Redefining The Workplace: Focusing On Outcomes, Not Processes
As a developer-turned-CEO, Otto Berkes is a change agent who co-founded Xbox, co-invented 13 patents and now serves as the CEO of Acendre.
Traditional office culture is so deeply embedded in the business psyche that it’s difficult to let go of pre-pandemic ideas of what it means to be part of a successful organization. Even with profound technological advances that made remote work viable a decade before Covid hit, expecting employees to work from a central office location was standard practice.
Maybe your business invested (like ours) in creating spectacular environments designed to help employees connect, collaborate and, ultimately, make long days more comfortable. Even tech giants who created solutions enabling more flexible working collaborations are housed on sprawling campuses designed to keep workers … at work.
Many employees have long sought flexible schedules, and companies would sometimes work them into benefits packages to recruit and retain good talent. But not all employees have the ability (or desire) to work from home. And not all businesses can fully operate in a 100% virtual setting. For example, manufacturing companies can’t create products with employees away from production facilities.
It’s natural to crave what we perceive as normal — especially after going through a stressful time — but could we be overly focused on re-creating traditional onsite processes in hybrid environments? A better approach might be to rethink work processes by focusing on what matters: outcomes.
Here are five ways to evaluate and sharpen your company’s approach to designing legacy-free work processes that will accelerate what you do and how you do it.
1. Focus On The Work, Not The Workplace
If we remove the traditional constructs around how and when work gets done and consider what we actually accomplish in a day, we’re focusing on outcomes.
The notion that “being at work” is “working” is deeply flawed, yet many of us see spending many hours at the office as a symbol of productivity or “proof” of hard work. But how many of us end the day wondering what was actually accomplished?
Meaningful, efficient and productive work is about achieving shared goals across virtual, hybrid and in-person settings through effective collaboration. For example, an Australia-based employee who was stranded in New Zealand for months due to the pandemic stayed connected to the team and produced great work by focusing on what needed to get done.
2. Embrace A Purpose-Driven Philosophy
At Acendre, we have shifted to embrace a purpose-driven philosophy. We look at OKRs (objectives and key results) that help us correlate progress on objectives to key results and metrics on an annual and quarterly basis. This approach also encourages employees to tie their personal job objectives to larger shared goals, which we track online.
It’s easy to demonstrate busyness, but focusing on tangible progress reaffirms our deeper purpose — which makes us feel good. And since none of us work in a vacuum, it’s important for everyone to understand how their individual efforts contribute to the organization as a whole.
3. Use Software As An Enabler
At its best, software should operate seamlessly in the background and help your team get work done easily rather than being the focus of the work. Video meeting software is a good example; it was clunky at first, but now the software is better, and we’re much more adept at using it.
Simply adopting more software will not make your organization work more smoothly or efficiently. As with any tool, it’s best to have a clear purpose for each piece of new software you adopt. Stay focused on the problem you’re trying to solve rather than on the tool itself.
4. Focus On Talent Acquisition And Development
Interviews, onboarding and ongoing learning within Acendre all take place remotely now. We make sure new employees understand where they fit within our organization, and OKRs are a valuable resource for providing this framework.
In a hybrid environment, managers need to work harder to connect new employees with the team and help them feel included. Setting up conversations with people who can help new hires be successful quickly not only builds their confidence but can lead to more work enjoyment as well.
5. Speak A New Language Of Leadership
When managers rely on data alone, they are missing a big part of the story about their employees’ performance. Being able to digest data and put it into a narrative context is an important leadership skill, but making observations helps complete the picture.
For this reason, soft skills are especially important in virtual or hybrid work settings. Clear and consistent communication is critical to keeping everyone informed, course-correcting quickly when needed, and working toward common goals. It can also empower employees to explore new challenges, stretch themselves and take on more risk.
Importantly, how you think about your customers will also change as your focus on outcomes increases. Here’s an example inside our own organization: We recently launched a Learner Guarantee program that ensures our Inquisiq customers are successful in their objectives. After all, customers aren’t really looking for an e-learning tool — there are hundreds of such tools on the market. What they’re really looking for is successful, high-quality delivery of e-learning content. Our new program reduces risk to our customers and ensures that our focus stays on achieving their objectives.
Over time, these five guidelines will shift your employees’ thinking away from spending a certain number of hours on a task toward figuring out the best way to solve a problem or achieve a goal.
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