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What’s next?
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Unitingpeoplethroughpurpose.
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The future starts today,
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narratives, stories from story-tellers, is a collection of ide...
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The Horizon Issue.
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Agility’s leading role: The Future of Work
EMPLOYER BRAND ... 6
The purpose in...
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narratives, stories from story-tellers, is a collection of ideas, insights and impressions from the worlds of talent communications, employee engagement, and organizational design.

narratives, stories from story-tellers, is a collection of ideas, insights and impressions from the worlds of talent communications, employee engagement, and organizational design.

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narratives Volume 1 Issue 1 Q1

  1. 1. What’s next? n. n.robertjohnson Unitingpeoplethroughpurpose. narratives
  2. 2. n. The future starts today, not tomorrow. Pope John Paul II narratives, stories from story-tellers, is a collection of ideas, insights and impressions from the worlds of talent communications, employee engagement, and organizational design. Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 narratives
  3. 3. narratives The Horizon Issue. WELCOME ... 4 Agility’s leading role: The Future of Work EMPLOYER BRAND ... 6 The purpose infused employer brand post COVID OUTSIDE VIEW ... 10 SALLY BREYLEY PARKER AND LORI HEFFELFINGER implexiti Unleashing the power of disruption Reimagine your organization as a living system OUTSIDE VIEW ... 16 NEIL HARRISON Lead Consultant and Founder NH237 Consulting It’s never been so important to understand employee motivations EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE ... 21 They called HR first. What’s next? The human experience OUTSIDE VIEW ... 26: MARIL GAGEN MACDONALD Founder and CEO, Gagen MacDonald Five impressions of what’s next n.robertjohnson Unitingpeoplethroughpurpose. The Agenda. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 3
  4. 4. WELCOME narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 Agility’s leading role: The Future of Work The Future of Work has arrived. It’s here. And it’s here to stay. Organizations that are adopting tenets found in Future of Work practices due to their navigation of COVID-19 are emerging as market-leaders. The promise of competitive advantage is no longer the theory or hopeful outcome of past Future of Work discussions. We’re seeing competitive advantage playing-out in real time. Adopting Future of Work tenets and practices in a time of a global pandemic, historic economic turmoil, and society-changing civil unrest, however, isn’t pretty. The urgency of the crisis response to COVID-19 rushed us past any prospect of easing into a Future of Work world. Change, by itself, brings anxiety and uncertainty to the workforce. Change in acted in these times takes workforce anxiety to whole new level. But change also brings something special: hope. One of the many outcomes of managing through the pandemic is the acceleration of agility throughout the organization. Agility, a primary tenet of Future of Work principles, accomplishes a lot including giving employees the reassurance that we’re tackling our challenges head-on. Purposeful actions give people hope. Agility’s Role in Talent Communications HR was called first when we needed to confront the crisis. Within weeks, organizations needed to address complex people-centered challenges ranging from establishing or expanding work from home structures, workforce downsizing, and realignment of workflows. Management then needed to understand, institutionalize, and implement lifesaving safety measures to protect the workforce. This urgency forced for some a new experience: making decisions quickly. In short, workforce actions became more agile. ‘Both management and boards have been surprised by how quickly they can make decisions when necessary. Once you have experienced that, it gives you the confidence to act more quickly.’ —Nora Aufreiter, Corporate Director at Scotiabank, Kroger and Cadillac Fairview 4
  5. 5. As we emerge from the crisis, some are embracing a more prominent definition of agility. They are using their experiences to create a competitive advantage. World-renown agility expert Christopher Worley’s definition of agility denotes that there is more to the management philosophy of agility than just making decisions under duress. His view is that organization agility is the ability to make timely, effective, and sustained change when and where it results in a performance advantage. So, as we look here to what’s next in the worlds of talent communications and employer branding, we see a need to connect the dots of our state of work, agility, and change management. In doing so, we draw a few conclusions. Agility isn’t perfect. One of the foundations of agility is the need to adopt a mindset of experimentation. By definition, the experimentation mindset accepts that not everything will work perfectly and that mistakes will happen. The important thing is to learn and then use that learning to be timelier and more effective when making decisions. This viewpoint extends itself to infusing agility into talent engagement and talent marketing practices. New skills emerge. One key to being agile in talent communications is mastering the skills of monitoring and assessing in real time. This includes increasing your organization’s capability to capture employee perceptions, attitudes, and emotions; document and verify these data points; and then transform them into narratives with a focus on action and engagement. Change transcends internal and external audiences. Our first motivation, as communicators and change agents, is to engage. In today’s consumer-driven communications world, however, engagement cannot be siloed between internal and external audiences. One of the most compelling questions asked now by candidates – either directly or subconsciously – is what did you do in response to COVID-19? How did your business adjustments impact the people of your organization? The positive actions that you took during this crisis are not only important for engaging and retain your employees; they also create powerful stories to entice and inspire those who will want to join you. Watch the Movie The new pace of business has changed us forever. Yes, we will always have to be thoughtful and deliberate when making critical people or functional investments. What has changed is the way in which we arrive at our decisions. Perhaps one of the best expressions of this came from Maril Gagen MacDonald, founder and CEO of Gagen MacDonald, during a presentation on employee experience: “in reacting to the urgency of COVID, we were forced to watch the movie instead of reading the book.” This inaugural issue of narratives takes a closer look at what’s next in the world of talent communications, organizational design, and employer branding. We share our viewpoints on employer branding imperatives post COVID-19 and the important connection between belief-driven consumers and purpose-driven employees in creating a new human experience. We are also blessed to share insights from industry leaders Sally Breyley Parker and Lori Heffelfinger, Neil Harrison and the aforementioned Maril Gagen MacDonald. We hope that the conversation doesn’t end here. Please share with us your views on what’s next. ‘... change agents must engage in awareness of the external issues facing the organization as well as its various internal initiatives.’ References The board’s role during crisis and beyond, McKinsey & Co., 2021 Designing HR for Digitally-Enabled Agile Organizations, Christopher G. Worley, HR + People, 2020 Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 narratives —Christopher G. Worley, Pepperdine Graziadio Business School 5
  6. 6. EMPLOYER BRAND The purpose infused employer brand post COVID Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 narratives There’s no going back. Authenticity is the new paradigm for action.
