Enabling Culture Alignment In A Virtual Enterprise
September 3, 2020
News | 3 Sep 2020
Sandeep is the CEO and Managing Director of Zensar Technologies. Transformative thought leader and prolific poet.
For better or worse, Covid-19 has forced the world into a new way of working. This year, countless companies transitioned to remote work almost overnight and have remained in this environment for months — with no end in sight. In fact, tech giants like Facebook and Google have recently announced extended remote work until at least summer 2021, with many other companies following suit. With such a distant and still uncertain end date in mind, most companies no longer view remote work as temporary.
The new reality we find ourselves in has far-reaching implications — many of which are more than likely here to stay. It has made us realize it may not be advisable or even possible for businesses to return to old ways of working. It also means this current moment in time may act as an inflection point, rewarding those who adapt and are able to successfully integrate the new virtual workplace into their business model.
Talent Pool Expansion
One domain in which there are newfound competitive advantages is in hiring and retaining talent. There is greater flexibility now than ever before — for employees but also for companies. No longer tethered by geographical location, they’re now able to hire talent from anywhere. One implication of this reality is that organizations don’t have to rely on sourcing, hiring and retaining expensive talent from technology hub cities, such as San Francisco, Seattle or Bengaluru. Being able to choose from an untapped, diverse talent pool provides cost savings, as well as an infusion of new perspectives.
Cultural Implications Of A Virtual Workplace
But the cost savings of remote work, while substantial, don’t come without significant implications for organizational culture. Indefinite virtual work carries a significant number of downsides, including the well-documented effects of Zoom fatigue and increased screen usage. It is also exceedingly difficult to maintain a strong organizational culture when colleagues never meet in person. This effect is amplified for new hires, as many of them will never meet their managers or even step foot in a physical office. These consequences raise several important questions for companies to answer. On a micro scale, how do you celebrate birthdays, team milestones and simple yet important coffee meetings? On a macro scale, how do you maintain your cultural identity and align talent to your corporate vision?
At my company, we have been laser-focused on finding answers to these difficult questions by exploring ways to find success in the virtual workplace without diluting or abandoning key aspects of the organizational culture. In many ways, we view the transition to remote work as an opportunity to fundamentally rethink, well, everything —- from hiring practices to expectations set for associates/employees, continuous engagement and learning and all the minutiae in between.
Rethinking Hiring Criteria
The traditional approach to hiring talent is to find those who have the right skills to perform the job; however, primary skills don’t predict success as much as behavioral competencies do in our current fully-remote working environment. While the capabilities required for succeeding in a virtual enterprise can be refined through the course of employment, it’s more important to find employees who can assimilate well into your organization’s culture.
If a company’s culture is the key driver for its success, where do you start?
Creating Cultural Alignment
The first step is to mandate a company-wide focus on cultural alignment to key organizational values. This focus should permeate everything from hiring the right talent and making the onboarding process more holistic to living and nurturing the key culture tenets throughout the journey. Doing so helps you hire and retain the right talent — professionals who are culturally aligned and rightly skilled — which in turn enables you to best support your customers.
In order to assess whether or not your existing (or future) talent is culturally aligned, I recommend a model that we leverage that provides three key tenets to consider on every organizational level: illumination, inspiration and intellect.
- Illumination: The courage and resilience to continue to experiment with new ideas, as well as the emotional intelligence and empathy to empower and lead.
- Inspiration: Whether or not employees align at the level of purpose and values. When they do, it leads to harmony and a drive to go beyond what is expected.
- Intellect: Whether or not one has the right skills, capabilities and agility to learn. We also developed a four-phased approach to hiring and onboarding that ensures talent can seamlessly integrate within your existing organizational culture. This approach includes:
- Sighting: Having a clear image in mind of who you are looking for, both in terms of skills and culture fit.
- Hiring: Using a wide array of data-driven assessments to evaluate candidates, as well as providing candidates with a candid and honest perspective on working at your company so they feel that they are making an informed decision.
- Onboarding: Aligning employees to organizational values through talking to company leaders — which hopefully has the effect of giving employees a 360-degree view of the organization.
- Nurturing: Going beyond work in creating powerful bonds with employees’ families and leveraging employees’ intellectual and creative energies to further their professional development.
These models are disruptive to industry status quos, as they introduce a proactive approach to remote work. Rather than waiting to see how everyone else adapts, this approach predicts and plans for the rapid shift toward remote work. You can stay ahead of the curve by integrating key tenets of successful virtual workplaces into your core organizational values and culture — which can then be seamlessly embodied throughout the hiring and onboarding process to ensure cultural alignment among new talent.