A man wearing a suit and glasses stands slightly sideways while facing the camera.
Jan Wildeboer. Image: Red Hat

Could ‘culture-as-a-service’ be part of the future of work?

6 Jul 2021

How will company culture evolve with the future of work? Red Hat’s Jan Wildeboer discusses how a culture-as-a-service model could become the norm.

Company culture is often spoken about when it comes to finding the ideal employer. But it’s also a very difficult concept to quantify.

Is it the mission statement on the company wall? Is it what the CEO says it is? Is it about how the company works or how employees feel?

The truth is there are a lot of elements to it and sometimes it can be a combination of all of the above, but rarely is what the leader or the mission statement says enough to go on.

While much of the world is currently navigating the unchartered waters of remote and hybrid working, company culture may have changed, as have employee priorities.

For example, research from Microsoft earlier this year suggests that 40pc of workers may leave their jobs if remote working isn’t offered.

Another survey from Aon found that employers are concerned about employee wellbeing, but only one in two have a comprehensive strategy to address this.

These are all elements that should feed into how a company’s culture is shaped. Jan Wildeboer, EMEA evangelist at Red Hat, said building a solid company culture has become more important than ever before.

“Culture is always a work in progress, and in the hyper-competitive market of IT that prioritises speed, responsiveness and innovation above all else, this is especially true. Organisations need to build a culture that’s compatible with contemporary workflows, while also being willing to constantly iterate on that culture to keep on top of economic and technological change.”

Wildeboer said that trust and a certain level of freedom are essential when creating the right working culture. “Companies cannot simply prescribe or enforce a culture that’s not shared and accepted by its employees. There has to be give and take between empowering employees and listening to their individual needs and finding a compromise that’s reflective of all opinions and viewpoints,” he said.

“That’s why business leaders need to work hard to maintain continuous communication between employees – particularly at a time like this where remote working is the norm.”

When tech and culture collide

The growing importance of culture, combined with accelerated digital transformation, has opened the door to a new service model: culture-as-a-service (CaaS).

HR tech and workplace automation have been growing steadily for a number of years, with an even bigger growth over the last year as a significant portion of the workforce was forced to go remote, bringing a lot of workplace management systems online.

And while various IT-as-a-service models have been circulating for years, allowing companies to purchase turnkey IT services as needed, Wildeboer said bringing this model to the company culture side of things can allow companies to bring a holistic framework to their teams.

“CaaS places an emphasis on investing in people and processes, by eliminating inner silos and introducing closed feedback loops inside an organisation. Ultimately, the CaaS model helps to create an open organisation where ideas flourish and collaboration becomes the norm,” he said.

“Since IT is at the core of every process and division in today’s organisations, with a culture-as-a-service framework, the IT department can realise its full potential and become more than just a cost centre.”

However, he warned that this requires teams to adopt a more collaborative mindset, which can often be one of the biggest challenges when building a positive company culture.

“IT teams have long been accustomed to working in isolation from other teams, but the ability to share knowledge and information is crucial to cultivating a more open culture and making CaaS work. Heads of departments need to work closely with their IT colleagues, alongside developers and technical teams.”

Wildeboer added that leaders can also take inspiration from open-source communities, which are distributed by design and encourage open communication among teams.

“Only a truly open organisation where collaboration flourishes will be successful at maintaining a positive culture and environment.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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