Company culture: The similarities between brand building and culture building

What values do your employees associate with your organisation? To transform your company culture, you need to start with employees’ lived experience and build from there.

A study on corporate culture and performance found that companies that proactively manage their culture demonstrate revenue growth over a ten-year period that’s 516% higher than those that don’t. While the growth figure may raise an eyebrow, it’s unlikely anyone will be surprised by the connection between a strong culture and strong growth.

Brand is the associations people have with your business, what they think about you, how they feel when your name is mentioned. It’s the same with your internal culture – you want to build positive and meaningful associations for your employees.
Saying you want a meaningful culture and building it are two different things, however. The challenge we hear most is ‘where do we start?’ Culture feels big. It’s intangible. So, it’s easy to understand why many people dive into a world of models, diagrams and bell curves. Yes, these things can help, but maybe it’s time to think differently.

Brand and culture
One of the most important pieces of advice I can offer is to put the same care into your culture that you put into your brand. The truth is, building a brand and building a culture are more similar than many business leaders initially realise. After all, brand is intangible too. Yes, there’s a logo but that’s just a symbolic representation of what you stand for. Sitting behind it, however, is a system that drives everything the brand does, from thought leadership, to events, to customer experience and product development.

That’s what really drives how we see and experience a ‘brand’ – this is where there are big learnings for companies wanting to build a culture.

Brand is the associations people have with your business, what they think about you, how they feel when your name is mentioned. It’s the same with your internal culture – you want to build positive and meaningful associations for your employees, in the same way you want to offer that to your customers and clients.

Culture Pioneers

Build your culture framework
Brands that stand the test of time are built on rock solid foundations. Everything they do can be traced to their purpose and what they stand for. Those brand foundations shape everything that brand says and does. It’s the starting point, from thought leadership, to corporate advertising, to talent attraction. It’s the red thread that ensures that, irrespective of region or audience, what’s in that organisation’s DNA shines through.

You’d never create a brand that sounded exactly like your nearest competitor. So, why do we do it for culture?

In 2018, the Harvard Business Review ran an article with the header, ‘ban these five words from your corporate values statement’. The five are: integrity, teamwork, authenticity, fun, customer orientation.

Why? Firstly, they’re table stakes, and having done anonymous research with thousands of employees over the last few years to uncover their true opinions, I’ve seen that people are very clear about that. Why would you work for a business without integrity? Every company uses these words – there’s no differentiation, and nothing that captures the spirit of who you are.

When we build culture frameworks at Brandpie, we keep it simple: three values, three simple behaviours per value and a core cultural thought that wraps it all up.

When we set out to create our own values, we were clear that we wanted them to capture who we really are (and the kind of people we wanted). The three are: step up, scare yourself, and one Pie.

Beyond the poster
Perhaps the biggest criticism of values is that they become words on a poster, seen in print but not lived in the real world. This, from our experience, is where most culture programmes grind to a halt. It is hard, there’s no two ways about it.

Here again though, we can take lessons from the world of brand building. The starting point is realising that you can’t do everything all at once. We do lots of work with organisations to help define their brand and, once that’s done, to focus on the activity and initiatives that will have the most impact. What should we do in year one, year two, year three? Equally important, what should we stop doing?

Brands have years of embedding what they stand for into the customer experience. They’re experts at mapping the journey their clients have and making creative interventions that build loyalty.

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The good news is that we can take that methodology and use it to shape employee experiences that build the culture you aspire to create. So how does ‘scare yourself’ translate into the Brandpie employee experience? It’s getting a junior member of the team to do the introduction for a big pitch rather than hearing the expected senior voices. It’s doing joint London and New York monthly calls to promote the idea of one Pie. It’s looking at the key moments that make (or break) the employee experience we want to deliver, and shaping them so that they reinforce our values.

That’s exactly what brands do to build an emotional connection with the customer. They take what they stand for (that they’ve spent the time to get right) and apply it with ruthless consistency, focusing on the touchpoints that matter.

All too often, we see culture programmes starting and ending with the values definition. By going a step further, however, and translating customer experience best practice into employee experience, maybe 516% growth isn’t such a surprise after all.

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Covid renewing employers’ focus on internal talent pools, research finds

Employers are prioritizing searching for talent within their existing workforce rather than looking externally for new hires because of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis, research has found.

A survey of more than 250 UK business leaders by LinkedIn found that nearly a third of employers (31 per cent) said they would be focusing on giving employees the opportunity to move into different roles internally in the next six months. A similar number (32 per cent) said that reskilling and upskilling employees is a top priority for 2021.

Janine Chamberlin, senior director at LinkedIn, said the continued uncertainty around Covid-19 has meant many companies are looking to “tap existing employees for new opportunities within their organisations” instead of hiring external candidates.

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“Encouraging internal mobility not only boosts retention and improves employee engagement, but it can also help companies evolve their businesses from within and bridge any existing skills gaps,” Chamberlain said. “To ensure employees are set up for success and have the skills to support career transitions, reskilling and upskilling initiatives are vital and HR professionals will play a pivotal role in facilitating this.”

