lifestyle choice for most companies is a universal necessity.”

As a result, every employer now realizes that their workforce needs both proper equipment and real skills to work effectively remotely and that they, as a culture, had better get good at remote collaboration or they will be outpaced by those companies that already can.

Core Skills for Remote Working

This moment offers the opportunity to take a hard look at how you might best equip your workforce for a future way of working that is arriving precipitously fast. How might you begin preparations now to be able to dominate your competition in this brave new world?

There are well-known needs for skills around goal setting and time management for each individual when working from home. However, as many people are now discovering, working remotely with distributed teams requires new application of existing skills; and also, some skills which might be entirely new. At Prophet, we’ve identified three core skills for remote teamwork that need support and reinforcement:

  1. Clear Communication: Working in offices offers the opportunity for what architects and workspace designers call “unprogrammed interactions”, by which they mean casual run-ins in the kitchen, rest room or on an open plan floor. It’s not until you’re remote full-time that you realize how often you depend on bumping into someone in the office pantry and using it as an opportunity to quickly clarify your intentions, needs and objectives. Working remotely requires colleagues to communicate more clearly on the first go, often using new tools. Knowing when it’s best to use messaging (e.g., Text, Teams, Slack) versus video chat or email is important, as is being able to articulate your information and expectations clearly in that format.
  2. Virtual Meeting Design and Facilitation: Working remotely, most of your meeting participants are going to be easily distracted, whether by virtue of the fact that their meeting attendance tool is also their tool for messaging and email; or because a partner, child, or dog demands their attention. We probably do not spend nearly enough time on meeting design in the normal course of events. Working virtually, however, makes ‘magic meetings’ with little or no design even more problematic. Knowing how to design virtual meetings, meaning how long a conversation or other activity should take, how to orchestrate different types of productive conversation and which specific tools will keep participants focused are all critical for making a virtual meeting successful. Equally important is knowing how to facilitate across the distance—which sometimes means separating the process role of facilitation from being in a participant role.
  3. Remote Relationship Building: Anyone who has been on a great team knows that success is not just driven solely through processes and roles, but that team culture is part of the secret sauce that distinguishes exceptional output from the merely mediocre. With a pandemic that has separated us all physically, it’s more critical than before to be able to lean into soft skills and drive connection across the gap. Team leaders must be able to create a safe space where individuals can freely share ideas, get advice and balance workload in a way that respects their personal lives. This is how creative solutions to pressing challenges will be found and how teams will come through the crisis intact.

A trained eye observing a successful virtual team will see all three of these skills in action. Individuals will interact with clarity and purpose. Meetings will have a clear structure and focused, engaged participants. And teams will bond in the ways great teams do – each person connected to one another’s passions, talents and needs – enabling effective working harmony.


We’re still at a moment of change that necessitates rapid upskilling simply to achieve parity to the kinds of working methods we’d once enjoyed. But we’re now keenly aware that the skills our teams will need tomorrow will resemble none of the ones we’d prepared for today. Companies that are going to succeed through COVID and in a post-COVID world are those that will be preparing their workforce to work and collaborate in fundamentally different ways.

Interested to learn more about how to keep your employees inspired and engaged? Get in touch


A Guide to Leading with Values

In crises, translating purpose and values into actions isn’t just good PR. It reinforces what companies stand for.

The world is upside down (for you and all your employees) and it’s difficult to know which way to go. Here, we outline those companies whose values have successfully helped them to navigate this crisis, and how they are informing their approach to long-term decision making and working to galvanize the workforce.  

Values under pressure 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the world and how it operates. First and foremost, it is a human and social crisis, affecting millions of people and upending lives. It has also had a significant and ever-growing impact on businesses and the global economy.

We have seen businesses respond to the crisis in several ways – which can have lasting implications for their company. For example, CVS Health provided bonuses to employees who were required to be at CVS facilities to assist patients and customers, as well as helping employees with child and elder care needs. They also plan to hire an additional 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary employees, filling many of the roles with existing CVS Health clients who have had to furlough workers, including Hilton and Marriott. Recognizing their employees’ commitment, as well as proactively supporting their needs, helped employees to feel acknowledged and respected during these uncertain times.

Amazon, on the other hand, has squelched efforts by employees to seek rights and benefits that protect them and their customers and has been secretive about existing cases – diminishing trust and creating dissonance with employees and customers.

Why the difference? It comes down to how leadership translates their values into action. It’s often in times of crisis – when companies are forced to make difficult decisions – that their true priorities are shown. COVID-19 has provided an intense microscope into organizations’ values and how they guide their actions. Some have struggled, keeping their values as words on a page and leaving their people in the dark. While others have thrived – bringing their values to life as they manage the short-term needs of their employees with the long-term commitments of various stakeholders. This balance requires bringing stakeholders into the decision-making, being transparent in how decisions are made, and proving commitment through new skills, processes and rituals. Organizations are a macrocosm of people, and to truly lead with values across the organization, we must align how employees are equipped, governed, and engaged.

