What a breath of fresh air!
Our community conversation is shifting its focus to reopening plans. It puts a bounce in one’s step, doesn’t it? If you’re like me, you went from “Yeah, finally!” to “Uh, how do we do this?” Because this is not a return to what our normal used to be. Clearly, the nasty virus is still kicking around. We have guidelines that have proven effective at keeping a surge at bay, but the “son of a peacock” is still around. So now we have to figure out how we progressively and safely restart the economy. This means resuming business activities with all that it implies.
Sadly, we need to acknowledge that not all business will be able to find a way forward—some will be focusing on damage control. That sucks.
For many, it is time to figure out how to get back at it. In terms of predictable change, I expect to see working remotely finally find its way as one of the ways we work. While it is not a “one size fits all” solution, it has a lot of merits and advantages, including opening a broader recruitment talent pool. Working from home (WFH) should be part of standard options being considered when it comes to planning work. Shopify was in the news recently, announcing that they are fully transitioning to WFH model, I expect to see many businesses reassessing their position on the matter.
Not much else is predictable though and navigating the next months will be tall orders for leaders. But I have seen how leaders can rally to defeat a threatening enemy, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that we will see absolutely brilliant ideas emerging. This, by the way, is a noticeable pattern, as significant challenges and hardships lead to reinvention. It will be tough, creative, rewarding, and I expect to see new approaches being created, efficiencies gained, and new paths forged.
I have witnessed many times impressive business skills in full swing when there is a lot at stake. Whether establishing strategic direction, creating and revising plans, dealing with financial forecasting, budgeting and the like, these functions are usually supported by talented and skilled individuals.
People needs should be part of the main discussions, not retrofitted after the facts.
On the other hand, what concerns me, is how organizations will include—or not—the people dimension of their organization when creating these plans. This should be part of the main discussions, retrofitting it after the fact only leads to challenges as well as questionable and sometimes regrettable decisions. It will be tempting to hide behind the busyness of taking care of business to avoid the discomfort often associated with the human dimension of our activities. It can indeed get uncomfortable, because it forces us to deal with the emotions that can arise when we think about how our decisions will impact our people, but, as Brené Brown puts it, we need to embrace the suck. As I mention in my recent video, I speak from experience when saying that doing so can bring results beyond what you thought possible. Given what lies ahead, you need your people more than ever—you need them engaged, committed, and giving their best.
So how do we do this? I’m glad you asked!
First, let’s look at the pragmatic considerations that need to be included in your planning process.
Workforce Planning and Talent Management
When figuring out what lies ahead, be mindful of the kind of skills and talent that will best support the journey. Who needs to come back? Will the roles remain unchanged or do they need to be redefined? Do you have key individuals you need to ensure you keep onboard? How will you be creating a reassuring vision for them?
Do you need to reduce the workforce? Do this well, be transparent, compassionate, and support your departing employees to the best of your ability. You may need them back at some point, so make sure they are treated in a manner that will make them want to come back when the time comes.
It is possible that the main reason behind layoffs is reducing overhead costs. Have you looked at all options? Have you explored available programs? Are there people interested in a reduced work week for a time period? How about asking people to take 1 or 2 vacation days a week to top up their income and reduce your vacation accrual liabilities?
Who is responsible for planning the measures needed to ensure that returning to a shared workspace is safe? In addition to basic interaction protocols, kitchens and bathrooms will need special considerations—who’s on that? How about work schedules? Can you stagger the start and finish times?
Have you determined who is responsible for the ongoing communication with your people? Do you have a set frequency for communications? Where can people go if they have questions?
Health & Wellness
In light of our current circumstances, this is a key dimension. People need to feel safe at work, both physically and psychologically. It has been a tough ride for all of us, some have been more impacted then others. How you engage with your people will be a key factor that will influence your organization’s recovery and ongoing success. Right now, you need to know that you can rely on your people. You need to know that they got your back … and vice versa!
Your people will remember how they are being treated and how they are communicated with. In facing these challenges, organizations will either increase engagement and loyalty, or not. This will depend on how you choose to show up.
As a business leader, you have a great opportunity to turn this tumultuous time into an unparalleled opportunity to create unprecedented engagement levels. I’ll tell you how in Part 2 of this post.
Need some help? Drop me a line and let’s book a complimentary talk.