Individuals are champions; teams win championships: Dave Ulrich

Individuals are champions; teams win championships: Dave Ulrich

Since customers do not distinguish the employees who serve them based on their contracts with the firm, it is important to ensure all employees have positive experiences.


The pre-pandemic war for talent and the pandemic-triggered acceleration of digital transformation across organisations is further bound to enhance the scarcity of talent. Do you believe that a blended workforce (full-time, part-time, contingent, bots, in-office, remote, etc.) can help organisations rise to this challenge of talent scarcity? Will the pandemic transform the manner in which talent is acquired and onboarded?


The 2020/2021 crises (the global pandemic, social injustice, economic turbulence, technological change, political divisiveness, and emotional malaise) have placed people at the centre stage of business today. No one doubts or questions the maxim: People are our most important asset. I would tweak this saying: Our people are our customer’s most important asset. By considering talent from the outside/in (based on the customer’s expectations), people become key ingredients to an organisation’s success.


Organisations will have to reinvent how they define, source, secure, and orient talent to make sure that they have the right people with the right skills at the right time, according to customers. This will require resources in terms of executive attention and commitment to innovation.


‘Five fingers, one fist’ is an apt metaphor you use to describe the fact that although individual talents can be strong, how they work together matters more to business performance. How can organisations make sure that a blended workforce creates value that’s greater than the sum of its individual constituents?


Our (and other) research has consistently found that the “organisation” has two to four times more impact on business outcomes than the “individual”. The “organisation” represents capabilities that they are known for and good at doing, like culture, innovation, strategic clarity, collaboration, agility, customer service, and so forth. When these organisational capabilities align with customer promises and investor expectations, they become a critical source of sustained competitiveness. HR professionals are the architects of the right organisational capabilities. Individuals are champions; teams win championships.


Employee experience (EX) has been typically associated with full-time employees and often goes unaddressed for other workforce segments. With non-traditional talent becoming an increasingly important source of competitive advantage, how can organisations deliver optimal EX for them?


EX is an evolution of overall employee sentiment or how an employee connects to a firm, moving from employee morale to motivation, satisfaction, commitment, engagement, and experience. Similar to the user experience in the digital/technology world, there are features of the employee experience. We have written about what makes a good employee experience (see Why of Work) and distilled these features to believe, become, belong.


 An overall employee experience with an organisation improves when employees increase belief (meaning and purpose), become better (learning and growth), and belong or connect (relationships and community). These three EX features may also be criteria for any HR practice (e.g., staffing, training, rewards, careers, or communication). The extent to which these three features are woven into each of these HR practices drives EX. Believe, become, and belong can apply to employees in any relationship with the firm: full time, part-time, project, or seasonal.


In developing a blended workforce, do you believe that the senior leadership must bring about a mindset shift?


The blended workforce is not a new idea, and employees have had differing contractual relationships (fulltime, part-time, contract, or seasonal) with their firms for some time. We have found that when employees in all contractual relationships experience positive relationships (believe, become, belong), their work commitment and performance increase. Since customers do not distinguish the employees who serve them based on their contracts with the firm, it is important to ensure all employees have positive experiences.


Depending on the sector, the nature of the work that people do, and the setup an organisation prefers, many companies are rallying to get employees back in-house or piloting a blended working model. Do you believe the office to be an important hub for collaboration, creativity, and innovation?


It is hard to predict with certainty exactly what will be the “new normal” regarding where work will be done. One of the principles going forward will likely be the ability to harness uncertainty so that business leaders and HR professionals can discover opportunity amidst change regardless of what happens.


Another likely principle going forward will be to redefine the boundaries of work. Traditionally, work boundaries were about a place: Employees wake up, go to work, spend time at work, and return home from work. The “place” defined work. Increasingly, technology is enabling work to be done anywhere, so it is no longer about a “place.” But there needs to be a boundary set for “doing work.”


I believe that a boundary is the extent to which an employee adds value to a customer. This outside/in logic suggests that leaders encourage, ask, and help employees answer the question: “How did (or will) your work today create value for our customers?” This is a work boundary that delivers value to the marketplace.

Ankita Sharma is working as Senior Editor with Human Capital. With 6+ years of experience, she has performed diverse roles across the entire spectrum of corporate HR — from hire to retire.


0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe