Organisational Glue

Blog
28 July 2021

Tags: Work-home balance, Ethical Values

Read the latest blog by Mark Chambers, IBE's Associate Director (Governance).

We all know the pride of achievement at the end of a really productive and effective day at work. Sometimes it happens because an important and challenging task lands at just the right time when we have the energy and focus to be our best, but it is much more likely to occur when we feel a core part of a team. A really great team brings the best out of everyone on it.

Inclusion in the workplace really matters. Workers will not find the motivation to fully unlock discretionary effort unless they feel welcomed and valued. The best organisations have long recognised this and made a concerted effort for many years to build diverse and inclusive cultures, breaking down the barriers which prevent individuals from being their true selves at work and ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to be their best.

But are we about to replace some of the old barriers to inclusion with new ones as the world of work is reshaped post-pandemic?

As we re-engage with the office, the workplace is changing dramatically for many businesses as they accommodate the widespread demand to work from home for a significant part of the week. We know that many workers have valued some of the elements that enforced working from home has provided, in particular the time saved by not commuting and the opportunity to spend more time with family. Workers have also enjoyed the empowerment of managing their own days, choosing their hours and being measured and rewarded more objectively and fairly for their outputs and achievements. For many, it has also been a relief to be away from the cliques and petty politics of the office.

But it’s not that long ago that remote working was the exception, and there is much to do to shape a hybrid workplace environment that is fully inclusive for those working remotely. We should be embarrassed by our old prejudices about ‘shirking from home’ and reflect on the shamefully limited effort and accommodations we made to allow colleagues who weren’t in the room to fully participate. We should remind ourselves how those dialling in to meetings were prevented from reading any of the body language and non-verbal signals in the room and were often invisible and irrelevant. Even when joining hybrid meetings via Zoom, there is a danger that the sessions will be dominated by those physically present in the room. The risks of creating new exclusions should be a driving consideration in designing a hybrid workplace.

There is an important risk driver for doing this too. Junior colleagues or colleagues who are new to an organisation learn by osmosis and observation. Having the opportunity to soak up the culture and have ready access to a range of colleagues to ask the ‘stupid questions’ is an essential part of onboarding.

Colleagues that are excluded are unlikely to fit in, go that extra mile to do what is right, or have the motivation or confidence to speak up when things don’t feel right. There is also the danger for those working remotely that we replace the subtle, insidious pressures of presenteeism with new pressures from an expectation that those working from home will be ‘always on’. The combination of emotional distancing increased pressure and limited supervision will be a recipe for shortcuts and mistakes.

The work on inclusion in many businesses is underpinned by their ethical values. Values are the glue that binds an organisation together, shaping everyday behaviours in a company and defining what it feels like to work there. With overwhelming pressure on companies to demonstrate their wider social purpose, people are increasingly drawn to companies whose values they recognise and share. They will only stick with an organisation where they feel genuinely welcomed, valued and fully involved. In a reshaped workplace, talent will have more choices than ever. Building that bond of shared values will be a key tool in attracting and retaining talent.  

Now is a time to look again at your company’s values and make sure that everyone is glued into the team.

Author

Mark Chambers
Mark Chambers

Associate Director - Governance, IBE, m.chambers@ibe.org.uk

Mark brings 30 years of experience from a successful career in business to help grow the IBE’s interaction with boards, regulators and policy makers.

After graduating in Zoology from Oxford University, Mark re-trained as a lawyer and spent his early years at Slaughter and May in their London and New York offices before moving into business. During his career, he managed world-class global functions responsible for governance, legal and regulatory risk management in large, complex, regulated businesses. He was General Counsel & Group Company Secretary at RSA Insurance Group and at Worldpay Group, and held senior positions at American Express and GE Capital. He retired as Deputy Group Company Secretary of HSBC in 2018 to pursue a second career, which also includes non-executive and advisory work. 

For many years, Mark has had a successful career as a non-executive director. He is a member of the board of the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of health and social care in England, and chairs their Regulatory Governance Committee. He is also a non-trustee member of the Audit and Risk Committee of Maggie’s.

Previous roles included the Chair role at Amref Health Africa and Audit Committee Chair at WWF, where he also led the Committee that oversaw the development of the charity's exemplar new headquarters building. Mark was a finalist in the 2014 Sunday Times Non-Executive of the Year Awards.

The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it. – General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

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