Oxygen POV: Fall 2021

Human Impact in

The New Era of Change

The deluge of articles and posts talking about how drastically things have changed due to the events of the past year-and-a-half have no doubt created a bit of “change fatigue.” But consider: yet another wild card tossed at us in the form of the Delta variant; the ongoing, unresolved social equity issues; and the rapid acceleration of automation and digital transformation in the workplace.  

This unwieldly combination puts us in uncharted territory. Indeed, we are living and working in A NEW ERA OF CHANGE, resulting in seismic, systemic shifts in how businesses are adapting, evolving and preparing their people for an uncertain future.

Which is why, as we move into Fall 2021, we’re seeing and hearing a lot about the urgency to modernize the ways in which we as leaders enable people in organizations to learn, grow, re-skill, and communicate. In this article, we’ve captured insights from a few relevant industry sources and from our clients, in order to provide our point-of-view on emerging trends in learning & development, sales enablement and communications that we feel are particularly relevant.

Helping clients meet challenges in modern, growth-oriented ways is what we do at Oxygen. So, in many ways, we’re optimistic and energized about this moment, particularly because many of the trends we’re observing align with the core values that have driven us for over a decade, and that characterize the work that we deliver.

What we do at Oxygen
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/ Oxygen core values /




We hope these reflections inspire and inform business leaders, L&D professionals and marketers who understand the importance of communicating to and empowering their people so they can feel successful in their work. And, ultimately, so they can achieve radical outcomes in this new era of change.


First, how about a little inspiration?

“This is the time to ask those big questions and create change — and to disrupt and pioneer and take risks; you need to have that confidence. You need to have that swagger that says, ‘I know my function and I can make that difference.’ That is why my biggest advice is: lead! Don’t wait for someone else to tell you to lead. Lead! Lead proactively! Grab the spotlight! If not now then when? If not us, then who? This is our time. Let’s make a big impact.”
Leena Nair, CHRO, Unilever in London, England


The value of communicating purpose cannot be overstated

The word “pivot” has become omnipresent as a means of describing how business leaders are responding in this new era of change. To sustain or catalyze growth and capitalize on new opportunities, many are moving quickly to determine the new vision, develop the new product strategy, act on potential M&A opportunities, and make key hires.

The Power of Strategic Narrative

Responding to change with agility is often vital for a business to flourish. But in order to continue to inform and inspire both internal and external constituents, there needs to be a consistent, congruent way to bring your purpose and vision to life...in the form of a new strategic narrative. Because mobilizing people matters more than ever. Driving any change either inside or outside on your market requires rallying people to your cause. And a new strategic narrative not only helps build a vision, it helps build a movement.

Purpose is Already Playing a Big Part in Learning Effectiveness

Incorporating purpose in learning programs can be powerful as well. Your people are your most powerful assets, but far too often leadership is concerned with executing against their strategy, and forgets how essential it is to communicate a new narrative to an organization of disparate teams, possibly working remotely, who are potentially insecure about the uncertain future. People benefit greatly when they learn and understand their “why?” -- and are motivated to unite to accomplish it.

“We believe that people learn better when they know what they’re truly, truly passionate about. What is it that gives people meaning? When they discover what they’re truly passionate and purposeful about, they learn much more easily — and have higher engagement levels, feel more well at work, and feel more ready to learn.”
Leena Nair, CHRO, Unilever in London, England


The emphasis on diversity and inclusion positively impacts people and business growth

Thankfully, Diversity and Inclusion has been reported to be a top talent development priority in 2021. We all know that while there is far more work to be done, D&I is now top of mind for a majority of executives globally. LinkedIn’s survey results showed that “nearly two-thirds (64%) of L&D pros globally — and nearly three-quarters (73%) in North America — report that their executives have made D&I programs a priority.  

But an article in a recent Harvard Business Review reminded us that many people are unaware that not only is prioritizing D&I programs right for people, it is proven to have a measurable impact on business results. Diversity — both inherent (e.g., race, gender) and acquired (experience, cultural background) — is associated with business success. Over the past decade, an ongoing analysis of 506 companies found that firms with more racial or gender diversity had more sales revenue, more customers, and greater profits. An analysis of more than 20,000 firms in 91 countries found that companies with more female executives were more profitable. Yet another study of management teams exhibiting a wider range of educational and work backgrounds were found to have produced more-innovative products. 


