A business leader’s guide to the changing workplace

Navigating the “now normal”? Here’s how to mobilize, nurture and protect your employees, wherever they are.


How and where people work had been steadily changing for years before the pandemic changed it forever. Companies are adapting seemingly overnight to the “now normal” of a work-anywhere world that includes more remote staff, hybrid offices and copious new technology tools, to name just a few of the changes.

This unprecedented workplace disruption presents new challenges for business leaders, but also new opportunities as well, as we outline in our Work Anywhere series. Amid all of this change, the one constant is that people remain the No. 1 asset of every company, of course. But business leaders need to rethink how they manage their increasingly dispersed and remote people while maintaining a strong sense of culture, collaboration, and connectivity.

Our Work Anywhere insights are drawn from helping clients with this transition, speaking with industry leaders, and using our own experiences in workplace upheaval. We’ve established a collection of considerations to help companies continue to respond, adapt, and progress in a remote and digital environment, with a focus on issues unique to specific groups as well as the enterprise as a whole.

Here’s a look at the “People,” and some considerations around productivity, culture, and security.
 

Productivity 2.0

In a recent KPMG survey, 70% of U.S. employees reported that they felt more productive working from home than in an office. But in another of our surveys, HR executives rated managing performance and productivity in a remote environment as a critical new need.

Clearly, the traditional methods of measuring productivity no longer apply—and may have been faulty to begin with. “Participation metrics,” such as the number of emails sent or hours worked, often aren’t true measures of productivity.

Instead, HR and business leaders have an opportunity now to redefine productivity and how they measure performance, starting with a re-examination of four key components that drive effectiveness:


 

Innovation—the creativity that sparks new ideas and inspires others


 

Execution—the accountability that improves products and services


 

Processes—the management of controls and technologies that support the delivery of results


 

People—the ways of working that empower individuals and encourage collaboration


Together, these factors will inform the related management, analytics and behavior change that impact productivity. For example, a company that focuses on effort (execution) but whiffs on filling the related technology needs (processes) risks simply “throwing people at the problem”—increasing people’s level of effort but decreasing their productivity.

Leadership approaches will need to evolve as well. For example, keeping communication lines open through frequent check-ins and pulse surveys will enable management to effectively evaluate their virtual staff’s skills and productivity while also supporting their needs and reinforcing appreciation of their work. Employees who feel appreciated engage more fully and feel more a part of the organization’s broader mission.

A new take on culture

As with productivity, leaders are also re-evaluating their culture. After all, the underlying behaviors and mindsets of employees are crucial to achieving success, and this becomes trickier to instill with a remote workforce.

But culture is more important than ever. Many workers are struggling since their shift to remote working, with 53% saying their mental health has worsened and 49% rating their workload as overwhelming, according to our recent survey.

One key to this on-the-fly culture update that our teams have seen is for leaders to clearly define—or redefine—what success means now.

As a company remaps its vision and strategies to meet new customer, client and employee needs, leaders must get specific about how that changes performance expectations.

With those details, workers can more easily adjust their mindsets and behaviors to achieve the newly defined success metrics.

Identifying a specific scenario that embodies a change in culture can be another effective approach. For example, starting a large project in a remote environment will require leaders to take a new approach to how they design and execute the project, define team roles, and facilitate collaboration. Similarly, establishing new cultural drivers can accelerate change. Leaders should consider initiatives such as new reward systems, defined work boundaries and meeting restructuring to keep reinforcing progress.

Above all, this culture shift starts with leadership behavior that models and leads the change, creating transparency that increases trust in new technologies and ways of working and empowering staff to engage in healthy debate and innovation.

Don’t forget security

Finally, the new Work Anywhere environment—filled with personal devices, collaborative digital tools and cloud-based software—is rife with potential new security breaches. Cybercrime has been rising steadily, and 41 percent of companies in our recent research had cybersecurity incidents.

As remote and hybrid models gain permanence, companies can combat this new level of cybersecurity risk by bolstering their defense architecture and instituting a stronger culture of security. Considerations might include:


Contact us

Lisa Massman

Lisa Massman

Principal, Human Capital Advisory Leader, KPMG US

+1 213-955-1524