Today's Wundamail Voices comes from CHRO, Author, Coach and Speaker, Tim Toterhi, discussing the different ways in which the crisis has affected how we work, and what we can learn from this moving forward.
What's the secret to keeping teams productive through this period of turbulence?
This crisis sent us all tumbling down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In February, social feeds were littered with #bestlife and #livingthedream. By April, people were questioning the availability of the food supply. No wonder everyone is on edge.
In times of uncertainty, people crave clarity. Leaders may have little to work with, but it’s critical that they keep communication flowing, even when there is nothing new to say.
When employees know that their leaders are being transparent and are putting their safety and welfare above all else, it provides a level of reassurance, allowing them to focus on the job at hand.
What lessons can leaders learn from the crisis?
Work from Home Really Works
If nothing else, the crisis has demonstrated to even the most old-school “butt in chair” micromanager, that employees are grown-ups who can effectively govern their own time. Many can actually flourish with the extra elbow room.
On the other hand, while this has been a great “aha” moment for many leaders, there is still a risk if we swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. Yes, companies have reported stable productivity metrics during this time, but we don’t know how that will play out long-term and whether it would be the same across all organizations and industries.
People tend to band together and work harder in a crisis, but that level of exertion is not sustainable. It’s logical to expect a dip if a 100% work from home policy were to become the norm. Also, while technology is a great enabler, there is something to be said for actually being there and the creativity that comes from impromptu conversations. Leaders should strive for balance and flexibility as they reopen.
Win Hearts and Minds will Follow
Leaders, particularly those in HR, have been running full tilt toward the quantifiable. Over the past decade, we’ve collectively upped our business acumen with a focus on objective measures such as total cost of work (TCoW), project return on investment (ROI), and a host of big data analytics measuring everything from turnover and talent acquisition costs, to employee engagement and talent brand equity. HR needed a little Dr. Spock* to get along with the rest of the C-suite. The crisis however has demonstrated that the Dr. Macoy’s on your team also provide exceptional value.
It’s been said that while we are all facing the same storm, we are not in the same boat. Each of us has different concerns, fears, and challenges. And that, perhaps, is the greatest lesson. Diversity isn’t a predefined group or collection of checkmarks on a form. It’s about the individual and his/her lifetime of experiences.
Leaders who value and foster connections with staff in good times earn their respect and engagement when things go sideways. Yes, the human touch matters. Doubters only need to look in the mirror. The proof is in the haircut we all desperately need.
*old reference sponsored by late night streaming service. Nerds unite!
How should leaders prepare for the "restart" phase?
Think beyond the technical requirements. Chances are your managers and HR staff will be flooded with benefits and policy questions as well as a host of inquiries on company strategy and performance. Ensure consistency of communication by staging formal town hall style meetings and preparing supplemental FAQs in advance. It’s also important to prep HR to deal with an influx of more personal concerns and partner with external providers who can offer services that fall outside the knowledge base of your staff.
How can we transform business as usual into something else, something better, something that aligns with our evolving values?
Many people have hit the reset button on their personal and professional priorities. This will have big implications for the talent management function – specifically how we uncover, nurture, and deploy the best and brightest within our respective organizations. When the dust settles companies would be wise to revisit their talent needs and the career aspirations of their staff to ensure alignment.
I’m excited and hopeful that, going forward, companies will value results over activity, insights over politics, and purposefully collaboration over facetime. Challenging times have a way of spotlighting greatness. I love that leaders are seeing excellence in unexpected places. This expanding perspective of what great looks like is a lesson we shouldn’t lose.