Nearly three-quarters (73%) in North America — report that their executives have made D&I programs a priority.

An analysis of more than 20,000 firms in 91 countries found that companies with more female executives were more profitable.

Not only that...

…More than 4 in 5 buyers say they would rather buy from a more diverse sales organization than a less diverse org, with all else being equal.  

Reports from McKinsey, Deloitte, the Corporate Executive Board, Gartner, Harvard Business Review, and others have overwhelmingly found that organizations with D&I programs see an enormous impact, including increased revenue and stock price, as well as higher levels of creativity, performance, and productivity in the workplace.

So, at a time when the world is focused on racial justice, compounded by a pandemic that has disproportionately upended Black, Latino, and underserved communities, it’s not only critical that companies play a leading role in correcting these inequities, their investment in D&I programs are proven to have measurable impact, across many dimensions.


Increased creativity is essential to the effectiveness of Learning and Development

Creativity will play a big role in how all of us will adapt — and even thrive — in the new era of change. This is a moment where the changing economic landscape calls for  people who can ideate on creative solutions to your biggest problems. So, it’s up to L&D to begin incorporating creativity into their programs at a new level, given the urgency to “future-proof” your employees. Creativity is among the soft skills that only humans can provide as automation supplants thousands of jobs.

Engaging is the Key to Learning

Not that you needed reminding, but it can’t be repeated enough: great learning begins and ends with great content. What truly makes a difference is the delivery of a great learning experience. Which starts with great Experience Architecture. We often ask our clients to consider LX (Learning Experience) to be just as important as CX. As marketers are reminded over and over about the importance of Customer Experience and being customer obsessed, we remind ourselves to engage our employees with the same empathy as we do our customers, knowing that winning them over requires creativity and thoughtfulness at every touchpoint along the Learning Journey.


And speaking of CX, shouldn’t every employee be learning HUMAN Experience skills?

Being a customer-centric organization means more than just acting on the right data. It means acting with data-driven empathy. Many companies are learning that data-driven empathy isn’t just about having the right data to create an accurate persona of your customer. It requires a data architecture that enables a single unified view of the customer persona, infused by insights and awareness,  and giving cross-functional teams across the company access to the information they need in order to deliver value-added human experiences.

Like Customer Experience, Learning Experience Begins with Empathy

Empathy is about humanizing data and content: bringing personal insights to life in a way that connects with your employee as it would with your customer. Empathy drives the development of experiences that make businesses purposeful and relatable, so they can respond in the best interests of people and adapt to constantly evolving needs in real time. Embedding empathy into the identity of your organization can be the catalyst for transforming how you engage and re-skill your employees, as well as how you serve your customers.

How Empathy Extends to Sales Enablement

In this era of change, sellers certainly know they should be putting the buyer first. Virtual selling gives more control over the process to the buyer;  but in LinkedIn’s State of Sales Annual Report, their survey data indicates that their sales organizations are a barrier to implementing buyer first behaviors. Almost two-thirds (65%) of sellers say they “always” put the buyer first. However, only 23% of buyers agree that sellers “always” put the buyer first. That requires enabling sellers with content and information that will not be perceived as misleading, shows that the seller understands the company –and the buyer’s—needs, and incorporates thought-leadership and industry knowledge. All of which requires empathy for both buyer, and seller.  

“Being customer-centric is not about a point in time or selling one product,” says Rob Goodman, Vice President and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Program Owner at Pacific Life Insurance Co. “It spans all of a person’s life events. Regardless of where someone comes into us as a customer, we need to anticipate those events before they even ask.”


Almost two-thirds (65%) of sellers say they “always” put the buyer first. However, only 23% of buyers agree that sellers “always” put the buyer first.

(Acknowledgments: LinkedIn Learning’s 5th Annual Workplace Learning Report 2021; LinkedIn Learning’s SALES REPORT 2021; HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW; WPromote)