Imagine the day Antonie Philips van Leeuwenhoek looked through his innovation’s lens and became the first human being to see what had been hiding in plain sight for 4.5 billion years. This ingenious invention – the microscope – enabled humankind to see elements that comprise our everyday surroundings, much like an invisible glue, if you will, holding everything around us together.
Over the course of nearly two decades spent working with fledgling startups, hyper growth “unicorns” and large-scale F500 corporations, I’ve come to imagine that there is an invisible glue that holds organizations together as well. The strength and durability of this invisible glue has a material impact on its host’s chances of successfully executing strategies and realizing its vision. And, much like a body’s immune system, this invisible glue is also what determines the organization’s degree of resilience, when faced with crises (such as Covid-19) as well as periodical change.
When this glue is strong, the organization is healthier and more resilient in the face of crises. But when this glue is thin or “sick,” crises will likely lead to the massive loss of top talents, steep declines in productivity and possibly a full on breakdown of some of its corporate body organs (as I write these words, I am reminded of how a client, top notch HR executive, and dear friend, Dalit Krainer, once taught me to look at the units within any organization as vital organs within the organization’s body).
So… what is your organization’s invisible glue made up of?
- Purpose. The more refined and properly your organization communicates it’s positive contribution to the world as a lofty goal shared by all of your employees and managers, the more we will see improved KPIs around: productivity; retention and referrals rate and an elevated ability to attract new top talents – even at the height of “The Great Resignation.”
- Strategic Context. The more your organization’s strategic objectives and obstacles are accurately defined and properly communicated, the greater the positive contribution of your Strategic Context will be, to: cross-organizational alignment: effective decision-making and overall collaboration (silo busting). A clearly communicated Strategic Context makes it possible to shift from micro-management to supervisory management, thus empowering your people to repond better and faster to rapidly evolving market conditions (i.e. remote working).
- Core Values. Much as societies have a clear behavioral code, so too do organizations. These core values may be defined and assimilated from the get-go, or they may be acquired as the company evolves, gradually shaping your company’s culture. When a good fit for the organization and truly accepted by its people, they serve as a tremendous springboard for growth, helping to maintain the organization’s cohesion and overall sense of unity.
- Non–functional Interactions. These are the informal, interpersonal interactions that are not driven by the need to complete a task, but rather by the need to build rapport. The more your organization can strike a balance between functional interactions and relationship building ones, the more you will see a stronger sense of unity, shared identity, mutual accountability and an overall sense of ownership over one another’s well-being. Sadly, this is often the most neglecte element within many organizations’ invisible glue, especially in the new WFH (Work From Home) reality.
How to identify if your invisible glue is “sick”
- Higher churn rates among employees hired during periods of remote work
- Difficulty sourcing and attracting new top-talents
- A decline in cross-departmental alignment, coordinated execution, and collaboration
- A decline in your manager’s ability and overall confidence to manage their people
- Rising concerns from your salespeople about their difficulty selling remotely
How to strengthen and rehabilitate your invisible glue
- Openness to post-Covid organizational conduct and its derivatives
- An understanding of employees’ new needs
- A variety of employee advancement options
- Urgent feedback sessions to reflect just how critical they are to the organization’s survival
- Transparency regarding the organization’s strategy
- Communication of new organizational developments and growth trajectories to all employees
- Employee involvement in decision-making processes
- First, scrub well. Clean off any preconceived notions or prior paradigms from BC (Before Covid), such as the belief that those who work from home have reduced outputs, as well as your need to micro-manage your employees.
- Second, deep breath. Clear your mind and relax. Give your employees the operational freedom they need to optimize their productivity; each in their own way and in the environment that’s adapted to their needs, alongside broad communications.
- Third, learn from nature. Actively promote Swarm Intelligence. When employees know about, accept, and believe in the organization’s purpose, strategic context, and core values, and when they spend more time having non-functional interactions, their sense of belonging and solidarity will grow. Trust that they will make smarter and faster independent decisions (even remotely!).
- Repeat. To ensure your organizational “invisible glue” remains steadfast over time, it is recommended that you hold a dedicated brainstorming session with a variety of employees from across the organization, on a monthly/quarterly basis to discuss best approaches for strengthening and maintaining the “invisible glue”.
In conclusion, to successfully meet the continuous changes around us – and the growing levels of complexity they generate – try to shift from managing companies to managing human nature. After all, humans are still the key engines driving your company.
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