The next normal: connecting a nomadic workforce to strategic goals
This article originally appeared on WorldatWork.org.
Rather than asking how work has changed in 2020, it might be worth asking how it hasn’t changed.
Half of all Americans are now working from home, and at least half of those employees are expected to continue working remotely on a permanent basis. Planning horizons are shifting to near real-time. Hierarchies are flattening. Zoom is the new conference room, and Slack is the new water cooler. Workers may become less concentrated in big cities. In short, work went “nomadic” almost overnight. And there’s no going back to normal; there’s only facing and embracing the next normal.
Nearly every aspect of work in this disrupted digital age has shifted beneath our feet. But one thing has remained constant: we still need to keep our teams productive, connected, and focused on work that helps the organization achieve its strategic goals.
Aligning everyone’s work to company strategy is a rare and difficult thing even in normal times. But it becomes even more essential when teams are dispersed and connecting digitally. With a finite number of people and dollar resources, organizations need to align everyone’s work with the most important desired strategic outcomes. This takes constant visibility at all levels of the organization into what the current strategy is, with a straight line drawn to each contributor’s efforts, so you can track progress toward outcomes in real time.
Unfortunately, the crisis tech stack many companies relied on back in March won’t be up to the task. You need a holistic work management platform that aligns strategy, goals and everyday work across the organization, delivering measurable business outcomes while driving execution and productivity.
As recently as six months ago, many teams would gather for a short stand-up meeting every morning to share what was accomplished yesterday, what’s on the agenda for today and whether there are any roadblocks for today’s work. Problems could be addressed and resolved quickly in these face-to-face gatherings.
This behavior doesn’t have to change, even if it’s now done via a digital platform instead of on a white board with sticky notes. It’s actually important to preserve the familiar ceremonies that help us get our work done. And there’s an unexpected advantage as we facilitate them in a more digital state: We convert the verbal anecdotes and ideas into data points, which will allow us to work with more predictability and greater speed going forward.
In the past, many organizations would use mission, vision, objectives and goals almost interchangeably. This global crisis has made it clear that organizations need to codify their vision and mission into their DNA and separate that from their goals and objectives.
Why? Because now that planning horizons are so compressed, there’s a new heartbeat and rhythm to how companies plan, execute and measure their work. If you’re now planning monthly instead of yearly, it’s even more essential to be crystal clear about who you are as a company — so your values remain stable enough to guide you through shifting short-term goals.
The next normal.
It has to be said that we were already heading in this direction. For years, there’s been a slowly unfolding debate about digital transformation, data-driven decision making and the dispersed workforce. But COVID-19 removed the choice of whether or when organizations needed to digitally transform. Yes, they have to. The organizations that will survive and eventually thrive during this volatile time are those that figure out how to keep teams productive, connected and strategically aligned in an increasingly digital world.