MNP Business Insights

The Future Workplace: A Values Shift

June 14, 2021
Presented by:

An interview with Mary Larson, MNP, Partner

Communication and Connections

People have reached an understanding that the economy will come back, but it’s going to come back in a different way. One of the things that’s happened over the course of the past year is that we’ve gotten unstuck. We have figured out that we can do things differently. I would say that we’ve learned a lot about communications and connecting with one another.

Shift in Corporate Values

There wasn’t a lot of panic at the beginning of the pandemic. There was, of course, a sense of urgency, but I saw a lot of very calm, thoughtful reflection. What’s very interesting in my current conversations with clients is that we are talking a lot more about developing growth strategies. I think people now are more aware of the vagaries of the future and people want to do scenario planning – people are thinking more creatively about the future. Also, there’s been a shift in values. Companies are shifting from a more single-minded focus on profitability and accountability to additional things like supportive organizations, teamwork, partnership and collaboration. I think there has been a fundamental shift in how businesses think about their employee base and their customers.

Working Remotely: The Good and the Bad

The transition to working remotely has been almost seamless: you can still have a conversation, you can still do business. Where we’re seeing a bit of a challenge is staying creative when working with a group of people. How do you do workshops? How do you come up with something new? The thing that I’m less happy about is that we have not introduced some rigour into how we schedule our own time. This notion of one meeting after another after another after another, leaving us no time to think, is not good. We don’t have the luxury of getting on an airplane and just being able to think anymore. Also, we don’t have the time to get to know our clients and our team members as well.

The Hybrid Workplace

We’ve realized that we can be very efficient with our time, and that we don’t need to be with each other all of the time. I like the fact that I can finish work at a certain point today, go out for a walk, and then come back and do some work. I think this idea of blended time ­ some remote and some not ­ is good. What’s going to have to happen, though, is that businesses are going to have to offer more flexibility to workers than they did in the past. It can’t be all remote or all in person, but I’m not sure how decision makers are going to deal with this. How will the bureaucracy of a big bank, for example, figure out how to make this work? I think employers have learned to trust their employees in ways that they never did. Before COVID, the belief was that if we let people work from home, they’re not going to work very hard. Well, the pandemic has proven that that is not the case. That’s been a big, a big change, and it will hopefully help us in the future.

Appreciate and Acknowledge Team Members

The word alignment has been bandied about for many years in that “we need to get the team aligned to the corporate strategy.” That typically has been a very top-down thing: the CEO sets the strategy with a top team, and they make sure that the rest of the organization knows what’s going on. Typically, that has been one-way communication, but what’s going to be really important going forward is two-way communication – making sure corporate leaders listen to the people who are actually doing the work. That is harder these days because of all the remote working, but we have to find a way to engage with employees. The other important role of corporate leadership is to thank people for the work that they’re doing: to show appreciation and to acknowledge what people are doing.

Heightened Awareness of Technology

Firstly, the pandemic has taught us that we can change and that we can change again if we have to. Secondly, values have shifted. We know that a values shift has taken place over the past year. Businesses are taking care of employees, have much more awareness of the importance of the workforce and have come to understand the crucial role that workers have played in making sure that the economy continues to operate during all of this. There is also a heightened awareness that we have to invest in technology. More specifically, technology offers an underlying set of capabilities that help workers be effective and efficient. With technology, though, businesses have to build in protections to make sure that data is secure and that the ability to communicate along numerous lines of media is preserved.

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