There is light at the end of the tunnel, but still more change for organisations to manage while we move towards it.
Are there any organisations out there who haven’t experienced a huge shake up in the last twelve months? Some have coped well, perhaps because they learned how to adapt in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. Others have been lucky enough to be in sectors perfectly positioned for just such a shift (Netflix and Zoom to name just two of the big winners). Many however, will have lacked the resources, expertise or organisational resilience required to weather a storm of this magnitude.
So that’s the change we have experienced. What about the change that is yet to come?
With mass vaccination in progress across the world to varying degrees, but an end to full lockdown restrictions not expected until the autumn, we face another 6-9 months of further change. The question is, what will that look like? We’ve been told that easing is likely to be the reverse of what we have gone through to date. However, there’s simply no likelihood of us all returning to an end point that looks like the pre-Covid status quo. We were catapulted into new ways of collaborating, communicating and creating. We can learn from this experience and carry the best of it forward to develop effective workplace cultures that benefit everyone.
Just as WW1 & 2 took women out of the home, Covid has brought paid work back into the home. Will we all go back to the 9-5 in office blocks so that we can be supervised? Unlikely. Well recruited people don’t tend to need to be watched to work. While there will be a return to the office, blended or hybrid working, where some of the working week is from home, is the expected outcome. This is especially so for working parents who have always struggled to be everything to everyone all of the time, but also for anyone who resents the ‘dead time’ of a lengthy commute.
The halfway house of home and office working may suit employees, but what about their managers? It poses an added headache for the average team leader who may rarely have the whole team in one place. It would be easy to refuse home-working and expect everyone to be back full time. However, while that might work in the short term, it won’t wash in the longer term. The tech genie is well and truly out of the bottle and there’s no shoving it back in. Your best people will simply move to an organisation that is prepared to support their preferred way of working.
Invest in the development of leadership skills
This means that organisations will have to support their managers. They will need to invest in the development of leadership skills that are not centered around Covid fire-fighting, but are based on the new New Normal, i.e. the future.
Now is also the time to look at the personality traits an individual requires to be successful in managing a blended team. Do they need to be more driving or relaxed in their approach to performance management, or perhaps more sociable on those video calls? Most people can adjust their behaviour to a certain extent without it being a cause for concern, but if that stretch goes too far or is sustained for too long, you’ll have a case of burnout on your hands. To avoid that with your new hires, make sure you recruit with the right traits in mind. For those in post, help them to develop coping strategies in the areas that they find most challenging using a tailored approach that takes into account how they prefer to learn and be considered. Furthermore, equip your manager with the information they need about their teams, to enable them to understand how those individuals prefer to be managed.
Managers must hone the emotionally intelligent communication, creativity, resilience and motivation skills that best suit remote teams. This will be increasingly called into focus as remote hiring increases. The technology once reserved for large organisations and those in the tech sector, is now available for every size and type of business. Hiring managers will be less dependent on a local geographic gene pool for talent, potentially able to recruit globally for relatively junior roles. This in itself creates a challenge however as interviewers will need to be even better prepped for online interviewing. User-friendly assessments which include the ability to define a role and then compare a candidate to it will prove particularly valuable.
On-going remote working will test managers’ ability to lead their remote teams. The nuisances of verbal, non-verbal and written communication are heightened without the face-to-face interaction that can soften or add empathy to a comment. Managers will need to support their teams with optimism and be ready to adapt in response to business or even personal needs. They must encourage greater collaboration and creativity in circumstances where it is more difficult, in order to grow team cohesion, belonging and in keeping with the organisation’s values. Pre-Covid, this might have been post-work drinks or a team lunch. Without those downtime crutches, we have to grow our teams while working together – that’s much harder.
Trust, honesty & kindness
Most of all, team leaders and managers need to be their most authentic selves to develop and keep the trust and commitment of their people. That doesn’t mean being ‘nice’ to everyone, or avoiding difficult conversations. It means leading with self-awareness, self-regulation and working with their team to build strong, healthy workplace relationships. Being kind and honest. Managers must believe in their own ability to lead, but not with arrogance. They must step up to take on an escalation and lead from the front by taking ownership. Nothing winds up a team more than a leader who seems to disappear at the sign of conflict.
HR and senior leaders must be attuned to the further challenges and changes of the coming 6-9 months. They must have plans in place to help their hiring managers recruit well and equip them with the communication skills they need to manage their teams effectively. Their emotional intelligence, resilience and motivation may be sorely tested, after all it’s been a long road so far, but with support they will not just survive, but thrive through Covid and beyond. Ready to take on whatever challenges us next!
We’re a team who practice what we preach. 2020 was tough, but we made it through with perseverance, motivation and above all by supporting each other. Contact us to find out how we can help you to do the same.
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