Group of business people with alphabet signs forming the word culture on the table. Top view of business people in a meeting.
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A good company culture is contagious, but could automation change that?

16 Sep 2019

HubSpot’s Katie Burke spoke to about how the future of work could impact on a company’s culture – for better or worse.

Future of Work Week

How do you know if your company culture is working, especially as we think more about the future of work and the new technologies that are becoming part of our daily lives? talked to HubSpot’s chief people officer, Katie Burke, about what impact we can expect automation to have on company culture in the coming years.

What’s a company culture?

“Simply put, the culture of a company isn’t about the posters on the wall, or snacks available in the kitchen,” Burke explained.

“It’s the promise you make to your candidates and to your employees, and the way in which you deliver on that promise every single day.

“What that actually means is that culture informs who gets promoted and rewarded, how decisions get made and how the company grows better together.”

Culture can seem too abstract a thing to actively create. But there are ways to shape it, and doing this the right way can empower your employees to exhibit greater autonomy in their decision-making, as well as in client relations and leadership.

Should we be worried?

It can be hard not to worry sometimes about the impact that future technologies will have on our working habits. Some narratives fill us with messages that robots are going to push us off our desk chairs and make our skills redundant.

But Burke said that as some occupations will inevitably decline with technological advancements, new jobs and opportunities will also be created elsewhere.

“I believe that there will be a greater demand for skills and work that requires human interaction, and there will be more room for things that require a lot of emotional intelligence. Creating a place people love to come to work every day will always be one of those jobs.”

She highlighted a recent study that found for about 60pc of all occupations, more than a quarter of their activities can technically be automated.

“Most news stories describe that as scary and threatening but I actually believe it’s just the opposite,” Burke said.

The opportunities for useful automation reside in the menial tasks that don’t typically generate great impact. Manually entering data into expense reports, emailing back and forth about schedules and pulling reports for dashboards are just some of the areas that could be automated, relieving us of mindless work and, in its place, creating more time for work that’s more meaningful.

“I think rather than approaching the shift to automation from a place of fear, I choose to approach it from a place of optimism. It’s imperative that as we adopt automation, we use it to make human processes better,” Burke added.

“Reducing human bias is one example of where, if done well, automation could have a positive impact on the workforce, so I think we should start talking more about how automation can help create a better workplace of the future versus the traditional narratives of automation taking away jobs.”

Technology tips

Burke cited transparency as a core value in her work, and it’s likely something that is important to many businesses, given its cultural importance to employees.

She described how HubSpot depends on technology to implement and maintain transparency in everything it does. Using a team collaboration software platform, every staff member in the company has access to all of its files, whether they be financial or strategic.

“What we’ve found is that it removes the incentive for teams and leaders to solve for themselves over the organisation, and instead encourages conversations, collaboration and innovation for a common mission.”

Embracing technology to bring your company into the future can also help for anyone working in a global business where time zones can pose a challenge.

A handy tool here, according to Burke, is Slack. Her team uses it as a way to communicate both as groups and individually, whether it be to give great projects a shout out, share lessons learned from external events or send a company-wide reminder.

‘Helping employees grow and equipping managers to talk about growth in meaningful ways will help ensure the future of work is bright for employees’

Something on the forefront of everyone’s minds when it comes to the future of work is the area of work-life balance. Already a notoriously difficult thing to achieve, there is a common apprehension that new technologies will only make the line between our personal and professional lives even harder to see.

But Burke talked about how platforms like Slack can actually help people to establish stronger parameters around their availability.

“For example, showing people’s hours in Slack and allowing people to type a command prompt to get local times in our global locations, so they don’t bug employees in Dublin if it’s after 6pm,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, it will be up to company leaders not only to manage the transition of their employees into the future of work, but also to encourage them to embrace any changes. Burke outlined some focus areas, including offering learning and development opportunities to achieve new skills, and rethinking onboarding processes for new hires.

“Helping employees grow and equipping managers to talk about growth in meaningful ways will help ensure the future of work is bright for employees willing to be adaptable and learn,” she said.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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