Translating your values for a crisis

Values should guide leaders through decisions, particularly difficult ones, that can determine the future of the organization. Getting them right can galvanize the workforce around what is really important (e.g., working together, being human, adapting), and can be pivotal in a company’s survival and growth over the long term.

Times of turbulence provide a unique opportunity for leaders to evaluate how their values actually show up. Understanding what the values need to do versus what they actually do can help leadership translate them into more meaningful guides for employees. What do themes like ‘transparency’ mean during a period of extreme change? How do themes like ‘caring’ show up when thousands of workers may need to be furloughed or endure extreme work conditions?

“It’s often in times of crisis – when companies are forced to make difficult decisions – that their true priorities are shown.”

We’ve seen companies use their values to guide positive actions. With a significant impact on the food and beverage industry due to the coronavirus, Starbuck’s CEO Kevin Johnson led with their values, “creating a culture of warmth and belonging” and “acting with courage” in an open letter to US employees. First, the company committed to pay all employees for 30 days, whether they chose to come to work or not. Second, the company recognized that re-opening stores would look different across the country, and empowered local leaders to make the decision of when to reopen, with the support of tools and resources.

Ensuring employees are equipped with skills and behaviors to live the values

In times of crisis, situations can change daily, if not hourly. Employees need to feel they are equipped with the right skills and behaviors to deliver on the values as circumstances change, and where new skills might be needed. For example, if an organization prioritizes innovation, are new skills needed to collaborate virtually? For companies that prioritize community and impact, are new skills needed to deliver that impact during the crisis? For behaviors, companies should be as specific as possible about how values should translate in different settings and situations to make sure they’re clear what’s allowed in times of crisis and what’s expected of them to provide better service.

Kering Group, a multinational luxury group, translated their skills in production from runway looks to face masks, while ensuring strict measures to protect staffs’ health. Shifting their capabilities to provide supplies needed by healthcare workers to combat the growing number of coronavirus cases demonstrated Kering’s value around caring more than a poster ever could.

Of course, these skills and resources need to be balanced with the reality of your business, but when runway looks aren’t needed and there is employee capacity, turning to values can have an important impact on many.

Creating processes that reflect your values

To ensure employees can deliver on values without fear or friction, the proper processes and governance need to be in place. Consistency is key here as processes should be applied consistently and at all levels. Where there are inconsistencies, it’s important to be transparent about why those choices are being made.

During times of crisis, existing processes may need to be adapted. Employee evaluations and competencies may need to be rethought to align with how the nature of an organization’s work has changed. Some organizations may find they need to inject new processes, such as implementing new customer support guidelines, to empower employees to make decisions aligned with their values. Others may find that some processes might need to be paused to help remove the red tape or bureaucratic procedures that typically slow organizations down and prevent employees from making values-led decisions quickly. Making changes like eliminating unnecessary layers of approval can actually turn times of crisis into catalysts for change.

For example, the biopharmaceutical company Gilead, has put its values of integrity and accountability first. They have worked with regulatory authorities, adapting processes to establish additional expanded access programs for remdesivir, their investigational medicine for COVID-19. Gilead adapted their approach to ensure they could help accelerate the process of providing remdesivir to severely ill patients, who could potentially benefit from the treatment. By leading with their values, Gilead has been able to balance the need for urgent action to save lives with the responsibility to do so safely.

Helping employees feel the values through rituals

During times of crisis, employees often feel confused and overwhelmed so it should be a priority of the leadership to communicate just how valued they truly are. This can be brought to life in meaningful and human ways by reinforcing values through stories, new rituals, or shifts in incentives. Even small changes like reminding employees to stretch, take lunch breaks, or meditate can help employees feel the values with themes like teamwork, selflessness, and respect.

It is important to maintain existing rituals, where possible, to show continuity. New rituals may also be needed to deliver on values in new ways. At Prophet, we have transitioned our office happy hours, pulse checks, and even office-wide events to virtual platforms. Continuing these rituals and providing a platform for employees to share personal stories has brought Prophet’s values of “Fearlessly Human, Unexpectedly Irreverent” and “Enjoying the Ride” to life – demonstrating humanity and empowering employees to bring their whole selves to the table. Positive behaviors and rituals such as these are productive changes that can be good to maintain, even after normalcy returns.


Now, more than ever, it is critical for leaders to be true to their values and work harder to enable the organization to live those values by aligning skills, processes, and rituals. Doing so will empower employees to take values-led actions. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Take a hard look at your values. Ask yourself what your organization really values. And how that manifests itself in difficult situations. Are you comfortable with the answer?
  2. Consider how your values come to life throughout your culture. What skills, processes, and rituals need to evolve to ensure you’re living your values?
  3. Deliver consistently – not just every time, but at all levels and in all situations. Living your values “only sometimes” diminishes all your values.