The research found a third (34 per cent) of leaders said they wanted to create a culture of learning to help employees develop the skills they needed for the future, and 31 per cent said they were focused on closing the skills gaps within their organisations.

Lizzie Crowley, senior skills policy adviser at the CIPD, warned against being tempted to cut learning and development budgets in the wake of the pandemic. She explained that, in previous recessions, L&D budgets were “vulnerable” as businesses looked to cut costs, but she said doing so now could risk potential growth in the future.

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“It’s like shooting yourself in the foot a bit if you don’t invest in your staff during challenging times,” Crowley said. “Thinking creatively about how you redeploy existing talent within your workforce is what will give you that kind of competitive edge in what is a challenging market.”

By not investing in staff, she said employers could enter a “vicious cycle”, with the increasing likelihood that employees could leave the organisation, and the business could also be unable to introduce the product and process innovations that are needed to be competitive in the future.

Noelle Murphy, senior HR practice editor at XpertHR, added that hiring internally can provide other benefits to organisations, especially with the pandemic “ripping up the recruitment playbook”.

“Hiring internally ensures that one of the key elements of retention is in place – a good fit with the organisation’s values and culture,” Murphy said. “Investing in learning and development can be a far more effective use of funds than spending money on external recruitment and selection processes, and HR can make a powerful business case for investing in identifying talent internally, not only for roles available today but also future requirements of the organisation.”

She added that developing internal talent also built positive relationships with employees, demonstrating confidence in the skills and competence of the workforce and meeting aspirational needs.

Earlier this year, a report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found nine in 10 UK employees would have to reskill by 2030 as a result of the pandemic accelerating changes to the world of work.

The report, based on analysis by McKinsey, found that in the next decade, 26 million workers would require upskilling to keep up to date with technological and business developments as their role evolved. Meanwhile, another 5 million would go through a fundamental job change and require retraining, it discovered.

Suzanne Hurndall, relationship director at hr inspire, encouraged businesses to identify internal talent that can move up within the business, which she said was just as important to wider business strategy as attracting new employees.

“Creating dedicated initiatives for key groups within the company to achieve this goal is vital – it shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach and implementing real L&D can be truly transformational,” Hurndall said.

She added that HR leaders have struggled this year to ensure that employees had the skills necessary to navigate an increasingly digitised workplace. But, she said: “This ‘future of work’ is essential to foster a trust culture as we navigate our current landscape and create teams comfortable with grappling together with the unknown.”


Virtual Humans Outperform Real People Teaching Career Leadership Skills, Study Finds

A virtual human is as good as a real-life person when it comes to helping people practice new leadership skills, according to a new study. Robots, androids, and artificial intelligence are being used more frequently to complete tasks humans once performed. Machines conducting essential activities, such as a robot that delivers medicines on different floors of a hospital, are used to effectively unburden medical staff.

But what about virtual humans teaching us personal interactions such as workplace leadership skills—among the most valuable tools employees can possess to climb the career ladder? Research suggests many organizations are unsatisfied with the results of current leadership skills pieces of training, which is what brought researchers at the Human Interface Technology Lab New Zealand at the University of Canterbury to evaluate the effectiveness of computer-generated characters in a training scenario, compared to flesh-and-blood humans.

New Study: Virtual Humans Versus Flesh-And-Blood People

The study assessed 30 participants who role-played leaders interacting before and after receiving training sessions under one of three conditions: (1) real humans in the real world (2) virtual humans in virtual reality and (3) virtual humans in mixed reality (a combination of the digital world overlaid in a real-life office space). Results showed an increase in comfort level and task engagement performance from pre-to-post evaluations in all three conditions but no difference between the influence of real people versus virtual humans. The virtual human-mixed reality condition had a more significant influence on leadership performance than the other two groups, which led the scientists to conclude that this combination is the most effective method to train business leaders.


According to the findings, virtual humans can provide self-reflective learning and engagement, realistic scenarios of what leaders might encounter on the job, constructive performance feedback, a consistent training experience, and a means for evoking feelings of social presence. The authors of the study advocate the future use of immersive simulators using virtual humans: “Our research has indicated that with adequate context and instructional support, virtual humans can become invaluable tools, where their human-like appearance, rich configurability, and ease of replication allow them to play a critical role in social skills training.”

Implications For The Future

Robotics and advanced automation continue to spread throughout the American workplace where workers express conflicting and sometimes contradictory attitudes about the impact these new technologies will have on their lives. The use of artificial intelligence is gaining traction in the business world, even finding a foothold in the mental health arena to alleviate cognitive overload, compassion fatigue, and employee burnout. Some of the world’s top companies such as MetLife and Humana are employing innovative new technology to offset burnout by enhancing employee engagement, improving customer experience, and providing a more emotionally intelligent and empathetic workplace.

