i4cp Futurist Jay Jamrog on
pandemic effects on organizational culture, the surprising future role of
businesses, and shifts in work
In Part I of a recent interview with i4cp’s Jay Jamrog, we
discussed how he and other futurists look ahead to identify trends and imagine
how the COVID-19 pandemic and other forces might impact organizations and the leadership
decisions executives must make.
The insights he shared suggest that accelerated evolution in
technology use driven by the pandemic signals heightening urgency for leaders
and others to work on developing their skills in analyzing data. Of particular
importance: the ability to make sense of information from disparate sources and
about different subjects, along with the insight and creativity needed to
discover and tell the stories underlying data.
Part II of the interview explores Jay’s view on the impact
of the health crisis on corporate culture, a new role ahead for businesses, and
likely shifts in the ways work is done.
Q: Jay, a recent i4cp pulse survey on culture found
three-quarters of business and HR leaders saying that the pandemic has had
positive effects on their organizations’ cultures. Would you comment on that?
J: Prior to the pandemic, our
research found that many more organizations were paying attention to cultures—building
on their foundations and renovating their cultures to make them healthier, more
innovative, more agile, and more inclusive.
With the shift to remote work, people suddenly weren’t going
to workplaces where the artifacts of their organizational cultures—photos,
awards, missions, values, whatever—were on display as constant reminders of
what the company was all about.
When the pandemic sent people home to work, companies that
already had healthy cultures found they didn’t need that stuff. People understood
and shared a common purpose, they were aligned to it, and that culture proved
to be the glue that holds them together,
even though their work lives suddenly changed dramatically.
So the pandemic has had a positive effect because leaders
realize that their cultures are not only remaining intact, but are providing
employees with a sense of security and control when the health crisis, the
economy, and social unrest have left many feeling that their world was out of
Q. It sounds as if those organizations with the kind of positive,
purpose-driven cultures that you described are acting as something of a social
anchor during this chaotic time?
J: Yes, they are. People have lost faith in the
purposes of other institutions—educational systems, religious entities, and the
government don’t provide the guidance they used to. So it falls to business
organizations. When a corporate culture is healthy, a company can be a rock for
its people and for society.
The pandemic has enhanced interest in the well-being of
employees and their families, and Zoom meetings have opened windows into the
homes and lives of our co-workers, which has humanized things. I think we’re
going to see this idea of well-being morph into a three-pronged perspective for
organizations in the future: focus on people and their well-being, focus on
profits (the well-being of the organization), and focus on the well-being of
our planet—the environment.
That focus on the planet piece will include greater interest
in the well-being of our cities, especially in underserved communities where we
have to focus our efforts if we’re going to make communities safer, healthier places
where people can feel secure. For years, our society has neglected so many
problems. I think corporations will step up to change that.
Q. That has big implications for businesses because
society has traditionally looked to politics and other institutions to make
those things happen. But you’re saying that businesses are going to be leading
influencers in the societal changes that need to happen?
J. I hope it isn’t only businesses. I hope we’ll
see them create partnerships with civic leaders, mayors, police chiefs, local politicians—all
the key influencers in communities. It needs to be a collaboration, so it isn’t
all on the shoulders of corporations. But businesses can be a big part of
helping to make positive change happen, and I think organizational leaders
This means moving beyond the idea of using social
responsibility to attract talent.
To make our society healthy, to shore up our healthcare
system so we’re prepared for the next pandemic—those things will demand that a
lot of people get involved. Politicians, corporations, or community leaders by
themselves will let us down. We have to work together.
It is going to be a three-legged stool for business leaders
to balance the well-being of the company because they have to create profits;
the well-being of their people, their talent; and the well-being of their
communities. Leaders will have to be able to think in all three areas and to
look at well-being as a much broader concept.
Q. So, you see new roles emerging for business
organizations as societal anchors during uncertain times and as key influencers
and partners in driving the changes our society and communities need. What
about the changes in the ways that work is done in coming years?
J. Work will be reimagined in the future. And a big
part of that is already happening right now. There is this whole project
revolution that is almost like a Hollywood model where a director of a film
brings different people in to work on a project—actors, stunt people, lighting
technicians, and others. When the project is done they go on to other jobs.
So, I think we’ll see more reimagining of work in that way.
You have your core job, but you also have projects you work on. This is going
to affect HR because it won’t only be the work itself that changes, but also
how talent is sourced. We’ve see internal talent, or gig, marketplaces take
off, and that is going to accelerate in the future.
How you mobilize talent and have the ability to match skills
and passions to the needs of the business and the projects you are working on will
be key considerations. If you’re leading a global firm, you can source talent all
around the world to work on projects. Your people don’t have to leave their
jobs to do that. In addition to enabling better use of talent, this approach
helps bring your workforce community together. It breaks down silos, engages
people in work that interests them, and it’s a great development tool that
enables employees to see what it’s like to work in other parts of the
organization. So when we look at work reimagined it is not only about projects
but also the talent and the talent supply chain for those projects.
While there are many positives, organizations have to
monitor this sort of project approach to make sure that people don’t become
overloaded. It is especially easy for that to happen in a remote work situation.
If you aren’t being seen and you aspire to grow your career, you want to be
noticed. So you may have a tendency to volunteer for too many things.
For leaders, it just means that reimagination of work and
talent will bring new challenges when it comes to balancing that three-legged
stool of well-being: people, profits, and the planet.