  7. 7. It’s interesting to see when notions take on a new twist. Let’s look at empowerment. Long extolled as a central driver of employee engagement, post COVID-19 empowerment takes a twist. According to Edelman’s recently published 2021 Trust Barometer, 50 percent of your employees are more likely now than a year ago to voice objections to management. These workers are also more likely to engage in workplace protest. This study also found that 62 percent of employees feel that they have the power to force corporations to change. What this means is that in addition to empowering your employees through purpose, line of sight, and access to training and tools, you will need to include a greater emphasis on ways to foster, interpret, and appreciate employee voice. This illustration is just one example of how the relationship between employee and employer is changing and evolving post COVID. This example is also important to note because it showcases several important undercurrents that we, as employer branding leaders, need to see clearly. • Authenticity is no longer a buzzword, it’s real. The experiences of the past year have exposed everything. Actions taken during a crisis tells a story. Your company’s actions during the pandemic are the story now and it will be for a long-time to come. • A heightened and prolonged focus on workers’ safety, wellbeing, and care has created a new level of openness within your organization. Over this past year we’ve taken great care to listen to the worries of our employees. And we’ve followed up on their concerns. The employee voice has taken a prominent and deserved place in our workplace culture. • Management’s commitment to acting for the good of employees during the pandemic has dramatically changed the employment deal. Expectations are now at a new level. The implications of this are just starting to be understood. All of this translates to a belief that there is no going back. But we can look back to understand what needs to be done to move forward. This learning is needed to shape the employer branding promises and attributes that will take hold in the hearts and minds of current and future employees. We’ve identified three areas of critical review that links this past year’s impact to future branding messages. Employee Insecurity The greatest impact on the collective psyche of the workforce can be found in one encompassing area: security. From physical safety to emotional and financial wellbeing, your employees have had a lot to worry about. It’s no surprise that going forward, workers will need to understand how you will address their job- related insecurities. Among the questions to be considered: • How secure will my job be? Many surviving employees saw a reduction in their hours worked during COVID which dramatically increased their feeling of job insecurity. How will you reassure people that their job is secure? (Another area of insecurity, as observed by Edelman’s report, is that 56 percent of workers fear that the pandemic will accelerate the rate in which companies will replace human workers with AI and robots.) • How safe will I be from future illness as well as any reemergence of COVID from variants? Which safety protocols will remain, and which will be sidelined? What assurances are there that safety protocols can be implemented quickly and comprehensively in the event of a new crisis? • What measures are in place to address my emotional and other wellbeing needs? What has the organization learned from a year of intensely caring for the wellbeing of its employees and how will that learning be applied to benefit me in the future? • What programs are in place to address my overall financial wellbeing, beyond just a paycheck? Market leaders will engage employees – and attract high-performing talent – by focusing on financial wellness programs that are designed to give employees financial security. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 7
  8. 8. Culture and Employee Expectations: The New Practice of Culture Communications What’s next is a more prominent role in what we call culture communications. Culture communication is the space that overlaps and connects employer brand, employee value proposition, and employee communications. It’s where employee experience (EX) becomes the focal point and the framework for a more holistic talent communications platform. Post COVID, communicating EX will evolve to encompass all aspects of an employee’s employment lifecycle, including employment elements that in the past might have been seen as being mundane or uninteresting. For example, Mercer’s recent employee attitudes research shows that flexible working approaches are now central to EX with HR’s new focus on work flexibility (74%), managing virtual workers (70%) and onboarding at 68 percent. The state of virtual working – both in practice and how we communicate it – will be an enduring legacy of 2020. Among the questions to be considered: • What has changed in what your current and future employees expect from you as an employer? What are their drivers of attraction and engagement within your distinct organization and how have those changed over the past year? Once those changes have been identified, which will need to be institutionalized and which will play a more short- term role? • What are the gaps in your talent communication narratives from before COVID messaging, during COVID messaging, and post COVID messaging? Are they wide and totally unconnected? What amount of level-setting is needed? • How has your talent communities’ attitudes for corporate messaging changed? How has this impacted how and what you say? The pandemic has forced most to move at “agility- speed” forcing leadership communication to be as open, honest, clear and concise as never seen, or heard, before. One thing is for sure, employees will not tolerate a return to corporate speak. Employer Brand and Internal Communications Infrastructures As we continue to move from being in the state of “unprecedented” to a state of what’s next, it’s time to take stock of what has worked for us, what hasn’t, and what will emerge. We should resist falling into a ‘resting’ mode. Now is the time to assess and act. Among the questions to be considered: • What has been the impact of the pandemic on our digital channels? How has changed candidate behavior been affecting our current recruitment channels, those developed pre-COVID? Where should be prioritize our recruitment resources? On the employee side, what internal channels are working well and which not so well? How has the expansion of digital tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams reshaped how we take internal messages to our people? What’s the impact of other emerging platforms like Yammer, Slack and the like? • How has your storytelling processes changed? The pandemic has accelerated the need to connect, or reconnect, your people to each other and in doing so reaffirm the importance of connecting to your organization’s purpose. How will you leverage the stories found in adversity and use them to convey a compelling and inspiring future? • How will you reinsert ROI and performance measurement to your recruitment and internal communications? As we return to “normal”, how has measurement changed within your organization? What performance indicators are you keeping, and which are you discarding? Again, we can’t go back so how will we build new ways to prove our worth? narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 8
  9. 9. Perhaps the greatest learning we can share is the viewpoint that voice matters, and authenticity is essential. In this year’s annual State of the Sector Report, Gallagher’s 2021 data reveals that 54 percent of responders see featuring diverse voices and inclusivity as the biggest emerging trend for the next two to three years. Authenticity in messaging was the next largest imperative in this data set at 46 percent. This survey of corporate communicators also found that the topic of health and wellness as having the greatest increase at 69 percent and purpose and strategy as the second greatest increase (65%) for 2021. Leading employer branding and internal communications at this time is a great responsibility. We have the opportunity to reshape, inspire and reach new horizons. But it’s not going to be easy. If we’re not careful, we can be overwhelmed and distracted. The key will be to stay open minded, be graceful, and to take note of what’s driving our target-audiences’ behavior. References 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, Edelman, 2021 State of the Sector, 2021, Gallagher, 2021 Global Talent Trends, 2020-2021, Mercer, 2021 narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 9
  10. 10. Sally Breyley Parker and Lori Heffelfinger, implexiti OUTSIDE VIEW narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021
  11. 11. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 11 Unleashing the power of disruption Reimagine your organization as a living system Imagine what organizations would be like if we stopped designing them like clunky machines. What could organizations achieve, and what would work feel like, if we treated them like living beings, if we let them be fueled by the evolutionary power of life itself? Great companies do not just respond to crises; they seize them as an opportunity to become better—to cast off what is no longer working and turn to new ways of doing business. The pandemic is requiring organizations to rethink how they enable agile, sustainable, and innovative ways of working. It has presented a profound opportunity for organizations to set the stage for a new way of doing business, one that will make them more adaptable, resilient, and innovative. The tiny yet powerful SARS-COV-2 virus that impacted every country, industry, organization, community, family, and individual, demonstrated just how connected everything is and that we are all part of one large ‘living’ system. It could be said that the pandemic was a perfect storm where the “imbalanced and unstainable states of our ecological, social, and economic systems” (Fritkop Capra) collided with dramatic yet very illuminating consequences. As businesses reacted to daily shifting sands, they began to question the very nature of their organizations in ways that often broke down paradigms, highlighted structural inequities, and exposed unproductive mindsets. Most pivoted and improvised short-term, possibly innovative, adaptations to get through the crisis. As they experimented, many also began to rethink the nature of “work,” … seeking ways of doing business that are more adaptable, resilient, innovative, healthy, and sustainable. As organizations ready themselves for a post-disruption post-pandemic world, how will the lessons and illuminations of 2020 shape their mid and longer-range approaches to their business? What we now see and know, we cannot unsee or un-know. Moving forward, organizations must become adaptive and agile. To do so, many will need to reinvent themselves using a new, more holistic model of business… one that expands beyond the predominant metaphor that organizations are machines, systems built for predictability and control, to a more holistic metaphor that organizations are living, systems that naturally adapt and evolve to thrive. —Frederic Laloux, 2014. Reinventing Organizations
  12. 12. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 12 Why a new model/framework? While 2020 brought tremendous uncertainty, one thing was clear. Our organizations were not prepared. Were the events truly complete surprises, or were there signs all along that we were not reading or just ignoring? We believe the dominant paradigm of business as a machine has enabled a blind spot that fostered a sense of complacency. In their essay COVID-19’s Uncomfortable Revelations About Agile and Sustainable Organizations in a VUCA World, Christopher Worley and Claudy Jules illustrate this point beautifully. Prepandemic, organizations may not have used strategic scenario planning tools to prepare for a VUCA event. The economy was strong, the market rewarded efficiency, and we believed we could manage the risks of a tightly interdependent, just-in-time system. Rather than assume VUCA and fragility, too many organizations assumed munificence. They repurchased shares, drained cash, and failed to invest in people and capabilities. Managing across VUCA contexts involves accepting inherent contradictions and embracing paradoxes in organizational life. A company’s priorities are often out-of-sync with its economic demands. Unfortunately… a typical leader’s first impulse may be to suppress the paradox—to stifle one point of view and promote another as accepted wisdom. This response traps the company in a series of self- limiting assumptions, leaving it unable to learn and adapt. We propose that an overly mechanistic view of life and business at the heart of the unpreparedness of our organizations and leaders. It is also driving the imbalances and lack of sustainability we experience in our environmental, economic, and social systems. We believe that our prevailing mindset of business as a machine creates a blind spot. • Our drive for short-term gain blinds us to the need to invest in and for the future. • Our desire for predictability blinds us to the need to sense and respond. • Our need for control blinds us to the power of self-organization to foster engagement, spark experimentation, and fuel innovation. • Our over-focus on actions (like adapting) blinds us to the importance of becoming adaptable. We have a choice. 1. We can remain limited on a path to slow death within the constraints of a business as machine model/mindset, or 2. We can release to reinvent - transcend to transform - through a business as a living system model/mindset. Organizations face a choice between returning to a post-COVID world that is simply an enhanced version of yesterday or building one that is a sustainable version of tomorrow. The risk is more than that of falling behind—it’s the possibility of never catching up at all. —KPMG, 2020
