A recent Harvard Business Review article rightly argues that “there’s more than one kind of successful organization”. Indeed, no two companies are exactly the same. The piece identifies four distinct types of workplace. However, is it possible to assign labels in this way? We would argue that in reality, things aren’t so clear-cut.
The types of workplace identified in the HBR article are: community-oriented workplaces that exude “an all-for-one, one-for-all spirit in which trust, teamwork, and peer-to-peer loyalty are bedrock principals”, competitive workplaces made up of “hard-driving, fiercely competitive individuals who measure their success against personal goals, and even against each other”, selfless workplaces where “employees worry less about personal happiness or individual triumphs and more about their collective impact”, and small workplaces that are “easy to navigate, where there are few obstacles between ideas and action”.
The majority of workplaces have at least the first three of these four qualities. For the fourth, it depends, as this is closely tied to the size and scope of an organization. The challenge facing companies lies in establishing a way of working that allows all of these qualities to flourish alongside each other.
Striking a Balance of Healthy Competition and Community Spirit
There are fiercely competitive individuals within any organization. Often, but not always, they are within sales teams where quotas and commission are at stake. However, within the same organizations, there are individuals who aren’t motivated by internal competition. Companies must, therefore, establish a workplace that accommodates rivalries, but one in which healthy competition between individuals contributes to the achievement of both personal and collective goals; a workplace built on a fundamental sense of community and collaboration, and driven not just by competition, but also by teamwork and trust.
Social Engagement and Philanthropy
The desire to have a collective impact can also exist alongside individual motivation and personal accomplishment. Corporate social responsibility is, for many organizations, just as important as business activity; with employees’ collective engagement as a workplace community intertwining with the competitive spirit that runs through other aspects of their work. Writing for Forbes, Brian Rashid points out that philanthropic work renews passion that can “manifest itself in business leaders’ work and vision, driving innovation and eventual growth”.
How Digital Transformation Helps Foster Great Workplace Qualities
Digital transformation can help companies to nurture distinct workplace qualities such as collaboration, competitive spirit and social engagement, through the introduction of tools that break down internal communication barriers and foster a sense of community. Social selling platforms allow competitive sales professionals to track and optimize their performance as individuals, while at the same time working as a team on the curation and sharing of high-value content. Meanwhile, internal communication platforms can unite teams that are spread across locations, boosting company-wide awareness and increasing engagement in CSR and community outreach initiatives.
Rather than dividing workplaces into clear-cut categories, it makes more sense to address community spirit, competitiveness and collective engagement. Focus on them as threads that run throughout all organizations. This isn’t to say that, depending on the company, there aren’t dominant characteristics. Some businesses are more competitive, or more focused on corporate social responsibility than others. But though the balance of priorities may vary, these fundamental qualities are almost always present.