What does it take to build sustainable organizations?

Businesses around the world were already deep into digital transformation at the start of 2020. Then the pandemic hit, upending business models and prompting widespread disruptions—but, the crises of the last year shed light on just how integral a commitment to digital advancement will be for long-term success in this new world.

Any successful digital transformation, however, needs to be rooted in organizational purpose, says Mimi Brooks, CEO of Logical Design Solutions, whose keynote at the upcoming Spring HR Technology Conference will explore the value of purpose and culture in building sustainable organizations of tomorrow.

Purpose is much more than an ideological aim to strive for, she notes.

“The fact is, when purpose works, it honestly works,” she says, “and people can see and experience it in everyday business rituals and come to rely on it as a way of working.”

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Organizations striving to become better aligned to purpose could run into a wealth of obstacles: for instance, the pressure on executives to operate and make decisions that maximize short-term shareholder value but that could conflict with long-term business goals or the distrust that can arise when the organization’s actions don’t seem to wholly fall in step with its stated purpose. Organizations contending with these pressures could see missteps on D&I, underinvest in talent or underprioritize needed infrastructure improvements, Brooks says. All of these oversights could “create ‘daily cuts’ that cause credibility and trust problems,” she adds, “and signal that change is still ‘skin deep’.”

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To circumvent such problems, business leaders need to “operationalize and demonstrate” purpose and strategy every day—extending to areas like how capital is invested, how talent strategy is aligned with workforce needs, how rewards and recognition are allocated and how the organization creates paths for diverse candidates.

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“Only when business leaders connect the dots from concept to action to outcomes can we build the digital-age businesses where real value is recognizable in the harmony of our business ecosystems,” she says. These need to be “human-centric and designed to delight our customers, protect our employees, serve the public interest and, in so doing, create long-term financial value to our shareholders.”

Technology will continue to be a key component of purpose-aligned business transformation, Brooks says.

HR tech solutions should excel at providing high-quality, real-time data and insights, as well as democratized access through integrated experiences, which all function to enable people success.

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Software as a Service will remain a driver of strategic improvements across the board, Brooks predicts, and new SaaS offerings—like employee listening tools, engagement platforms and talent mobility marketplaces—will generate increasingly meaningful insights and recommendations. These are, in turn, enabling HR and business leaders to make data-driven decisions in areas like culture, engagement and development.

“Through acquisition and innovation, advanced capabilities are being incorporated into big SaaS platforms, but there’s still an expanding and fragmented marketplace of individual products and platforms that offer capabilities most large companies want to embrace,” she notes. “So, for large organizations, now more than ever, weaving these wonderful platforms together with the range of common business apps already in use—Slack, O365, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Workplace, etc.—in ways that enable vs. overwhelm the constituents we’re trying to serve will be critical work.”

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