  13. 13. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 13 How a Living Systems Mindset Shapes our Thinking Organizations are living systems – they are not machines. The machine metaphor worked well when we faced primarily technical challenges that were easy to identify, examined in isolation (often by an expert), and required change in just one of a few places, allowing quick implementation of solutions. But today, most of the challenges we face are adaptive. They are difficult to identify because the challenge is an inherent aspect/part of the larger whole. Rather than bringing in an expert, the people with the challenge need to address it, often requiring work across organizational boundaries. Solutions come from experiments and discoveries and take time to implement. To thrive today, businesses need to be good at handling both technical challenges that require benefit from a mechanistic approach and adaptive challenges that need a living different, more organic, or living systems approach. Organizational change can no longer be seen as an event to manage on a path to a new status quo. The fact is that we live in a state of dynamic non-equilibrium, a VUCA world. This means that organisms, ecosystems, and organizations alike are operating in a constant state of flux. Conditions (both internal and external) are never quite the same from day to day, and the changes we face aren’t moving us towards some ‘new state’ of stability, order, or predictability. We are and will remain in a constant state of dynamic non-equilibrium. When we treat our organization as a machine, we constrain and limit our intrinsic ability to adapt and evolve and our potential to thrive. However, when we apply living systems principles, strategies, and insights, we transform mindsets, reshape thinking, and unleash potential. We are positioned and equipped to take on adaptive challenges by tapping our inherent wisdom, energy, and will. Implications of a Living System Mindset for Your Organization As living systems, organizations are: • Resilient (energy is added back into system/feedback loops) • Self-organizing around a higher purpose • Organized to enable flow (information, ideas, resources, energy) When we lead from this mindset, we experience shifts in our thinking and practice. Resilience Our organizations can persist in the face of stress and recover quickly from disruption, often to a healthier state. Daily operations do not zap all available energy and resources. We have space for exploration, innovation, and change. We value renewal, so our organization’s immune system remains vibrant. Information gets where it needs to go without delay or distortion.
  14. 14. Self-organizing Shared identity and strategic direction create a clear boundary through which we continuously sense and respond, so our organization can adapt and thrive. Simple rules liberate and empower our people to imagine, develop, and initiate a wide diversity of organization solutions. We support needed change because we helped create the solutions. Relationships build networks for the feedback and learning that allow us to reshape decisions, change designs, and change direction as needed. Unleashes instead of controls Form follows function. Our structures such as teams, policies, spans of control, roles, and accountabilities foster the flow of work (ideas, resources, energy) that optimizes value. We align around outcomes. We don’t create hierarchical structures or add layers of bureaucracy to micromanage activities. We are agile by design – and change is a capability, not an event. We make small and continuous shifts, to a remain a good fit with our environment. Leaders and organizations have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of this time to release by letting go of outdated business models and mindsets that will sooner than later cause them to fall behind. Releasing creates the space in which to reinvent and innovate. The organizations that do both will continue. Some organizations have started on this path already, most of us have temporarily adapted and are mainly responding to the day-to-day grind and some organizations are on the brink of bankruptcy. We are in an increasingly complex and volatile world where disruptions are becoming bigger and more frequent. There is no going back to where we were: there is no new normal. There is only the opportunity to lean into the unknown by knowing who we are (identity) and creating the conditions in our organizations, with our leadership, and even into our communities that allow us to thrive. Yes, it is possible, but it is not a guarantee without a reset in our thinking and acting. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 14
  15. 15. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 References Unleashing the Power of Disruption: Reimagine Your Organization Blog by Sally Parker & Lori Heffelfinger, Heffelfinger Company and LinkedIn Unleashing the Power of Disruption: Adaptive Leaders Blog by Sally Parker & Lori Heffelfinger, Heffelfinger Company and LinkedIn SHRM Visionaries 2020 Conference, October 20 2020, Josh Bersin Who Do We Choose to Be: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity, Margaret Wheatley Work Anywhere Together, KMPG Big Business - The End is Near …, Nathan Furr, Forbes April 21 2011 Reimagining the Post Pandemic Economic Future, McKinsey, August 14, 2020 Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World, Dr. Kathleen E. Allen,2018 COVID-19’s Uncomfortable Revelations About Agile and Sustainable Organizations in a VUCA World., Worley, C; Jules, C; The Journal of Applied Behavioral, Science 2020 The COVID Pandemic — A Systemic Analysis, Fritkof Capra. Gaia Journal, May 22 2020. Sally Breyley Parker Sally Breyley Parker is co-founder of TimeZero Enterprises, an organization strategy, design, and development consultancy. Her work unleashes the life force of organizations - naturally innovative, productive, profitable, and healthy. Her passion is social process innovations that release the authentic power of the human spirit. Sally has led numerous transformation efforts for organizations in all sectors to improve performance, culture, and wellbeing. She speaks and teaches globally on Flourishing Living Systems and has presented at the Academy of Management, European Organization Design Forum (United Kingdom), Organization Design Forum, Creativity, and Innovation in Management (Barcelona, Spain), Global Appreciative Inquiry (Johannesburg, South Africa), and a series of Designing Organizations for Sustainability Conferences in the US, Sweden, and Italy. She has authored articles and chapters on living systems, sustainability, and polarity management. She holds master certifications in Polarity Thinking, Advanced Strategic Organization Design, Theory U, and Biomimicry. Sally has a BA Interior Design, a BS Cultural Anthropology, and an MA Cultural Anthropology (coursework) Kent State University. Lori Heffelfinger Leadership and Organization Development Leader for over two decades, Lori has been instrumental in helping individuals and organizations get to the heart of issues that impact productivity, relationships, and the bottom line. She has extensive experience working with Fortune 100 and Mid-Market companies in strategy implementation, organizational change, and leadership development. Prior to founding the Heffelfinger Company, a management consultancy, in 2004, Lori led Organizational Effectiveness at Raytheon’s $8B Electronic Systems business. She was a Director of Organization & Management Development at Honeywell. She has also held Human Resource leadership roles at Honeywell/Allied Signal, Ashland Chemical, and Monsanto Company. Lori holds an MS in Organization Development from Pepperdine University, a BS in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska, and certificates in Coaching and Organization & Systems Development, representing eight years of post-graduate study. Lori also teaches in the MBA and MSOD programs at Pepperdine University. 15 Releasing creates the space in which to reinvent and innovate. If this article strikes a chord with you and you are interested in learning more about the conditions which cause organizations to thrive, check out the list of references and reach out to us at implexiti.