Virtual humans have become valuable tools in a range of fields from training, education to entertainment and be effective in treating patients with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A newly developed virtual reality test has paved the way for identifying potential workers at risk of developing a myriad of stressors from cardiovascular to mental health problems in high-stress jobs and help in early intervention for those employees at risk. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we even resorted to virtual grieving because we couldn’t be with our dying loved ones. Now, virtual humans show great potential in teaching leadership, communication, and negotiation. Does this mean robots will eventually replace humans to train business leaders?

Studies show that American workers express negative attitudes about technology overreach in the workplace. A clear majority of 55 % disagree with the assertion that robots are better workers than humans. And an even stronger majority of 57% agree that “robots and advanced automation are bad for American workers.” And drawbacks to the use of virtual humans have been documented, too. According to new scientific research by psychologists at Emory University, the feeling of affinity can plunge us into one of repulsion as a robot’s human likeness increases. The more virtual humans start to resemble real people, the creepier we feel. Human replicas highly resembling people tend to elicit eerie sensations—a zone scientists call “the uncanny valley.” Androids or robots with human-like features are often more appealing to people than those that resemble machines—but only up to a point. Many people experience an uneasy feeling in response to nearly lifelike robots, and yet somehow not quite “right.” According to this line of thinking, these distractions might interfere with concentration for many participants attempting to practice leadership skills.

These negative attitudes stand in stark contrast to the positive sense that technology is improving morale and making workers’ jobs easier. This discrepancy suggests that American workers are still coming to grips with the impact of technology on the workplace and are not yet able to arrive at a clear-cut consensus on the issue. According to Jefferson Flanders, CEO of MindEdge Learning, “Navigating the impact of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence is a pillar of modern business operations that will take time and experience for business leaders and employees to understand. American workers are continuing to uncover exactly how they feel about robotics and automation in the workplace. But regardless of how they may feel, technology is inexorably transforming the U.S. workforce–and employers and workers need to prepare for it.”


Manage Your Boss With “The Rule Of Three”

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “The Rule of Three”? Almost every field or discipline has its own “Rule of Three”: aviation, chemistry, computer programming, economics, mathematics, statistics, even witchcraft! The most striking “Rule of Three” I ever came across is this one for survival: the average person can live for three minutes without air; three days without water; and three weeks without food.

Someone who knows a lot about survival is my friend “Spider” Marks. Properly addressed as Major General James A. Marks (Ret.), Spider is an Army Ranger whose military career spanned 30 years during which he held every command position from infantry platoon leader to commanding general. You may have seen him as a military analyst on CNN or on the faculty at Georgetown University.

In a recent conversation Spider shared a different Rule of Three, one he created to ensure productive meetings with, as he described them, his “routinely distracted multi-tasking bosses.” You may recognize those kinds of bosses, but keep in mind that Spider’s bosses included Presidents, Cabinet Members, and Joint Chiefs of Staff!

Here is Spider’s Rule of Three:

Always have on the tip of your tongue the top three most important items you need decisions on. With a busy boss, you never know when the opportunity will present itself: walking down the hall, in the elevator, on the way to the airport. The responsibility is yours to seize the moment. You should be well-rehearsed, but you want to come across as casual and confident. Your boss may perceive your attempt to guide the conversation as an intellectual ambush, and it may well be, but it’s the best way to get what you need: timely decisions on critical issues.
Grab your boss’s attention within three seconds. Think of effective engagement with your boss as a “friendly” ambush. When you’re the target of an ambush your body flashes into a panic response: blood pressure rises, heartbeat accelerates, vision narrows, and defensive barriers go up. So make the opportunity count! You’ve rocked your boss back on her heels; she’s vulnerable and she knows it; so don’t let her fall. Offer a hand, show your vulnerability and your need for her input and the wisdom of her experience. She’ll gladly “save” you, and you’ll get what you need.
Be prepared to walk away in three minutes. You’ve intentionally decided to interrupt your boss’s day—or at least her train of thought. Perhaps you’ll get the decisions you’re looking for, and if so you’ll walk away victorious. If not, live to fight another day! If your foray doesn’t get what you want, create a plan to re-engage. Remember the warrior’s ethos: never quit, never accept defeat.
I love Spider’s Rule of Three because it’s fun and memorable. (In addition to his experience, you can see his sense of humor in the above.) And his Rule of Three applies equally well to routine interactions with peers, colleagues, business partners, or your team. This approach is a superb way to ensure the right kind of focused conversation about the most important topics.


Why the hybrid workplace suits a new era of work

A hybrid work model can cater to a company’s space needs more efficiently
Employees work well from home, yet also miss the interaction and socializing of the office. At the same time, businesses are looking for new ways to maintain company culture. A hybrid work model offers the possibility for companies of any size and industry to reconfigure their workspace to meet the unique needs of their business and offer choice and flexibility to employees.

They can downsize and invest in smaller, high-design “Club”-style headquarters to wow clients and showcase company culture, and/or multiple “hub” offices that are located closer to employees’ homes, reducing their commute. Besides, a coworking or “on-demand” workspace can provide flexibility which many of today’s employees value.

The hybrid work model can support wellness
Companies have the opportunity to analyze the type of workspaces they require, based on the percentage of people they have at home or in offices, and, importantly, what their employees need to thrive, which has a direct impact on wellbeing.

