Leaders from Spencer Stuart, Cadillac and Siemens share insight on building the new hybrid workplace at Bloomberg Media event

Jen Robinson

Bloomberg Media recently convened members of Bloomberg X, our invitation-only community for senior marketing leaders, to hear expert insight from leaders shaping the immediate future of communication, collaboration, and relationship-building in workplaces that embrace both remote and in-person work. 

The virtual program included a one-on-one conversation with Jim Citrin, Spencer Stuart’s CEO Practice Leader and co-author of the new book Leading at a Distance: Practical Lessons for Virtual Success, as well as a discussion with Melissa Grady, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Cadillac and Dr. Anneke Neuhaus, Senior Manager Group Communications, Siemens AG. Bloomberg TV anchor Romaine Bostick moderated, and Bloomberg Media Chief Commercial Officer Stephen Colvin gave opening and closing remarks.

Key takeaways include:

The shift in modern leadership has accelerated. Spencer Stuart’sCitrin noted that “over the last 16 months, the power of purpose and mission has skyrocketed. Leaders who are being more transparent, more authentic and more human are doing much better.”

This is a challenging, stressful time for CEOs, Citrin said, as higher expectations combine with more uncertainty and complexity than ever before. Yet it also offers greater potential: “Employees, organizations and communities are looking to corporate leaders; they’re in a position of trust. That’s difficult, but if you are consistent with words, beliefs and behaviors, people respond to that. It could be a new golden era of corporate leadership.”

Siemens’ Neuhaus concurred. “Communication has to be based on trust, and trust is based on authenticity, empathy and competence. Otherwise you will not be seen as a relevant player.” She added: “We need emotional relevance in our communications, not only focusing on expertise or value for the customer, but also on the purpose and value for society as a whole.”

New habits are here to stay. Citrin noted that Spencer Stuart has studied hundreds of organizations and interviewed CEOs and CHROs as well as countless individuals around the world about the nature of work during the pandemic — and after. While the future is uncertain, Citrin is confident that many companies will retain some sort of a hybrid model. 

Cadillac’s Grady researched how long it takes habits to change: About 66 days, it turns out. “I think the new habits transcend everything we do as humans,” she said, citing the digitization of the car buying process as one example.  “We have a unique way to shop called Cadillac Live,” she said, “which allows you to do a one-way zoom to see all the vehicles and have a conversation with a specialist that mirrors the dealership experience — but you do it from your living room. That and other types of online tools we already had saw huge increases, and that has stayed, even as things are starting to get back to normal.” 

Intentionality matters more than ever. Considering what works and what’s necessary in each case is important, Citrin said.  “Leaders need to tailor approaches to the needs of the situation, set an example and be open and collaborative with their teams. If it’s a competitive situation, and it’ll work to go out in person, then you do that. But sometimes it might be easier and more effective to schedule a 30-minute zoom than an in-person hour.”

Leaders also need to recognize assumptions and challenge them in order to avoid risks, Citrin added. “Remote work in a hybrid world allows you to access better talent, more diverse talent, and give people more control over their schedule — which makes them happier and more engaged,” he said. “But it’s incumbent on leaders to find ways to even the playing field and make the hybrid model equitable. If managers believe you’re out of sight, out of mind, it has huge risks for having the right promotion and the right compensation. That’s bad enough. But the real risk is that it could exacerbate diversity, equity and inclusion challenges. That’s the most important message I can share.”

Three essential themes for brands emerged from the discussion: Leading with authenticity and purpose; fostering a collaborative and equitable team; and bringing innovation and execution together to lead brand success. Citrin, Grady and Neuhaus are each activating those ideas in concert with the values and objectives of their own businesses, offering important insight to other leaders engaged in building the new workplace.

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