  16. 16. OUTSIDE VIEW narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021
  17. 17. With the world, the economy and employment in turmoil, it’s never been so important to understand employee motivations Never can there have been a year with so much of such importance unfolding simultaneously than 2021. The transfer of power from Trump to Biden is a rich enough mix without the added flavour and seasoning of impeachments and potential law suits. The Brexit divorce of the UK and the EU, initially partially camouflaged by the predominance of Covid has been pushed, eyes blinking, into the spotlight with the growing acrimony of vaccine rollouts. Putin faces perhaps unique challenges in the form of Navalny, public outrage and the growing encroachment of publicity and democracy. And against this sufficiently dramatic backdrop, employers face the challenge of if and how to reshape the workplace, and potentially the workforce, in 2021. To pivot or not to pivot? To chase new audiences and new customers with new offerings? To bet the farm on AI, digitalisation and machine learning? To have everyone working from home? To bring everyone back to the office? Or a solution hovering between the two? Thorny enough problems. But in the, understandable, haste to answer them, what consideration are organisations giving the employee, the colleague, the candidate? Where are their heads, hearts and motivations? Neil Harrison NH237 Consulting Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 narratives 17
  18. 18. Anyone working, not working, furloughed, unemployed, under-employed or running a business will have gone through a giddying confusion of emotions over the last year. Will I ever work again? If I do, where do I want to work? And with what sort of employer? In what sort of sector? With what sorts of colleagues? Idle, academic, theoretical questions? Hardly. As vaccine rates increase and hospital admissions go in the opposite direction, there is a genuine sense of a corner being turned. Albeit quietly. Albeit hesitantly. Albeit nervously. And with that comes the determination of employers to start looking ahead, rather than nervously back over their shoulders. There’s a fascinating piece of research from global consultancy, Aon, which suggests that some 41% of all employers are seeking to evaluate their EVP, as a result of the Covid crisis. So, more than two fifths of all organisations are actively working to adapt the promise they make to employees and candidates alike about the sort of employment experience and journey they will encounter. Given the level of change, turmoil and upheaval the vast majority of us have been through in so many facets of our life, I’m only surprised it wasn’t a higher percentage. No matter. However, if organisations are going to land effective new employee value propositions, it needs to be with a clear line of sight of employee and candidate motivations and drivers. People have lived lives over the last year that bore little resemblance to their previous existence. Whether those lives have been characterised by home schooling, home baking, isolation, loneliness, chaos, noise or silence, then people emerging from lockdown back, eventually, into employment will want different things. And that includes their relationship with employment. We might very well assume that people are looking for greater levels of safety, stability and security. With death toll statistics proving stubbornly high, fear of the virus, of transmission, even, simply, of other people, has been rife. Any return to the workplace has to come accompanied by the confident reassurance of an employer that has worked hard to make the office and workplace as Covid safe as possible. The other side of that coin, that assumption, however, is progression. Many people have seen their careers put on hold as a result of the virus and lockdowns. With so much uncertainty, with pay freezes and cuts, furloughs and redundancies, people have either taken jobs they perhaps wouldn’t have in a strong economy or seen a lack of career movement with their current employer. There is likely to be a real sense of promotional impatience. And whilst employees are likely to have been understanding about such a situation during the worst of the pandemic, as things start to improve, that understanding might start to wane. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 18
  19. 19. So, which is it to be? Stability or movement? Safety or progression? And our grasp of shifting, potentially contradictory, motivations doesn’t stop there. How do we feel about community? For many, this has been one of the defining features of the last year – the absence of community. Those communities we were part of through, for example, schools, sports, the arts, culture, even our families, have either withered away or become more small screen than big picture. And nowhere is this more tangible than the workplace. We go there to share, to collaborate, to argue, to agree, to belong. Except we can’t any more. Conversely, rather than community, do we want to avoid commuting, avoid cramped, over-populated offices. Are we entirely happy with our own company, delighted not to be squeezing onto grubby, germy tubes, trains and buses? Do we feel more productive and flexible working to our own schedules? Is an arms-length community such as Zoom or Teams entirely sufficient? And is a return to normal what people are looking for? Maybe, maybe not. We clearly want an end to what Covid has wrought – financial, familial and emotional pain. Does that mean we want to go back to a working existence exactly as it was pre-virus? It’s easy to nod a swift yes, before we think that the last ten months have been a major re- set. We’ve seen significant and sustainable initiatives such as BLM, #BeKind and #MeToo. We’ve seen heroes and heroines emerge (villains too, I know). We’ve been enchanted by, now sadly deceased, 100 year old pensioners raising vast sums for the NHS and we’ve clapped nurses, doctors and care workers. We don’t want to go back to normal. And the normal we remember isn’t going to cut it either. We’ve moved on. When we return, our expectations of employers will have shifted higher. We’ll want more consideration, a kinder workplace and workforce, more in the way of empathy and flexibility. We’ll want a better idea of what’s going on – 86% of the same Aon survey suggested that employers were putting a greater priority on employee communications. We’ll want better training, leadership, diversity and inclusion. I’m going to avoid the term new normal but people certainly don’t want much to do with the old normal either. And as we return, what do employees want in terms of remuneration? And conversations around this sort of subject will vary significantly from industry sector to sector. Covid and its aftermath have definitely created the haves and the have nots. Just like career progression, salary progression will not have moved on at the pace many will have liked. And with unemployment numbers likely to continue with their upward trajectory for some time to come, there may be little labour market pressure to push up remuneration levels. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 19