The design and ambiance of workplaces have a huge effect on how people manage their workloads, interact with colleagues and deal with problems. Many people don’t find crowded, noisy workplaces to be particularly appealing or motivating. If companies want to get the best from their employees, it’s about building spaces that really cater to their needs rather than expecting everyone to make do with a one-size-fits-all model.

People often need different spaces for different tasks, whether it’s quieter areas for concentrating or social spaces for brainstorming ideas. Hybrid models allow people to choose spaces to suit their needs to reduce stress levels and help them feel comfortable wherever they’re working from.

Design differentiators within the hybrid work model
Larger companies are more likely to invest in high-spec headquarters with collaborative spaces that invite employees to socialize, learn and absorb company culture. The “Club” will be distinguished by premium amenities that nurture a sense of community – like amphitheaters, event space, relaxation zones.

This is complemented by satellite offices or “Hubs” that support private or group work with a mixture of individual work desks and comfortable breakout areas with plenty of greenery and natural light.

Creating a positive work environment for staff at the home
Remote working is here to stay, so companies can ensure people have the elements they need to work properly from home, including an ergonomic chair, the right lighting, and a good desk. Some employers are offering money towards home office setups. It’s also important that companies recognize some employees’ home-working scenarios may not be as productive or comfortable and in these cases, an alternate workspace should be readily available.

Technology will be the main enabler for seamless online working whether people are collaborating on projects through cloud-based platforms or communicating via chat or high-end video conferencing. Advancing technology in offices will also help remote staff interact with colleagues regardless of where they’re based. It’s going to have a huge impact on helping companies to attract and retain the talent they need.


The ‘Zoomification’ of work: challenge or opportunity?

Zoomification’ is a term quickly gaining prominence in the world of HR. But what does this mean, and how can HR leaders use the situation to their advantage whilst evading the dangers? With the help of HRD Thought Leader Kevin Empey, we looked into this further.

Since the dawn of the technological age, the man vs. machine debate has manifested in all walks of life; business, entertainment, transport, and so on. Though multifaceted, its core premise is simple: is technology good or bad?

This is a question that continues to arise with each landmark development. For instance, and perhaps most recently, the integrity of artificial intelligence and ‘big data’ has been called into question in the business world.

In 2020, the debate comes into focus once more. A major by-product of the global pandemic, technology has become the crutch on which much of the business world currently rests. More specifically, this trend is being referred to as ‘Zoomification’; the absolute reliance on digital practices for corporate life to continue functioning.

In a sense, the sophistication of modern technology has spared us from even greater turmoil during this harsh period, but once again, it must be held to account. In this case, leaders must question whether this is a challenge or an opportunity, and devise a strategy for managing the situation.

What is ‘Zoomification’?
From cloud storage to word processing to virtual reality headsets; be it simple or complex, technology plays a fundamental role in 21st-century business. In fact, in 2018, the World Economic Forum even predicted that AI would create 58 million new jobs in the next five years.

In a sense, Zoomification is merely an extension of this. It serves as an acknowledgment that technology is becoming an even more crucial element of our working lives and that it will continue to play a major role in shaping our day-to-day practices in months and years to come.

More specifically, the term highlights the radical shift in the way we now communicate with colleagues. Though instant messaging and video conferencing software are not particularly new or ground-breaking, the fact that our communication now solely relies on it feels like a seismic jump.

HRD Thought Leader Kevin Empey offered some thoughts on this, helping us to more clearly define the term.

“‘I will zoom you’ is one of those phrases you hear and people seem to pick up on its meaning almost immediately, even if they then get a meeting request via Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Webex,” he said.

“But I think it also reflects the broader aspects of a remote and technology-enabled working culture that we have been experiencing and that we will see more of in the future.”

Expanding on his explanation, Empey goes on to point out that Zoomification could be the hallmark of a new era of work entirely.


Evolution Of Business And Why Every Organization Needs To Embrace Caring Leadership

These days, every CEO and business leader has been feeling the pressure when it comes to staying relevant and agile in an ever-changing and uncertain world. We might not have a blueprint for how to navigate this moment, but we do have people.

Organizations are still fundamentally made up of those people and, although the current context may be ambiguous and market trends volatile, there is one thing our customers, partners, and employees have a common need for care.

Workplace cultures that prioritize caring, compassion, and respect influence employee productivity and performance and improve how people feel about coming to work every day. They feel like they are seen, heard, and valued – and are motivated to work hard toward the success of the organization.

In her book The Art of Caring Leadership, Heather R. Younger shares insights gleaned from twenty-five thousand employee survey comments and one hundred focus groups and suggests that leading with heart is the antidote for employees who feel disempowered or disengaged at work. She explains that leaders often put a wall up between themselves and those who look to them for guidance and that they need to do more to create a culture where everyone feels that they belong. She explains that people-first cultures are where employees are seen for who they are as people, not just for what work they do. That requires leaders to listen to understand what’s of value to them, focus on their growth, not only missteps, and equip those we lead to succeed. She suggests when leaders learn to consistently demonstrate care, build trust, inspire curiosity, and awaken creativity in those they lead, employees feel better about themselves and see their work and role in a more positive light. They no longer feel like a cog in the machine, they feel motivated, energized, and on purpose.


