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The evolution of the workforce – Changing the way that success, productivity and satisfaction are measured

Danny Hicks, Head of Business Influencer Programmes, considers the evolution of the workplace culture, and the implications for recruitment, and talent development

In recent episodes of the Blue Door Podcast, we have talked about People, Places and Technology – three newly published O2 whitepapers that together consider the Digital Workplace of the future.

This week we focus on a discussion that ties the three topics together – workplace culture. Culture reinforces, and many ways may even overwrite the intent in policies, and it’s what gives a workplace and workforce its essence and character. It’s typically a mixture of encouraging people to be creative, rewarding trying new things, learning and evolving, numbers focussed, or encouraging of a competitive nature. But like anything, too much of one thing can be a bad thing, so finding a balance is critical.


Listen to the Blue Door Podcast, Episode 19: ‘Future of work: Technology, supporting the employee experience’

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At a time when public and private sector organisations are wondering how to redefine the workforce, we look at culture in some more depth. We brought together a panel for our Blue Door event in October 2020 that included:

  • Janine Chamberlin, Director, Enterprise Sales Talent Solutions at LinkedIn
  • Jon Conn, technology Director at RFU
  • Paul Jacquin, Partner, Board Member and Advisor, Taptrove Ventures and Randstad Innovation
  • Catherine Leaver, Human Resources Director at O2

You can listen to the whole discussion in Episode 20 of the Blue Door Podcast. You can stream, download or subscribe to the podcast here.

The panel considered ways that businesses can ensure they’re ready and agile to respond to the changing working environment, new recruitment and retention strategies, the role of the office, as well as the technology that will help to establish the most effective employee experience in a virtual world.

One area that provoked considerable debate focused on how businesses can maintain their level of identity and workplace culture whilst working in a virtual environment.

Janine Chamberlin is Director of Enterprise Sales Talent Solutions at LinkedIn. Like so many businesses during 2020, LinkedIn have had to promote team cohesion and workplace culture through online activities like online cooking, team training, and exercise classes. However, these can only take you so far:

“There are other ways that you can help give people a little bit of a lift and show them what the company is made of, if you will. So for us, it’s about the support we offer our employees, and it’s about compassion. So we might give an additional day off to people to do something specific, whether it’s focusing on their well being, or to go and work for a charity, or something that resembles the culture that the company wants to embody. And I think you can definitely keep that alive in a virtual way.”

The challenge for the future is embedding company culture within a dynamic workforce, when one group of employees work in an office environment, whilst another works virtually or remotely. It’s going to be a real challenge for organisations to devise strategies that prevent a sense of divide between the two, and that promote the inclusiveness that we had before.

Catherine Leaver, Human Resources Director at O2, agreed that organisational culture will need to adapt and evolve with new working practices, but has witnessed new employees identify and take on the culture at O2, despite the need to work and collaborate virtually:

“Two members of my direct team joined us just before the first lockdown. They had only been in the office for a couple of weeks before working from home for several months. I was heartened by an unprompted comment from one of them that, despite meeting and collaborating virtually, they felt that the culture of the organisation really came through – they felt they understood the kind of quirky side of things, how to get things done, how decisions get made, and so on. So I think culture can be nurtured within a virtual environment.”

Of course the virtual environment makes the accidental conversations, the ones that take place in the coffee queue, or at the water cooler, much more difficult – and many regard these accidental and spontaneous connections as opportunities for inspiration and creativity. However, increasingly organisations are making efforts to bring these online as well.

“We’ve trialled something we called a mystery chat, where we set up random, online chats between people from different parts of the organisation. It gave people the chance to get to know others, and try to create some of that informality that you would get in the past. I am sure we are going to see ever more creative ways of using the technology platforms to overcome some of the disadvantages of permanent virtual working”

How have you found embedding workplace culture over recent months? What has worked effectively for you? Remember, you can listen to more of the panel discussion in Episode 20 of the Blue Door Podcast. You can stream, download or subscribe to the podcast here.


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