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Now it is time for all of us who navigated this pandemic safely, to face new challenges that awaits us. COVID19 changed all our lives in ways than we can imagine. I began this year in HR by focusing on building critical skills and competencies to meet the digital disruption that was widespread. However, COVID-19 drove an unprecedented transformation in business and ways of working in a very short period of time. The way we lead people, the way we manage our workforce and the tools have to be changed now. In this brief post, I try to share some areas of major change and some key actions that can help this journey for you.
Being a business leader or an HR person during these times is not for the light hearted and require out of the box thinking, resilience and leadership. Your business might have survived the last few months, but if you want to build it from here, it will require some well thought through, concrete actions.
What is happening around us?
It’s important to understand the large shift that's happening in consumer behavior and how business is done. Understand how your customer is changing and start from there. Have a look around for what your competitors are doing too, as you want to be ahead of them. The business plans that were on the table early 2020 are now obsolete, so go back to the drawing board.
The business leaders need to look at their industry, business model and decide the way forward, possibly for next 12 – 18 months, as forecasting beyond this, in unprecedented times will be difficult. Trends that seem so far away (and was easy to ignore) have now become totally normal and the way to go. As you take a deep hard look at these trends, ask yourself: are we prepared for these new behaviors? Are we ready to meet these new expectations?
As with any change that takes us by surprise, the first instinct of most companies will be to optimize cost (reduce rather, using the fancy word to make it palatable). I prefer to rephrase it to “rightsize” the organization and build the skills you need for ‘post pandemic’ business model. I would put my energy to improve productivity and collect data about productivity so my performance conversations with employees are more transparent.
I saw that most companies let go of their contractor base in the last few weeks as the first thing they did in terms of workforce - its understandable. This is an opportunity to build a contingent workforce so you will have elasticity in your capacity and change the dynamics. In the coming days, I expect to see a course correction and there will be more opportunity in this space.
Resist the temptation of taking the pandemic as an excuse for blanket reductions in people and costs but instead critically evaluate the skills and tools you need in your business - let go of the obsolete, invest in the new and communicate this to the wider group so the path ahead is clear. The conventional competency matrix will not work anymore when there is change in the work methods and critical skills. Are your HR partners ready and equipped to handle this?
That brings me to the fact that Remote working is the new norm, we need to absorb it and companies should use it to their advantage. More remote working will open new opportunities to attract a global workforce, increase use of co-working space as well as collaboration tools – this will reduce need for physical office, overheads and daily commute. It will also force a change in technology and tools. Moreover, to build on few solid collaboration tools that integrate well keeping employee experience in mind at all times. Train your employees on how to use them, it might be the first time for some as you surely have a multi-generation workforce!
With new ways of working comes a new set of challenges for leaders. Do you have the culture that supports a virtual collaboration model and do you have the people management capability? Micro management and attendance systems are things of the past - a ‘value based culture’ will be the future. Cultural and leadership style change is pretty hard, without a big shock that means all the old ‘rules’ can be broken. This is that moment.
I have been a strong believer that we should measure performance of an employee by results they generate and not by the time they clocked in – for most roles at least. It is now time to consider how to move performance goal-setting and employee evaluations in to a virtual enviornemnt. Enable the customization of performance at unit level as nothing works uniformly across as organizations get more complex.
At a company and leadership level, times of crisis can be painful but yet transformative. Use this opportunity for the latter. All eyes are on you on as to how you handled this crisis – most companies recognized the importance of well-being of their employees and prioritized it. But unfortunately some have pushed the employees to risky work conditions with minimal support. Be on the right side of history, make conscious decisions on employee’s well-being as they have long lasting impact - Much more long lasting than your next employer branding campaign when the dust settles.
As a leader, to be successful in these times, you will need to reinvent yourself, allow flexibility, build trust with your team and be a mentor to most in order to navigate this transition. YOU have to lead by example.
It is a time of exponential change and we do not have much time to waste. Have your company already embarked on your digital transformation journey before the pandemic, if not you are already behind and this should be a priority. If you have a plan, communicate it widely so all are ready for these changes. Most key roles already have their plate full in terms of priority lists which is why it might be time to onboard dedicated specialists on transformation and change management to support them.
Let’s build more responsive organizations which has roles/structures built around outcomes and employees that can acquire cross functional knowledge through adaptive, varied and flexible roles. This will create the agility and flexibility needed to create companies that are built to last across changing times!
By Dimashi Sigera - Scheenstra
Who am I? I help businesses grow when they face change and transformation by driving rigourous enterprisewide change programs. Coming from Asia, I have setup few offshore centres for europe based companies in Financial Services, Technology and Maritime. I have a sweet spot for creating forward thinking practices that are Business Specific and People Centered, after all my passion is people!
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