Heather points out that self-leadership is a critical focus for the caring leader because if they are not able to care for themselves, they cannot properly care for those they lead. Self-leadership includes tapping into your purpose and reason for leading; shifting your mindset in beneficial ways; and simply taking more time to care for your mind, body, and spirit.

2. Make Those You Lead Feel Important

The caring leader makes a point of setting aside time with those they lead and listening to what they need to do their best work. When this type of leader is around, employees feel as though they are the only one who matters. Employees feel a deep bond with this kind of leader because they feel they can be their best selves and are appreciated for the work they put in.

3. Look For The Greatness in Those You lead

Caring leaders understand what it means to recognize and then grow the gifts, talents, and strengths of those they lead. Instead of dismissing signs of greatness in their people, these leaders search it out. They go out of their way to leverage the gifts of those they lead. They provide the proper care to facilitate employee performance and job satisfaction.

4. Involve Those You Lead

Often, leaders feel that the problems facing the business are theirs to solve alone. When they tell their employees about the issues they are facing, they often discover that this is not, in fact, the case. In fact, involving employees in leadership challenges typically brings teams together. They learn to rely on one another and get more accomplished together.

5. Lead The Whole Person

Many leaders handle employees with the narrow lens of their performance inside the workplace without ever considering them as whole people with lives outside of work. The caring leader cultivates a wider lens and takes time to understand what is happening in employees’ lives outside of work. This is particularly important in the new world of work where remote or hybrid-remote workplaces are becoming the norm. Leading the whole person may include helping employees deal with mental health challenges, childcare obstacles, or other personal issues. Caring leaders don’t separate the person from what might be happening to them. Instead, they meet employees right where they are to help them realize their true potential.

6. Create a Listening Culture

The caring leader uses the voice of the employee to improve work for everyone. They know that listening alone is not enough and ensure that employees not only feel empowered to provide feedback but are reassured that their feedback will be acted upon at least some of the time.

7. Provide Employees With Safe Spaces

Employees don’t always feel safe to express their true thoughts, ideas that might be counter to the mainstream, or things that make them feel uncomfortable for fear of some type of attack or retribution. The caring leader takes care to create judgment-free spaces in which to have conversations where employees can feel psychologically safe and free from harm.

8. Empower Employees To Make Decisions

One of the most crippling things managers do to those they lead is micromanaging their every move, making it difficult for their employees to think and act independently. The caring leader trades this micromanagement for clear expectations and empowerment, by allowing room for employees to do what they think is right even if that means making a mistake. Such mistakes are seen as learning and growth opportunities that lead to empowered employees.

9. Build Resilience in Those You Lead

More than ever in today’s divided and uncertain world, we need to help employees cultivate resilience so that they can better manage stress for the long haul. The caring leader helps employees reframe their circumstances and learn from what is happening around them to become stronger so they can handle the inevitable challenges and crises that come their way.

Recognize all of these nine tenets are true for the customer and any other stakeholder we have. As you look ahead to the rest of 2021 and beyond, consider how to incorporate caring can be a differentiator for your organization.

We tend to create narratives through history to make sense of what happened, to process earlier experiences, to rationalize and interpret our view of the world as life unfolds. This happens to be a unique time of evolution and we have a chance to position caring as a key element of what it is to be human. We can recreate our narratives around the purpose of business, the essence of leadership, the practice of organizations. There is enough science and experience to provide evidence for a future differentiator. The question is are you going to show the courage to hold up the painters’ brush and strive for another layer of understanding in your product, service, business cycle; and that is the beauty and fragility of life together.


The evolution of transformational leadership

Leadership, being the core of management, is crucial to an organization’s success. However, no single definition includes all the aspects of leadership. In an attempt to portray the concept of leadership, various leadership models exist.

The intent is to explore theories and models that a leader can actually use in their organization. Several shifts occur in leadership studies, and subsequently, newer approaches emerge and have been embraced by leaders that attempt to develop and lead followers.

The evolution of leadership thought highlights the need for new and more commonly used modes of leadership. One common one is the concept of transactional leadership. Transactional leadership means just what it says. It is a quid pro quo type of relationship between the follower and leader. A carrot and stick approach.

The effectiveness of this leadership style is dependent on two conditions: One being that the current differences in organizational hierarchies and structures are accepted by subordinates and the second being that all the employees can work towards the mutual exchange of benefits where they are rewarded for achieving their determined goals.

Just as leaders need to sometimes be both autocratic and democratic, they also need to be both transactional and transformational at times too.

It is somewhat reactive, however, because a benefit can be held back or taken away if the follower did not achieve the determined goals. Scholars look at it as a passing fancy, a myth, or a schematic diagram that has not been tried and tested.

Unfortunately for scholars, this is not true. Millions of managers have been trained in transactional leadership, both from a performance and management level.

There is a plethora of leadership theories and models that attempt to consider leadership as an enabler of strong performance. There is an increased emphasis on the important role of leaders when interacting with followers and stakeholders.

Transactional leadership involves determining tasks, rewarding goal achievement, and punishing failure in attaining goals and is successful in developing mutual exchange between leaders and employees in organizations.

This leadership form actually assumes impersonal interactions in a reality where leaders do not consider higher humanistic desires or relationships between leaders and followers, and while it has its limitations it is still widely used in organizations. This leadership style is popular among practicing managers today.

Transactional leadership is linked with organizational effectiveness, particularly in terms of achieving goals. The key is for managers to use it sparingly, on occasion, when new details and tasks are assigned but not as the main type of leadership.

Another aspect of the transactional leadership style is that managers using this style are passive by exception or laissez-faire when applying leadership. Laissez-faire is characterized by managing the situation where a problem has occurred, and leaders take a reactive approach to correct mistakes or to overcome problems.

Transactional leaders do advocate for knowledge sharing and joint problem solving with subordinates. Laissez-faire leaders do not possess a high commitment to seeking the proposed solutions jointly with their subordinates.

When such leaders assume the responsibility or intervention to solve problems, they rarely consider the empowerment of their employees to assist in problem-solving and goal setting. To overcome this obstacle, leaders today should empower followers to engage in problem-solving.

Therefore, transactional leadership can be used to review tasks and goals, and requirements of subordinates. Leaders would begin using transactional leadership to set goals and determine tasks and then, when time allows, move toward more transformational leadership and place more emphasis on empowerment to engage followers.

Transformational leadership speaks to the importance when beginning a leader-follower relationship, downsizing, upsizing, onboarding, and making significant changes to the structure and organizational improvements, but leaders must be aware of its limitations.

Just as leaders need to sometimes be both autocratic and democratic, they also need to be both transactional and transformational at times too. Knowing both styles and when is best to use them is an important concern here and will debunk the myth of transactional leadership as being an adequate style of leading in and of itself.


How to treat young recruits properly (even in a pandemic)

The first day of a new job is a ritualistic experience. You tentatively meet your new line manager, the rest of the team – most of whose names you fail to remember – and you’re given a series of inductions. If you’re lucky, there is some form of social gathering to welcome you into the fold, and you start to get a handle on the company culture as the weeks progress.

But the tried and tested blueprint for those vital first few weeks has been turned on its head during the Covid pandemic, as most places of work are closed and team meetings are confined to screens. Even experienced workers starting a new job are struggling through virtual inductions, networking on video calls, and picking up snippets of the culture through emojis and instant messaging. “Many of us have done some form of online working or remote working before,” says Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Institute of Student Employers. But what about those only just starting?

There is, he points out, a new generation of workers who have little to no experience in a physical workplace: “Employers have taken on graduates, apprentices and early career starters who have been recruited online, onboarded online and are now working online – and they know no different. That’s the reality at the moment, so this is a tricky situation for those hiring early talent.”

It would be remiss of employers to overlook the advantages of being in a physical workplace for a recruit in their first role, and early starters are already feeling the strain of the virtual workplace. Matthew Howard, undergraduate careers manager at Lancaster University Management School and a member of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), says in comparison to their experienced colleagues, young new starters are on the back foot when it comes to making connections online. “Students are struggling to grasp behaviors and practices [in the virtual workplace]. A lot of what you learn in those first few weeks of a new job is by seeing what other people are doing, but they can’t mirror behaviors from more senior colleagues,” he says, speaking from experience with his own students.

Isherwood highlights that employers must virtually plug the gap left by ad-hoc learning opportunities and general working know-how usually achieved by being in the workplace. “The challenge for new joiners, particularly those who have just started their career, is understanding the cultural aspects of an organization, which are much harder to absorb when you’re not on the premises,” he says. “Especially the at-desk learning, the briefings you get from meetings, and all those water-cooler moments that are difficult to replicate online.”

So how can HR show young recruits the ropes – both formally and informally – in a virtual world? Employers shouldn’t be hoping for miracles when it comes to replacing face-to-face mentorship and learning, says Claire Oliver, head of HR at Troup Bywaters + Anders, which took on a cohort of 10 apprentices in July 2020. But she points out that there are digital workarounds with mentorships and buddy systems. “Our apprentices have an apprentice mentor, which is either a former apprentice or an apprentice who is further down the line in their apprenticeship journey,” says Oliver. But, she adds, you can’t replace a face-to-face relationship online: “Even just watching how your co-workers act and behave from a professional standpoint in the office can’t be replicated virtually. Technology has allowed us to set up regular touchpoints between experienced apprentices and our new cohort, but face-to-face mentorship can’t be replaced.”

However, Kate Ross, manager of IBM’s early professional program, explains that the company’s take on welcoming early professionals has enabled it to “up the personal contact” and create a community of early-career hires within the business. “Unlike our experienced recruits, we invite our early-career hires to introductory group video calls and Facebook groups so they can meet people,” says Ross. “If they’re too nervous on day one they can’t participate, and if they can’t participate they can’t learn. Our main objective with our early professionals is to make sure they are learning so they can perform.”

