READ the June 2021 issue of our magazine: The Digital Culture Reset
Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer, Jessica is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and host of the Workology Podcast.
Do you think COVID-19 has changed the world of work for good?
Yes. A lot of people have been financially impacted and many have lost family and friends, but I believe the pandemic has forever changed the workplace. We’re seeing that now with the employees who are creating boundaries between their personal and work lives and saying “I want to work remotely.” I think that’s the good that will come out of it.
A whole lot of workers across organizations are reluctant to return to their desks over the fear of losing flexibility. What could be the implication of this?
This will be a challenge for managers in particular because they will have to learn how to be good leaders and managers in person as well as remote. I don’t think we have equipped new managers with the tools and support they need to be able to lead a hybrid team. More employees working remotely with flexible schedules and asynchronous work mean we need a different level of intentionality.
As companies start reopening across several parts of the globe with renewed vigor, how important, according to you, is getting work ‘culture’ right especially in the hybrid world of work?
I think culture is incredibly important. I’m a fan of the culture add as opposed to the culture fit. The culture is dictated by the mission and vision of the organization, but it’s really created and fostered by employees. If we don’t have the skills to engage our workforce in a hybrid model, we’re going to lose them.
With a distributed workforce, what’s the best way to ensure ‘work culture’ is adaptable and aligned with organizational goals?
It starts with the people. We’ll have to be intentional about our conversations with our people. That means surveys, virtual one-on-one meetings, virtual team meetings. Managers have to make this a priority, even if they have larger teams, so it will change how manager responsibilities are distributed.
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In the digital world, how can tech innovations help organizations reinvent and strengthen their work culture?
I think there are cool HR technologies, tools, and services out there that support a hybrid workforce, but it can be a challenge for workplace leaders to find them and get managers and team leaders to adopt them and think about how we work differently. We really have to look at selection, training, and technology adoption and how change management from the top down in an organization supports this. We don’t know what we don’t know, so workplace leaders are going to have to make time to learn about the different tools and tech, imagine what the possibilities are, and we’re kind of in uncharted territory.
How are service providers in the HR space evolving their products and solutions to meet changing demands of organizations? How do you see the vendor landscape today?
We’re going to have to create customized solutions to meet the needs of employees, especially with global organizations. Your HRIS, your ATS, your Slack channel won’t change, but providers are developing integrations that do meet what we need today.
What have you learned about the best ways to use disruption as an opportunity? What are your priorities?
That’s what Workology.com is all about - supporting the disruptors and innovators in the HR space. The disruptors are the ones that catapult us forward and we need visionaries like that so we understand what is and what is not possible. I feel like my mission is to provide the resources and support for HR leaders to help them be their best selves and support their organizations.
How do you see the role of talent leaders evolve in 2021 and beyond? What have you learned?
Talent leaders need to be flexible, agile, creative. And we also need to be experts on organizational development and change management. I think we need to make sure we have a better relationship with our senior leadership and the customers we serve. Talent leaders are going to be more involved in larger business and executive-level conversations, not just because we’re investing in more technology, but because in the past year we’ve had to move very quickly. Talent leaders need to be part of the conversation where business decisions are being made to support business growth.