You can see it in the calendar entries. The speed of change. A year ago, I left snowy Ruka for a business trip to Sweden and from there went to New York. When I got home, I locked the office door and set up Sofigate’s corona team to think about how to deal with this situation. All of this happened in two weeks.
The corona pandemic is not over, but returning to a new reality has begun. The feeling is similar to being a new father who in the morning thinks that nothing has really changed – when actually everything has changed. I am sure there is no going back to the old ways, and business leaders need to understand that people are now looking at the world in a different way.
The importance of values is now emphasised. Employees think more closely about what kind of employer they want to work for, and what kind of clients they want to work with. Leadership needs to change. Personally, I wonder what good we can maintain: what is the right way of working in this new world?
The glue that keeps people with a company?
Every leader now has to re-evaluate what is the glue that holds their company together. Why do people like to work here? Why is Sofigate the right company? Employee experience and the importance of its management are growing. Through this, you either win or lose. The employer must provide an experience that reinforces a sense of security, community spirit, and the importance of one’s own contribution to being rewarded and to developing further.
Working from home is not an ideal solution. We are more than just an extension of Teams. We need physical presence. The office will become a centre of interaction and encounters, while home or other workstations can be the centre for concentration and accomplishment. Meeting people will have a large positive impact on success, as the most important progress is created through contacts between people.
We already have a Sofigate generation that has grown up behind screens. It is scary to think that some people haven’t been in physical interaction with their colleagues at all. Without really meeting each other, it is not possible to see enthusiasm or anxiety – and this leads to problems. Soon we will have to go back to reality and leave our screens. But the new reality is not the one we knew before.
Millenials already make up more than half of the workforce in the Nordics. Do you know how to lead them?
Every company has to rethink their playbook. It requires openness and courage as the old ways do not work anymore. The battle for business growth factors is heating up. I can admit that the most frustrating feeling for a leader of a growing company is the inability to meet demand if there isn’t the right expertise to provide to the customer.
We are also returning to reality when it comes to competences.
Before the corona pit, I noticed a job ad looking for Change Whisperers. I saw it as a sign of overheating, as change was being desired just for the sake itself. Now change is more real than ever, and corona has taught us to take a step towards the right competences and basic work. The skills we are looking for now are those of a Project Manager, not a whisperer of change.
We need growth leaders and dynamic thinking
While a return to the core business may be easier, we need a new kind of expertise. Leadership models change when people work from home. New workers are needed quickly, and at the same time existing ones must be taken good care of. A weak value base will not attract the right people.
I believe that performance-based pay is becoming more common. In a remote world the boss isn’t keeping watch behind your back at the office, but is asking what you’ve accomplished. No one is being paid to sit at their workstation. Fortunately, flexibility has long been part of the culture of growth companies.
We need growth leaders. In the past, learning ability and potential were in high demand. I believe future leaders are required to have the ability to leverage their own expertise in change, agility to adapt and move on to the new. What we need now is a dynamic mindset and the ability to customise the game book according to the situation.
When I look out my window, the sun is shining and summer is arriving. The pandemic has proven our ability to survive and this makes me trust in the future. We will be able to create something new and get out of the crisis, but at the same time we need to bring more flexibility to our working methods and facilities.
Corporate culture must support growth. The timidity and caution we got accustomed to during the past year has crept its way into the culture. Now is the time to return to a bolder culture without breaking the feeling of security. As we take the sadness away from pandemic situation, the new world looks inspiring. Once again, we can truly build and grow our business in a new reality.
Sami Karkkila is the CEO of Sofigate, a growth company specialising in business technology transformation. Sofigate has 600 employees in Finland, Sweden and Denmark. The company plans to increase its turnover from 100 million euros to 500 million euros by 2025. In the Karkkila blog series, the CEO reflects on sustainable growth management in a new, continuously changing reality.