How can businesses change and grow in a way that’s both practical for the organisation and empathetic to the individuals that make it up? The first step is understanding that people are always the drivers, as well as the agents, of change. Leaders must now rethink their growth strategy and take a humanity-meets-pragmatism approach to driving their business forward.
01 February 2022 • 5 min read
Businesses and society alike have been hit with massive disruption from every angle, from social upheaval to marketplace uncertainty and supply chain woes. Events such as the Great Resignation and the seismic jump online have left leaders exhausted and struggling to keep up with the pace and scale of change. So, how can leaders stop the wavering, regain traction and move toward a more agile and proactive state that thrives on change?
The very first step is to recognise the driver of change. It’s not technology or even the pandemic; it’s people. Change is catalysed by the way people react to the world around them, their expectations of leaders and each other, and ultimately, their actions.
Whether they are your customers, employees or partners, proactively understanding who they are, what they need and delivering on that is paramount to success and survival. One of the first steps to doing this is by focusing on the many sources of data that companies have available to them today and using it to signal course corrections or new ways of doing business.
As we define it, an ethos of pragmatic, human-centric, data-powered technology means leveraging the data ecosystem to understand the people who impact your business, and how their needs intersect with your business goals, then setting out an iterative and measurable technology implementation roadmap that focuses on that intersection.
The workforce and customers need to be viewed as interconnected players in the business ecosystem – fed and watered by data-driven decision making.
The workforce and customers need to be viewed as interconnected players in the business ecosystem – fed and watered by data-driven decision making. One example of this fusion of players is the transformation of Cintas’s user experience. Cintas, a Fortune 500 workplace logistics company, wanted to modernise the platform used by staff for first aid and safety. They needed to create a safer and more productive workplace for employees who were visiting customer sites by implementing a mobile app that gave field representatives real-time data. Whereas the common approach is for companies to focus on the customer experience in the process, we took a step back and incorporated everybody involved in the delivery of the app – frontstage and backstage.
The first step to driving a pragmatic and data-driven environment is identifying your business agents, including all roles and a detailed understanding of their drivers.
Traditional ideas such as ‘the customer is always right’ cannot cut it in an age where data knows more about a customer than they do themselves. Furthermore, the agents driving change – your workforce – cannot be ignored either.
In 2021, employees accelerated up the priority ladder, with organisations recognising for the first time that the workforce held the ultimate value in a company. We saw this shift get started a few years ago when the conversation about customer experience became a conversation about employee experience as well.
The workplace composition of age, diversity and location has shifted significantly over the past couple of years, recognising that technology often reflects the people who create it and their view of the solutions required – and that a company’s problems can manifest themselves in their products (as Elon Musk said, “product errors reflect organisational errors”).
We’ve long known that the customer experience is strongly linked to the employees they interact with – whether that’s a direct interaction or an interaction powered by something an employee is doing in the background.
The right tools and data to make that magic happen put the levers that determine customer experience in the employees’ hands.
Our changing generational demographics, the demand by workers for the increased flexibility of all kinds and the need for the right tools and data to make that magic happen put the levers that determine customer experience in the employees’ hands.
Diversity drives innovation. It is the job of the intelligent leader to lay the foundations for collaboration and innovation by recognising the key players that contribute to operations, getting them around a table and listening to what drives them.
Ensuring that the core values of inclusivity and empathy are delivered throughout design thinking workshops was one method that we used. In these intensely end-user focused sessions, we identify problems through close observation, building empathy by role-playing activities (i.e. understanding pain points by being in others’ shoes) and collaborating to find innovative processes or technical solutions.
After getting the buy-in from all of the critical agents in your organisation, you can start a data-driven process of prioritisation by setting up the following metrics:
High priority initiatives;
Cost-benefit against each initiative;
A pragmatic attitude is, by its nature, iterative, continuously seeking to find a better way. The only way to measure the practical success of an initiative is to allow the time and space for a process to be tested. Here we come to humanity. Are you allowing your teams the freedom and resources to thoroughly test an initiative?
Data is not always where you expect it. Voice recording can be a great source of data. Another big source is emails, particularly in the employee space, to get an honest understanding of the company culture. We have found that it can be a crucial indicator of how people really interact with each other. A good example of this is when bots are being used to help solve problems: software can now predict and flag when people are getting angry so that a human agent can intervene and de-escalate the issue.
Nothing is wasted in the pursuit of pragmatism because data can be collected, even if the cost-benefit does not materialise, to inform the next initiative.
One of the biggest inhibitors of organisational innovation and progress is siloed thinking and action, and this is also one of the biggest drains of energy, creativity and efficiency. This also ties back to aligning the players so that all relevant parties have a voice at the table.
This limited thinking occurs when teams do not share knowledge or resources, or when they don’t challenge convention (and instead act on ‘muscle memory’), which is all too common when people are operating within a silo.
We call on the need for approaching teams with humanity in pursuit of pragmatism. A leader pursuing this path needs to ensure siloes are replaced in favour of an interconnected approach.
Here we call on the need for approaching teams with humanity in pursuit of pragmatism. A leader pursuing this path needs to ensure siloes are replaced in favour of an interconnected approach to organisation, as well as mitigate resistance to change in the workforce. There is a need to recognise the uniqueness within the familiar, which presents itself in data and the individual.
In this post-Covid period of disruption, corporate leaders can only achieve their business objectives by stepping back and taking a humanity-meets-pragmatism approach to driving their business forward. They can do this through an unwavering focus on people as the heart – and the main vehicle – of any transformation; aligning stakeholders and teams through activities designed around inclusivity and openness; prioritising with relevant KPIs; and using data as it truly should be used – to help the organisation as a whole (and everyone in it) become more intelligent, more resilient and more productive.
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