Ross says IBM’s induction period, which lasts 10 days, aims to “imbue the culture and spirit of collaboration, teamwork, and self-reliance” so new starters come away feeling secure: “That’s really different from an experienced hire; you wouldn’t need to do that to the same extent for them.”

These new ways of making connections and establishing mentoring schemes are vital during the pandemic, says Lucy Everett, employer engagement manager for The University of Edinburgh’s careers service and co-chair of the AGCAS employer engagement task group, because they help to replicate casual learning opportunities. “Establishing mentoring relationships, setting up explicit buddy systems, or organizing regular virtual tea breaks can enable ad-hoc, casual learning to happen,” explains Everett. “We’ve all realized the benefit of those conversations over the desk or in the kitchen, and that is lacking in a virtual world. Employers need to put more thought into how they can create those opportunities.”

Mentoring has also proved effective for Sharon Bayfield, HR business partner at Coca-Cola European Partners, who encouraged her apprentices to connect virtually. “We’ve been able to buddy up to our new apprentices with existing apprentices to help them with learning about the world of work because what they want is someone they can relate to,” she says. “Some of our existing apprentices had to do quite a bit of their apprenticeship remotely too, so they have experience of what’s needed in both a physical and virtual workplace.”

But ensuring that new hires are connected, supported, and still gaining casual learning experiences is only half the battle for businesses. Remote working in the pandemic has exposed inequalities, such as a lack of a proper working environment or tools that employers should be mindful of. Elaine Boyes, executive director at AGCAS, points out that the pandemic has given rise to the potential for inequality for early talent around digital poverty. “We don’t yet know if it is going to make those inequalities worse,” she says. “Employers need to ensure they are giving everyone the same opportunities when it comes to the digital divide. But not all companies can provide equipment.”

This view is echoed by Isherwood, who raises concerns around mental health and wellbeing for those not able to access suitable places to work. “New career starters have less access to somewhere where it’s easy to work from home, which is sometimes different to those later on in their careers,” he says. “It’s not just the technology, but the working environment, as they could be back home or in shared accommodation. It’s about recognizing they may have different living circumstances that may get in the way of getting work done. Employers need to think about home circumstances and factor those in.”

Oliver’s apprentice cohort was able to attend the office and meet with IT to ensure they had the correct equipment, but further lockdown measures this year have meant closing the office to those who needed it. “We did encourage our apprentices who can’t effectively work from home to attend the office when they could, but now we are in lockdown that isn’t happening,” she explains. “We have learned the benefits of remote working, but equally the parts that have lacked, so there is a challenge to make sure apprentices are progressing in a remote environment, and not just standing still.”

Looking further ahead as Covid’s new starters progress through their careers, their experiences of virtual workplaces, including digital poverty and unsuitable working conditions, while far from advantageous, could come with some positives, and the pandemic may create a new generation of workers with different skill sets and attributes. Graduates entering the pandemic workplace, says Howard, are likely to have higher levels of resilience and adaptability. “The next cohort of new starters will definitely be the most resilient,” he predicts. “Adapting to any recruitment process, transitioning to a remote workplace, and starting a new job with ease will be strong skills for them. There will be elements of remote working after the pandemic and the new starters will be equipped to deal with the new way of working.”

Everett agrees that the experience of the pandemic, alongside completing any kind of degree or apprenticeship remotely, means they will be highly skilled in remote working compared to their older, more experienced counterparts. She adds, however, that employers “need to be mindful of the transition back to the office as it will be a very different experience for them”.

But above all, the new generation of workers’ heightened resilience, adaptability, and proficiency in remote working will be advantageous for businesses, especially those struggling with their talent pipelines. The pandemic has impacted recruitment across all sectors and, according to Isherwood, transferable skills are going to be highly sought after. “Employers recognize that the graduates they are hiring now will be junior managers three years down the line, and they will need that talent pipeline there for when the market opens up again,” he says.

“The challenge for sectors that have been hit hard will be in several years when they need people at a more experienced level. You can always recruit raw talent coming fresh out of university or apprenticeships but, when you want people with years of experience, that’s when new hires that employers make now will start to pay back the investment made in them.”

Although it’s tempting to put early careers recruitment on hold until the Covid storm has passed if industries don’t invest in early talent now, Isherwood says, they won’t have enough experienced people to take advantage of when the inevitable recruitment upturn arrives. Quite simply, he adds, “they will be in trouble”.

Hiring career starters remotely in practice: PwC
“One of the biggest challenges for early career starters is building a network,” says Victoria Robinson, partner at PwC. To combat the difficulties new starters face with establishing working relationships and engaging with company culture while working remotely, the firm – having onboarded 1,400 graduates and school leavers since March 2020 – designed a virtual space called The Park to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual workplaces.

