Article written by: Nigel Ward
Managing the culture conflict between the front and back of an organisation is the most pressing HR challenge in 2018.
At last we have moved away from conversations about disruption. The topic of the month is now digital and customer experience. I am pleased that ‘disruption panic’ is subsiding, because a lot of clients forgot that their business models were still sound. They’ve spent a lot of time on new products or services that had very low earnings outcomes with lots of risk and effort.
Three priorities of digital change
Most of our clients now say digital change is about three things:
Threats to organisational culture
- Gaining efficiency for internal transactions through digitalisation without destroying important face-to-face transactions like performance reviews.
- Making sure digital-savvy customers are connected to your business via their choice of digital platform.
- Understanding whether products/services can be digitalised either in design or delivery, to improve the customer experience and reduce cost. The customer experience piece is ultimately about creating an emotional attachment for the customer with your offering and your people. Simply meeting needs is not good enough anymore! While some businesses are clearly disrupted, most are not. They are just evolving as they have always done. Remember when computers and mobile phones came on the scene? Now is a moment of accelerated evolution.
In 2017 a really interesting conversation was about organisational culture and whether it coped in a customer-first world. We’ve talked with a lot of clients who run the business from the back-end. The C-Suite executives talk the talk about workplace culture, but in reality they place a premium on incumbency and control. They often have a closed culture and are fearful of taking action in case someone says “I’m offended”. People at the front of these businesses, who typically drive the customer-first narrative, seek a culture based on accountability, performance and disciplined agility.
Such a culture is open and speaks the truth. It celebrates diversity by acknowledging difference rather than avoiding any reference to it for fear of saying the wrong thing. The conflict between the front and back of an organisation sets up a complex tug of war. In 2017 we saw a lot of back-of-house people trying to slow down cultural change in businesses by alleging that front-of-house people were uncommercial and unrestrained risk-takers. At the same time, it can be challenging to get front-of-house people to accept true accountability under well-defined delegated responsibilities.
In a lot of organisations this conflict represents the real HR challenge for 2018.
More than ever, HR Directors will need to show extraordinary courage and insight to get this right and help keep their organisation moving forward.
Contact ABLA on 1300 565 846 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions raised in this article.