  20. 20. But is that, again, what employees and candidates are looking for? Or, rather than money, are people looking to their employers for more in terms of well-being, mental health support and nutritional input. Over remuneration, are your employees looking for internal support groups – where colleagues who have suffered Covid bereavements, or who are carers, those who are home schooling or those people who want to up their exercise quota can engage and share thoughts, ideas and feelings. In re-shaping a new workforce and workplace landscape, employers have to do more than simply guess and assume what it is that people, with a year they – along with the rest of the planet – will never forget, never entirely put behind them, never truly rid themselves of, actually want from work. As we seek to rebuild employment communities, there is a danger of rushing to construct a workplace that relates to a past that no one wants to revisit, or a future in which your people feel they have no place. Whilst it is hugely warming that employers are seeking to enhance their employee communication initiatives, such communications need to be as bottom up as they are top down. More important, they need to be born out of an empathetic and topical insight into the hearts, minds and motivations of your people today and the candidates who will become your people tomorrow. Neil Harrison I’ve been working in the field of employer branding and talent intelligence for more than two decades. I work with both agencies and clients to better understand and articulate their people proposition - why should great talent choose them for their next career destination? In all this time, I can’t remember an era with more change, contrast and contradiction. With employment landscapes shifting all the time, it’s vital organisations have a clear, topical understanding of the hearts and minds of their people. Contact Email neilharrison237@gmail Website and Blog employerbrandingadvantage narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 We don’t want to go back to normal. And the normal we remember isn’t going to cut it either. We’ve moved on. References UK Benefits & Trends Survey 2021, Aon, 2021 20
  21. 21. EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 human
  22. 22. Employee experience They called HR first. What’s next? The human experience. They called HR first. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the first calls didn’t go to legal. Or to finance. The first calls went to HR. This reflection recently offered by global executive coach Jim Smith got us thinking. What has been, and will be, the impact of such a dramatic focus on our people? One result of the intense focus on workers is the heightened awareness, discussion and rethinking of the employee experience. And rightfully so. When we think back to the immediacy of the crisis, so much had to happen in so little time. Workforce reductions or realignment was planned, decided, and executed within weeks. Work from home (WFH) approaches, policies, and underlying infrastructures emerged instantly. Virtual collaboration went from being the exception to being the rule. Change management? No longer regulated to single initiatives, change management expertise rose to the top of critical organizational skills. In short, all of the pre-COVID discussions about people being your most important assets dissipated from good talking points to emerge like the Phoenix: being people- centric became real. All of this forced us to think about our employee experience. So, what’s next for employee experience? We see the future of employee experience evolving to its next natural state, the human experience. Programmatic Elements of The New Employee Experience As the employee experience continues to evolve through COVID, we predict that we will see the expansion of ‘human-centered’ program elements, including increased emphasis on people support programs like: • Proactive mental health and employee wellbeing support and services, • Increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion programs, • Employee needs-based workflow and working patterns, • Continued emphasis on enterprise-wide safety measures, and • Heightened focus on evidence-based employee voice and culture communications created from progressive marketing and advertising practices. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 22
  23. 23. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 These new or expanded employee programs reflect an evolution in the employee experience. Each, on its own merit, acknowledges an organization’s commitment to care for its people. These elements are quickly becoming institutionalized as pillars of the employee experience that current and future workers will want. But can we go even deeper? Purpose + Belief = Human Experience The next evolutionary step for the employee experience is the infusion of emotion. But not just the emotions of your employees, the future of the employee experience includes connecting the emotions of your customers with those held by your employees. Hey Belief-Driven Consumer: Meet Our Purpose-Driven Employee Many people are yearning to be a part of something bigger. These people include both your employees and your customers. As seen in last year’s Purpose Report published by the brand firm purpose_brand, 82 percent of people surveyed believe that brands and corporations are responsible for doing “more good” in the world than just making a profit. This report also found that: • 80 percent feel social consciousness can be a genuine part of a company’s brand with no ulterior motive. • 77 percent prefer to purchase from socially conscious companies rather than companies that are not socially conscious. • 80 percent feel brand purpose, or marketing and investing in causes people care about is now a permanent part of American culture. The Purpose Report also noted that social consciousness is intensely personal. When pressed about why respondents are passionate about an issue, they affirmed views of personal responsibility (I think that it’s my moral responsibility), personal belief (Because of my personal beliefs and the cause speaks to my sense of justice) and a reflection that the issue has always been important in their lives. These belief-driven consumers aren’t a small group. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer found that 64 percent of your customers are belief-driven consumers. And they expect brands to act. These consumers will choose, switch, avoid, and boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. Belief-driven consumers want to make a difference in the world. They believe that brands can be a powerful force for change. They expect brands to represent their beliefs and act to solve societal problems. And they believe their wallet is their vote. At the same time that we are seeing a rise in belief-driven consumers, employees are yearning for more too. Many studies have found that employees are searching for greater meaning in their work and prefer to work for companies with strong purposes. One such study, BetterUp’s Meaning and Purpose at Work Report, found that nine out 10 workers are willing to work for less to do more meaningful work. Moreover, a survey of participants at the Conference for Women, 80 percent said that they would prefer a boss who helps find meaning in work over a 20 percent pay increase. Connecting employees to purpose and meaning in work pays off. Employees thrive in companies that clearly define and communicate how they create purposeful value in the world. Sixty-three percent of workers in these organizations are motivated to make a difference over 31 percent, as noted in Harvard Business Review’s 2020 article Why Are We Here?. Sixty-five percent of these workers are passionate about their work, versus 32 percent, and more than 90 percent of purpose- driven companies deliver growth and profits at or above industry standards. Finally, BetterUp’s research found that highly meaningful work will generate an additional $9,078 per worker, per year. 23
  24. 24. All good stories must have a villain. Here’s the villain of our purpose and employee story: employees aren’t connected to their company’s purpose or the purpose of their own work. As found in the aforementioned Harvard Business Review article, • Only 28 percent feel fully connected to their company’s purpose, • Only 39 percent see the value they create, • A mere 22 percent think that their jobs leverage their strengths, and • Only 34 percent think that they strongly contribute to their company’s success. Creating the Human Experience People are striving for greater meaning, in both their work and in the buying choices they make. They want to make a difference in their communities and in the world. This desire extends itself to include being associated with brands that take on the task of making the world better. Purpose-driven organizations, and smart talent communicators, will see this phenomenon and turn it to their advantage. They will work to connect their belief-driven consumers and followers to their purpose-driven employees. How? Evidence-Based Branding As new as this concept may seem, the answer to connecting belief-driven consumers and purpose-driven employees is found in traditional branding and marketing measurement practices. It starts with understanding your organization’s true purpose, and in turn arriving at an understanding of why consumers connect with you. The next step is to understand how connected your purpose is to your employees. And then we mix. Analyze the relationship between these two measurements with a keen eye on any gaps. Once gaps are identified, you can create internal communications and change management actions to improve your employees’ connection to your purpose. At the same time, use branding platforms – consumer and employer brand – to increase the intensity of your customers’ brand loyalty to your company. Bottom Line We often say that authenticity is the new paradigm of employer brand. This is a reflection that we now live in a consumer-driven communications world, another phrase that we imagined several years ago. What we mean is that the ever-changing digital communications world blurs the branding lines. Consumer brands need to add talent attraction and engagement attributes in its branding architecture while employer brands need to go well beyond benefit offerings to answer the ultimate question: why? The future, what’s next vision is a seamless branding world. It’s a world where belief meets purpose. And it’s a world where we make a difference. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 References Purpose Report 2020, purpose_brand, 2020 Meaning and Purpose at Work, BetterUp, 2018 Edelman Trust Report, 2020, Eldeman, 2020 Why Are We Here?, Harvard Business Review, 2020 24
  25. 25. ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS Starting your journey to connecting belief-driven consumers and purpose-driven employees? Here are a few places to start. Insights Belief-Driven Consumers and Purpose- Driven Employees Matrix A D B C A: Brand Anxiety • Consumers love the brand but are frustrated with consumer experience • Will quickly move on to another brand • Employees feel overwhelmed by the lack of fulfillment in their work • Employees’ frustrations hurt both consumer and employee experiences • Low engagement, high turnover B: Apathy Rules • Both customer and employee experiences are transactional in nature • Shared experience, however, it’s shared apathy for the company C: Stressed-Out • Employees’ passion for the company are unfulfilled; doubt creeps-in • Hard to sustain great consumer experiences which impacts employee morale • Risk of “losing the faith” for employees; distinctions between purpose of work and meaningful work are strained D: Emotionally Connected • Customer and employee experiences are aligned, and each share a deeper relationship with the other • Customers become active brand advocates and return shoppers • Employees find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment which translates in to increased company performance BRANDING ATTRIBUTES Consumer’s Connection to Organizational Purpose • I believe this company’s services or products make the world better. • I’m proud to support this company because of its societal action. • I’m more than a buyer, I’m a brand advocate for this company. • This company represents my values and beliefs. • I feel good about buying this company’s products and services. • This company is making a difference in the world. Employees’ Connection to Organizational Purpose • I understand my company’s purpose. • My company’s purpose align to my personal beliefs. • The actions of my company’s leadership support the company’s purpose. • The actions of my supervisor support the company’s purpose. • I am proud to tell my family and friends about my company’s purpose. • I am proud of my company’s purpose. • My work has meaning. • I am personally fulfilled by the work that I do. • I am appreciated for the work that I do at my company. • I have the tools and resources that I need to do my work. • I am proud of the work that I do at my company. Questions to Ask Determine branding attributes by probing customers and employees on statements like these. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021
  26. 26. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 OUTSIDE VIEW
