I recently appeared on CareerCast, a University of Chicago Booth School of Business podcast. Host Anita Brick, Director, Career Advancement Programs, and I talked about an important topic: how to build community in a flexible, dynamic organization.
We talked about the five steps an organization can follow, as a community, to answer the foundational question “what do we need to do, and how, when and where do we do it best?” together:
Step 1: Start with full C-suite alignment around the organizational why and their need to champion flexibility because the CHRO can only do so much. Real flexibility happens in the business, in the way we work every day.
Step 2: Lead with “what,” not “where.” Bring teams together to answer “what do we need to do?” The answer will vary based on the team’s unique work realities, but the process of coming up with the answer together is a powerful community-building exercise that aligns understanding, attitudes, interests, and goals.
Important note–defining the what is not just a list of job tasks. It’s also about elevated, higher-order considerations like strategic priorities, purpose and the culture you want to build.
Step 3: THEN, answer “where, when and how do we do our work best?” Where and when are important but also focus on “how” the work gets done: How do our core work processes (e.g. approvals, meeting planning, training, onboarding, etc.) need to adapt? How do we use technology?
Step 4: Train and introduce managers, teams and individual employees to the skills they need to play their respective, and collective, roles in flexible work success.
Step 5: Continue to experiment with and recalibrate the flexible way your team operates as realities change…which they will!
Sadly, I see very few organizations go through all five steps. Most are stuck at the where with a narrow focus on hybrid work, which is just one aspect of flexibility and leaves out about 45% to 60% of the workforce whose jobs require them to be on-site. Everyone must be part of the flexibility conversation for it to work and for the sense of community to happen.
We also talked about:
- Leading teams – leading communities in flexible organizations will require managers to be more thoughtful and intentional about how they communicate and develop employees regardless of where they’re working and whether they’re in person, or not.
- Managers need to be clear about how they measure performance, how they set priorities and make sure they’re comfortable communicating and collaborating across technology platforms. These are skills that need practice.
- A few client examples of how managers connect with their teams regardless of location and how clients intentionally create community-building experiences when bringing employees together onsite, and
- Considerations to ponder before leaving your current job to seek better flexibility elsewhere. And, if you decide to do so, questions to ask to gauge a prospective employer’s flexibility commitment, and maturity.
And so much more!
What are some of the ways you are building community in your organization across workplaces, spaces and time? I’d love to hear what you are doing and seeing!
Listen to the full episode.