Since January 1, 2022, the way we work at Crossmedia has been looking a little different. With the introduction of the 35-hour flexitime and flexible location week, we are rethinking work and life in our agency. During a test phase, colleagues will have six months to get used to the new model and to find their own flow. Our employees can work when, where and in whichever manner they prefer. Now, shortly before the end of this test phase, the time has come for a first conclusion. Unit Director Dominik Etscheit has the task of leading his team during the reorganization process. On #XMVoice, he tells us what mindset is needed to make FUTURE WORK a daily habit, and what the role of empathy, inspiration and communication is in this process.
Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, one thing is clear to all of us: there will be no return to the old ways of working at Crossmedia. For many of us, this is probably one of the few positive effects of the pandemic: The crisis has forced us to master the arising challenges with creativity and a solution-focused approach. For us, this means a clear commitment to a new working model. Fewer hours per week, more efficient work, more flexibility. These are our lessons learned, which we hope will provide inspiration and food for thought:
The big shift: from “client centric” to “human centric”.
The client centric business model is based on specific client needs, with organizational processes and actions that are fully aligned to meet those needs. While this sounds good for the client, in practice, it is usually only found in prefaces in many annual reports, where it tends to pay lip service to the company. In addition, digital transformation contributes to rapidly changing client needs, increasing demands on the value chain, and a situation in which employees are usually left behind.
In a culture that is human centric, thus meaning it places people at the heart of everything it does, inspiration can be an enormously important economic driver. If a company and its managers consciously formulate what activities we humans can take on in the future, how individualization and talent development can be promoted, and how new agile working methods and processes can be established, loyalty will increase and transformation can take place more quickly – in all areas. In the process, companies need to get creative, actively involve good employees in visionary processes, give them freedom, and accept new food for thought. There is an enormous – unfortunately still mostly untapped – potential for knowledge and motivation to be found in this sovereignty.
We say: Just do it! At Crossmedia, we have decided to pursue the route of the 35-hour week, thereby focusing even more on our employees’ needs. Self-confidently, without many guard rails, placing our trust in our employees. Our clients supported our decision. They are curious to see how our little big experiment really works, and even want counseling from us on the topic of New Work.
CONCLUSION I: Sovereignty and empowerment of our employees is a driver for better work.
The new emotional intelligence in our collaboration: learning and networking
Covid has forced us into new forms of communication. Sometimes with more, sometimes with fewer technical challenges. Remote work and transparent information exchange are now firmly anchored in daily working life. However, that alone is not enough – the following characteristics play a key role in the successful implementation of our New Work concept: empathy, inspiration and curiosity!
In my opinion, in cooperation and communication, empathy is one of the most important building blocks in the chain – at the same time, though, we are seeing an increasing decline in empathy in our society. By defintion, empathy is “the willingness and ability to empathize with the attitudes of others”. Regardless, numerous studies show that our ability to see the world through the eyes of others is being undermined by increasing isolation and a lack of interaction behind ubiquitous screens. At Crossmedia, empathy is more important than ever and is actively encouraged. We challenge our employees to change perspectives and to empathize with clients; to not only understand requests, but to anticipate them in the best possible way. In return, we managers need to pick up on moods, sort them, play the role of sparring partners, and sense how each individual is feeling right now when working from home.
Apart from empathy, our employees’ inspiration is absolutely essential. The search for new, more creative ways starts with ourselves and our commitment to new internal processes. Needless to say, though, it also starts with those who advise our clients, know their products and understand the target group. By introducing the 35-hour week, not only have we questioned the existing status quo; indirectly, we have appealed to intrinsic motivation and have provided considerable motivation through the great leap of faith. I am convinced that happier and more creative employees will not only develop better algorithms or systems, thereby placing them in a position to optimally identify and serve the clients’ needs. It will also succeed at achieving an ever higher intrinsic motivation, in turn, leading to better client ROIs.
Last but not least, it also calls for a certain curiosity on the part of a self-confident agency that adds life to the topic of innovation for its employees in a very playful way. Here, we ask “Why not?” instead of “Why?” and go with improvisation instead of perfection – we in Germany may easily wish to smile at this inner play instinct, but there can be no doubt that it leads to a positive attitude when considering new things and provides innovations with the space they require to mature.
Empathy, inspiration and curiosity must be encouraged and challenged. Ultimately, with its greater flexibility, the new form of collaboration results in increased motivation and gratitude. Specific measures introduced along the way include “Open Wednesdays,” in which we hold 15-minute inspiration sessions in the team; the conscious adoption of a change in perspective between client and employee, regular one-on-one meetings to identify trends and challenges, more humor in the workplace, and managers setting an example of the new flexibility.
CONCLUSION II: Ultimately, all the above-mentioned characteristics bring to light everything we would like to gain from FUTURE WORK: stress reduction, mental health, but also dedication and motivation. This means: no agility without empathy. No change of perspective without inspiration. No innovation without curiosity.
Looking inward: Creating self-understanding and awareness as a leader
Employees want support and guidance – and this applies to an even greater degree when their working and living environment becomes increasingly unstable. All of us experienced this feeling of unpredictability during the pandemic. This makes it all the more important for managers to be able to convey stability and security in the new working reality.
To achieve this, we now need to develop a self-image of hybrid leadership and communication. We need to say goodbye to old habits, act on new impulses and define an attitude we wish to retain at all costs. Increasingly, managers have to see themselves as relationship managers, whose core task is to shape the relationships in the social system of the agency or company in such a way that employees work together effectively. What is more, they function as emotional leaders, whose job it is to inspire their employees so that they voluntarily dedicate themselves to achieving goals. And, ultimately, through their actions, they must ensure that their area contributes its part to the company’s success.
Do managers at Crossmedia always have to be nice? No! With the help of the above-mentioned building blocks, we would like to create access to all needs and, above all, an attitude that is the basis of FUTURE WORK at our company.
CONCLUSION III: With the help of each individual, trust and commitment, we are using the momentum at Crossmedia to shape a new self-image and awareness of ourselves as an agency. We have opted for a human centric approach, for a better life/job balance, for flexibility – all the while maintaining or improving the quality of our expertise. The solutions are up to us. In doing so, we do not neglect any request, rather provide feedback faster than slower, are even more stringent in our expectations towards the client, and provide structure. This becomes visible in good results and is also honored by clients.
Foto Credit: Julia Höfer (Crossmedia)