“Candidates can create avatars to explore The Park, which simulates an office experience. They can go into different rooms, listen to lectures and have breakout sessions with the community,” explains Robinson, who admits she “danced on the beach” when she was last on the platform.

Having welcomed more than 7,000 students through its virtual doors, The Park replaces water cooler moments and has the potential to deliver casual learning opportunities thanks to a proximity feature enabling users to listen in to conversations. “If you are within hearing range of a conversation you can listen in, but if you choose to walk away the conversation fades out, as it would in the real world,” says Robinson. The Park also connects students with their line manager, other employees, and HR professionals to answer any questions they may have.

Robinson says the pandemic has meant early career starters are not easily able to build networks and lack the opportunity to learn by osmosis. “Even with the best will it is difficult to replicate some of those virtually, but I think they will catch up and adapt to new ways of working,” she says. “They potentially have a head start compared to people who are further along in their career and used to working in more traditional ways.”


HR policy: an efficient and fair way to write a company code of conduct

A code of conduct is not just a legal document – it’s a statement of your company’s values and how you live them every day. As such, the creation of this must be a fair and collaborative process to ensure maximum employee buy-in.

Office people working on company ethical integrity document on the laptop screen. Code of business ethics and values iStock/BRO Vector
Leaders are responsible for setting and communicating clear expectations about the boundaries of acceptable behavior. A code of conduct is one of the best tools for ensuring expectations are clear and fair. A code of conduct does not tell people what to believe, but instead what they can and cannot do. Most people will respect boundaries – if they know where they are.

Many CEOs have no idea what is written in the code of conduct they inherited; even worse, they are often the ones in their companies most likely to violate it.
In general, for performance issues of any kind, employees should:

Understand clearly what is expected.
Be given some warning when they are failing to do what is expected.
There are, of course, grounds for immediate termination – violence or theft, for example – but where is the line for your organization? As a leader, it’s your job to articulate it, and then you’ll have to interpret it case by case.

Writing a code of conduct takes time, but it will push you as a leader to think as clearly about behavior as you do about performance. It forces you to articulate what is ok and not ok to say and do in your workplace, and to decide what the consequences ought to be for violating the standards you are setting forth. When do people get a warning, and what are grounds for immediate dismissal?

Leading with integrity
One of the most memorable classes I took at Harvard Business School was about James Burke’s tenure as CEO of Johnson & Johnson. When he became CEO in 1976, the first thing he did was visit every Johnson & Johnson office globally in three years and work with the leadership in each office to rewrite the credo – the company’s code of conduct. At the end of this, there was a summit in New York City with the company’s top leadership. Burke himself then spent 40 hours working through everyone’s edits to the document.

I was astounded. Was this really how CEOs spent their time? Burke visited our class and explained that this collective effort to unify the corporation’s identity would later pull it through a crisis that threatened Johnson & Johnson’s very existence because everyone had a shared set of values that guided their actions. Of course, Burke was exceptional – many CEOs have no idea what is written in the code of conduct they inherited; even worse, they are often the ones in their companies most likely to violate it.

A democratic process
If you don’t already have a code of conduct, how do you go about writing one? I recommend that you offer your services as the writer and ask your team to be the editors. The editors in this case are not just making sure your writing is clear, or that words are spelled correctly; they are evaluating whether the document reflects the reality they observe in the office.

Once you and your team have a draft you are happy with, you can get each person on your team to repeat the process with their team. You then come back together with comments and make changes. Each of your direct reports must report back to their direct reports about why edits were or were not accepted. This is crucial – you must share your logic and make sure people understand the decisions that were made, even if they don’t fully agree.

Then you should share what is still a draft with the whole organization. If you have a big organization, you’ll want to task someone with being the comment czar. The comment czar should be in charge of categorizing comments/suggestions so that you can more quickly understand the response of the broader organization to the draft. The comment czar should also get back to every person who wrote a comment or suggestion and explain why it was or was not accepted.

Due process and consequences for violating the code of conduct
A code of conduct makes the rules of engagement clear. It can help you create a culture in which problems are less likely to arise in the first place. Job candidates who disagree with the code can decide not to work at your company. Employees who disagree with the code can quit. If those employees refuse to abide by the code and don’t quit, you are within your rights to fire them if you’ve made the rules clear.

No matter how good and reasonable your code is, however, one thing is for sure: it will be violated – often in ways you couldn’t possibly anticipate. Human behavior is endlessly surprising, sometimes in ways that inspire, other times in ways that horrify, bewilder, and disgust. There must be consequences for violating the code of conduct. Coming up with fair and reasonable consequences in response to the kinds of difficult situations that inevitably arise is much easier if you have thought through the principles and communicated them to employees before you are trying to figure out what to do about someone’s unexpectedly awful behavior.

People can be fired for violating the code of conduct, but they can’t be fired for simply being accused of violating the code of conduct. As a boss, it’s your job to make sure any complaints are handled fairly.

In addition to a code of conduct, therefore, you also need to design a system of due process for deciding what violates the code and what doesn’t. As a leader, you’ll have to come up with a system for making judgments case by case, and everyone must understand the process for making these judgments.