Outcome-based work culture: why the UK's hybrid workplace demands it

By Robert Half on 2nd July 2021

Our relationship with the workplace has changed drastically in the last 14 months. Over two-thirds (67%) of workers now identify as ‘homesteaders’ who mainly work remotely, according to a recent social poll by Robert Half.

Of course, this is nothing new. In January, Robert Half launched a Special UK report in association with Burning Glass which surveyed 1,800 executives from across the globe. According to 89% of respondents, the hybrid work model is now a permanent fixture of the employment landscape, resulting in an ‘anywhere workforce’.

For successful work to continue in this new landscape, employers will need to change their approach to people management. When asked how they plan to support the hybrid workplace model, most C-suite executives said they were switching to an outcome-based work culture for the second half of 2021. This is according to new research conducted in April for the most recent Special UK report.

Find out how to successfully transition to an outcomes culture, how to correctly assign objectives, and the best way to facilitate the culture from the top down.

What is an ‘outcome-based’ work culture?

An outcome-based work culture (OBC) encourages workers to achieve a clear set of objectives independently in a way that suits them. To be effective, business leaders need to clearly define the objectives and establish a timescale in which they should be delivered.

The outcome-based model stands in opposition to an input-based work culture, which measures worker effectiveness by time spent at a desk or performing tasks. In this instance, the outcomes are the metric of measurement, not the time or method taken to get there.

What are the benefits and how does it support hybrid working?

An outcome-based culture perfectly suits hybrid work models and supports the development of in-demand skills like communication, agility, and software literacy.

1) Higher engagement Engagement
is the natural outcome of allowing workers to have autonomy over the level of success they achieve at work. A survey by Gallup showed engaged employees to be more enthusiastic, more innovative and more productive.

2) More time for value-added leadership
When you place the right talent in the right role and grant them the autonomy to achieve objectives themselves, there’s less need for management to spend time overseeing worker activity. This couldn’t be more essential during the current economic climate, when business recovery efforts require all hands on deck.

3) Better agility and resilience
The speed of commerce is increasing and the current market favours businesses who can pivot and act quickly. For this to work, staff need to be adaptable enough to change their approach at a moment’s notice. An outcomes-based workplace culture supports this by allowing employees to learn to work freely and adapt to each outcome in a manner of their choosing.

4) Lowers the risk of burnout
The last few months have seen the UK workforce speed towards total burnout. Rather than rewarding desk time, presenteeism, and high-volume manual labour, the outcome-based culture puts employees in a position to prioritise essential goals and to take time off when needed.

How to support an outcome-based work culture in a remote environment

1) Have a clear understanding of your outcomes
There’s no room for ambiguity in an outcome-based work culture. Moving the goalposts or changing the requirements can hurt the overall aims of this approach — to facilitate freedom and creative problem solving within a firm framework. Ensure the outcomes align with the business mission and are assigned to workers in the most appropriate roles.

2) Resist the urge to micromanage
Micromanaging isn’t the point of this workplace culture model — you cannot give independence, responsibility, and autonomy to workers while continuing to loiter over their shoulder. Progress updates can be baked into monthly one-to-one meetings with workers, so they can update you on their progress and share plans with you.

3) Ensure the right skills are in the right roles
Do your workers have the right skills to achieve the outcomes you’ve set? Before you can make a true success of this workplace culture, you need to ensure you’ve hired the right skills into the right roles and that all workers have sufficient training. Perform a skills gap analysis before you begin, so you can allocate training where needed.

4) Keep the lines of communication open
Although this particular culture values worker autonomy, your direct reports still need to feel they can come to you with problems and queries. Much as you did during the height of the pandemic, make yourself available for video meetings and phone calls to support staff as they strive to achieve the objectives you’ve set for them.

Read the full UK special report here or visit our management advice blog for more insights on work culture. To find out about hiring the right talent into the right roles, contact our recruitment specialists today. 

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