The New Normal is … autonomous and shaped by digital leaders

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Organizations recognize that they need to be resilient to the unexpected in order to survive. They must be able to respond quickly to changes triggered by technological, societal, environmental, and human transformation. A culture of autonomous working and digital leadership is part of this new normal.

In this blog, part of ‘The new normal’ series from Capgemini Invent, we look at how organizations are Reinventing Work as they respond to the immediate challenge of COVID-19. They are also seeking to ensure their longer-term survival by addressing new challenges, such as the need for a hybrid operating model (both physical and digital).

Accelerating the shift to remote working

The first half of 2020 taught us the huge value of being able to adapt quickly and work remotely. For many organizations the pandemic caused an abrupt acceleration and switch to fully remote working models. This reinvention of where and how we work has required strong leadership as organizations now reflect on lessons learned, rethink autonomous working models to respond to changed employee and business requirements, and encourage employees to be active partners in shaping the future.  This latter point is important. Employee engagement is a key success factor in transforming your corporate culture. A study by Gallup reveals that when it comes to transformation, engaged employees increase productivity by 21%.

Why autonomous working and digital leadership are crucial

Having experienced the benefits of remote working, employees and employers alike are returning to the new normal with changed expectations regarding their working models and culture. While the shift to remote working prompted by the pandemic was the first step towards a new way of working for many organizations, they have quickly seen its potential for generating savings, employee satisfaction and increased productivity.

This is evidenced by some interesting research findings:

  • US businesses alone could save over $700 billion annually if 79% employees of all employees with jobs that allow remote working worked from home just half of the time, according to According to Global Workplace Analytics.
  • For large companies with 1,000 or more employees, the savings quickly add up. For example, AT&T saved $30 million a year in real estate by offering a telework program.
  • In a survey of 1,100 UK employees, 95% claimed to be benefiting from the remote working situation and enjoy the flexibility and time or financial savings regarding transport, food and childcare. Over 50% of the survey respondents hope to continue with a more flexible working model.
  • 74% of CEOs surveyed plan to move at least 5% of their workforce to permanent remote positions, according to a Gartner CFO Survey. Global tech company Facebook has even announced that half its workforce could be remote over the next 5- 10 years.

Three aspects of cultural transformation on which to build success

So, how do business and IT leaders facilitate what looks to be a permanent shift towards more autonomous hybrid working models that include flexible office and remote work? At Capgemini Invent, we believe there are three key areas that need to be addressed: motivation & engagement, cohesion & alignment, mental wellbeing & social connection.

Motivation & Engagement

Remote and hybrid work models are based on performance metrics that focus on results rather than location and activity. But for Reinventing Work transformation to succeed, leaders need to:

  • Learn to trust their employees and hand over responsibility to them, regardless of where people choose to work from.
  • Enable autonomy and freedom in an environment where team members are empowered to develop their own ideas and be innovative (see our blog on innovation & entrepreneurship).
  • Stop thinking of themselves as supervisors, (micro)managing individual tasks and activities, and become team facilitators instead.

Cohesion & Alignment
Remote/hybrid teams require transparent leaders able to communicate a clear business and team vision. These leaders must articulate a strategy and purpose to connect and engage their teams. Here are our recommendations for ensuring cohesion and alignment:

  • Foster interaction, collaboration and knowledge sharing within the team – this will minimize the risk of information getting siloed in offices or within the remote workforce.
  • In remote/hybrid settings the frequency of communication and contact points should be intensified to offset the disappearance of quick informal feedback loops that normally take place in an office environment.
  • Daily short stand up calls with the whole team are a good opportunity for everyone to provide status updates on workload, progress and tasks can be aligned – but don’t overcommunicate and micromanage the team through too many check-in calls.
  • Digital leaders should equip their teams with the best available digital collaboration tools, while also serving as role models when it comes to their use and experimentation.

Mental Wellbeing & Social Connection

A UK survey revealed that employees miss the social interaction when solely working remotely. That’s why team identity, a sense of belonging and trust are key for high performing teams.

  • Team leaders need empathy and the ability to listen so that they’re aware of each team member’s personal situation, can balance workload, identify training needs and mitigate conflicts if necessary.
  • Regular team pulse checks and 1:1 sessions should have time built in to talk about non-work and personal topics.
  • Celebrate success virtually and promote the importance of social and fun interactions – consider including gamification elements in meetings.
  • Encourage teams to organize frequent virtual socials and collective activities, like virtual coffees, Kahoot quizzes or walking challenges.
  • Implement set rotation models of in-the-office days within your hybrid team, with a similar day for the whole team on a frequent basis, giving everyone an opportunity to physically get together. Remote workers that come in to work at least once per week are the happiest and show more engagement then fully remote workers

Upskilling your leadership for autonomous teams

To enable leaders to successfully manage their teams in remote, physical or hybrid settings, organizations need mature digital leaders. At Capgemini Invent, we have helped many organizations build digital leadership skills and virtual competencies. At Siemens for example, we helped its Supply Chain Management organization develop a Learning Journey for Digital Leaders, and a #Digital Leaders training product is now being implemented throughout the Siemens Group.

Organizations with autonomous working conditions equip their employees with digital tools and give them the freedom to work independently – anytime and anywhere.  Successfully managing an autonomous and remote workforce will unleash productivity gains, cost savings and higher employee satisfaction on the journey to Reinventing Work.

Find out more

To gain an initial understanding of how future-ready your working model and leadership team are, try our free Digital Culture Assessment teaser version here.

Learn more about how Capgemini Invent is Reinventing Work here.


Co-author

Helen Beringer

Consultant

Capgemini Invent

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