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Building A Truly ‘Hybrid’ Organization For Both Traditional And Digital Companies In The ‘New Normal’

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Building A Truly ‘Hybrid’ Organization For Both Traditional And Digital Companies In The ‘New Normal’

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For the last decade, many companies have engaged in a business transformation that guide them from offline to online presences – or vice versa. Some traditional companies, such as Nike, Burberry or Disney deliver fluid experiences on the consumer level across all channels. On the other hand, physical stores born out of digital native companies, such as Amazon, Asos or Netflix, offer a different consumer experience to the ones provided by traditional retail, thanks to their technology.

But globally, only a handful of companies have truly become hybrid, addressing the seamless multi-channel experience to all the three stakeholders concerned: the consumers, employees and partners for both B2B and B2C businesses. Much remains to be done before they are transformed – as per the guidelines we set below – especially in the post-Covid 19 New Normal era we are living in.

Yes, admittedly, this is a time marked by an increasingly complex environment featuring fast-paced changes in the domains of health, social structures, environment and technology. Every day, we witness transformations in human capital across the value chain. As a result, both traditional and digital native companies rely on agility, interactivity and consistency across all channels (physical and digital) as game changers.

That agility can be reached by transforming a company into a “hybrid company”. This combines both traditional and digital businesses at all levels: from business models to professional skills. The latter requires that collaborators transform their own hard, soft and, in the New Normal, their life skills, as well. Concretely, building a “hybrid organization” requires leveraging two main levers. Firstly, a managerial one which develops a full understanding of human resources, allied to consumer expectations, employee needs and partnership challenges. And, secondly, an organizational one which blends the traditional and digital fields across all functional lines of a company, thus ensuring a homogeneous and transparent governance across all channels.

The Umbilical Cord Challenge

In terms of management, human capital is the umbilical cord challenge for both a company and its partners. By partners, we mean suppliers, B2B customers, distributors and complementors. If partners lack agility, the company lacks agility, and vice versa.

Each of the consumers, employees, and partners involved in a company, be it directly or non-directly, – should be under the impression they are dealing with a coherent and homogeneous brand, whatever the channels. To do so, companies building the consumers’ journey could also address both their employees and their partners with what is called the ATAWAD approach: anytime, anywhere, through any device. The company would be able to communicate and interact with each of the three stakeholders, and share its vision, values, objectives, activity, and progress in a faster and more efficient way. Thus, it would sustain a continuous relationship with each of the three human resources capital.

Through their mobility and real time exposure to the market, collaborators (who are employees, consumers and citizens at the same time) are more likely to provide bottom-up information and ideas if they can be connected to their company and they benefit from a trustful and entrepreneurial management. Thus, they feel encouraged to participate and have a meaningful impact on their company’s future.

Partners who deal with multiple customers, have an overview of the whole industry and potentially of other ones. They can contribute real time insights if properly connected and involved in a trustworthy and long-term partnership.

Both digital and traditional businesses should find interest and value on creating both physical and digital channels to interact with each of their three audience. This would give the company more agility to « Think global » and « Act local » when needed.

Transforming At All Levels Towards A “Hybrid” Model

The cornerstone of transforming in the post-Covid “New Normal” is not just a matter of injecting more digital or traditional components into a company, but really understanding the ultimate objective it has, which is to build a “hybrid model”. When proceeding with a “digital transformation” or an “online to offline transformation”, performance can be reached once the company is “hybrid” – enriched and agile. In concrete terms, here are 17 key elements for a firm to enjoy the full benefits of hybridity:

· The CEOs embody their triple responsibility as an employee, citizen, and individual. Leaders are role models and ambassadors and are concerned by the footprint they leave behind on this planet.

· Vision, values and culture are shared within and without with all three stakeholders (consumers, employees, and partners).

· Managers nurture transparent communication, participation and trust, preserving the human dimension, supporting self-responsibility and integrating societal concerns.

· The mindset shifts to individual and collective entrepreneurship.

· Business practices are ethical and sustainable.

· The original business model is diversified and enriched with new models either from the digital and/or from the traditional economy.

· The workforce is a balanced mix of in-house and external resources and partners, allowing flexibility, knowledge exchange and self-learning.

· The skills map combines conventional expertise with new ones, and the organization merges this knowhow under the same major functional line, which ensures consistency and upskilling.

· In career management, life skills are added to traditional hard and soft skills development.

· Methodologies integrate both the “test, fail, fix, learn” approach and “open innovation”, thus ensuring an organic growth.

· Communication and sales channels are equipped with both physical and digital tools to allow bidirectional interactivity.

· The governance model is clear and streamlined to allow holistic management and fast decision making, both with the stakeholders and the shareholders.

· Key Performance Indicators are a mix of quantitative and qualitative. They include environmental, social and governance topics.

· Consumers, employees, and partners deal with a coherent and homogeneous brand, whatever the channel used.

· Employees, consumers and partners are represented in the C-level suite and the Executive Committee.

· Whatever the type and size, the company is connected externally to the industry, the society, and the government by being involved in associations, networks, etc…

· And, finally, the company retains its position in its main value chain, one that may have been disrupted by new players; potentially it also appears in new value chains.

The Three-dimensional Progression To True Hybrid Success

These levers are assets to adapt and be creative. Depending on the organization’s type – SMB, groups, family business, institutions, non-governmental -, some characteristics already exist. A mix between digital and traditional is partially achieved, values have evolved towards a more human and sustainable approach… The challenge is really to have all levers in place in order to be the truly “hybrid” organization, ready to face any changing environment and evolve with its consumers,’ employees’ and partners’ needs. It is part of a three-dimensional dynamic that involves civil society, the nation’s life and business. In this hybrid way, it will allow each individual, and the company itself, to have a long-lasting impact.

Géraldine Maouchi is an expert in business transformation, a conference speaker and an entrepreneur.

Hélène Musikas is Affiliate Professor in the Strategy & Business Policy Department at HEC Paris.

Daniel Brown is Head of Communications Research at HEC Paris

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