Navigating the Fog of the Workplace
The workplace is in the midst of fundamental change and why that change is happening, isn’t always agreed upon. The common list of items impacting the workplace include: technology and technical advances; the broad availability of high speed data; the rise of knowledge/concept digital economy; Millennials and Gen-Z; the retirement of Boomers; core cultural beliefs about the way the world works and practices; an increase in diversity; a more educated workforce—the list continues. The changes are so drastic that the what, how, when, why, where, and so what of work are all being redefined.
As one might expect, this upheaval is accompanied by strains in the workplace. The constant stream of unflattering organizational data is now all too familiar—sadly, it is now routine: manager training and development remains ineffective (50% of employees quit because of poor managers); 23% report always feeling burned out; 44% sometimes; stress is high and mental health issues are emerging; talent retention rates have decreased; 54% of the workforce needs to be upskilled urgently; simmering conflicts arise because of bias and favoritism of generational, ethnic, gender and sexual diversity. It is difficult to lead organizations during times like these.
Times of transition and cultural upheaval can leave one feeling like they are lost in the fog. When I’m sailing in dense fog, it is easy to become alarmed when I cannot see anything around me, and I am no longer sure where or what the obstacles are. These days that we live in seem much like this—especially as it relates to people-related matters. The organization feels out of alignment. What previously worked in hiring, people development, leadership, teambuilding and execution of business strategy no longer seems as effective.
Yet, it is not clear that most organizational leaders see the link between their people strategy—which includes all human systems—and the issues that affect performance.
Additionally, it is further unclear that current consulting offerings directly address and solve these people issues. For example, according to a recent longitudinal study by the University of Chicago, the culture and wellness programs adopted by organizations, for which they pay on average over $700 per employee per year, have had almost zero impact in changing employee behaviors and lowering stress (https://news.uchicago.edu/story/workplace-wellness-programs-fail-improve-health-study-finds). Discussions with senior executives often reveal little awareness of any relationship between the problem, proposed solution, cost and measurable results. People-related matters are believed to be inherently subjective.
The people side of the organization, including HR, has rarely been engaged in such critical, evidence based dialogue. I will often joke when beginning a consulting engagement with the line, “when I enter the room, most senior business executives think that I’m going to give them something flakey.” The assumption is that because it involves people, we can only provide soft, opinion-based content—nothing that can be measured. This sentiment could not be further from the truth. We have a wide body of research-based learning and practices to solve many of the most pressing people issues in organizations today.
Finally, some C-suite executives are beginning to realize the degree to which their financial capital, innovation, product quality and productivity are being impacted by toxic cultures, poorly developed manager/leaders and broader talent-related matters. A good local example is the relatively quick shift in Microsoft’s fortunes under Satya Nadella’s leadership (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-things-weve-learned-culture-kathleen-hogan/). Although a work in progress, the improved long-term performance is not a fluke. There is value in creating an ecosystem that enhances human performance. The rise in stock price can only lead one to conclude that shareholder value is intimately tied to people-related matters.
The question is, how to do it? At Motis, we are of the opinion that there is a reason why HR is in crisis, culture is directionless, and the people-side of organizational life is in the midst of radical change. The primary problem is that the existing frameworks, mental models, practices, and evaluative assessments derive from the 1920’s – 1980’s. Business is designed to run on this old foundation. The cultural foundations of broader society have changed so significantly that organizations are struggling to run antiquated processes and systems in this new world. And yet, this is the one area that lacks a centralized, substantive conversation rooted in information that is quantifiable.
We created Motis with one goal—we want to disrupt the people side of organizations. We understand the new context and provide scientific, research-based content, services and products for organizations struggling with the new workplace. With this process, we want to elevate the conversation about work. It is our hope that you will be inspired to improve the ecosystem where you work as a result of the perspectives and content you find here.