Posted on: 2/10/2023

Ways of Working

Focus on behaviors, not structure


Initially, digital transformation was the key driver of new ‘ways of working’. Companies (and their employees) were focused on how the integration of new technologies would affect process, roles, and workflow. Then came Covid, and ‘ways of working’ took on a whole new meaning.

The physical and practical became front and centre: Where do we work? How long do we work for?

The ‘How do we work?’, which really should be central to discussions on ‘ways of working’ got a little lost.

And now, as we enter 2023, companies are still deliberating over what flexible, or hybrid, or remote means for them. Should we do two days or three in the office? Should we ask the staff? Should we be directive? Less hours? Core hours? Do we even need an office? How do we confront the challenges around fairness and inclusivity? How will I be seen if I don’t come into the office? How can I be effective with no dedicated workspace at home? Why should I come into the office when I was just as effective from home…?

During Covid, necessity bred innovation, and while not a simple journey, it was one well navigated by many. HR solidified itself at the top table and the focus on health and well-being was a much needed one.

But… and it’s a big But. As transformation abounds – and ways of working change –  many companies have failed to look at the culture shift needed to succeed in a different working environment.

While technology is foundational to the change, people are at the heart of it, and they can choose to embrace it, flourish within it, or fight it. However good your systems and processes are, if your talent is not ‘future ready’ in terms of their behaviours and mindset, the disconnect will prove fatal.

When we work with clients on future talent strategy, ways of working principles are key. The ones around the physical or the timely are the easy ones to solve – e.g. expectations for hybrid working or flexibility, core hours, and virtual meeting etiquette, for example.

The tougher working principles to define are the ones around how you really want your people to work – your leadership behaviours, the core competencies you want to see in your future leaders, what collaboration and teamwork actually look like in your organisation.

Successful future-thinking organisations keep their ‘ways of working’ discussions entirely focused on behaviours. They don’t allow the conversation and strategy to get muddied by practical or operational details around ‘where and how long’.

My advice: Focus on the how of the ‘ways of working’ to give your organization the best chance of getting future-ready. Determine the qualities your employees and leadership need to successfully hit strategic goals, and worry less (or not at all) where they do it from.


Helen Soulsby

Managing Director, Global Talent Consulting