  27. 27. five impressions of what’s next from M a r i l G a g e n M a c D o n a l d 1 When we think of 2020, we will always remember a year of disruption. And while yes, the specific events we encountered were largely unforeseen, the more I reflect on the year, the more I believe it fanned the flames of changes that were already well underway. At the end of 2019, several members of my team and I spent a considerable amount of time hypothesizing about the forces that we felt would most prominently shape employee-employer relationships over the decade to come. We published those here. Revisiting them a year – and what now feels like a lifetime – later, I expected they’d seem less relevant. I was wrong. In nearly every manner, what we experienced in 2020 served to accelerate these trends, not thwart them. So, for my five impressions, I want to revisit these trends in the context of what we know a year later. Remote Work Before most of us had ever uttered the words “social distancing”, remote work was already poised to reshape many companies in the years to come. We’ve ended up in the place we were always headed: our journey was simply traveled at warp speed. It’s clear from surveys that the vast majority of “knowledge workers” have no desire for a full time return to the office. Companies that force the issue are going to have real retention crises on their hands. So, my impression is: deliberate, intentional, and multi-faceted culture change efforts are going to skyrocket in importance. We’ll need to use new tools and levers to create cultures that allow our teams to accomplish our strategies while rarely entering the same room. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 (Denotes Hyper-linked Text) 27
  28. 28. 2 Automation For years, we’ve been bracing for a wave of AI-empowered machines to automate many work activities currently performed by humans, resulting in significant job displacement. That looming reality’s timeline has been tugged forward by COVID-19. From toll booth operators to hotel maids, many jobs that were lost to the pandemic will come back in robotic form. While companies are compelled to harness the power of new technologies, how they handle this transition, these displacements, and this period of underemployment in concentrated job sectors will be a real measure of their character. For instance, Accenture (a consultancy that advises many companies on the adoption of new technologies), has introduced a program called People + Work Connect that links companies preparing layoffs with others that are actively hiring. So, my impression is: the companies that manage to execute digital transformations while leading with humanity will become reputational and performance standouts in the decade to come. 3 The Loneliness Epidemic Even before we were all sent home from the office, loneliness was gripping society. Over decades, as our home entertainment options have exploded, we’ve become more isolated from any sense of broader community. Traditionally, work has played a powerful role in helping us form meaningful human connections. In fact, research has found that people who say they have close work friends were 96% more likely to describe themselves as “extremely satisfied with life”. So, my impression is: even if we’ve figured out the process, systems, and technology side of working from home, if we don’t find ways to generate human-to-human bonds, we’re staring down the eventual arrival of a general malaise. 4 The Gig Economy Over the last decade, we’ve seen explosive growth among companies like Uber, DoorDash, and Instacart that provide technology to connect consumers with independent contractors. With the wave of jobs lost to the pandemic, we’re poised to see even more individuals freelancing in this way. However, we’re still in very murky territory as to what companies and these contractors owe each other in these arrangements. This murkiness is further complicated by cumbersome and fragmented legal frameworks that vary state-by-state. So, my impression is: leaders at companies that rely heavily on freelance labor need to actively convene the dialogue that defines these relationships in a “win-win” way. Otherwise, they’ll be defined by others. Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 narratives 28
  29. 29. 5 Employees Seeking Purpose and Fulfillment We’ve seen two colliding forces recently. First, with plummeting trust in government, religion and other traditional institutions, expectations are rising for corporations to fill the leadership gap in society. As consumers, we want companies to help solve society’s biggest challenges. As employees, we want to be part of the companies that do. Second, people increasingly value non-remunerative benefits provided by their employers. These drivers of fulfillment include autonomy, flexibility, creative challenge, and work-life balance. So, my impression is: all companies should be revisiting their employee value propositions for a post-pandemic world. What you offered before may be losing relevance, and you don’t want to learn that the hard way. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 Maril Gagen MacDonald Founder and CEO, Gagen MacDonald Maril is a nationally recognized leader in communication, strategy execution and transformation. She’s pioneered a discipline that collaborates with corporate leaders to optimize business performance by engaging and mobilizing their workforce behind a company’s strategic goals, its culture and its brand. She’s also founder of Let Go & Lead, an online community dedicated to new philosophies and strategies for leadership. Maril is a recipient of Arthur W. Page Society’s Distinguished Service Award and has been recognized by PR Week as one of the top 25 leaders in the industry, and one of “The 50 Most Powerful Women in PR.” She was also recognized as a “PR All-Star” by Inside PR. She is frequently invited to speak at major conferences and universities. Contact Website and Blog gagenmacdonald 29
  30. 30. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021
  31. 31. narratives Volume one Issue one • Q1 2021 n. n.robertjohnson Unitingpeoplethroughpurpose. Our mission is to unite people through purpose as purpose-driven employees do great things. They work harder, deliver more, and stay longer. Uniting people through purpose identifies and communicates an organization’s authentic employment story. We are a boutique communications consulting practice grounded in the core beliefs that people are united by purpose, that HR needs to infuse advertising and marketing practices to attract and engage talent, and that today’s digital world demands creative storytelling to stand out. Are you ready to unite your people through purpose? employer brand • culture communications • employee voice Does your purpose unite?
  32. 32. Published quarterly, narratives, stories from story-tellers, is a collection of ideas, insights and impressions from the worlds of talent communications, employee engagement, and organizational design. The opinions and views expressed in this publications are those of the authors. Do you have an employer branding, talent communication or organizational design story to share? Please contact N. Robert Johnson, Managing Principal, N. Robert Johnson LLC at nrjohnson@nrobertjohnsonllc.com. n. www.nrobertjohnsonllc.com n.robertjohnson Unitingpeoplethroughpurpose. employer brand • culture communications • employee voice narratives The Horizon Issue. 2021 All rights reserved.

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