From always connected
Creating value for people and
business through omni-connected experiences
Our devices may be always on. But do people feel highly connected—in a human sense—at work?
Only one in six people feel highly connected to their organization and the people they work for and with.
Only one in five people feel comfortable sharing problems or raising conflicts with colleagues.
Only one in four report that leaders are responsive to their needs, communicate regularly and feel that team members are treated equally.
In other words, just a small fraction of any team—your team—feels like they are getting what they need and truly connecting on a human level. When people feel highly connected to each other, their leaders and their work, their companies stand to gain a 7.4% revenue growth boost per year.
Organizations enjoying the advantages provide what we call omni-connected experiences.
What is an omni-connected experience?
Omni-connection levels the playing field so people can fully participate and have an equitable experience. (Omni-connection does not mean always on or connected 24/7. Quite the opposite.)
Through these experiences people are able to forge relationships, create both personal and business value and impact, and grow their careers. The four key actions to create value through omni-connected experiences are:
Instill modern leadership:
Lead with empathy, transparency and trustworthiness.
Grow a thriving culture:
Nurture cultural norms that prioritize purpose, authenticity and psychological safety.
Enable the agile organization:
Take flexibility further and scale new ways of working.
Empower people through technology:
Provide access to a robust foundation and the ability to experiment.
Culture and talent are top of mindin the C-Suite…
In fact, organizational culture and the impact of the pandemic on culture was a topic in 53% of company earnings calls we analyzed between January 2020 and April 2022. And one in two CEOs are investing to unlock talent to drive their business transformations.
However, many people are fundamentally re-thinking their relationship with work—out of choice or necessity due to the mental health epidemic, isolation, social upheaval, widening equity gaps, the global impacts of the war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, rising inflation and more. It’s all taking a toll on people’s resilience.
People are not only experiencing a new world of work but living in a new world.
Unfortunately, too many conversations about organizational culture are still anchored to space and place. Omni-connected experiences that result in a heightened sense of personal—and measurable business—impact truly thrive through vibrant, human relationships.
…but something is missing
Leaders generally overestimate the connectedness of their people by 2x.
Only 17% of the people we surveyed felt they were benefitting from omni-connected experiences at work. However, when companies put omni-connection at the heart of employees’ experiences and their culture, people and the business both benefit in meaningful ways:
Start by meeting human needs to unlock people’s full potential at work
Our Net Better Off framework uncovered the six human needs that contribute to unlocking two-thirds of a person’s potential at work (see figure 1). Leaving people net better off is by far the most important predictor of successful omni-connected experiences.
Net Better Off addresses fundamental human needs.
The majority of organizations invest most in Financial & Employable—a job and a paycheck. Yet what matters more to unlocking potential are the Emotional & Mental, Relational and Purposeful dimensions. A strong sense of inclusion and tools to support mental resilience are also critical to helping people feel net better off at work, yet there’s a gap in what people need and what leaders provide.
Creating value through omni-connectedexperiences: 4 key actions
We developed insights from 1,100 C-level executives and 5,000 workers working in multiple roles and ways—front-line and fully on-site, hybrid and fully remote—in 12 countries. In doing so, we’ve identified the key actions companies can take to create value for people and business through omni-connected employee experiences.
Create connections in safe places. It’s one thing to make people feel safe and able to share their ideas and perspectives. It’s another thing entirely to ensure that leaders return that honesty with compassion and trust. Organizations need to invest in developing leaders who make individuals feel safe and respected. No one should feel diminished because they chose to speak up or show vulnerability.READ MORE READ LESS
Be transparent to build trust. Feeling out of the loop, not understanding how your work contributes to company goals or lacking constructive feedback causes significant disconnection. Leaders must be willing to communicate openly and with compassion all the time, not just in times of crisis. Not only must they role model this themselves, they must foster it in their teams.
Listen, learn and act. To inspire trust, leaders need to listen, learn and act—individually and collectively. Start with a robust listening framework to make sure all voices are heard, then turn those insights and ideas into action. When people trust their leaders to listen, act and be transparent about progress and feedback, more and better ideas will follow.
Connect people to purpose. The more that people understand how the work they do is aligned with the company’s greater purpose (beyond boosting the bottom line), the more fulfilled and driven they will be. People become even more engaged when they can expand their skills and grow. Investing in people’s development and helping them achieve their aspirations is a clear signal to them that the work they do has meaning.READ MORE READ LESS
Make it safe to be yourself. When people can demonstrate their strong sense of self, they forge stronger connections with their team. But this assumes leaders are creating safe spaces for people to be heard and seen—and demonstrating that different ideas and experiences matter to the success of the organization. Along with providing mental resilience resources and tools, leaders must be willing to show their own vulnerability and focus on self care, which gives their team agency to do the same.
Look beyond where—to what, when and how. After two-plus years of remote or hybrid work arrangements for millions of people, it’s easy to confuse the commute from the bed to the desk with the notion of flexibility. They’re not one and the same. Location is only one small piece of the larger idea of flexibility, which should also consider what people work on, when they work and how. Today, fewer than one-fourth of workers surveyed feel they have permission to be flexible and have the autonomy to manage their time to be most productive.READ MORE READ LESS
Create a flexibility framework. Flexibility will have a different definition or set of boundaries at every organization and for people in different roles. One size never fits all, not even most. It’s up to leaders to gain a clear understanding of where, when and how people work. From there, they can build a flexibility framework—moving away from rigid structures and hierarchies and designing instead around people and connectivity. They can then apply the framework based on people’s responsibilities to reach the best solution for the role and the individual.
Redefine what it means to ‘come to work’. The entire notion of “coming to work” is ready for a refresh. That means figuring out how teams can maximize the benefits of both time together and time apart—and what matters most to people to make their commute worthwhile. It also requires thinking ahead and designing for people across multiple types of work locations and arrangements. And just like individuals, the entire organization must be able to pivot quickly, given that work and world circumstances will remain fluid.
Establish a robust technology foundation. Companies that use cloud to build a seamless technology and capability foundation are able to support the ever-changing needs of the business by meeting the ever-changing needs of people. At the start of the pandemic, business continuity for many companies depended on people’s equal access to stable internet service and the power of cloud to keep them connected and collaborating. This robust technology foundation is essential to help people work in new ways, wherever they need to be.
Think like a technologist. Armed with access and tools, the next step is to empower people with collaboration technology like Teams, Zoom or WebEx, along with a decent Bluetooth headset. These are still vital, but access isn’t empowerment. Companies need to encourage their people to think like technologists and experiment—using the data and tools in their hands to discover new processes and solutions in their work. When people have this level of autonomy, a stronger sense of connection will take hold along with new levels of innovation.READ MORE READ LESS
Look beyond the tools of today. Those companies that are expanding their people’s technology toolbox, along with their agency, are seeing the benefits. Our research found that 86% of workers surveyed who claim to experience omni-connection also reported upgrades to their company’s technology and skillsets, allowing them to work in new ways. That means looking at the upside of emerging technology—like the metaverse—to support equitable opportunities to participate and contribute. It’s also worth exploring the promise of human-machine collaboration. By allowing seamless collaboration between humans and machines, people can contribute to higher-value work and experience a greater sense of purpose.
Whether it’s health practitioners, grocery store clerks or delivery drivers, an estimated 2.7 billion front-line essential workers keep our world working. And while they may not have a choice in work location, there are other areas of flexibility that companies can explore to provide more autonomy in their work experiences—through the tools they use, decisions they make, benefits they select and schedules they keep.
It’s also an opportunity to take a more nuanced look at the roles and tasks which may offer greater flexibility when you apply an omni-connection lens. In one example, lab workers were expected to work fully onsite. Yet after analyzing their different responsibilities, they found that certain tasks—like recording lab notes or writing research grants—could be done productively outside the lab.
Our change journey in action
That is, we preach the power of omni-connected people because we’ve seen the benefits for ourselves.
But it’s important to remember that the work of being omni-connected and strengthening culture doesn’t end—it evolves. As we embrace continuous change, the journey involves listening to your people, gauging progress and acting with intention to close gaps. Below is just a snapshot of our recent efforts toward improving our own sense of belonging and connection.
- In 2021, we collected over 900,000 pieces of feedback from employees.
- We found key learnings against a number of omni-connected levers, including modern leadership, thriving culture and agile organization.
- We’ve seen passion, inspiration and drive soar. And we also get early warning signs when people are experiencing distress and anxiety, so we can work to address them proactively.
- We’ve heightened efforts around team mental health, belonging and time protection.
- Results are viewed in aggregate, as well as at local and business unit levels, so actions can be tailored, swift and impactful.
All of this was achieved against the backdrop of implementing a new growth model in nine months during the pandemic and, in 2021, we promoted a record-high 120,000 people and welcomed 100,000 more to our Accenture family.
Make the (omni) connection
Omni-connected employee experiences meet leaders’ goals for growth, speed and sustainability—and employees’ needs for flexibility, equity and meaning. To do so, they must be envisioned and executed with trust at heart and value at the core. Companies that embrace this opportunity strengthen culture strategically, unlock people’s potential and move their organizations forward, by design.
Most CEOs would agree that the past two years can be defined as an equal mix of unpredictability and tough decisions. Working toward omni-connected experiences, however, is the opposite. It results in lasting, positive outcomes for people and the business alike. That, of course, makes it one of the best investments a leader can make.