Interested to learn more about how to keep your employees inspired and engaged during challenging times? Get in touch.


4 Ways Financial Services Companies are Supporting Customers Through COVID-19

Look for new and empathetic ways to offer guidance and provide relief.

COVID-19 is undeniably reshaping how we live and work. 

Financial services companies may be better positioned than some other industries to weather this storm, but they – and the customers they serve – are nonetheless grappling with a variety of major shifts. 

COVID-19 is not only impacting the way consumers and businesses interact with their financial services providers, but it is also impacting what they need from their financial services providers. For instance:

  • More businesses are seeking small business loans in response to the stimulus package. 
  • More consumers need mobile banking solutions for items they previously would have visited for in-branch.
  • Increasingly, employers need to find the best way to keep their employees updated about potentially changing benefits. 

As the effects of the COVID-19 crisis continue to unfold, we’re seeing four themes emerge.

Here’s how financial services and insurance companies are responding to the crisis today:

1. Providing an empathetic approach to addressing customers’ rapidly evolving needs, even “from a distance” 

Banks, credit card companies, and insurance providers are working to provide easy access to information in a time of high uncertainty. 

Banks that have previously been leaders in offering online banking – like Capital One and PNC – have been encouraging customers now more than ever to service their banking needs online with digital tools and services by reminding them how to check balances, pay bills, and transfer money online. They have also been expanding systems to ensure that they are able to handle an increase in inbound digital servicing. And, where possible, companies are deploying additional digital tools, including options to request payment deferrals and online chat services to enable customers to avoid longer than usual hold times at call centers.

“Companies are deploying additional digital tools, including options to request payment deferrals and online chat services to enable customers to avoid longer than usual hold times at call centers.”

Financial services and insurance companies are also empowering call service representatives to take action and address customers’ concerns directly without additional approvals. To deploy these new working norms, companies are launching additional training for customer service representatives who are bombarded by anxious customers. The trainings are focused on leading with empathy while being empowered to offer additional forms of financial relief.

2. Finding new ways to guide customers through a time of crisis

Some financial services companies are helping customers address their evolving financial situations through either an increase in available information or planning tools that enable customers to better navigate their financial picture given the uncertainty of the crisis. Examples of this response include Vanguard holding live webcasts and using a dedicated section of their website to educate customers on how to navigate market volatility, and HSBC is using its financial expertise to help customers manage their emergency finances with access to an Emergency Savings Fund Calculator tool.

3. Providing direct financial relief to customers or easing the pressure of monthly payments

Financial institutions including American Express, Chase, Discover, and many others have reported offering financial assistance or deferring payments in order to address the evolving financial situation caused by COVID-19. Furthermore, most companies are offering additional forms of relief that may be made available to customers who reach out and explain how COVID-19 has personally affected their personal financial situation or has caused hardship for their business. Depending on the provider, forms of relief include:

  • Waiving interest fees, late fees, or minimum payments for a period of time.
  • Not reporting payment deferrals such as late payments to credit bureaus.
  • Delaying due dates for some borrowers on cards, auto loans and mortgages.
  • Increasing spending limits for certain cardholders on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to providing payment deferral options, the top ten sellers of personal car insurance have pledged to give back more than $7 billion in reduced premiums through programs like Allstate’s ‘Shelter-in-Place Payback’ and Statefarm’s ‘Good Neighbor Relief Program.’

4. Giving philanthropic donations to support organizations that are providing direct aid to addressing the crisis

Many financial services and insurance companies have also already provided philanthropic donations focused on addressing issues of hunger and food insecurity, or to provide direct relief to community development organizations where the majority of their employees are located. Beyond giving donations to local communities and to support basic needs, some financial services companies have also provided additional donations to support broader communities including Bank of America’s pledge to support an initiative with Khan Academy to offer free online learning for Pre-K – Grade 12 students throughout this crisis. While USAA has committed that a portion of its donations will be designated to non-profits focused specifically on helping members of the military.


In the medium-term, we expect to see financial services and insurance companies begin to launch preliminary, near-term strategic responses. Given the continuously evolving nature of this ongoing situation, longer-term strategies will emerge as the pandemic slows and economies emerge with a clearer view of the new current state.

For many companies, the near-term and long-term strategies will require an accelerated digital transformation in order to meet changing customer needs and experience expectations. Companies will need to build smarter, faster and more flexible organizations to create new business models that operate at the pace of ever-changing markets in order to build and sustain crucial brand relevance.

If you need help figuring out what path to take now, in the next 6-8 months, or beyond, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to have a conversation. Also, if you have any questions you’d like answered by our experts, drop them into the comments below or reach out directly here.

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